Roof Vents Without Power Source?

Hi there!

My Fiance and I are building out a very low tech van. We’ve decided against any kind of electricity source. However, now that we’re ready to buy the parts, we have discovered that a lot of basic elements of van builds - like ventilation - generally require electricity.

We definitely don’t want to skip a vent. I know some people just crack the windows, but given the climate we’re in (rainy and cold) that isn’t a great option.

Does anyone know of any good quality roof vents that don’t use electricity? The only ones I’ve seen so far have questionable or downright bad reviews.


You didn’t happen to mention what kind of van we’re talking about…

Regardless, I am not a fan of roof vents at all. Rain guards for your front windows are a better choice.


"Opportunities are everywhere, but only action makes it happen." ~ Van_Dweller

Oh, sorry! It’s a 2005 GMC Savana.

May I ask why you don’t like roof vents? Most of the information I’ve found says they’re a necessity.

I’ll look into the rain guards. One thing I’m worried about is that there are no opening windows in the back, where we’ll be sleeping, cooking, etc.


I started out in a tin top 1961 VW camper van, opening windows all around, and no roof vents. It was an oldie, but it was a factory westy with the beautiful varnished birch interior. It did have a house battery, charged while driving, but the only power in the back was a single cigarette lighter outlet, and a single fancy dome light. The stove/heater, fridge, hot water, and oscillating fan, and the 2 cabin lamps were all kerosene powered, no propane on board. Behind the drivers seat was a single seat facing backwards for the dinette which had a portable toilet under the seat cushion. It had bucket seats up front, so you could walk through to the back, and the tiny but efficient kitchen resided behind the passenger seat. It was designed so you could use the kitchen from either inside or outside. It had a fold down table, a lot of fold up/down counters & shelves. The double bed converted into a front facing sofa for the back side of the dinette and for lounging. The only thing missing was the original portable kerosene powered swamp cooler that the seller kept, although he did show it to me, and I was later able to replace it from a wrecking yard. Even without the swamp cooler, with opening windows and a fan, combined with parking in the shade, I was pretty comfortable. Equally important I had no leaks, and no moisture or mold problems.

Later I had other camper vans and motorhomes, and sooner or later the roof vents always leaked. Of course it was raining when they leaked, so you couldn’t immediately fix them. The misery of roof vents was very real and very frustrating. So I have grown to hate them, or anything else that requires putting holes in your roof.

If your back or side doors have windows, you might be able to replace them with opening windows from a wrecking yard.

When I had a cargo van, I wasn’t happy with 2 expensive fantastic roof vents with fans, and wound up building a folding box out of coroplast (plastic cardboard), to fit in a front window, with a 10" O2Cool ( under $20 at Walmart ) facing towards the rear. With the other side front window cracked, it did a good job of circulating air through the whole van, much better than the 2 expensive roof vents. Plain cardboard and duct tape can work if funds are tight.

The main people pushing roof vents are getting paid for it. There are many better and cheaper choices that don’t involve putting holes in your roof. After all is said and done, if heat is your problem, shade will do you far more good than any amount of insulation. You can secure screens to your front windows with magnets. Those automatic closing patio door screens work well if you are someplace you can have your side and/or back doors open too. Screens tend to keep much of the rain out too as long as it isn’t a wind driven downpour.


"Stay home, stay safe, and remember social distancing." ~ Van_Dweller

Thank you for your insight! Foregoing the roof vent will definitely save money and time.

I personally could not live without my roof vent. I live in my van full time with a dog and cat so for me it is a necessity. The roof vent allows me to control: humidity inside of the van, heat, cooking fumes, CO and CO2 from my little buddy heater. The roof vent also ensures that if I need to run into the store for a few things, I won’t come back to a boiling car (especially important for my animals).


Did you ever find a vent? If so, what was it called?