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Reflectix for Insulation and Light/Heat Blocking
Photographer and cyclist and Mac expert and software engineer Lloyd Chambers is available for consulting on general Sprinter considerations at his usual consulting rates via phone, or in person in the Palo Alto, CA area. Save yourself hours and mistakes by discussing issues up-front. More about Lloyd....
My upfitter of choice is ADF Sprinters of San Fernando, California. The “hard” work I had done there; this page details DIY work.
This page discusses ways to use Reflectix for insulting the Mercedes Sprinter and is oriented to DIY (Do It Yourself) Sprinter owners. Reflectix is also excellent for heat/light shielding.
Reflectix costs about $25 for a 4 X 25 foot roll. It is ideal as both a reflective material (reflects 95% of the sun’s light, also reflects infrared and heat), and also as an insulating material that is easily installed and removed. It is durable and has no toxic or dust issues, and is easily cut with a scissors.
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I went to some lengths to insulate the ceiling and walls of my Sprinter, since late in the year the temperature can drop to 15°F / -10°C or even colder. Thus electric heating and the heat from the Sprinter’s heating system makes things much more comfortable since there is much less heat loss. Insulation also allows the relatively wimpy Sprinter air conditioner to keep the entire van reasonably cool even at 110°F, at least while driving (tested near Las Vegas).
I did have some “blue jean” insulation installed in the rear doors and sliding door, since these are hard to deal with. It is a relatively dusty material that once in is not coming out without a mess—I’m not a fan though it is heavily used for Sprinter upfitting as it is cheap and can be stuffed into nooks and crannies.
I had held off on doing the van interior walls (which implies insulating them) for several reasons: (1) cost, made much more problematic by my concussion and consequent loss of income, (2) finishing the interior with walls means losing magnetic functionality (without overlaying steel somehow); it would require careful planning and a hassle to replace lost function that the steel walls and beams of the Sprinter provide, (3) finishing the interior with walls means planning out all wiring in advance.
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I’ve done two things that have substantially improved the insulation:
- I found (was given) some very high quality 3/4" insulating foam (6 X 4 foot sheet). It is the kind of stuff that you could stand on barefoot on 0°F snow and never know it. I installed this in the upper rear areas and double-thick where the interior structure allows it. In full sun at 90°F, I cannot feel any ingress of heat through the foam. The only ingress is heat transfer through the metal skin of the van into the interior beams. There is no odor or off-gassing and I am hoping to obtain more of this excellent material.
- By special request (a favor), I insulated two hard-to-fill large empty cavities in the van (top rear and mid left side) with 8" diameter tubes of 800 fill power (ultra high grade) down, encased in a sleeping bag style fabric tub. This blocks almost all heat transfer.
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Insulating the ceiling with Reflectix
Reflectix is very light weight, and since I was experimenting and therefore wanted to reserve the ability to easily remote it, I opted to make bats of Reflectix 3 or 4 layers thick and use gaffer’s tape to tape them to the ceiling beams. Over that went a queen-size 800 fill-power down comforter from Western Mountaineering (the Cloud Nine), and over that went a silvered ground pad (about $8.99!). The comforter and silvered ground pad are held onto the ceiling beams by magnets. The net result is very high insulating power, which I can attest to even in the most extreme sunlight/heat conditions: very little heat makes it through, which is why blocking the entry of heat through the windows is critical.
Below, the ceiling at van rear near the roof fan, I could not fully cover and so the Reflectix is left visible/exposed. Elsewhere the Reflectix is covered by the down comforter and over that the silvered pad, all held up by magnets.
Elegant? No, but highly effective.
The Reflectix that I keep for outside sun shades is shown here rolled up on the right side of the picture. The down comforter and the silvered pad covering it end just before the ceiling fan and are visible at the top of this picture.
Insulating the side panels and other areas
Below, Reflectix on the rear windows block heat or cold, and light.