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Old 12-31-2018, 03:08 PM   #1
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Diesel heater

What would you suggest for a small, simple diesel heater? I know some of the diesel heaters have a full page of instructions concerning how to light them off, which seems like such a chore to get a little heat. Do you need a day tank for those things, or can you just put some kind of fuel pump between the main diesel tank and the heater?
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Old 12-31-2018, 03:21 PM   #2
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For simplicity's sake, the gravity fed bulkhead-mounted diesel heaters from Dickinson are essentially bullet-proof while running (although one must watch out for "downdraft blowouts"!), but they do require a specific procedure for lighting.

You could mount a Wallas forced air heater and then just press a button to receive heat. I installed ours myself, so I know just about anyone can do it!

https://www.scanmarineusa.com/products/heaters/
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Old 12-31-2018, 04:36 PM   #3
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You could mount a Wallas forced air heater and then just press a button to receive heat...
The diesel forced air solution might work well for my application. Thanks for the idea.
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Old 12-31-2018, 06:24 PM   #4
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Other diesel heaters I have either owned or heard of include: Espar and Webasto. I have owned 2 Espars, the first in my sailboat was hydronic and the current one in my Tug is forced air. Espars are pretty good, and do a good job of heating the boat using little fuel, but I find they can be a bit noisy. My friend owned a Webasto and loved it.
Good luck on your hunt,
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Old 12-31-2018, 06:36 PM   #5
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SBG, Fuel supply is a valid concern with diesel heaters and it's good you are asking questions about it. My Espar hydronic furnace is very different than the Wallas forced air unit you are considering, but it never ran right until I installed a dedicated day tank for it, nearby and slightly elevated. Your existing fuel tank may be better situated than mine was, but the day tank made a huge difference. We spend summers in Alaska and use the furnace a lot up there. The Espar has run without a hitch since making this change seven years ago.
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:01 PM   #6
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I've spent a fair amount of cruising time on two boats with Hurricane heaters. One was a chartered GB 49, another, a buddy's Hatteras 42LRC. Both were very user friendly, no-brainer, to use.
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Old 12-31-2018, 07:12 PM   #7
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Espars are pretty good, and do a good job of heating the boat using little fuel, but I find they can be a bit noisy.

I hear others talking about the noise level of diesel forced air heaters. I would envision using this heater at anchor, but not all through the night at anchor. Would the noise level be okay in the morning/evening hours at anchor?
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Old 12-31-2018, 08:28 PM   #8
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I have been using a Wabasto for 10 years or so. The noise level offends some and not others. Dosn’t bother me a bit but my wife has a little trouble at times but she rarely mentions it. I see the noise as a very small problem if at all. One application that I will call more or less unacceptable. That is .. a boat backed in to a slip across from others doing the same thing and it can get worse if some of them are socializing. But if it was cold enough for a heater one would think they wouldn’t be out on the aft cockpit. Sleeping in that configuration may be a problem but it’s unlikely to happen.

I have a problem thinking of a situation where the noise from the Wabasto would be an actual problem. If I’m anchored and one other boat is there using a similar heater I’d fire up. But not if other boats are silent.

After 1,000hrs I had a lot of dirty deposits and Sure Marine (where I bought the Wabasto) said running kerosene largely solves the problem. I could have assumed a maint schedule of cleaning every year but I choose to get a dedicated kerosene tank and run only kerosene. It’s been perfect but I haven’t got much time on it.
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Old 12-31-2018, 08:52 PM   #9
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If you have soot problems, running #1 diesel makes the stove burn cleaner and hotter. Lots of fishermen use a separate tank for their stove. Also kerosene can be burned or a mix of diesel and kerosene.

Adding Red Devil to the fuel also burns hotter and cleans out the soot - best done at sea.
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Old 12-31-2018, 10:02 PM   #10
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I hear others talking about the noise level of diesel forced air heaters. I would envision using this heater at anchor, but not all through the night at anchor. Would the noise level be okay in the morning/evening hours at anchor?
You need to walk around a marina when Espar or Webasto heaters are in use. They sound a bit like an airport, though only jet engines of up to 737 size compare, so not too too bad. Then you will be able to judge for yourself.

I have had both.
They also require the fuel to be warm in order to start properly, so are disappointing when you first arrive at a cold boat. If you plan to leave them running all winter long, so your fuel tanks stay warm, they are much more reliable than if you only use them when you are on the boat.
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Old 01-01-2019, 12:20 AM   #11
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Iíve heard some loud heaters, but most are fine to run at any time anywhere. Iíve had Webasto and Espar, neither is inherently louder than the other, installation is key. The idea they are too loud to run in an anchorage is ridiculous. Pretty common to run them in a marina in even closer quarters. I did have a Grand Banks next to me for some time that would drive me nuts, but again, this is more installation specific. They can be quieted down if the exhaust run is not ideal, talk to the experts if yours is uncharacteristically loud.
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Old 01-01-2019, 01:17 AM   #12
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[QUOTE=Moonfish;727504]For simplicity's sake, the gravity fed bulkhead-mounted diesel heaters from Dickinson are essentially bullet-proof while running (although one must watch out for "downdraft blowouts"!), but they do require a specific procedure for lighting.
/QUOTE]


Would there be any advantage to running kerosene or a mix through these heaters? Like less spot on deck, fewer clogs on the unit, etc?
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Old 01-01-2019, 05:14 AM   #13
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"Would there be any advantage to running kerosene or a mix through these heaters? Like less spot on deck, fewer clogs on the unit, etc?"

Most of the repurposed trick or bus heaters with blowers expect to operate with the enhine operating , so expect to see 14.4 volts.

Some have difficulty starting in a 12.8 V charged battery as the start process can take 20A , so the voltage at the heater is even less.

Yes. kerosene is easier for the units to operate , especially if a thermostat is in the circuit and repeated starts are required.

The Dickinson ranges or floor mounted heaters require turning on , observing fuel to begin to appear in the fire bowl and dropping a lit crumple of toilet paper into the fuel,,,, done.

Gravity feed is by far the best from a small tank or a bladder in a locker.
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Old 01-01-2019, 08:53 AM   #14
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I have been very happy with my Webasto forced air heater. It is a little noisy, but you get used to it. After 4 years I have zero issues and it runs fine. My wife like being able to start it by turning the control knob.
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Old 01-01-2019, 10:52 AM   #15
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My wife and I find the noise while running the unit to be acceptable. After a while, to me, it just becomes background. We don't run it at night, as for us, then it is not really needed. If you are a light sleeper, and the boat next door in a marina runs their's all night, it might be a bit bothersome.
One other point that has not been mentioned, is the heat generated by the exhaust. Not really a surprise (a furnace burning diesel having a hot exhaust), yet I have heard of a boat fire caused by the owner hanging a fender right over the furnace exhaust port. I don't remember the details, but do remember to check the area where the furnace exhausts to ensure there is nothing in the way. I also do not run it if rafted to another boat on that side of my boat. Just cautious, and wouldn't want to even discolour or leave soot on their boat. We have not experienced any soot build up on our boat.
A good friend has a Dickinson diesel fireplace on his boat and loves it. However, that unit requires space in the salon, and an exhaust port (chimney) above it. It does not use any ducting, just radiates the heat. Another option to consider.
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Old 01-01-2019, 11:11 AM   #16
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My wife like being able to start it by turning the control knob.
This. Also the post where someone said his wife didn't like the noise but has stopped complaining about it (does NOT mean issue has resolved). We guys are willing to put up with quite a bit more fiddling, characteristics, and so on - but I strongly urge you to do whatever it takes to make your SOs comfortable.

A few years ago we had a 17' Arima to get to our cabin in the San Juans - she wasn't happy until I added a Webasto AirTop 2000 tucked in front of the companion bulkhead with the vent aimed at her seat. She would step on the boat and turn it on. I enjoyed the installation challenge (portable kerosene tank in the stern, etc) but if it were just me I would have never made the effort.

I installed a Hurricane on my recent trawler - only operational issue I had was fuel supply (recycled from an Espar takeout) that I eventually ran a new, filtered, hand-pump primed line for. But the unit itself was a bit noisy (even with the muffler), and the red-dot style cabin unit was also noisy (the ones mounted deeper with ducting were quieter.

In 35 years of powerboating with 3 cruising powerboats (32', 37', 44') in the PNW I've had: 1 gas forced air (repurposed bus unit), one diesel cookstove, 2 solid fuel fireplaces, 1 propane fireplace, 1 propane catalytic, 2 Espar, and the Hurricane. Plus the Webasto in the Arima and a Wallas stove/heater in a C-Dory. And now with my 4th (and likely final) boat I have to solve this one more time. Right now I'm getting by with the reverse-cycle air and plug-in electric at the dock but I'm leaning towards a Wallas.
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Old 01-01-2019, 11:29 AM   #17
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Make sure someone (ahem) doesn’t move your fender to a position directly in front of your diesel furnace exhaust duct. The fender won’t burn, but it will end up melted through! Posting for a friend.... :-)
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Old 01-01-2019, 11:29 AM   #18
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One other point that has not been mentioned, is the heat generated by the exhaust. Not really a surprise (a furnace burning diesel having a hot exhaust), yet I have heard of a boat fire caused by the owner hanging a fender right over the furnace exhaust port. I don't remember the details, but do remember to check the area where the furnace exhausts to ensure there is nothing in the way

Wow, I NEVER would have thought of that one ahead of time. Thanks very much for the tip.
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Old 01-01-2019, 12:42 PM   #19
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I know someone who holed his RIB that way.

I'm quite sensitive to noise in anchorages, hate to hear generators running. The noise forced air heaters make is not as loud, or as objectionable: the frequency components are higher and it does not seem to propagate nearly as far. If you are close, like at a slip you hear it more. I'd a lot rather be anchored next to someone running their Espar, than one running their genset.

The Hurricane is somewhat quieter (except perhaps for the large Combi model) and the exhaust is lower temp - though it will still melt things.
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Old 01-01-2019, 06:41 PM   #20
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You can't hear my Wallas exhaust..
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