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Discussion Starter #1
My personal build for my 2015 136" HR 2500 van.

Goals:
Daily driver and camper van. Requirements: Must be able to fit in a normal parking slot, my wife can drive it, good MPG, easy to upfit, easy to maintain, lower cost of ownership, be able to take out anything and use to haul cargo if needed, be able to stand up in it. Figure I'll spend about $5k and do most of the work myself to make it a quality Class B RV.

After looking at all the options, settled on the ProMaster 136" and quite happy with the selection. I decided not to wait 6 months for a custom factory build, so I grabbed one off the lot in Vegas so its bare bones, white etc. There were a couple of decisions even so. I picked the gas over the diesel, I love diesels and have a Jetta TDI but did not think the extra $4-5k was worth it up front and I will almost never have it under full load. I also opted for no windows, as I did not like the factory windows since they don't open. Other than that, quite impressed with the van.

More posts to follow on progress...
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Update #1 : Cost so far $885
Purchased: 4 July 2015 (Happy 4th of July!)
Completed so far: $885 & 10 hours (research time not included!)

X1. Running boards, short driver and long passenger sides. $700 & 5 hours. Went with Promaster World boards and they worked great. $700. Did it myself. Consider using lubricant or 7/64" drill bit when drilling into frame strut with bracket #2 . I sheared off 2 self tapping screws.) Took 5 hours with basic tools and no lift.
I1. Visor mirror + strap holders from Target. $8 each & 1 hour. Great as elastic bungees built in can hold any object.
I2. Curtain to divide front / back. Wife wanted a curtain to divide up the space, to improve AC, privacy etc. Installed a tension bathroom curtain rod (48-84") right in the middle of the overhead cargo space above the seats. The passenger side black foam already had an indent perfect. So drilled out the driver side foam to 1" with a 1 1/4" hole saw and razor blade. Installed tension shower rod, added shower ring/clips and clips on shower curtain. Used a small bungee to secure it behind the driver's seat with a hook at the top of the seat belt. $27. 1 hour.
I10. Sound dampening. $140 & 3 hours.
I reviewed all of the options and honestly got a bit lazy in the end and went with a 12 sq ft Ballistic sound dampening kit from Pep Boys and got a $2 wall paper roller from Ace. Install was easy. Smaller areas like up top got 4" x 12" sheets, medium areas got 8" x 12" and big lower panels got 12" x 12". Cuts with scissors, no issues the next day when van was in 100+ heat in Vegas. Used 2 cans of underbody rubber spray ($10/each) from an Autozone inside each wheel well. Dropped db from 65 to 60 then dampening kit dropped it to 57db @ 60mph on a smooth asphalt freeway. Had to get to 75mph to reach 65db again. Insulation and flooring should reduce further.

Next up:
Flooring
Insulation
Pick out windows, roof fan, AC unit

Next next up:
Windows
Insulation
Decide on sleeping setup, seats, layout
Swivels for seats
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Goals:
Daily driver and camper van. Requirements: Must be able to fit in a normal parking slot, my wife can drive it, good MPG, easy to upfit, easy to maintain, lower cost of ownership, be able to take out anything and use to haul cargo if needed, be able to stand up in it.

Purchased: 4 July 2015 (Happy 4th of July!)
Completed so far: $1165 & 18 hours

Exterior completed: $700 & 5 hours
X1. Running boards, both sides. $700 & 5 hours. Went with Promaster World boards and they worked great. $600. Did it myself. Consider using lubricant or 7/64" drill bit when drilling into frame strut with bracket #2 . I sheared off 2 self tapping screws.) Took 5 hours with basic tools and no lift.

Interior Completed: $465 & 13 hrs
I1. Visor mirrors. $18 & 1 hour. Looked at some auto parts stores, but found the ones we like from Target with combo mirror and bungee area to hold things.
I2. Curtain to divide front / back. $27 & 1 hour. Wife wanted a curtain to divide up the space, to improve AC, privacy etc. Installed a tension bathroom curtain rod (48-84") right in the middle of the overhead cargo space above the seats. The passenger side black foam already had an indent perfect. So drilled out the driver side foam to 1" with a 1 1/4" hole saw and razor blade. Installed tension shower rod, added shower ring/clips and clips on shower curtain. Used a small bungee to secure it behind the driver's seat with a hook at the top of the seat belt. $27.
I10. Sound dampening. $140 & 3 hours.
I reviewed all of the options and honestly got a bit lazy in the end and went with a 12 sq ft Ballistic sound dampening kit from Pep Boys and got a $2 wall paper roller from Ace. Install was easy. Smaller areas like up top got 4" x 12" sheets, medium areas got 8" x 12" and big lower panels got 12" x 12". Cuts with scissors, no issues the next day when van was in 100+ heat in Vegas. Used 2 cans of underbody rubber spray ($10/each) from an Autozone inside each wheel well. Dropped db from 65 to 60 then dampening kit dropped it to 57db @ 60mph on a smooth asphalt freeway.
I11. Window shade. $40 & 1 hour. Ordered a retractable window shade from Dash Designs. Easy install, works great.
I6. Floor. $240 & 7 hours.
This seems to be many options:
1. Buy a pre-cut floor from Legends, either wood or just mat
2. Cut my own plywood, put a barrier down under, then put my own top material
3. Top materials range from the interlocking squares, single pre-cut rubber mats, carpet, vinyl sheet/squares, wood.

I need something that deadens the noise, has a slight slip for moving bins, good wear or easy to replace, prevent rusting of the floor, able to attach the cabinets too. So definitely need plywood.

I ended up doing a self-floor, not sure if this was the best option, but its ok for now. Got everything from Lowe's: 3 sheets of 15/32" @ $28/each, some phillips tip M8x1.25 by 60mm length bolts, M8 crush washers, M8x1.25x45mm hex cap bolts, M8 washers, some fender washers with a 1" OD, Gorilla extra tape, 6'x9' vinyl sheet $30, two 6'x9' outdoor 1/4" thick rugs, roll of Reflectix 48" wide, Reflectix tape. I put down the plywood with the 4' width in the sliding door. Each sheet should be cut to 71 1/4". Used measurements and a jig saw to cut out indents for center column and wheel wells. Used a 1" spade hole blade to create a 1/8" countersink in the plywood and used a 1/2" spade to cut out plywood above each of the 6 floor tie-down holes (M8 threaded). So dry-fitted plywood. Removed, put in Reflectix and taped down. Put in rugs and taped down. Put back in plywood and used the flared phillips head bolt with the fender washer then put on a nylon locking washer underneath. I had a to add an extra location, so checked underneath for a good spot, then drilled down through plywood, rug, reflectix and sheet metal floor and put in another bolt for the floor. Used an electric staple gun with 6mm staples and stapled down every couple of inches the vinyl flooring. Trimmed extra. Used Gorilla tape to create a protected edge for the sliding door.

All summed up, I'd probably do the Legend flooring if I had to do it again, order an extra rubber 1/4" mat to put between the plywood and floor and call it good.

Meh. We'll see how it holds up.

Next: Received insulation from Hein, ordering windows from Motion Windows. install hitch?, figure out roof went, figure out bed. Really liked the Blogspot Buster layout: http://promastertocamper.blogspot.com/ Especially, the raised middle floor to allow space for collapsible chairs etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Photos: Ballistic placed on all panels not getting a window, dry fitting the plywood so I can drill holes for floor mounts also, shot with Reflectix down, then photo with Reflectix, carpet and plywood and finally finished photo with vinyl sheet stapled to plywood.
 

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Diesel PM, 2015, 2500 hi-top
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Insulation materials - May I ask its purpose and use?

I've seen many different insulation techniques on this forum and other forums; materials vary, thickness varies, content varies, etc. I'm a Keep-It-Simple person, so my own decisions about insulating my van are pretty skimpy in comparison to what I've seen here on this forum. It got me to wondering, what are you all insulating against? Freezing temps at night while sleeping? Hot temps inside while camping at non-electric campgrounds? Refusal to install an AC unit on the roof and hope more insulation will offer more coolness during hot days? What warrants a decision to go with 2" thick pink boards versus a 3/4" thick pink board? My limited camping during the past 6 mths says that sunlight coming into the cab area from the front and side windows (front window is covered when parked) is the main culprit to excessive heat; don't think 2" thick pink board is going to offer much more relief than a 1" thick pink board for example. Vents offer alittle relief, but wind is required and if the campground is very wooded, trees are a barrier to getting much-needed wind. Just curious to hear more explanations of what you're all insulating against and the most frequent camping mode.

http://lalaironwheels.blogspot.com/
 

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Unless your van is white you will find it very hot to hold your hand on the interior walls or ceiling on a sunny day, or conversely your hand will be very cold when it is in the 30's outside no matter what the van's color. That is what we insulate against, hotter than ambient temperature in the sun, colder than ..... well you know. Civilized nations do not allow prisoners to be confined in metal boxes set in the sun.
 

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We will often return to the van after a day of hiking. I don't want to be hit with a blast of hot air when I open the door.

I can't compare what it would have been like without insulation because it was cold then, but I can say that with my 2" insulation and deep tinted windows, I haven't measured more than 2° difference between inside and outside in our beastly 90°'s heat the last couple of weeks. There was some moving shade, though, from nearby trees. For more severe full-sun situations, I'm counting on the Maxx-Air fan and windows to quickly exhaust built-up heat.

Second, without insulation, there would be the issue of condensation in cold weather.

I can't imagine going to the trouble and expense of a build-out and not putting in insulation.
 

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I've seen many different insulation techniques on this forum and other forums; materials vary, thickness varies, content varies, etc....
I have a white PM, which is supposed to be better in the sun to begin with. I still couldn't imagine not having insulation. Yes there are still windows and some areas not insulated as well as others but it still makes it much more comfortable.

Not having the exterior radiate so much heat into the inside keeps that first blast of "oven temps" as you open the door to a breathable level. It also helps the PM cool off quicker - a very nice thing on lots-of-stops trips. If the insulation wasn't there, there would be days it would never cool off when running from store to store, etc.

One other benefit is I don't have to blast the heat or A/C with the fan up high. I can slow the fan speed down making things a bit quieter. I can hear my radio without it being so loud. :)


I also wanted it to be quiet. My choice of Second Skin Damplifier, poly-fiber stuffed into every nook and the closed cell foam I installed has made it much more quite inside than I had expected. Not "luxury car" quiet but pretty close.

Thats all "seat-of-the-pants" measurements, no temps taken or math done, but I'm very happy I spent the time and money to insulate. So's the wife :x
 

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Diesel PM, 2015, 2500 hi-top
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Thanks all for input, very enlightening, so it is heat that is the major issue, leaving the van for an hour or more, and coming "home" to an oven. I should have elaborated more about why I'm curious about everyone's insulation. The forums about sound deadening materials have generally agreed that only 25 to 33 percent coverage is adequate to deaden sound, and that 100 percent coverage is expensive and not worth the money to rid-out another few decibels of sound. So, is there a similar study about 3/4", 1", 2", or 3" thick insulation that is adequate to rid-out the oven-effect when coming "home" to the van, I wonder? Ms. Nomer, I think it's remarkable that you have a slight interior/exterior temp difference with 2" insulation, just wonder if I use 3/4" thick insulation with 1/16" Insul-Bright Fabric, how much temp difference would I get? Would this equal to your 2" insulation? I'm not done with my insulation project, but I'll let you know my temp results at the end of this summer. I know this is asking alot, but if any of you could, those of you who are finished with the insulation project, put a thermometer inside the cargo space, leave the van for a few hrs in the sunshine, post the exterior/interior temp differences, with an explanation of your insulation? I'm just curious . . . .
 

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Cold is an issue too if you are camping. Two people and their activities (no gutter thoughts) will make a difference in keeping a well insulated van above ambient temperatures in the cold. Yes low levels of condensation is also a benefit. If you plan to heat the van or want a fast warm up in the morning from the van's heater then you get that by insulating and not needing to warm the mass of the van's metal that is resisting a change in temperature and which is in contact with the cold exterior air. GaryBIS discussed the thickness of insulation and even posted a link to his site that allows you to calculate the heat loss (gain) for various R factors. Review those and you will be able to answer that for your preference. Yes we should do the empirical part and report the benefit but anecdotal data is only part of the picture. I am doing 1" of polyisocanyurate rigid foil faced board everywhere I can, 1/2" where it can be put in easier (but perhaps 2 layers) and some reflexix where I can't with great stuff applied to hold it in place with a pro gun for ease. I do hate those cans.
 

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Thickness of Insulation

I suppose in a house, going with 3" insulation boards is always better than 2" insulation boards; improved Rfactors, etc. But I'd like to have as much head-room as possible; want to attach the final interior ABS ceiling panel directly on those five horizontal cross-bars. That means I need the most effective combo of insulating materials to fit that 1" thick available space between the cross-bars and the metal ceiling. Plan A is 1/16" thick Insul-Bright fabric, a layer of bubble-wrap, a 5/8" thick blue board, followed by the 1/16" ABS panel. Haven't figured out the combo for the wall insulation project yet . . . . more available space on the walls.
 

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I suggest you go with 3/4" polyiso board and forget the bubble wrap. The polyiso is dirt cheap and probably the best R-value/price out there. IIRC, the blue board holds moisture and has a lesser R-value than the polyiso.

And before you automatically say no, contact Hein for a quote on enough Thinsulate to do the ceiling.
 

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Thanks all for input, very enlightening, so it is heat that is the major issue, leaving the van for an hour or more, and coming "home" to an oven. I should have elaborated more about why I'm curious about everyone's insulation. The forums about sound deadening materials have generally agreed that only 25 to 33 percent coverage is adequate to deaden sound, and that 100 percent coverage is expensive and not worth the money to rid-out another few decibels of sound. So, is there a similar study about 3/4", 1", 2", or 3" thick insulation that is adequate to rid-out the oven-effect when coming "home" to the van, I wonder? Ms. Nomer, I think it's remarkable that you have a slight interior/exterior temp difference with 2" insulation, just wonder if I use 3/4" thick insulation with 1/16" Insul-Bright Fabric, how much temp difference would I get? Would this equal to your 2" insulation? I'm not done with my insulation project, but I'll let you know my temp results at the end of this summer. I know this is asking alot, but if any of you could, those of you who are finished with the insulation project, put a thermometer inside the cargo space, leave the van for a few hrs in the sunshine, post the exterior/interior temp differences, with an explanation of your insulation? I'm just curious . . . .
Hi,
I was out putting the solar panel on the van, so took a few measurements:

My PM is white, 136 WB.
Parked with back facing south (back windows facing the sun).
It has about 1 inch of spray polyurethane (about the same as 1 inch of rigid polyiso used in several vans on this forum).
My heat loss calc says that this level of insulation plus the Reflectex shades cuts winter heat loss by 80%. It should have roughly the same effect on summer heat gain.

At 12:30 pm: (all closed up - no shades on windows)
Toutside = 75.2F, Tinside = 92.9F ( dif = 17.7F)

Opened van windows, turned MaxxFan on full, put the Reflextex like windows shades in on all windows.

After 5 minutes:
Toutside = 75.2F, Tinside = 82.4F ( dif = 7.2F)

After half an hour:
Toutside = 75.0F, Tinside = 81.7F ( dif = 6.7F)


After nearly an hour:
Toutside = 77.7F, Tinside = 82.2F ( dif = 4.5F)

Turned the fan down to 30% setting, and checked the temp after half an hour:
Toutside = 79.0F, Tinside = 85.2F ( dif = 6.2F)

Thoughts:
- If the vehicle is closed up, its going to get warm even if is white and insulated. The white helps reflect sun away and insulation slows influx of heat, but when the van is closed even that slower influx of heat is going to heat it up.

- Adding some ventilation and stopping the direct solar gain of the windows with the Reflectex shades helps a lot -- lowers the outside to inside dif from 18F down to 4.5F.

- It looks like one strategy for not coming back to a hot van would be to: 1) open the windows some, 2) turn the power roof fan on at low speed, and 3) put reflective shades in the windows -- especially the ones facing the sun.



-----------------
Also took some readings on the ceiling, floor, and walls with an IR thermometer. Your comfort is not only influenced by the air temp, but also by the temps of the surfaces of the room.
At start: Tceiling = 94F, Tfloor = 83F, Twall = 89F
After an hr with fan on: Tceiling = 88, Tfloor = 83, Twall = 87F

So, running the fan with windows open does three good things:
- Lowers the air temp.
- Lowers the temps of ceiling, wall, floor
- Creates some moving air, which feels cooler.


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During the same time period, our closed up Honda Pilot small SUV was sitting right next to the van -- its dark blue. Temp inside varied from 117F to 125F. A 45F difference from outside to inside.
This is more than twice the difference the closed up van had at the same time -- mostly the dark color I think.

----------

It seems to me that something like 1 inch of polyiso rigid sheet, or about the same in spray polyurethane insulation is a pretty good level for winter or summer. 2 inches of polyiso (plus better insulating window shades) would cut your heat gain or loss in half again over 1 inch, but we are talking about going from an 80% reduction with 1 inch to a 90% reduction with 2 inches -- there is a bit of a diminishing returns thing starting to set in.

If you can add a reflective layer near the van outer skin, I do think that would likely help with the radiation heat gain -- especially if your van is not white. But, this reflective layer has to face an airspace to do anything.

For summer, direct solar gain through windows is a big swinger. If you have full sun shining through 20 sqft of window, this can be about (250 BTU/sqft*20sqft) = 5000 BTU/hr -- this one thing is the total output of some of the small RV AC's.

Gary
 

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Diesel PM, 2015, 2500 hi-top
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Fan Windows and Vents

Very interesting, thank you for your report with all the variances. I'm going to look into side-window coverings for my van, already got big covers for the front windows that work well. Your fan really helps a great deal, very impressed.
About "blue board", I meant blueboard (styrofoam), claims it's moisture resistant . . . I'm getting it free, left over from another project, so reluctant to not accept it, won't be using it everywhere, just the ceiling. Copied info below:
Commonly referred to as “blueboard” for its light blue color, STYROFOAM™ Brand Insulation products from Dow can benefit homeowners, their wallets and the environment. Prevents condensation through its moisture resistance properties. Reduces potential for mold, mildew, wood rot and odor that result from moisture intrusion.
 

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Gary,

As always a super interesting and informative post backed up by testing and measurements! Thank you for sharing.

I'm one of those starting with a deficit in terms of colour, my PM is Granite. My ceiling gets so hot you can not put your hand to it with out risking a burn! the walls get pretty darned hot as well. My apologies high tech measurements, I've not got around to getting a IR thermometer yet.

I've been considering adding a composite panel on the roof to stop the radiant heat transfer before it gets to the metal roof. There are examples of folks using this technique in Australia. The advantages are you don't loose interior ceiling hight and you stop the van skin heating via radiant transfer. I'm thinking of incorporating the panel into a roof rack that holds the awnings and solar panels with a wind spoiler up front to keep fuel consumption down.

Its easy to test this idea with a piece of sheet metal by putting the radiant barrier/reflective material on the out side of the sheet metal facing the sun and then on the inside facing away from the sun. It seems that it is far more effective if you put the barrier on the side facing the sun. you still need to maintain an air gap (preferably still air).

This is true of radiant barriers for window as well, I put a low-e barrier on the outside of my windows and see a pretty big improvement in shielding.

Cheers,

Dave
 

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Very interesting, thank you for your report with all the variances. I'm going to look into side-window coverings for my van, already got big covers for the front windows that work well. Your fan really helps a great deal, very impressed.
About "blue board", I meant blueboard (styrofoam), claims it's moisture resistant . . . I'm getting it free, left over from another project, so reluctant to not accept it, won't be using it everywhere, just the ceiling. Copied info below:
Commonly referred to as “blueboard” for its light blue color, STYROFOAM™ Brand Insulation products from Dow can benefit homeowners, their wallets and the environment. Prevents condensation through its moisture resistance properties. Reduces potential for mold, mildew, wood rot and odor that result from moisture intrusion.
Hi,
Blue board is extruded plystyrene. Its R5 per inch (vs R6.5 for polyiso).
I think its good stuff (especially if free :).
Not sure about the "environment" claim as its just about the only rigid foam board left that is blown with a gas that is a strong (bad) greenhouse gas.

The one thing that would make me think twice about it is that its only good for a temperature of about 165F, and it seems to me that this is low for a material that is going against the hot van outer skin. I think if it were me, I'd hold out for the polyiso -- I think the 1 inch polyiso is about $16 per 4 by 8 sheet, so not talking about a lot of money. Also with the polyiso, most of it comes with an alum foil facing on one or both sides -- as long as the alum foil is facing an airspace, it will act like a radiant barrier because it has low emissivity (that is, it does not radiate heat well).

Maybe there are some other places you can use the free blue board?

Gary
 

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Gary,

As always a super interesting and informative post backed up by testing and measurements! Thank you for sharing.

I'm one of those starting with a deficit in terms of colour, my PM is Granite. My ceiling gets so hot you can not put your hand to it with out risking a burn! the walls get pretty darned hot as well. My apologies high tech measurements, I've not got around to getting a IR thermometer yet.

I've been considering adding a composite panel on the roof to stop the radiant heat transfer before it gets to the metal roof. There are examples of folks using this technique in Australia. The advantages are you don't loose interior ceiling hight and you stop the van skin heating via radiant transfer. I'm thinking of incorporating the panel into a roof rack that holds the awnings and solar panels with a wind spoiler up front to keep fuel consumption down.

Its easy to test this idea with a piece of sheet metal by putting the radiant barrier/reflective material on the out side of the sheet metal facing the sun and then on the inside facing away from the sun. It seems that it is far more effective if you put the barrier on the side facing the sun. you still need to maintain an air gap (preferably still air).

This is true of radiant barriers for window as well, I put a low-e barrier on the outside of my windows and see a pretty big improvement in shielding.

Cheers,

Dave
Hi Dave,
The composite panel sounds interesting. Is is a separate panel separated from the roof by an airspace? Do you have a link for it?

It does seem like such a panel would be quite effective -- probably significantly better than a regular white roof.

It does seem like painting the roof with one of those silver coatings would also help, as it would reflect most of the sunlight rather than absorbing it.
You can't really see the roof on the van, so aesthetically its not really a negative to coat it.

I think that even if you put a reflective (low emissivity) layer in the insulation mix inside the van (facing an air layer) that this also should help with preventing the hot van skin from radiating its heat to the inside. But, certainly not as effective as an external extra reflective skin.

You mention aero treatments to reduce drag of the added layer. Have you seen anything along this line? I'd like to figure out something for the solar panels I'm in the process of adding.

Gary
 

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Its not a composite panel, and its not a light color, but how much difference do you think solar panels make for 'insulating' the roof? Especially if said panels cover the majority of the roof.

They're dark, so definitely a heatsink. But they would be mounted with an airspace to the roof; perhaps not much, but some. In still air that airspace would probably heat up above ambient, but the roof would not have a direct sun load.
 
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