When it comes to van life during the summer months, one of the biggest challenges you might face is staying cool. Temperatures can soar during the day, and it can be challenging to get a good night’s sleep in a stuffy van. That’s where 12 volt fans come in really handy!
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at 12 volt fans for van life and what you need to know before buying one. Additionally, I share which fans I installed in my own camper van.
Best 12 Volt Fans For Van Life
12 volt fans are available in two categories: portable or hard-wired. It is likely that you’ll need one from each category. Hard-wired fans are more energy efficient and typically more powerful, but by nature they’re not portable. Portable fans are typically cordless and can be moved around as needed.
Best Portable 12 Volt Fan
These fans are cordless and can be used anywhere.
Camping Lantern With Camping Fan
Awards: Most Portable
This rechargeable camping fan is great for van life. I purchased this as a portable fan for my dog and am surprised by how much we use it. On warmer days my dog likes to lay on the floor of the van, which is far from the other fans I have installed. This fan is easy to move closer to him. Furthermore, I like that it’s rechargeable, but I do wish the battery life lasted longer.
In addition to being portable, this fan has a clip and a hook, which makes it possible to mount just about anywhere. It has 3 operating speeds, and there is even an LED light setting for dim or bright.
This fan is on the cheaper end and it gets the job done!
✅ Very Portable
✅ Rechargeable Battery
✅ Light Included
❌ Not Effective in Larger Spaces
❌ Short Battery Life
❌ Not super powerful
Weight: 11 oz
Max Power: .8 amps
Treva 10-Inch Portable Fan
Awards: Best Tabletop Fan
The Treva portable fan is battery operated and has a built-in handle. In addition to operating with 6 D batteries this fan can also be operated with AC power (household power) using a supplied adapter.
Treva 12 volt fan comes with 2 speed settings, a compact size and can be tilted to adjust airflow direction as desired.
✅ AC power adapter provided
❌ Non-Rechargeable Battery Operated
❌ Fewer Speed Settings
Weight: 30 oz
Max Power: .7 amps
USB Desk Fan
Awards: Most Affordable
This 6.5 inch desktop fan works well for van lifers who want to use a fan in different locations without committing to a permanent install. It uses a USB power cable which makes it easy to connect to your vans electrical system, or even your laptop for power.
In addition to being quiet, this USB fan has 4 speeds and is adjustable up to 90°. On the highest setting this fan uses 2 amps of power.
✅ Powerful High Speed
✅ 4-Speed Settings
✅ Quiet Operation
✅ Adjustable airflow
❌ Not as energy efficient
Weight: 10.8 oz
Max Power: 2 amps
Best Hard-Wired 12 Volt Fans
These fans are wired into your van batteries and are often installed permanently on a wall or on the roof.
Caframo Sirocco II 12V Fan
Awards: Best Overall, Most Energy Efficient
The Caframo Sirocco II fan is a powerful and efficient fan that is designed for use in vans.
One of the most impressive features of the Sirocco II fan is its powerful motor. It can move up to 185 cubic feet of air per minute, which is more than enough to cool down small spaces quickly.
Despite its power, the fan is also very quiet, making it perfect for use in small spaces where noise can be a problem. I have no problems sleeping with this fan on, even when set to full speed.
The Sirocco II fan is also designed to be energy efficient. It uses only 0.14 amps of power on low speed and 0.41 amps on high speed, making it an ideal choice for van life.
Additionally, it is designed to be durable, with a high-impact nylon casing that can withstand the wear and tear of van life.
Another great feature of the Caframo Sirocco II fan is its versatility. It can be mounted in any orientation, which means it can be installed in a variety of locations.
The 3-axis gimbal allows the fan blades to be directed in 360°. Additionally, the fan is able to be stored flat against the wall when not in use, which opens up far more ways to install it knowing it can be moved out of the way.
Next, Caframo Sirocco II has three speed settings. I have found that the lowest speed setting is a great white noise maker for bedtime. At its highest speed the fan throws a lot of air! It’s hard to believe Sirocco II can be so powerful while only drawing .41 amps!
Lastly, Sirocco II has a built-in sleep timer. You can choose to auto-off after 3, 6, 9 or 12 hours. This is great for warm nights when the fan is wonderful to have on while falling asleep, but as the evening cools off it becomes too chilly to sleep comfortably with the fan running.
I’ve also found great use for the auto-off timer when I’m running errands and leave my dog in the van for short periods. Setting the auto-off allows me to keep the fan on for him but not have to remember to turn it off later before driving. The fewer things I have to pull-over to adjust when I’ve forgotten the first time, the better!
My primary complaint about the Caframo Sirocco II is that the sleep timer has a blue LED indicator light that’s not possible to turn off while the auto-off timer is enabled. That said, I actually bought a second one of these fans to install in my van during my first summer because I love them so much!
✅ Highly Energy Efficient
✅ 360° Swivel on 3-axis
✅ Quiet Operation
✅ Auto-Off Sleep Timer
✅ Powerful Airflow
❌ Always-on LED power light for timer
❌ No remote control
Weight: 44 oz
Max Power: .41 amps
Awards: Best Roof Fan, Best Features
The MaxxFan Deluxe is a powerful roof ventilation fan for van lifers. This fan has a number of features that make it a great investment.
One of the most impressive features of the MaxxFan Deluxe is its ability to provide both ventilation and airflow. The fan can be set to intake or exhaust air, and it can also be set to operate as a ceiling fan. This versatility allows users to customize the fan’s settings to suit their specific needs.
Another great feature of the MaxxFan Deluxe is its built-in rain cover. This cover allows the fan to be used in all weather conditions, even when it’s raining outside or while driving. The cover also prevents debris and insects from entering the van when the fan is in use.
Designed to be energy efficient, the MaxxFan Deluxe only uses 2.8 amps of power on high speed and .1 amp on low speed.
The MaxxFan Deluxe is also easy to use. It has a remote control that allows users to turn the fan on or off and adjust the speed and direction of the airflow from anywhere in the camper van.
Finally, the MaxxFan Deluxe has a built-in thermostat, which allows you to set the temperature you’d like your van to be, and the fan will automatically shut off once it’s reached that temperature. Conversely, the fan will automatically turn on if the temperature exceeds your thermostat setting.
✅ Intake/Exhaust Fan
✅ Remote Control
✅ Built-in Thermostat
✅ Energy Efficient
✅ Ceiling Fan Mode
✅ Very Powerful
❌ More Complicated Installation
Weight: 320 oz
Max Power: 2.8 amps
Check out my full MaxxFan Deluxe review.
Awards: Most Budget Friendly Roof Fan
The Fantastic fan is a great budget option if the MaxxFan Deluxe is not in your price range.
It is powered by 12 volts and consumes only 3.3 amps of power on high speed and 1.6 amps on low speed, making it an energy-efficient option (although not as efficient as the MaxxFan).
Another great feature of the Fantastic fan is its multiple speed settings. It has three speeds, which means you can adjust the airflow to your liking. This is especially important in hot weather when you need more airflow to stay cool and comfortable.
Lastly, the fan has a built-in thermostat that automatically adjusts the speed of the fan according to the temperature in the room.
✅ Intake/Exhaust Fan
✅ Remote Control
✅ Built-in Thermostat
✅ Energy Efficient
✅ Budget Friendly Roof Fan
❌ More Complicated Installation
❌ Not the MaxxFan Deluxe
Weight: 192 oz
Max Power: 3.3 amps
Comparing The Best 12 Volt Fans For Camper Vans
|Camping Lantern||Treva 10-Inch Portable Fan||USB Desk Fan||Sirocco II||MaxxFan Deluxe||Fantastic Fan|
|Weight||11 oz||30 oz||10.8 oz||44 oz||320 oz||192 oz|
|Max Power Use||.8 amps||.7 amps||2 amps||.41 amps||2.8 amps||3.3 amps|
|Adjustable Airflow Direction||✅||✅||❌||✅||✅||✅|
|Buy on Amazon||Buy||Buy||Buy||Buy||Buy||Buy|
What is a 12 Volt Fan?
A 12 volt fan is a type of fan that runs on a 12 volt battery or power source. These fans are typically smaller in size and portable, making them perfect for van life. They’re also energy-efficient and won’t drain your battery quickly, which is crucial when relying on solar panels as your primary power source.
Types of 12 Volt Fans for Camper Van
There are various types of 12 volt fans available for camper vans, each with its unique features and benefits. Here are some of the most common types:
- Table Fans: These are small, compact fans that sit on a table or flat surface. They’re perfect for personal use and can be moved around as needed.
- Roof Fans: These fans are designed to be permanently installed on the roof of your van. They typically come with multiple speed settings and are ideal for larger vans or RVs.
- Wall Fans: These fans are permanently attached to a wall or ceiling. They usually have the ability to change airflow direction and come with several speed settings.
- Camping Fans: These fans come with a clip or hook that can be attached to various surfaces. Generally, they’re marketed for the tent camping crowd, and are also ideal for personal use and small vans. Additionally, clip-on fans are great for van life with dogs.
Factors to Consider When Buying a 12 Volt Fan
When choosing a 12 volt fan for van life, there are a few factors you should consider to ensure you get the right fan for your needs. Here are some of the most important factors:
Do you need something portable? Or can your 12 volt fan be permanently installed?
Generally, hard-wired and permanently installed fans have better energy efficiency and pull less capacity from your batteries. However, being able to take your fan with you while you’re working outside, or to keep your dog cool at a dog-friendly brewery also has benefits.
The size of the fan you choose should depend on the size of your van. A larger van will require a larger fan to provide sufficient airflow. Conversely, a smaller van may only need a smaller, more compact fan. Consider the dimensions of your space and look for a fan that is appropriate.
It can also be important to consider how many windows your van has which can be opened to allow for air flow. The fewer windows you have the larger 12 volt fan you should consider.
Is your 12 volt fan hard-wired? If yes, it’s able to use your van batteries for power.
If your 12 volt fan is portable chances are it has its own batteries. These fans are convenient because they are portable, but they’re less efficient and require battery replacement or recharge.
The noise level of the fan is also an important consideration, particularly if you’re a light sleeper. Look for a fan that is specifically designed to be quiet, so it doesn’t disturb your sleep.
How much power will it consume? Generally, the more expensive the fan, the better it’s been designed to operate with minimal power consumption.
If you expect to use your fan for several hours each day then you’ll want to consider a fan with a low power draw, like the Caframo Sirocco II or the MaxxFan Deluxe.
Tip: Fans become exponentially less effective and more power consuming at higher speeds. To make the most out of your battery power use the fan at the lowest effective speed. Check out more about affinity laws and how they apply to a fan’s energy efficiency.
Having multiple speed settings can be helpful because it allows you to adjust the airflow to your liking. A fan with at least two or three speed settings will give you more flexibility and comfort.
Fans become louder at higher speeds, so having a few speed options will allow you to sleep without being disturbed by the fan noise.
Portability is another important factor when choosing a 12 volt fan for van life. A fan that is lightweight, compact, and easy to pack is ideal.
Consider the size and weight of the fan and ensure it’s easy to transport. Ideally, have at least one portable fan option so you’re able to take it with you when you’re not in the van.
Durability is crucial when choosing a camper van fan. Look for a fan that’s built to last and can withstand the wear and tear of van life. It should be able to handle being bumped around during transport and resist damage from dust, dirt, and moisture.
Caframo Sirocco II and MaxxFan Deluxe fans were made for boat, RV and van life, so they’re durable and won’t rust or break and can hold up to road life.
Consider any additional features that are nice to have.
Auto-off sleep timers can be convenient at bedtime.
Additionally, I prefer fans that do not have an LED power indicator light that stays on constantly, as they make it difficult to sleep.
Remote controlled fans can be really convenient, especially for fans installed in hard-to reach places (like the roof).
Benefits of 12 Volt Fans for Van Life
There are numerous benefits to using a 12 volt fan for van life. Here are some of the most significant benefits:
The primary benefit of a 12 volt fan for van life is that it provides cooling in hot weather. This is especially important for those in areas with high temperatures or humidity.
A fan can make a big difference in your comfort level and help you get a good night’s sleep.
Another significant benefit of 12 volt fans is their energy efficiency. They’re designed to have low power consumption, which means they won’t drain your battery quickly. This is crucial when solar power may be limited (like when you’re parked under shade escaping the heat).
12 volt fans can also be portable, which makes them easy to pack and transport. They’re typically lightweight and compact, so they won’t take up much space in your gear.
Manages Moisture and Humidity
Living in a camper van can create a lot of moisture. Breathing, cooking, showering and traveling to humid climates can lead to condensation and moisture inside a van. Good air circulation and the ability to exhaust moist air will greatly impact the lifetime of your van and prevent rust.
Conclusion – Best 12 Volt Fan for Van Life
A 12 volt fan can be a lifesaver for van life during the summer. I have installed both a Sirocco II and MaxxFan Deluxe in my van build, and I get lots of use out of my portable 12 volt fan – especially for my dog.
If you’re planning to travel in colder climates be sure to check out the best Diesel Heaters for Van Life.
Written by Claire Fleming
I’m a travel enthusiast who spends half the year in my self-built camper van with my dog, Oscar, and the other half at my home in Raleigh, North Carolina or on international adventures.