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Installing an RV Ceiling Fan—A Cool DIY Project

When you first set eyes on your current RV, you were in love. It was “perfect”—just what you were looking for. It was the right length. It had that awesome outdoor camp kitchen you wanted! It even came with an awesome entertainment system that would get plenty of use on rainy days at camp. But you’ve since realized that your home-away-from-home gets kind of uncomfortable on those hot, muggy summer days. Not one to shut out the fresh air and turn on the A/C, you’ve decided that installing an RV ceiling fan is the way to go. For this project you have two options—install a vent fan or a rotating blade fan. If you’re not sure which is right for you, read on to learn more about them.

Choosing a Ceiling Fan Type—It's a Breeze

Vent Fans

Vent fans serve multiple purposes, all of which benefit you and your RV. Vent fans not only work to rid your RV of moisture and humidity (think small RV bathrooms), but they also bring fresh outside air in to cool things down and move air around. The typical vent fan measures 14”x14”, is almost flush with the ceiling, and is easy to install. These ceiling fans are the more expensive of the two kinds, costing anywhere between $80 for a no-frills manual crank operation to over $250 for a vent with a rain sensor, variable speeds, thermostat control, and a power lift. The rain sensor will close your vent fan if it starts to rain or snow—a great feature to have if you’re not at your campsite when a storm hits.

Rotating Blade Fan

While a blade fan won’t remove moisture from the air in your RV, it will circulate air around so it doesn’t feel stagnant and stale. These types of fans create a pleasant breeze that you’ll greatly appreciate on a hot, humid day when Mother Nature isn’t stirring things up. If you have an RV with a low ceiling, this might not be best solution to make your camper cool. Risking a head injury or a tangled mess of hair around a fan motor isn’t worth it just to enjoy a nice breeze inside your RV’s living area. But if your RV ceilings are arched and offer plenty of headroom, this might be a nice addition inside your rig. These can cost as little as $30 for a basic fan or as much as $100 for a fan/light kit. Blade fans made specifically for RVs usually feature a blade diameter of 42”—a great size for a smaller living room or master bedroom.

Ceiling Fan Install—It’ll Make Your Head Spin

Actually, installing either type of ceiling fan is relatively easy if you’re handy and not afraid of a little electrical wiring. But if you’re nervous about fiddling with wiring, consult an electrician or an RV service professional for this installation. Both types of fans will come with all the necessary installation parts, like any nuts, bolts, screws, and blades that it’ll need. It’ll also come with specific install instructions for the model you bought. Since each brand and type of fan is different, we’ll leave the installation instructions to the product manual, but here are a few tips to help your DIY ceiling fan install go smoothly.

Vent Fan Tips

  • If you’re putting your new vent fan where an OEM vent is located, be careful when removing the old vent that you don’t tear the sealant off and damage your roof in the process. Carefully peel the sealant away from the metal perimeter of the vent.

  • If you’re in need of 12V power to run your fan, consider borrowing some from a nearby ceiling light to avoid having wiring strung all around your RV like spaghetti. This would involve a little delicate splicing of wires, so, again, ask a professional for help if needed.

  • Once your vent fan is in place, go upstairs (on the roof) and seal the sucker shut so that it stays bone dry. A good RV sealant will work here.

Rotating Blade Fan Tips

  • Before starting your install, contact your RV’s manufacturer and ask for architectural drawings of your RV if possible (most will be happy to give these to you) to help you determine the best possible place to cut a hole in your RV’s ceiling. You’ll want to be sure to avoid cutting where there is metal or existing wires. If you don’t have access to drawings, you can try running a handheld magnet along the ceiling to identify where metal is located.

  • Once you’ve determined where NOT to cut, hold the fan up on the ceiling to see where it looks the best. Do this with the blades attached so you can see how far out they’ll reach into the room. Just like when hanging pictures on a wall, it’s always best to hold them up first for placement before putting nails in the wall.

  • To avoid adding a new hole to your RV’s ceiling, install the fan where you currently have a ceiling light. Just remove the light and modify the opening so that the fan fits securely.

  • Attach the fan to studs in the ceiling for a firm hold.

  • If you’re creating a new hole for the fan and are in need of power, consider mounting it close to a source of 12V power.

This cool DIY ceiling fan install is pretty straightforward, but if you don’t know which end of a screwdriver is up, call a professional for help. Not only will this RV mod make summer camping more comfortable inside your rig, but it’ll add value to your RV as well! Do you have any tips on installing an RV ceiling fan? Share them with us in the comments below!

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