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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My Transit MR has windows in the slider and rear door, as well as the compulsory windows in the cab.

(Yes, I know there are dozens of scattered threads or posts within threads about window covers. But none that I have found address the two questions below.)

I want to make insulated window covers. Simplest would be just to cut Reflectix or Low-E . QUESTION: I could put it up against the glass (jammed into place) , or offset from the glass by the depth of the window (3"?) making a gap between the Reflectix/LowE and the glass -- held on by magnets. Is there any advantage to this?

Next, I want to make the window coverings look somewhat less "hack" or "van dweller" so I would cover them in fabric, inside and out. QUESTION: would covering the outside of the Reflectix/LowE with black fabric have much effect (positive or negative) on the insulating properties of the window cover?

QUESTION: in either scenario above, is the Reflectix/LowE acting as true insulation, or just as a sun barrier? And in either case is reflectivity important?

My plan is to attach the window covers either with magnet or with snaps.

Thanks!
 

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reflectix is worthless without an airgap and it is almost worthless with one, a single layer of corrugated cardboard has an higher R factor! then reflectix!
of course this has all been discussed a thousand times before...
if it were me and i wanted curtains, i would stop worrying about saving a few pennies and buy a set made out of thinsulate and foil impregnated cloth made by a half dozen aftermarket companies.
 

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Because glass is an effective conductor of heat and sound, covering it with anything that is significantly less thermally and acoustically conductive should make a marked difference toward reducing heat and noise transfer.

The advantages of using a black or grey cloth on the covers is more about privacy and stealth, and probably a good choice for that reason alone. Another advantage over bulky curtains is how covers can be designed to fold for easy storage and deployment.

I doubt that color choice will impact the cover's functionality to any degree worth worrying about. It is the sun shining onto the interior surfaces that heats everything up. The covers will shade everything inside, preventing the greenhouse effect. Even if the fabric absorbs heat, some/most of that heat is as likely to go back through the glass as it is to pass through the Reflectix and onto the interior surfaces. The fabric and Reflectix has very little mass to store heat when compared to the mass of the interior surfaces that it is shading.

Use of cloth covered Reflectix in this application is more about it being a convenient, durable, sturdy, and lightweight material that lends itself well to filling the area over the glass than it is about the R-factor. Blocking infrared radiation is the primary goal and this choice of materials will achieve that.

For keeping heat inside in the Winter, that is where a floor to ceiling insulated curtain might offer more advantage. Still, the window covers will contribute in that scenario too, as they prevent air contacting glass and transferring heat, much like covering the exposed metal with a cloth covering will do for those thermal bridges to the outside.

Keep in mind how thermal transfer has three paths to take: via radiation; through convection; and, being conducted through materials. Each of these paths should be considered to determine the most effective way to address any specific problem area.
 

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If you end up using Reflectix you do not need fasteners. The space between the glass and the metal frame is wide enough for Reflectix to fit in the slots. On slider there is a long slot at the back and small slots at the front. On back doors there are long slots on one side and short slots on the opposite side.

Very easy to cut the Reflectix to the window size with tabs added to fit in the slots. Quick install remove.

No idea about effectiveness compared to heavier/thicker insulated window covers. Hard to measure the difference between the two approaches. Do know that the Reflectix works well as privacy curtains.
 

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.

For keeping heat inside in the Winter, that is where a floor to ceiling insulated curtain might offer more advantage.
I had double wall curtains made to enclose the sleeping area. Thought I could capture some of the 12 volt heating pad and body heat in a small insulated enclosure. Used Thinsulate between the two layers. The back curtain went from ceiling down to 2" below the bed platform. Front curtain is made in three parts to allow entry/exit to the sleeping platform. Two side curtains and one middle front curtain. Side curtains overlap the middle curtain by 4". The bed platform includes a layer of 1" polyiso insulation.

So far the testing I have done has shown very little difference in temperature inside the tent compared to outside the tent in front part of the van. Hard for me to believe that it has such little effect. Will do some more testing next winter. Suspect insulated curtains would be more useful at lower temperatures.

Curtains were open on the sides so insulation can be removed for the summer. 3M dual-lock used to close the sides. Without the insulation curtains work very well for privacy and fold to a small package for storage. With insulation they are a larger volume and more difficult to store.
 

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Next, I want to make the window coverings look somewhat less "hack" or "van dweller" so I would cover them in fabric, inside and out.
My plan is to attach the window covers either with magnet or with snaps.
Having dealt with repeated snap failures on boat covers I wanted no part of them in the van. We made window coverings with 3M Thinsulate SM600L, ripstop fabric (inside and out) and rare earth magnets. They are simple to use, easy to stash and effective at insulating and blocking light.
 

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Bob, I like Gypsy Brewer's window covers. Thinking along the same line, but adding some spring wire (aka 1080 steel wire; aka music wire) inside the frame to keep the same around the windows. I have some old bandsaw blades that will do the same trick but need to run teeth paste a belt sander. 1065 steel band is used by shipping companies to bind stuff to pallets, so another source of that type of steel.

If you have enough Thinsulate left over, I'd used that and Reflectix to reduce the heat transfer. Convection, conduction, and Radiation. All you need to know about heat transfer, so tackle one at a time to keep the van cool. Cool photo thanks to NASA.

Magnets. I have tons of them, I used some 3/8" diameter x 1" long ones and epoxied into aluminum (you'll see those all over the shop, handy for holding things), but I still have a bunch of 1/4" x 0.5" rare earth magnets. Next time you stop by reminding me as I'll put about 24 of those to the side for you.

I splurged and got the combo sink/stove ala Scotty86's photo's (Instagram?), known at as a hob in the UK. Grind my coffee the night before, have a Melitta drip coffee maker ready to in the morning. Quietly boil water, make coffee, road trip ready!
 

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Reiterating this question -

A lot of the window covers I see (like strawfoot) have Low-e encapsulated in something like rip-stop nylon. Wouldn't this completely negate the radiant barrier qualities of the low-e since there is no air gap between it and the fabric cover, so heat could ~conduct through the fabric and low-e?

Or does the low-e still work as a radiant barrier because there is ~air next to the fabric on the outsides?

Thinking about getting some insulated covers (thinsulate) - but debating if putting low-e inside them would make them even better. Or I could just put low-e on the outside of the covers against the windows when it's sunny and I don't care about stealth.
 

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Our plan is low-e visible on the window side, 200ML Thinsulate on the inside with a rip stop cover on the inside only and an edge sewed to bring it all together. This will hopefully give the best reflection and keeping heat trapped. I think to attach it I'm going to do magnet tabs and since we are in a passenger van using the stock trim I'll glue some metal strips on the backside of the trim so they can attach to specific points. For the air gap I'm going to stand these away from the glass somewhat and see how that goes. I think a lot of this is guessing and there are so many options and it takes a lot of work to make these things that it's probably best to just pick one and see how it goes while balancing the cost and weight of the resulting coverings.

Although it's only anecdotal, I camped two nights for the first time in the van this weekend. It's in a state right now with almost all of the stock trim removed, 600ML Thinsulate on the ceiling and in some of the walls and then low-e only window coverings. I could feel the coldness radiating from the metal walls, but could not feel the same from areas covered in thinsulate or low-e, so it seemed to be doing it's job. The temp got down to about 10 degrees F at night.

One tip for making your templates. We had the best luck with heavier tracing paper from Amazon, laid it over the outside of each window and taped it with painters tape. Then I shined a light from the inside of the van at night and could see the little black dots on the glass. I took a chisel point dry erase marker and traced the outside edge of the black dots with roughly a 1/4" thick line. Then took the template and taped it over my low-e and used a box cutter and a straight edge to cut the underlying low-e. For the corners I used an exacto and free handed it over the tracing paper. For the sliding door, where the trim is still in the van, this method produced a cutout that fit exactly. I don't know how it was so spot on, but it was really surprising. The others will likely do the same when I get the trim back in. I think this method with the additional materials and the tabs will allow us to have enough area to "float" the coverings away from the window.
 
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