Installing a small wood stove in a van
THINKING OF INSTALLING A SMALL STOVE IN A VAN? – HERE ARE SOME GOOD TIPS & SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO THINK ABOUT IF YOU ARE.
Many people today are converting vans into tiny homes or just campers with a more homely feel. This means that many people wish to incorporate a small wood stove in their van layout. Fitting a small stove in any van will provide both heat and light as well as offering a potential cooking tool but there are certain factors that need consideration.
- Position of the stove and flue pipe
- Safe distances to combustibles.
- Installing an air vent.
Where to position the stove in the van?
By putting the stove at an angle in a corner the stove can be seen from both the bed and the doorway.
The first point to consider is that the stove needs to be bolted down securely to the floor of the van. This can prove awkward if the chosen position interferes with either the wiring loom, exhaust system or fuel tank so a visual inspection of the vans underside will reveal the areas to avoid along with areas best suited. In my 2017 Transit the best area, with no obstructions is behind the bulk head on the drivers side. Siting the stove on the drivers side brings us to the second factor, the flue position.
The flue position needs to be considered as it is best to avoid cutting through any cross members along with the hole being in a suitable place on the roof to accommodate fitting the roof flashing.
The drivers side is best if you are thinking of driving down any lanes with overhanging branches as sited on the near side you will be more likely to lose your rain cap from a low hanging branch. My system will include a closure cap which can be swapped for the rain cap if required.
The air vent needs to be installed as close to the stove as possible. I was able to install my air vent in the corner behind the stove.
For a different more modern look in the van and to aid bolting the stove to the van floor I designed a steel pedestal for my small stove. I combined this with the heat shields to the side and rear to reduce the safe distance to the combustible van ply lining to 200mm. This gives my tiny stove the following dimensions
2. Safe distances to combustibles.
How close to combustibles can my stove go?
Your stove will have been tested to calculate the safe distance the stove needs to be from any wood or upholstery etc. On the Hobbit stove this is normally 400mm. With the addition of added heat shields this can be reduced to 200mm. These additional stove heat shields comprise two panels of steel to diffuse and convect the heat away from the side. The outer panel is available in a range of different enamel finishes and colours.
The combustible surfaces can also be shielded if required. Vermiculite board, Hardie-backer board are just two of the insulation boards that can be attached. It’s is recommended that the board is fixed with a small air gap to the combustibles.
Here is a link to this type of shielding board
Along with the stove the flue pipe also needs to be a safe distance from anything combustible. The regulation is that the single wall flue pipe should be 3 X it’s diameter away. Eg. 100mm flue pipe = 300mm from combustibles
3. Installing an air vent.
installing an air vent to supply air for the stove to work and for you to breath is crucial as a van is very air tight. You do not want to be in competition with your small stove for the available air in the van if there is no fresh air coming in. It is not enough to just think that you will open a window if needed from time to time. Best is to fit the air vent as close to the stove as possible.
Two essential inclusions when installing a stove
A brief over view for the method for installing a stove.
What tools do I need to install a stove in a van?
Not many, and there are a few alternatives to achieving the main part which is a hole in the roof for the twin wall flue pipe to exit through. A jigsaw, 4.5 ” angle grinder or steel nibbler will all do the job. A spirit level and tape measure, marker pen and plumb line are all helpful. I invested £25 for the nibbler drill attachment to produce a neat accurate hole which it achieved to I think it is money well spent. I used a 100mm diameter hole saw for cutting the hole for the air vent.
When you are happy with the positioning of your stove it needs to be bolted down. The trickiest job is then cutting a hole in the roof of the van. Using some flue pipe, a tape measure and a plumb line you need to transpose the centre of the flue outlet of the stove to a point on the van roof. Drill a pilot hole and then you can go outside onto the roof to mark the circle. The hole in the metal roof of the van needs to be as close fitting to the twin wall flue pipe as possible so that it can be sealed with heat resistant silicone and provide an additional barrier beneath the flashing itself. When using 100mm twin wall flue you will need to cut a 150mm hole. Any combustible materials such as a plywood headlining and insulation needs to be cut back 50mm away from the flue pipe. The internal hole through the lining would therefore be 250mm. This larger hole is covered by the trim plate. We strongly recommend that you use twin wall insulated flue pipe for exiting the van as it will be adjacent to combustibles. In addition, the external flue pipe if insulated will retain the flue gas temperature and this will maintain the draw level and reduce deposits forming. The best tool we could find for cutting the hole was a steel nibbler attachment for a drill. This also came with a pivoting arm which in combination with a right angle drill cut a perfect 150mm hole.
With the hole cut the first 1m length of flue that attaches to the stove can be positioned to allow for the fixing of the support bracket. Leave the bolts loosely fitting until the top section of flue is in place and the flashing fitted.
The flashing can be positioned with the top section of flue coming through it. A bead of silicone can then be laid 2cm from the edge of the flashing base and the flashing positioned. A socket attachment on a battery driver can then be used to drive in the self drilling & tapping fixing screws that also come with plastic caps. These need to be placed around 50mm apart. For a belt and braces approach and to offer the flashing protection against UV degradation I have added a storm collar above the silicone flashing which also comes in the black powder coated finish so really looked the part.
Tighten the support bracket bolts and you are ready for your first fire which will cure the paint finish on the stove so should be done with the van fully ventilated.
Using MIDTHERM HT-S 100mm TWIN WALL FLUE SYSTEM I used the following components ; appliance connector, 1m, 500mm, trim plate, rain cap, support + extension, flashing + fix kit, storm collar. I also have a closure cap for use on longer journeys or for storage. The rain cap is easily removed with the locking band system and the closure cap added in its place.
The concept for my camper van conversion was to make a ‘workvan to campervan’ arrangement. The van, apart from the stove, could be emptied and therefore retain its primary function.
To see my little stove in another vehicle go here
To allow for all of the normal camper van services to be removed when the van is being used for work I employed the services of GW Electrics. Giles from GW turned an £80 metal tool box into a module which can be charged from a roof top solar panel that supplies all the 12v and 240v electrical needs.
First we started with a good strong box. This one has air rams which are great for ease of opening. Then all the electrics and gas cooker and gas bottle are all fitted inside. The box just hooks up to the solar panel installed on the roof.
On the bottom layer of the box is the electrical set up.
Mounted in the box is a 6000W Peak/ 3000W power inverter
( 192696374945 )
along side is a lithium leisure battery
( 273836223788 )
This leisure battery can also be charged from the mains, which means it can be fully loaded every time you load it for a trip.
( 202434001889 )
On the top layer of the box and fed from the gas bottle which is fitted on the bottom layer.
Is the two burner cooker, water bottle shower module and the solar controller.
The box is charged via a solar panel which has been mounted onto the roof rack.
To access the rack we fitted a rear door ladder
( 302590055311 )
With two cushions on the top the box it also makes a great seat next to the stove. This box simply plugs into a solar panel which has been mounted onto the roof rack.
SOLAR POWER SUPPLY
Permanent solar power supply via roof top flexible 80W panel. Feeding a battery and running a 3000W inverter. Double internal socket cab end. Single socket rear end. 12V socket.
Solar power – removable 20W kit with 3 lights 2 USB ports.
Total power – 100W
Kit purchased from https://www.thecampercoshop.com/brands/hubi?cat=30
Review from gadget viper – https://gadgetviper.com/hubi-portable-solar-panel-system/
Can I install a small wood stove in my van, RV or caravan?
Yes is the answer if you follow the same basic principles that should be followed when installing any solid fuel appliance. The setting is a little different from a house but the principles of Approved Document J of the building regulations should be followed. A useful document and graphic which takes this document and applies it to boats is BS 8511 : 2010
Whilst the height of 4.5m for the flue is not obtainable, the flue must be sufficiently high enough to promote an effective draw and therefore evacuation of the burnt gases.
The stove also needs to have a hearth that extends beyond the front of the stove by 225mm in the event of a hot ember rolling out when you opened the door for example.
Can you put a stove in any size van?
Installing a small stove in a van will take up space and if insulated heat the space very quickly. I would therefore suggest that not all vans are suitable for a wood stove. In a small van you may never be able to run the stove to its potential and this could lead to a build up of unwanted deposits in the flue and stove. I would say only a MWB van or larger are really suitable for installing a stove in.
How much space will a stove take up?
The stove will take up a fair amount of space in your van, so combustible surfaces adjacent to the stove can be shielded to reduce the safe distances. You can also install the stove in a corner, as I have done which reduces the footprint. I really think an area approximately 600mm square should be sufficient.
Do I need a hearth for the stove?
Yes, a hearth needs to extend 225mm from the door forwards.
What type of flashing do I need for installing a stove in a van?
A silicone flashing with a malleable aluminium edge to take up any profiles on the metal roof is the best type of flashing for a van stove exit. It grips the pipe and has the flexibility to absorb any bumps in the road whilst maintaining a water tight seal around the pipe.
Does the stove need to be bolted down?
Most certainly yes, and in a minimum of four positions if possible. In the event of an accident you must be certain that the stove will not break free of its moorings and launch forward towards the driver and passenger. Ideally the stove should be bolted through the floor of the van itself rather than bolted to a raised wooden platform for example.
Do I need an air vent?
As a van is fairly airtight box then fitting an air supply for the stove is an essential requirement. I would recommend installing a 100mm diameter vent as close to the stove as possible.
What is the best small stove for a van?
There are a few out there but I think my little Hobbit stove, especially on my newly designed pedestal base. Which is the best small stove for a van ? As long as you can bolt it down and vent it properly then there are a few to choose from. The smaller the van the smaller the stove. Don’t choose a bigger than suitable stove or you will never be able to run it properly. However, really tiny stoves can have a limited burn time or do not have a view of the fire. Best is to choose a cast iron stove rather than a steel stove as this will remain much warmer for much longer after the fire has burned down and is in general a much better material for radiating and retaining the heat from the fuel.
Do I need a certificated stove for my van?
Strictly no but I would want a certificated appliance for peace of minds sake. How will you know the safe distances to combustibles if the stove has never been officially tested?