If you plan on embarking on a DIY campervan build, there are loads of things to consider. After all, you’ll need to settle on which type of camper van bed you’ll build, what your van kitchen is going to look like, and a lot more.
Although plenty of people include a vent fan in their build, fewer folks have discovered the joys that a van skylight can bring. There are just so many benefits to having a skylight in your Sprinter, Ford Transit, or ProMaster that we decided to compile this guide.
We’ll cover the reasons you might want a skylight and how to choose one. We’ve also listed a few of our favorites for good measure.
Why Install a Van Skylight?
There are tons of good reasons for making a van skylight part of your DIY camper van conversion. In fact, the more you think about it, the more likely you’ll be to wonder why you wouldn’t install a skylight!
For starters, even the most spacious van conversion can feel a bit stuffy from time to time. Even if you’ve installed a roof vent fan, the air inside your van might be a little stale. Since adding fresh air and natural light to the equation can make a huge difference, a skylight can bring a lot of benefits. Here are a few reasons why you might want to install a van skylight:
- Perfect stealth window. If you plan on doing a lot of stealth camping in your van, you probably won’t be installing many windows. Fortunately, van skylights are perfect for this kind of conversion. You’ll be able to let in air and light without calling attention to yourself, and you’ll feel safe and secure into the bargain.
- Create a cross breeze. Lots of van lifers install a rooftop vent fan in their DIY conversions. However, adding a skylight at the other end of your van can help create a powerful cross breeze. In fact, you might never need your van air conditioner with this setup.
- Reduce energy consumption. As we just mentioned, installing a van skylight can drastically reduce your air conditioner usage. That’ll definitely help out your batteries on hot days. What’s more, the natural light you’ll get from a skylight means you won’t always have to rely on interior lights, especially in a stealth camper van.
- Sense of space. As well as increasing the amount of natural light in your camper van, a skylight can create the illusion of extra space. Plus, you’ll be able to stargaze from your bed without compromising your security.
- Emergency exit. While it’s unlikely you’ll need to use a skylight this way, it’s a great option. If, for whatever reason you need to make a quick escape, simply open the skylight all the way and clamber out. You might also end up using the skylight as a way to access your van’s roof to monitor solar panels or just hang out!
5 Van Skylights To Consider
Now that we’ve established how awesome van skylights are, let’s take a look at a few examples. We’ve found five van skylights, most of which can be self-installed relatively easily.
Dometic Heki Mini Plus
The Dometic Heki Mini Plus is one of the most popular van skylights around, and it’s easy to see why.
Costing around $220, this skylight is compact, super sturdy, and fairly straightforward to install. Plus, the Heki Mini Plus comes with detailed installation instructions that are easy to follow.
Measuring 20 inches across, the Mini Heki Plus van skylight features an acrylic double-glazed dome and can be opened in three positions. You can choose between fully open, partially open, and a bad weather position. In the latter case, the acrylic dome prevents water from getting in your van.
Thanks to its manual lever operation, using the Heki Mini Plus is a piece of cake. Best of all, there’s a retractable bug screen on one side and a blackout shade on the other. Finally, this van skylight has forced ventilation, which means it keeps your van both light and airy.
Arctic Tern Electric RV Skylight
We absolutely love this sleek and streamlined camper van skylight — it just looks so cool! Still, the Arctic Tern Electric RV Skylight requires a pretty substantial investment of around $1,700. With that said, if you can afford this van skylight, it’s definitely worth considering; Arctic Tern is known for producing rugged and reliable van windows.
The Electric RV Skylight is big enough to double as a roof hatch if you’re planning on installing a roof deck on your van. Plus, thanks to its high-strength injection-molded ABS plastic construction, this thing will stand the test of time.
The large double-glazed acrylic dome is tinted and can open to a maximum of 45 degrees. Furthermore, its large overlap prevents moisture from getting in on rainy days. Best of all, the dome is powered by an electric motor, which is a nice touch.
As well as featuring a retractable fly screen/blackout blind combo, the Artic Tern Electric RV Skylight includes LED lights, which can come in really handy. Plus, they can help make your van feel more cozy!
Dometic MIDI Heki LED
Measuring a generous 28 inches by 20 inches, the Dometic MIDI Heki LED is one of the newest offerings from this well-respected manufacturer.
Featuring a white edged double acrylic glazed dome, the MIDI Heki LED is a durable and heavy-duty skylight that’s been designed to withstand the elements. Plus, this excellent option is going to let a lot of light into your camper van.
Like other Dometic skylights, the MIDI Heki LED features a push bar operation, making it really easy to use. As well as opening to a maximum of 45 degrees, this skylight features improved aerodynamics that cut down on noise while driving.
The MIDI Heki LED has retractable blackout and bug screens, but what really makes it stand out is the inclusion of cool LED lights. You can choose between bright white lights and cool blue LEDs. The latter option is ideal for those times when you need to find your way in the dark without waking your partner. Plus, the soft blue light creates a cozy, atmospheric feel in your home-on-wheels!
Dometic Micro Heki Without Forced Ventilation
If you’re planning on building out a camper van with a bathroom, the Dometic Micro Heki is definitely worth considering. This awesome van skylight has been specifically designed for the bathroom area in a van or RV, and we think it’s pretty fabulous.
For starters, the Micro Heki measures just 11 inches by 11 inches, so it won’t take up much roof space. What’s more, the double glazed glass dome opens to 50 degrees, allowing your bathroom to stay dry and ventilated.
There’s a neat locking mechanism, which means you won’t worry about the wind damaging your skylight, and you can buy the Micro Heki with or without forced ventilation. As you’d expect, there’s a built-in fly screen, and you can also configure the Micro Heki with a retractable blackout shade.
We just had to include this incredible skylight because it’s so outrageous! Sure, the OHV Skylight won’t appeal to everyone, but you have to admit it’s pretty cool. Costing around $7,000 (including installation) this skylight is produced by Off Highway Van, a Utah-based conversion company.
While you can’t install this yourself, OHV will install it in DIY conversions. Measuring 56 by 36 inches, this amazing skylight is made from tempered glass and sits in a steel frame that’s welded to the vehicle roof. The OHV skylight comes with an insulated cover that attaches with magnets. That way you won’t lose heat during the winter and you can stay cool during the hotter months.
Ultimately, if you want a sensational way to stargaze while you’re boondocking, the OHV Skylight is the way to go!
How To Choose a Van Skylight
As we’ve seen, there are loads of skylight options, all of which vary in size, price, and features. With that in mind, you’ll need to think carefully about what you need before committing to a specific model. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Price. It almost goes without saying that your budget will play a big part in which skylight you end up buying. While you can find budget-friendly models, you may have to sacrifice some functionality. On the other hand, it might be worth investing more if you’ll be living in your camper van full time.
- Build quality. While it might be tempting to opt for a bargain basement van skylight, the materials used might not be up to snuff. Honestly, we’d recommend investing a little more to get something durable that’ll stand the test of time.
- Installation. The majority of van skylights we’ve talked about in this article are fairly easy to install as part of a DIY Van conversion. In the best-case scenario you’ll just need a drill, jigsaw, and some sealant for installation. Still, depending on your van’s roof, installing some skylights might require additional parts, so make sure you’re aware of what’s needed.
- Size and location. Choosing a suitable size of van skylight is essential, especially if your roof space is limited. If you plan on installing solar panels, storage racks, or even a deck up there, you’ll need to plan carefully. Also consider where you’ll want the skylight — this is especially important if you want to use it in combination with a vent fan.
- Special features. You might just want a simple skylight that opens and closes, in which case a budget-friendly model will suffice. However, it might be worth spending more if you’d like multiple opening positions, retractable screens, and LED lights.
Tips for Installing a Van Skylight
We aren’t about to give you an in-depth tutorial on how to install a van skylight, but we can share a few tips and pointers. While you won’t need a ton of professional tools, there are some things that are essential:
- Mastic tape
It’s always a good idea to install your skylight before installing insulation and ceiling panels. Plus, you’ll want to make sure you’ve taken precise measurements for where the skylight will go. That’s especially important if you’re also going to have solar panels and other stuff on the roof.
Once you’ve cut the hole for your skylight, making the edges as smooth and level as possible is super important. That way you’ll get a good seal.
Another important thing to achieve is a level surface. Otherwise, you’ll have problems adhering the skylight to your roof and risk leakage. That’s where Mastic tape comes in — you can use it to create a level surface if your van’s roof isn’t flat.
For a more in-depth guide to installing a van skylight, check out this fantastic YouTube video by a DIY van life couple:
We hope you’ve found this guide to van skylights useful. Feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments section!
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