Camping in an adventure vehicle overnight can be a frigid experience, but running a space heater for extended periods of time can be dangerous as well as energy-wasting.
One of the best alternatives for year-round van lifers is to install heated flooring, a solution that can be both cost-effective and efficient. Not only does it help raise an adventure rig’s ambient temperature, but it’s also a safer method for sustained warmth.
Heated flooring does take a bit of skill and construction know-how to install, but its low energy use and toasty, barefoot-friendly feel are worth the tradeoff. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how best to go about it.
Prepare the Floor
The first step is to remove nearly everything from the vehicle to get full access to the flooring. Then, strip the flooring material down to the bare metal and make sure to repair imperfections like rust or uneven spots. It’s also a good idea to treat the metal with a coat of rust inhibitor.
Before installing the heating elements or tubing, add a layer of insulation to help retain warmth. This helps direct heat upward into the living space instead of letting it escape to the ground.
Lay Out the Heating Elements
Two main types of heated flooring options are available: Hot water tubing or heating mats and cables. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing either system. Depending on the size of a vehicle’s flooring, different zones can be designated to gather more heat than others.
Connect the System and Run Tests
Before covering the heating elements, connect everything to a power source or heating system and test to make sure it works safely. This step assumes the rig’s power system has the capability to handle the extra load. The addition of heated flooring may require an update to the vehicle’s battery setup.
Install the Subfloor
The subfloor is usually made of plywood and is installed between the heating elements and main flooring material. This protects the heating elements below while providing a place to anchor flooring material. It’s important to focus on securing the areas holding the heating elements.
Once the subfloor is in place, it’s time to install the actual floor, whether that’s the old floor that was ripped out or new flooring material. When picking out a new floor, be sure it’s lightweight and thin enough to allow the heat to permeate.
Put Everything Back in Place
The final step is placing all furniture and other equipment back in place. Make sure any anchoring takes into account the heating elements beneath the floor.