Insulating your caravan is an efficient way to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter. In our land of extremes, it is a must-have. However, many caravans – especially older models – don’t have adequate insulation. We also lack an industry standard governing insulation, unlike in the UK and elsewhere.
We look at what you need to know about insulating your caravan, including materials, ratings and installation.
Materials and ratings
In Australia, the ‘R’ value rating system is used to grade insulation materials. In simple terms, the R value describes its thermal resistance or how well the material inhibits heat transfer.
The material used depends on the manufacturer. A popular choice is dense polystyrene foam which is relatively cost-effective and can be cut to fit snugly inside the caravan’s panels.
Roof, windows and floor
While many owners only consider the walls, there is a lot of benefit in making sure that the roof, floors and windows are adequately insulated too. Always seek professional advice on the best material to use and how to install it.
Insulating panels can also be fitted under the floor between the cross members. This will help keep out heat in summer as well as keep your toes warm during those frosty nights in the outback. After installation, seal all edges with silicon to stop water being driven between the floor and the insulation.
The windows can have tint film applied with no legal limit to how dark the tint can be. Single pane windows can be replaced with double-glazed acrylic units and larger windows can have shade awnings fitted.
The roof can be painted with reflective insulating paint to reduce the amount of heat radiating through the ceiling.
Modern caravans are built to look clean and seamless, so it is not a simple matter to take one apart and insulate it. Fortunately, most new caravans come with insulation in the walls and roof, but make sure it is installed at the factory when ordering a new one. The manufacturer may let you visit the factory so you can check the quality of the build and the insulation being fitted.
Insulating older caravans
If you’re determined to bring a classic van into the 21st century, is it possible to insulate it? Yes, but not without difficulty.
Removing the outer skin is a major undertaking, with rivets and glues used in manufacturing difficult to remove without rendering the skin un-reusable. The same applies to the caravan’s inner lining which is also easy to damage and may need to be completely replaced, including the trim.
A used caravan can be much cheaper than a new model, but keep in mind that it may come without insulation. If unsure, you can check this by asking the seller to remove a power point or similar fitting.
For more ways to keep your caravan cool and comfy on a budget, see our green caravan tips.