A lot of caravans, camper trailers and Hybrids are now coming out with different dust suppression units, and in this post we look at what it is, why you might want it, and what options you have.
Australia has a lot of bitumen roads, but there’s probably even more that are gravel, or covered in bull dust, and just like your 4WD stops the large majority of it coming inside, you want the same for your sleeping quarters. I’ve seen photos of people who open their caravan or camper door after several hundred kilometres of dusty roads only to find them coated in a layer of dust.
People take vacuum cleaners for the sole purpose of cleaning dust, and it can actually be so bad that you feel like never travelling on a dirt road again, or selling the unit and getting something different.
This dust issue is not unique to cheap manufacturers either; there’s some top end vans that leak dust like a sieve, and that makes the feeling even more bitter (and so it should!).
What is dust suppression?
Put simply, dust suppression is a system that takes air from outside, filters it and pumps it into your caravan, camper trailer or hybrid. This makes the interior of your unit under slight pressure, which means that dust cannot make its way inside. By constantly pushing air out of your van, the theory is that no air or dust can make its way in, and it works.
This setup has been used in commercial and industrial applications for years, and keeps rooms nice and clean, and often temperature controlled if that is also a priority.
Dust suppression usually involves the use of a fan and filter, although you can install vents that pull air through as you drive by their very nature.
Do you need dust suppression?
I think in general the idea of dust suppression is good, but you can pay a huge amount of money for it, and you need to decide on whether its suitable. Here’s a few things to think about, before you tick the option for dust suppression, or make a purchase:
Why does your van, camper or hybrid leak?
In theory, if your unit didn’t leak, you wouldn’t need dust suppression. Seriously; if you had no way of any dust getting in, it wouldn’t matter if you went through a sand and dust storm; it should stay perfectly clean.
There’s always an element of maintenance in regards to this; your door seals need to shut well, be adjusted properly and you need to look out for damage, but in general the reason so many caravans leak in the first place is that they are poorly assembled. Whilst this might sound harsh, and rather blunt its how we roll, and its the truth.
The easiest way to identify this is to get a smoke machine (non smelling type), and run it at home inside your van. Stand outside, and take note of all of the different leaks. On a new van, I’d expect to see smoke coming out at least 20 different locations, and many of them will be from items that are poorly finished.
Around the wheel arches is hugely common, as is the door, as a certain leading manufacturer doesn’t make them seal very well. I’ve seen vans leak around the tail lights, windows and microwave or fridge recesses.
I kid you not; my folks brand new van had an issue with bugs getting in, and Dad eventually traced it back to the cut out on the microwave not having any mesh behind it. The bugs could literally fly in through the vent and into the van. If bugs can fly in, how do you think dust is going to behave?
A poorly sealed van will need dust suppression, but some basic tools, skill and time should result in you being able to identify and fix a huge number of leaks which will put you in a much better position, and then its a questionable modification.
Are you going to be doing dusty roads?
If you have no intention of doing dusty roads, then why would you bother with dust suppression? There’s literally no need, and you’d be better off saving the money for something else.
Many doors are rubbish
The vast majority of caravan doors come from one or two suppliers, and they are not good at all, at sealing and preventing dust getting in. The previous owners of our Reconn R2 discovered this, and installed extra felt around the door which does a pretty good job of keeping the dust out.
Doors that face so they catch the wind as you drive along are a terrible design, and in an ideal world you’d have more than just one latch keeping them shut.
I saw a well known hybrid camper manufacturer now does their own doors, as they couldn’t get anything that was decent at stopping dust, and they come with three locks to keep the door sealed really well when off road.
Have you considered a stone stomper?
A lot of people towing a camper, caravan or hybrid end up with some form of stone protection. The best on the market seems to be the stone stomper, which physically stops all rocks from flicking the front of your trailer, and from bouncing back and shattering your rear windows.
However, they have another benefit, and that is they keep the dust down low and stop it from covering your van on dusty roads. Less dust means much less chance of it getting in to begin with, which puts you in a better position. If you are considering some form of a stone guard, these are a great option that might just help with your dust issue too.
How many compartments do you have?
The Reconn R2 comes with dust suppression as an option now, and our unit does not have it, being one of the original ones made. However, I said to Sarah the other day; it would only stop dust from going into a tiny portion of the camper, as they are all separate anyway.
We’d still get dust into our kitchen, main storage hatch on the side and front storage hatch, which equate to much more room than the actual sleeping area is with the roof popped down.
If you have a huge number of compartments, know that the dust suppression is only going to work for the one that its attached to, unless air can flow between them. This is perfect on a caravan, but less useful on a hybrid or camper trailer.
Do you have gas appliances inside?
One of the major benefits of moving to fully electric caravans is that you are able to properly seal the van. A requirement of a van running an LPG fridge and cooker is that it has to have vents to allow the gas to escape, so you don’t die. Pretty important if you ask me, but it also means you have more opportunity for dust to come in.
A lot of people tape these up, or put carpet behind them, or have Velcro made up to go over the top when they are travelling on dusty roads, but know that this is a huge weak point for many units.
Is there capacity to run the dust suppression?
I mentioned above that most dust suppression systems use a big fan to push air through, and this can use a fair chunk of power. In 12V language, its often around 10 amps. That’s fine when you are driving, but if you pull up and don’t turn it off, your battery can be flat fairly quickly.
Are you prepared to clean filters out?
Dust suppression units use filters, which clog up with dust and need cleaning regularly. Sure, you push fresh air into your van, but the only way this works is if you collect the dust via a filter. If its mounted in a smart position you’ll pick up much less dust, but I’ve seen them pick up a cupful of dust in one days driving, and that means you need to regularly open and clean them.
To be fair, not all manufacturers install them very well, and this plays a huge role in how well they work, and how often you have to clean the filters.
Dust suppression options
If you want an option that costs the least, a scupper vent can work quite well. These are boat vents, and when attached to a suitable filter you can push a fair bit of air through when driving at high speeds. This really works best on a tall caravan that is out of the dust at the top, and only works well at higher speeds. If you are doing slow speeds through dust it will do very little.
My Dad actually installed one of these some time ago, which enters just above the queen bed in their van and does a pretty good job of keeping the van clean. This is in conjunction with numerous improvements made to the van where it leaked dust in from the factory, and carpet blocking the vent when they are on dusty roads.
A fairly new product to market is called the Carafan. This is a roof mounted fan that can be installed on most caravans, and takes air from outside, filters it and pushes it into the van. These have been designed to run in both directions too, so you can push hot air out of your van (that is sitting at roof height as heat rises).
If you want a proper, mine spec unit that is designed for industrial applications, you won’t find anything better than the RESPA Hyperflow, which is used in the mining industry.
Not one to miss out on any business opportunity, Dometic have their own dust suppression system that is getting a bit of traction now as well.
I’ve seen a number of people build their own dust suppression systems. In reality they aren’t complicated, but it’s a case of getting suitable components and putting it together yourself. You can get away with a normal car air filter (make sure its easy and cheap to replace), housing, a 12V fan and some ducting.
Do you really need a caravan dust suppression system?
So, the ultimate question; are they money well spent, or not? If you want the peace of mind to stop all chances of dust getting into your caravan or hybrid, then a dust suppression system is a good buy. That said, they aren’t cheap, and in my opinion a well built van shouldn’t need one.
We don’t have anything on our Reconn R2, and have had very, very little issue with dust ingress. They do come as a factory fitment today though, which is interesting.
If you are considering getting one though, I’d recommend you get your van manufacturer to install it, as cutting a hole in the roof is not something for the faint hearted, and if there are problems in the future you can just drop it back!
Do you have a dust suppression system? Have you found it invaluable?