I like to get away from the crowds and enjoy the scenery, so I do most of my camping in state parks and other places without electric hookups. Gertie has ample solar power and storage capacity (205W and 340 Ah, respectively), so I'm rarely at a loss for electric power.
But there's one thing I can't do on solar/battery power: run the roof air conditioner. In theory, my 2,000W inverter could handle it, since the A/C is a 1,200W high-efficiency unit...but practice, it'd drain my batteries flat in half an hour. So in hot weather, I have to find other ways to stay cool.
The best way I've come up with is Fan-Tastic 12V fans. You're probably familiar with the Fan-Tastic vent fans, which are widely known for their quietness, efficiency and modest power consumption. I have two of these, and they're great for moving air through the coach.
But when it's really hot, nothing beats a fan actually blowing on you. Fan-Tastic has that situation covered as well, with their "Endless Breeze" 12V box fan. This is essentially a 14" Fan-Tastic vent fan in a box with legs so you can place it anywhere in your coach, and a cord that plugs into any handy 12V outlet. Like its roof-mounted cousins, it moves lots of air quietly and efficiently, so it's great for keeping cool when boondocking.
By the way, if you decide to get yourself one of these fans, be sure to shop around! I've seen prices ranging $53.99 (on sale at Camping World) to $107.99 (at a dealer I won't embarrass by mentioning). Do a Froogle search to find the best price.
I own two "Endless Breeze" fans, and I love 'em both. But I wanted more flexibility in how I aimed them than the built-in legs would permit. So I built a couple of simple tilt/swivel brackets that let me hang the fans (no more looking for a clear surface to set them on!) and point them in any direction. For example, here's the fan I mounted under the upper storage cabinet in the rear lounge. (Click to see a full-sized version.)
I found this hanging tilt/swivel mount to be a big improvement on an already great product. And it wasn't hard to make. Here's how I did it.
Modifying the fan
First I removed the legs and handle from each fan. Because the power cord exited the case at the bottom—less than ideal for a hanging mount—I decided to rotate the fans 90° and mount them with the cord near the top and the speed-control knob on the side. I knew I'd need something sturdy on each side to use as a pivot point—the plastic case wasn't going to be strong enough. So I made a couple of metal plates for each fan, with a 1/4"-20 threaded hole in the middle. Opening up the case, I glued these in place inside, one on each side, with larger holes in the plastic case matching the reinforcing plates' threaded holes. (You can see these and other details in the drawing a little further down this page.)
Making the brackets
For the bracket itself I used 3/4" x 3/4" aluminum angle stock as the crossbar, with legs made from 3/4" flat stock. I brazed the legs to the crossbar using AlumiWeld. If you thought the only way to join aluminum was with a thousand bucks worth of heliarc welder equipment, this stuff should interest you: it lets you make joints that are stronger than the metal itself, using nothing more than a $10 propane torch and a 99¢ stainless steel brush. It's very easy to work with...if you have any soldering experience, it'll be a snap.
To finish off the project, I added knobs on each side and a mounting plate on top, spaced away from the fan body by sections of 1/2" aluminum tubing. I used 1/4-20 hex-head bolts, and pressed on the plastic knobs after heating the bolt heads so that they'd sink partway into the plastic. (You could also use wing nuts, but I thought the knobs looked more "professional.") I bought all the hardware at Home Depot, by the way; my total cost was less than $10 per bracket.
Here's the plan I followed when making the brackets:
The mounting plate at the top had three holes: the center one was threaded for a 1/4-20 bolt from the fan bracket, while the two smaller holes flanking it were drilled and countersunk for flathead wood screws that would hold the plate to the surface underneath which it was mounted—ceiling or cabinet.
Wiring the fans
I mounted one fan in the rear corner of the lounge, hanging from an upper storage cabinet, and the other hanging from the ceiling at the foot of the overcab bed, where it replaced an old and very noisy 12V oscillating fan that Lazy Daze had put there back in '85 when Gertie was built. To get power to the fans, I used two different methods.
The bedroom fan was easiest, because there was already wiring running through the ceiling to that spot (from a switch by the head of the bed). The only hitch was that the existing wire was pretty skimpy—it looked like a piece of 24-gauge headphone wire. Although the Fan-Tastic fans don't use a lot to power (about 3 amps), I was worried that the existing wire might not be adequate. Fortunately, it turned out that this was only a pigtail—the wire in the ceiling was hefty 18-gauge stuff. So I cut off the old skimpy wire, cut the fan's cord down to about ten inches and spliced it directly to the heavy wire in the ceiling. Then I shoved the spliced section back up through the hole into the ceiling, so everything looked shipshape.
The lounge fan was a little more work, since there was no 12V wiring in the corner where I wanted to put the fan. Fortunately, Lazy Daze had mounted an airline-style reading light a couple of feet away under a side cabinet, and I knew I could tap into that light's power source. I ran the fan's wire through the cabinet to just above the light fixture. I removed the fixture's end plates and pulled out its diffuser, then undid the two screws holding it to the underside of the cabinet. Lowering the fixture revealed the two wire nuts attaching it to the coach's wiring. It was easy to take the wire nuts off, add the wires from my fan and replace everything. The fan was now powered by the same source as the light, but controlled by its own on/off/speed switch.
And that's about it. The whole job took a couple of afternoons, and I can't say enough good things about the results: the quiet, powerful Fan-Tastic fans make a huge difference in comfort...and being able to aim them up, down or sideways to exactly where they will do the most good makes things even better!