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Heating a unique camper with underfloor radiant heat

Aaron Johnson of Hanover, Minn., purchased a 1989 M109A3 shop van in 2011 with the intention of turning it into a unique camper for his family of four. Over the course of a few years, they had overhauled it enough to be a reliable vehicle and converted the van box from a mobile repair shop into a small RV space. But there was one problem. It needed heat.

camper without walls needing heat

Aaron Johnson of Hanover, Minn., purchased a 1989 M109A3 shop van in 2011 with the intention of turning it into a unique camper for his family of four. Over the course of a few years, they had overhauled it enough to be a reliable vehicle and converted the van box from a mobile repair shop into a small RV space. 

“We used it and enjoyed it for years, but had recently started camping earlier in the spring and later in the fall when the temps get colder,” Johnson recalled. “I had previously reinsulated the walls and roof, and used a ceramic electric heater to keep it warm inside when needed, but the floor was bitter cold.”

Johnson started researching RV floor heating one night and ran across a blog from HeatMyFloors.com. After reading more about the product, he felt it was ideal for his application because it was simple to install, thin and could run on 24 Volt DC power, which is the same voltage as military vehicles.

“As an added and very unusual bonus, I learned they were located within 10 miles of my house,” Johnson said. “I stopped out at their showroom to see and feel the product in person and talk with the product manager.”

Since there is a variety of choices for heating element widths and wattages, HeatMyFloors.com worked with Johnson to choose the right heating element for his application. We recommended applying the STEP Warmfloor product in rows perpendicular to the rows of vinyl planking that Johnson planned to use for flooring so they wouldn’t rock when walked on. 

The truck’s existing internal transformer didn’t have enough available wattage to run the floor heat at full load, so Johnson used an EPI power supply, which is an uninterruptable power source that provides emergency power to a load when the mains power fails. He used the EPI to power the heating element and mounted it to the wall behind the sofa bed. He also purchased ¼-inch thick CeraZorb synthetic subfloor from HeatMyFloors.com.

“I really loved the CeraZorb,” Johnson said. “It was inexpensive, added an additional thin layer of insulation, gives a nice surface to mount the heating element to and hide the wires in, and also adds a nice cushioned feel to walk on.”

Johnson and his family finished installing the flooring over the winter and put vinyl planking over the top. They started camping with the truck this spring and say they have enjoyed the new heated floor.

“We no longer need to have a ceramic oscillating heater on all the time with fear that a sheet or sleeping bag will touch it in the middle of the night and start a fire,” he said. “We simply have a switch to turn the heat on and we leave it on until it gets warm enough outside where it isn’t needed.”

Johnson said the floor heat is enough to act as the primary heat source to keep the camper comfortably warm with outside temperatures down into the 50’s.

“The floor heat has been a great addition to our camper project and we appreciate the service and help from HeatMyFloors.com,” Johnson said.

camper with radiant heat finished

camper with electric heat in floor camper installing flooring and heat