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My plan is a little on the overboard side, but not as bad as some. I'm planing on some Noico sheets .... to quiet the lower sound frequencies, covered with Thinsulate SM600L. ....and put Low E SSR on the back of these panels, to take advantage of the air space.... All contact points for the OEM panels against the van structure will have a thermal break.

If I were doing it from scratch, I'd get thinsulate 600 for the walls and 400 for above the ceiling (I have less than an inch gap). Thermal and sound protection, AND fire resistant, and also made for automotive use. No worries about if you used the "right" stuff, because it's the gold standard.

The conversion shop I've decided to use sold me, in part, because of the following line item on the estimate:

Three layer insulation package. Includes Fat Mat sound suppression throughout, 3M Thinsulate insulation and Low E insulation. Applied to all open sheet metal surfaces, including floor, behind door cards, above cab headliner and cargo area.


Note how similar to GapRunr: 1-sound deadening, 2-thinsulate insulation, 3-Low E where appropriate. In the follow up call, he also discussed the thermal breaks. Everything matched from what I've read (and experienced converting my own trailer). I think this is a top notch approach partly because, if you are running a conversion company, there's not a direct reason to go high end on both materials and extra labor that the customer pays for but can't see or really experience. So you'd only do this if you just want to make a great product. Another company I visited in person and almost selected I learned later (from these boards) uses fiberglass insulation.

I'll also note for the OP that windows are going to make a huge difference. If you have a wrap around view in a passenger van, I guess you'd still want to insulate what you could. But keep expectations low. Sun or snow, even covered windows are going to put a hurt on the effort.

 

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DIY and professional up-fitters are free and welcome to do whatever they decide is best. But often times they just don't understand what is going on in vehicles. Up-fitters sell to customer misconceptions which is easy. That's why I spend so much time trying to educate folks. I am an automotive engineer and we talk to 3M about what we are doing with Thinsulate.

We stopped using Dynamat or Fatmat a long time ago. Our Transit does not have it and it is as quiet as (perhaps more than) any luxury vehicle. Folks always want to treat noise and thermal separately but with Thinsulate(TM) there is absolutely no need for additional noise products. It is engineered to absorb acoustic energy. Using it exclusively will save you time, weight, money and effort. And reduces fuel consumption and the effect burning it has on the environment.

We don't do interior moisture barriers either. It's actually a very bad idea to trap moisture inside the wall and ceiling cavities. This is just one of the real problems with rigid foams. We want the cavities to breath so moisture can escape. Thinsulate(TM) is designed to wick condensation away from the metal. If it runs down then it gets in the seams where it can stay and cause corrosion over the long run. We don't want that. Wall and ceiling panels will provide an adequate amount of sealed area to prevent living space moisture from getting to the van skin. This only occurs when you are using the van overnight which for most van folks is very infrequent. This lets the cavity dry out the other 90% of the time you aren't in the van.

And then there is R-value. The people who produce insulation for structures are gaming the value by using the whole wall structure including inside and outside sheeting when presenting the R-value. They know that a higher number sells more product. Thinsulate(TM) is not used in construction. It is designed for vehicles (and clothing) so does not include the sheeting because there isn't any. So comparing R-values with residential insulation is not comparing apples to apples. That is why we know that using a single thorough layer of Thinsulate(TM) SM600L is effective even for vans being used in Alaska, Canada, Arizona and Florida. We get regular feedback from those customers and it is always amazingly positive. The structure of Thinsulate(TM) holds more air than any other kind of insulation. That's what gives it the insulating value. Thinsulate(TM) is hydrophobic and fire resistant without any chemical treatment. So why go to all the trouble of keeping it dry? It doesn't mind being a little bit moist and retains all of it's insulating properties with the moisture present. There is no chance for Borates (used for fire resistance in denim and wool) to wick out because there isn't any.

Further reading:
The story of Thinsulate(TM)
Thinsulate(TM), 3M and Sustainability

All the best,
Hein
DIYvan
541 490 5098

P.S. 3M Published R-values: Thinsulate(TM) SM600L R5.2 Thinsulate(TM) SM400L and AU4002-5 R3.8
Thermal conductivity, k = 0.039 Watt/(meters * degrees Kelvin)
 

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Discussion Starter #23
Hein,
Thank you for your many contributions here. I just reviewed the Thinsulate installation instructions on your website. I have a MR LWB Transit Cargo van. How much Thinsulate is needed to do the walls and ceiling?
 

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Obviously, they overstated that value. However, the thought of pre-cut panels is appealing.
You might be in the wrong game if what little pre-cut panels simplifies for you and at such a sacrifice in functionality, is appealing. :eek:
 

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R-value in the real world depends on the installation and application. The manufacturer claims of R value are seldom achieved in the real world. Other considerations for a vehicle are the ability to conform to the curvature of the body, ability to remain in place and functional despite constant vibration and jolting (and not squeak!), and to not off-gas harmful vapors.

I've mentioned before that the volume of a Transit is so small that there's really no need to go crazy with insulation. If you tried to make it so insulated that your body heat would keep it warm inside, you'd probably suffocate overnight. And venting would negate all your extra insulation. Best bet for cold temps is moderate insulation and a small heat source (electric, propane, marine woodstove, etc). To keep it COOL, your guess is as good as mine. As soon as you open the slider all the hot air outside rushes in. You pretty much need AC if you're trying to live in your van in 100 degree f temps, and run it as needed. A shade tent to keep direct sunlight off would be a good idea.
 

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....what we are doing with Thinsulate.

....but with Thinsulate(TM) ...Using it exclusively ....

.... Thinsulate(TM) is designed ....

...Thinsulate(TM) is not used... It is designed for .... a single thorough layer of Thinsulate(TM) .... The structure of Thinsulate(TM) ..... Thinsulate(TM) is....

Further reading:
[URL="https://...thinsulate-3m...The story of Thinsulate(TM) [/URL]
[URL="https://...3M_Thinsulate... Thinsulate(TM)[/URL]

P.S. ...R-values: Thinsulate(TM) SM600L R5.2 Thinsulate(TM) SM400L....
Well at least my upfitter and I got the THINSULATE (TM) part right!!! :nerd:

Hein, I do appreciate your posts and have certainly spent several hours going through your posts and attached material alone. If you're nice, I might even stop in after the van is complete and let you grade out the work.

One thing I realized very quickly is that no matter who I was going to choose, including myself which was a real option after doing a fully kitted trailer, there were going to be some tradeoffs. Thanks to everyone here for making me a more informed Transit camper upgrader/owner.
 

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As usual, Hein avoids talking R value.
I thought you were dead , its been a long time since i heard you complain about how many heater core threads I was starting , saying " you've been working on it for 2 years , if you haven't figured it out by now you might as well give it up"
anyways , I finally got my auxiliary heater core to work.
Sorry guys for clogging up the internet with a never ending bunch of heater core threads.
 

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R-value in the real world depends on the installation and application. The manufacturer claims of R value are seldom achieved in the real world. Other considerations for a vehicle are the ability to conform to the curvature of the body, ability to remain in place and functional despite constant vibration and jolting (and not squeak!), and to not off-gas harmful vapors
So, even though in a van/RV there is relatively little wall thickness to work, and usually no cheap, plentiful 'shore power' to overcome heat loss/gain, you believe the thermal resistance of the insulation used doesn't matter too much, because one that's rated half as much as another might end up performing just as well, or at least well enough anyway.
OK. Sure. Got it.
 

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So, even though in a van/RV there is relatively little wall thickness to work, and usually no cheap, plentiful 'shore power' to overcome heat loss/gain, you believe the thermal resistance of the insulation used doesn't matter too much, because one that's rated half as much as another might end up performing just as well, or at least well enough anyway.
OK. Sure. Got it.
Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying ;)
But actually just a warning to not believe manufacturer's claims. Many people think reflectex is a good insulation in a van, for instance, because of the R value on the packaging.
I like the rigid insulation for function, but it's a bit harder to match the body contours. Also, it doesn't do a lot for sound. Using sound dampening material on the van skin and then rigid insulation and then some sort of felt or soft cover so the rigid doesn't squeak on the interior panels would be a great combo. That would take care of most of the three forms of thermal transfer: conduction, convection, and radiation.
I understand the pursuit of maximum insulation, but I guess I'm using myself as a yardstick and see it as a waste of time and money to build for rare extremes of usage instead of the 95% of usage hours.
 

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Thinsulate...is designed for vehicles (and clothing)
Thinsulate was developed as an inexpensive substiture for down fill in garments, which need extreme crush resilience and flexibility.

When used as fill in cold weather garments, Thinsulate performs very well, and provides a much better value than down fill (which is insanely expensive).

Years later, Thinsulate was adapted for use in vehicles because it has fairly good acoustic absorption properties for mid-range and higher frequencies (like most other similar fibrous insulation). A scrim layer was added so it can more easily be applied in sheets to surfaces, because Thinsulate is not inherently self-supporting. Vehicle insulation doesn't need to have the crush resilience and flexibility needed for garments, because the insulation is typically covered by something a lot more substantial than a layer of fabric. So a vehicular application is a *LOT* more like a metal building than a garment.


So comparing R-values with residential insulation is not comparing apples to apples.
There is nothing magically different about a "living space" built in a van or trailer - just because it is on wheels - compared to any other metal building structure. About the only real difference is that vehicles flex when they travel over uneven terrain, but even stationary structures have to be able to flex due to wind load, etc. But vans and RVs do not have to flex like a parka.


That is why we know that using a single thorough layer of Thinsulate(TM) SM600L is effective even for vans being used in Alaska, Canada, Arizona and Florida. We get regular feedback from those customers and it is always amazingly positive.
Testimonials. Carefully controlled objective testing of Thinsulate compared to the alternatives? Nope.


The structure of Thinsulate(TM) holds more air than any other kind of insulation. That's what gives it the insulating value.
Source?

If that were true, it would have an R-value of more than 7 per inch, when in fact it's about half that.
"Holding more air" is not what gives insulation a higher R-value. If it was, those air-filled bags used for packaging would have higher R-valuye than anything else, and people would be using those in coolers instead of PU foam.


Beware of preferential bias.
....so says the guy who in the last two months has sold more than $42,000 of a product that due to the manufacturer's restrictive policies is not easy for end users to buy at at all (much less at "big box store" discount pricing). Recommending/selling products that are too large to be shipped easily and which end users could buy at their local Home Depot or building supply house isn't particularly helpful to growing a small business, which is why, this:

If I were doing it from scratch, I'd get thinsulate 600...because it's the gold standard.
is ironic.

As usual, Hein avoids talking R value.
Give him a break... he's just defending his turf.

And he also knows guys like me who know better don't have any incentive to stick around day-in & day-out to counter some of the claims (in general, not just his) on forums like this, so his business will be mostly unaffected.



600L Thinsulate (if fluffed out to a full 1.65" thick) provides about R5.2, according the manufacturer's specs., here.
That's about the same as ordinary fiberglass batt of the same thickness (3.5" = R13).
There other, more mainstream flexible/fibrous insulations that provide this thermal performance at a much lower cost.
 

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But actually just a warning to not believe manufacturer's claims. Many people think reflectex is a good insulation in a van, for instance, because of the R value on the packaging.
There's a BIG difference between claims made about boutique products like Reflectix and Low-E and mainstream products from major manufacturers that are installed in such large quantities that if the performance wasn't actually what the specs claimed, the cost of litigation would be unaffordable even for companies like DOW. Also, the performance of mainstream products is validated by ASTM certified testing facilities. That's why specifications for products like Thermax (and the rest) are so detailed and specific, and the specs for products like Reflectix and Low-E use weasel-words like "Up to..."

Boutique products like Reflectix and Low-E get away with their claims mainly because they are marketed to end users who don't know any better AND because they are slipping through regulatory cracks that have allowed them (so far) to not be sued out of existence by the FTC, or at least be fined and forced to stop publishing bogus claims about the R-value of their products.

You're making a mistake to assume that just because niche products like Reflectix and Low-E don't have anything like the R-value they claim, that may also be true of "real" insulation products like Thermax, Tuff-R or AP Foil (or for that matter, OC Foamular or Dow Styrofoam).

Same goes for thinking that there's something so magically different about a "living space" built in a van or trailer - just because it is on wheels - compared to any other metal building structure. About the only real difference is that vehicles flex when they travel over uneven terrain, but even stationary structures have to be able to flex due to wind load, etc.
 

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It is interesting that most discussions about insulation only compare Thinsulate to Rigid Polyisocylanurate foam.

Breweries use closed cell flexible foam to insulate their tanks and piping.

My conversion uses all 3 products depending on the location. The closed cell foam has both insulation and sound absorption value and is flexible. The rigid insulation does not need to squeak if installed so it does not move against the metal van body and works well if you need a rigid surface. Thinsulate works well in areas where flexibility is required.

Link to Aerocel insulation:

https://www.aeroflexusa.com/products/aerocel-epdm-sheet-for-duct-and-large-surfaces/
 

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Let's heat this up by adding some gasoline to the fire (thus negating need for insulation);

Application is key. Like Orton says, some things are better than others depending on the space they're being used. For example, you don't see a lot of people throwing away their polyfill bed comforters in favor of a 1" sheet of polyiso from Home Depot that they lay under instead. Why is that? The polyiso has a better R value, so it should be better as a comforter.

Assuming a person making a DIY RV out of a cargo van in their driveway only has the thickness of the wall and ceiling ribs to work with, about 2.5" average, they need to be judicious about materials. If they are "building" for max insulative capabilities because of an extreme environment they are planning to use it in (sub zero and/or 100+ f degrees) on a regular if not daily basis, the higher the R value the better for the materials. But they may also decide they want to drive the van, so materials that will not settle to the bottom of the walls or decay into dust when encountering constant vibration are needed. That pretty much eliminates blown-in insulation as a material (not that anyone has tried that; I hope). And sound dampening is also desirable, either for road noise when moving or to block the sounds of the other homeless people living down by the river or on the sidewalk outside. AND there is the ventilation issue, you don't want to suffocate from being totally sealed in a 400 cubic foot box. AND there is the moisture from respiration and wet clothes and gear to deal with, since the metal and glass shell of the van prevents any transpiration other than through vents. That's a big set of parameters tp plan for. Videopipeline does a great job of finding data concerning insulative capacities of products, I learned a bunch of stuff, and I think they could also find and post the installation limitations of these products, and their performance regarding moisture management and vibration.

My seat of the pants best-guess after a short lifetime (compared to Orton!) of experience would say that a sound dampening material on the skin of the van, at least to stop the drum-head vibration of the panels, covered by rigid wherever possible, and flexible (fabric/fiberglass/etc) where not, because of access or curvature, also in gaps and crevices. Then cover all that with a thin (.25") layer of fabric material before installing the interior wall panels, to reduce chances of rigid rubbing and squeaking on the panels. Take care not to block the OEM ventilation with insulation in the walls. And don't forget, hard surfaces reflect sound, so the interior walls and/or ceiling being covered with fabric, carpeting, or upholstery in places will drastically reduce the noise. For practicality, maybe just the upper sections of the walls.

I wouldn't consider sprayfoam because it prohibits future changes in the walls and ceiling.
 

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I use rigid Thermax foam wherever possible, to get the highest possible R-value in the minimum possible thickness.

But of course, rigid material doesn't work in applicatoins where there a lot of not-wide-open cavities that need to be filled.

If somebody does need/want to use a fiber batt or semi-rigid fiber board type insulation to fill irregular cavities, there are so many options available without having to have bulk goods shipped cross country (which ain't free even even if it does have "free shipping"). And the simple fact is, they have better acoustic and thermal performance than Thinsulate, at a fraction of the cost.

www.rockwool.com/products/

www.lowes.com/pl/Batt-insulation-Insulation-accessories-Building-supplies/4294524376?sortMethod=sortBy_priceLowToHigh&refinement=4294514457,3791440475
www.lowes.com/pd/Johns-Manville-Mineral-Wool-Batt-Insulation-with-Sound-Barrier-15-25-in-W-x-47-in-L/1000164881
www.lowes.com/pd/ROCKWOOL-Comfortboard-80-R-6-Rock-Wool-Batt-Insulation-with-Sound-Barrier-24-in-W-x-48-in-L/1000339775

https://www.menards.com/main/building-materials/insulation/insulation-rolls-batts/c-5780.htm?queryType=allItems&Spec_Material_facet=Mineral+Wool

www.homedepot.com/b/Building-Materials-Insulation-Mineral-Wool-Insulation/N-5yc1vZboco?Ns=P_REP_PRC_MODE%7C0
www.homedepot.com/p/Owens-Corning-R-15-Thermafiber-UltraBatt-Mineral-Wool-Insulation-Batt-15-in-x-47-in-UB-40-P3D-15-47-121/304633821 (3.5" thick, R15, $0.81 per sq. ft.)

...compared to Thinsulate 600L, you get twice the thickness, more than twice the R-value, much higher acoustic absorption (especially at lower frequencies) for about one-third the price per SQ FOOT (if using "regular" general purpose mineral wool batts).

In a Transit, the structural cavities are a lot thicker than 1.65 inches, so you might as well fill it up.

3.5 inch thick Roxul will do that. And it's available in thinner, semi-rigid form too.

Lots and lots of options, some of which are loose and fluffy, others are semi-rigid, some are optimized more for acoustic reduction, others more for thermal, but all of which are very good at both and a lot more cost-effective than Thinsulate for thermal and/or acoustic insulation of metal structures.

And this class of products is not only water resistant, it also has the highest fire resistance of any commonly available structural insulation, which is why it is often used in fire barrier walls.

But I get it... Lots of people have used Thinsulate in their vans and were satisfied with the improvement it made *compared to their stock uninsulated van* and after all, Thinsulate costs a lot more, so it *must* be better, right?

Anybody who treats every aspect of their upfit that way (i.e.: if it isn't widely available and it costs more, it must be better) will end up with an absurdly expensive, low-value outcome.
 

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Using a combination of CS150 Thinsulate (0.4" thick Garment Grade) and Polyiso sheets from Home Depot in 1/2" and 3/4" thickness I insulated the van's walls, ceiling and floor for less that $400, including spray adhesive and other materials and hardware used. Placing the Thinsulate against the metal and the Polyiso sheet over it, then cover with wall and ceiling panels as desired netted a higher total R-value than SM600 alone, and a significant noise reduction.

More detail in the build thread, including before and after db readings (10 db reduction at road speeds achieved) and R-Values for the products.

Also, see the thread on filling the channels to understand how ineffective this method was demonstrated to be. (The metal of the channel conducts heat around any insulation placed inside, and does so at a rate about 2000 times faster than heat can be conducted through air.)

Insulating a van well does not have to be expensive, nor involve witchcraft, good intentions, or other belief systems in order to be effective.
 

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Trying to cram fibrous insulation like Thinsulate into thin channels (i.e.: "hat section" channels) is an exercise in frustration, for no real reason.

Fibrous fill doesn't even do much (if anything) for acoustics in those locations because it provides no additional stiffness or dampening and thus has practically no effect on resonance of the surrounding structure, which is how the sound waves propagate into the interior.

But there's no reason to even try to do that because that's what "pillar foam" and "body foam" is typically used for:
www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Rigid-Pillar-Foam/?N=5002385+3293194025&rt=rud
"...fills posts, pillars, and other automotive body cavities to prevent panel flutter or provide rigidity"
www.3m.com/3M/en_US/company-us/all-3m-products/~/3M-Flexible-Foam/?N=5002385+3293193646&rt=rud
"...closely mimics OEM foam properties for insulation, sound-deadening and temperature resistance."

And naturally, there are bulk equivalents available at a fraction of the unit cost of those small dispensers intended for body shops for collision repair, e.g.: www.smooth-on.com/product-line/flexfoam-it/
(Since one person on here is very adament about Thinsulate's FMVSS-302 compliance, FlexFoam-iT 7 FR complies with FMVSS-302 too, in case anyone is worried about that even if every other material used in the upfit does not.) Two-part semi-rigid PU foam is readily available at lower cost than the flexible type cited above.

The key difference between two-part PU foam and *cheap* moisture-cured spray foam (e.g.: Great Stuff) is 2-part foam cures via chemical reaction, and is not dependent on air or moisture in the air to cure completely.
Two-part foam cures completely in less than an hour at room temperature, with better uniformity & higher R-value (relative to thickness) than mono-component foam.

Mono-component foam like Great Stuff depends on moisture in the air to cure. As a skin starts to form on the outside of a large blob of foam, it starts shutting off the flow of moisture in the air to the uncured foam in the center, resulting in an incomplete cure. That's why the label instructions state specifically a maximum bead size that is a lot smaller than a large cavity.



That's why trying to fill large cavities with something like "Great Stuff" is a mistake (as some people have found out the hard way, based on their posts elsewhere: "It oozed out of the enclosed spaces on our Sprinter for an entire summer everytime it got warm out.")

But for small spot treatment, sometimes it's more convenient to use mono-component foam, and for that, I have found Draftstop 812 to be the best alternative. For those who don't want to invest in a pro-grade dispenser, and need something in stock *now* at their local store, LOCTITE TITE FOAM Window and Door is not a bad alternative, certainly better than any version of "Great Stuff" for a vehicular application.

BTW: When filling large voids with expanding foam, you don't have to apply it directly onto the surfaces of the cavity... various types of bags - even ordinary plastic bags - can be used as liners, which allows the cured foam "bun" to be removed easily later if need be.
 
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