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Old 11-22-2015, 09:38 PM   #1
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Forced Air Diesel Heater

Our new boat, a Pacific Trawler 37, came from Florida by way of Tennessee. She has two Marinaire air conditioners and no effective heating. The reverse cycle on the air conditioners only barely works to heat the boat and requires more shore power amps than my marina slip can provide.

We will need diesel heating for the Pacific Northwest. I am looking at the Webasto Air Top 55 and the Wallas Dt40 forced air heaters. Can any one provide personal recommendations or experience with either of these models? I am not interested in the cost of doing hydronic heat and I have owned Espar units on our three previous boats.

Any close or personal experiences with Webasto or Wallas forced air diesel heaters would be appreciated.

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Old 11-22-2015, 10:06 PM   #2
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I have personal hands on experience with the Wallas heaters spanning four seasons.

Wonderful furnaces.

One great feature is that the heater will adjust it's heat output to keep the temperature where you want it, vs the constant starting and stopping method of other furnaces.

Another great feature is that the furnaces are silent. The other units I've used sound like a jet turbine going off. Yes you can hide them in far away places, and yes you can buy muffler kits, but they are in my opinion noisy beasts.
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Old 11-22-2015, 10:24 PM   #3
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The Wallas by all measures, particularly with dealer support. The dealer for the units are two brothers located on Westlake on Lake Union. You can call them any time during the DIY process and they will without any questions have you taken care of. Wonderful guys and a great product. Ours is the DT30 and for over two years now, not a wispier of issue. Boat is rosty toasty and fuel burn is about non measurable. Amp draw is nil after start and start is not long.
Be my bet-'O' our Wallas replaced the German bus heater, forgotten the manufacture and for reason as that was an obsolete model with parts non-existent from any source.
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Old 11-22-2015, 10:41 PM   #4
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Steppen:

Look into Dickinson diesel heaters.
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Old 11-22-2015, 10:50 PM   #5
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I prefer the Wabasto.

Researched it well when I bought the Wabasto and can't remember why I passed on the Wallas. Could have been related to the cooking stove space and the heat for cooking Wallas v/s propane. Chris loves her force 10 propane stove and now that we have the fuel delivery issues solved on the Wabasto we would buy the Wabasto again. We use the Wabasto while underway too. The bus heater makes too much noise. When I step outside I realize the Wabasto is on because it's cool.
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Old 11-22-2015, 11:24 PM   #6
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Hi Step - Congrats on your "new" Pacific Trawler.

Let's talk configuration for a minute. If you are considering a single hot air heater to provide hot air using your existing air ducts, you may need to consider a relatively large furnace to make that happen. Many Pacific Trawler's have a hot air furnace for the galley/pilothouse/fwd stateroom in addition to a Dickinson heater for the main cabin. This means that the hot air furnace does not need to be as large.

And the Dickinson cabin heater is a very nice choice of quiet warmth during shoulder seasons. Which brings up what should be the first question: Will you be cruising when it's 20F and the frigid NE wind is blowing out of the Fraser River Valley?

If you haven't already, you need to get some advice on BTU's required for each cabin area based on your cruising needs, then look at options that satisfy your needs.

WESTERLY has an Espar D5L hot air furnace forward, and a Dickinson Alaska in the main cabin aft. It all works very well down to 25F or so. We've had good service from the Espar, the first one went around 8,000 hours/12 years with regular maintenance.
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Old 11-23-2015, 12:15 AM   #7
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Add another vote for the Wallas heaters.

My reasons:
  • Ease of install. The Wallas is an integrated unit- the fuel pump is integrated into the heater, so the install is simplified. Run power, the inlet and outlet ducts and fuel to the heater, plug in the remote and you're up and running.
  • 2 inlet and 2 outlets- inlet air is taken from both in the boat and outside, so there is always a slight over-pressurization of the boat at all times. The outlets are set up so zone ducting is easily accomplished without losing air volume.
  • Thermostat system throttles back the fan speed instead of stopping and starting the unit.
  • Support- Bruce and Doug of Scan Marine are top notch with regards to support- they will sell and install a heater for you, or seek you a heater and give you 100% support as a self installer. N o games, no tech support $$$- genuine helpful support.
  • Quiet- the unit is quiet. There is a bit of noise when the fan is at high speed, but overall it's quiet and economical. The exhaust is small when compared to the Webasto and Espar units, and again is silent.

Fuel usage, amp usage, etc is already spoken about, and are more valid reasons the unit is excellent.
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Old 11-23-2015, 06:38 AM   #8
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" Will you be cruising when it's 20F and the frigid NE wind is blowing out of the Fraser River Valley?"

In New England the LI Sound is almost empty as are the most delightful anchorages.

A fully found cruiser can enjoy cruising till the ice gets harmful to the hull.

We chose the Dickinson line as no electric is required.
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Old 11-23-2015, 09:20 AM   #9
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Thank you all. We will not be spending time cruising in 20 degree F weather but certainly at 30F. We had a Dickinson wall hung unit on a DeFever 44 a number of years ago and enjoyed it when it was working but found the morning ritual of wadding up Kleenex to light it and waiting for forty five minutes for the heat to show up a bit tedious. Leaving it on all day worked great at heating the salon and galley but did virtually nothing for the staterooms.

I am thinking about removing one or both of the air conditioners and replacing them with a single forced air unit with four outlets (salon, head, pilothouse and forward in the single stateroom). The Wallas 40Dt is sized for up to 15 meter boat (49 ft) and the positive words on Scan Marine, the importer and dealer, is very reassuring. We might consider a smaller unit combined with a Dickinson Alaskan or Antarctica floor mounted heater in the salon. I'm waiting for the Seattle Boat Show to see what prices are being offered.

Thanks again for the responses.
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Old 11-23-2015, 11:19 AM   #10
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I've had several Espars (forced air), one Wallas cooktop/stove, one Webasto AirTop 2000ST, and - currently - a Hurricane hydronic. IMHO the Espars and Webastos are very comparable - German (excellent documentation, expensive spares, etc.) truck heaters with little to no marinization. Your success with these will depend largely on your installation - central location, balancing the domestic and combustion air runs (and keeping them short!), adequate voltage, correctly sized fuel supply, and so on. Sure Marine has a guide that you should buy and pay very close attention to.

I know you said you don't want hydronic, but have you carefully considered your domestic hot water situation? You get that essentially free with hydronic - every other approach has "issues".

If you are planning to cruise in winter, or want to stay warm at the dock without supplementing with electric heat, you are not looking at enough capacity. 13,600 BTUs (Wallas) and 17,000 BTUs (Webasto) aren't going to be enough when temperatures get down near freezing. If you don't need to be on the boat near freezing temperatures, then either will help extend your cruising into the fall.

Also, forced air systems are not ideal on their own. Yes, they blow warm air - but you really need thermal mass to absorb the heat and radiate it back when the blowing stops. And the warm air / no warm air cycle is not a premium experience. The folks talking about a Dickinson stove are on the right track. And I strongly suggest that you have a tested backup heating system other than dockside power. It doesn't have to heat the entire boat to 70, but if you have a fireplace - can put a clay pot upside down over your stove - whatever, you will be able to keep any hiccup in the main heater from becoming truly uncomfortable.

Finally, closely related to heating is ventilation. I know nothing about the Pacific but with a couple of living (transpiring!) people on board...cooking...taking showers...perhaps with a wet dog?...you are going want to exchange a ton of air to the outside to get rid of that moisture. You really, really need more heating capacity.
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Old 11-23-2015, 12:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by refugio View Post
I've had several Espars (forced air), one Wallas cooktop/stove, one Webasto AirTop 2000ST, and - currently - a Hurricane hydronic. IMHO the Espars and Webastos are very comparable - German (excellent documentation, expensive spares, etc.) truck heaters with little to no marinization. Your success with these will depend largely on your installation - central location, balancing the domestic and combustion air runs (and keeping them short!), adequate voltage, correctly sized fuel supply, and so on. Sure Marine has a guide that you should buy and pay very close attention to.

I know you said you don't want hydronic, but have you carefully considered your domestic hot water situation? You get that essentially free with hydronic - every other approach has "issues".

If you are planning to cruise in winter, or want to stay warm at the dock without supplementing with electric heat, you are not looking at enough capacity. 13,600 BTUs (Wallas) and 17,000 BTUs (Webasto) aren't going to be enough when temperatures get down near freezing. If you don't need to be on the boat near freezing temperatures, then either will help extend your cruising into the fall.

Also, forced air systems are not ideal on their own. Yes, they blow warm air - but you really need thermal mass to absorb the heat and radiate it back when the blowing stops. And the warm air / no warm air cycle is not a premium experience. The folks talking about a Dickinson stove are on the right track. And I strongly suggest that you have a tested backup heating system other than dockside power. It doesn't have to heat the entire boat to 70, but if you have a fireplace - can put a clay pot upside down over your stove - whatever, you will be able to keep any hiccup in the main heater from becoming truly uncomfortable.

Finally, closely related to heating is ventilation. I know nothing about the Pacific but with a couple of living (transpiring!) people on board...cooking...taking showers...perhaps with a wet dog?...you are going want to exchange a ton of air to the outside to get rid of that moisture. You really, really need more heating capacity.

Excellent post above! Many of the issues you posted about are precisely why we picked our Wallas forced air system over a hydronic system, which like you we've had several of.

So, lets take your great points one at a time to explain some of the thought processes I used in furnace selection.

Ventilation.

Hydronic heat exchangers for the most part do not provide any ventilation of the cabins air. Yes they blow it around but they do not exchange fresh air with cabin air. A forced air system allows that easily by using the return air plenum and mixing cabin air with outside air. The Wallas furnaces actually have two separate return air inlets specifically for that.

ON/off cycling

The other systems I've dealt with operated in either on or off mode, both the hydronic and the forced air. The hydronic furnace would cycle on and off to keep up the liquid temperature, and the fans in the individual heat exchangers would cycle on and off based on local thermostats. I've not seen a small boat hydronic installation that involved fluid valves that were operated by a thermostat, but it is a possibility. The Wallas furnace constantly adjusts the BTU output of the unit based on the room temperature, making for a very even heated space temperature under varing outdoor conditions.

Zone control

This is where the hydronic systems shine. Since you have individual heat exchangers in the separate heating spaces it's easy to have the fans for these controlled by a local thermostat. To acomplish this using the forced air furnace I chose to install three total furnaces in our boat. One 10,000 BTU unit is dedicated to the lower cabins. One 10,000 btu unit is dedicated to the salon. One 7,500 BTU unit provides heating and defrost in the pilot house.

The thing I gave up in choosing forced air is hot water heating. For my boat, since it is all electric that is not an issue, we run the generator enough to supply more hot water than we need at anchor. Underway the hot water heater is supplied by one of the engines.

Cost wise I found no price advantage of forced air over hydronic. I'm into the system at $14K installed, which is comparable to a hydronic installation on the same size boat.
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Old 11-23-2015, 12:40 PM   #12
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Kevin and Refugio

Good write-ups. Me, I like one furnace, one location, one fuel line and one intake/exhaust system. Also I like the ability via the engine rather than a furnace to heat coolant in the hydronic system when cruising. Dock sitting vs cruising time can thus impact pros and cons.

This past summer in AK we had a need to replace a simple electronic part in the Hurricane furnace and naturally did not have it on board. No problem as the hydronic system pumps and HXers kept things warm for 8 to 12 hours per day via the engines. Very helpful in Glacier Bay!

As the vessel and spaces become larger choices of furnace type may change. With hydronic the hoses and tubing act as radiant heaters throughout the vessel's bilges and ER space, another plus for hydronic IMHO. Lots of choices and I doubt there is one best for all.
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Old 11-23-2015, 12:56 PM   #13
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I agree w Tom .. good write-ups.
Re the length of intake and exhaust on a Wabasto ours are at the max. 10' exhaust and from aft to fwd in the boat for hot air. No problem w the long runs at all.
We did have problems w the fuel feed. Tried for years to take it off of the diesel fuel manifold. The yard installed the system pulling fuel off the bottom of the stbd tank. I said no to that thinking water and other contaminants would surley find their way to the heater. So I went from the manifold. The little doser pump couldn't compete on a regular basis w the engine so we had on-going problems at start-up. Now I have a dedicated fuel systen for the Wabasto (including the tank) and burn kerosene. I don't forsee any problems henceforth but only have a few hours on it this way.

Our only other possible problem is that the heater is a bit too small. We have the "Airtop 2000" .. the smallest. It was fine on our 25' Albin but slightly below freezing on the Willard not so.
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Old 11-23-2015, 03:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
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This past summer in AK we had a need to replace a simple electronic part in the Hurricane furnace and naturally did not have it on board. No problem as the hydronic system pumps and HXers kept things warm for 8 to 12 hours per day via the engines.
Mine is plumbed the same way - a heat exchanger between the engine and the hydronic system allows scavenging engine heat, which also heats domestic hot water. In theory it would also allow me to warm the engine with the furnace, but I never bothered to install an engine-side circulation pump to make that happen.

I guess Kevin and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. My preference is to have systems that are not dependent on being at the dock or having an engine running. The first thing I did when purchasing Refugio was pitch the generator and electric range, adding a big bank of AGMs and a 3kw inverter - and a propane range. I hate generators and electric galleys. The second thing I pitched was the Espar - it was working just fine but getting old and parts were going to be expensive. I sold the Espar at Second Wave (now gone) and got a decent bit of money for it. And I paid $2,374 for the furnace (Boat Show special with sales tax) and paid an installer another $2,371 to install it with 3 zones, water heating, and engine heat exchanger, so I'm into my setup $4,745 (closer to $4,000 with selling the Espar). That was 10 years ago so perhaps prices have gone up a bit. My installer was able to re-use the runs from the ducts for much of the hose (heating the perimeter storage areas is a big plus with hydronic) as well as the fuel pickup, 12VDC supply, and exhaust fitting.

While I have installed several forced air furnaces, I really wanted a professional to do the install on the Hurricane. In a forced air system a leak in the ducting is just a small amount of wasted heat - a leak in a hydronic system is a real problem.

But the OP doesn't want hydronic, so never mind...

Other members have mentioned in the past that they thought I over-analyzed things, and I'm fine with that. But I have to say, a heating system really does deserve careful planning. More important than the manufacturer is getting a system sized correctly for YOUR needs. And only you know whether you're going to need to maintain a 40 temperature difference. Whether you want the head to be warmer than the stateroom at night. Or whether you are can wait an hour before it's warm enough for your spouse to be comfortable.
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Old 11-23-2015, 04:24 PM   #15
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Mine is plumbed the same way - a heat exchanger between the engine and the hydronic system allows scavenging engine heat, which also heats domestic hot water. In theory it would also allow me to warm the engine with the furnace, but I never bothered to install an engine-side circulation pump to make that happen.

I guess Kevin and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. My preference is to have systems that are not dependent on being at the dock or having an engine running. The first thing I did when purchasing Refugio was pitch the generator and electric range, adding a big bank of AGMs and a 3kw inverter - and a propane range. I hate generators and electric galleys.
We are at the opposite end of the spectrum, and that's ok.

Instead of looking at our generator as a thing to dislike, and think up ways to remove, I put in a new Northern Lights unit, and count on it as just another boat system. I could have kept the old westerberke running, heck I've spent a lifetime working on and around industrial generators, but I knew how dependant we would be on the generator so decided to avoid issues through replacement.

Back on the heating topic, I carefully considered hydronic. I'll be honest the breaking point for me was simply the PITA in getting fresh air heat exchangers and the noise. Those two issues got me looking for alternatives.
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Old 11-23-2015, 04:32 PM   #16
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We anticipate adding built-in heat to our 1973 GB36 within the next year or so. The boat was delivered new to California and spent its whole life there until we bought it so it never had a heating system of any kind installed.

We've been doing okay the last 17 years with a portable propane heater but it is not anything close to being the ideal tool for the job. There is no location that would work for something like a Dickinson wall-mounted propane heater as much as a unit like this would make sense, particularly as the main cabin is already plumbed for propane.

After doing a lot of research and talking to people in our area about heating systems we feel that Wallas offers the best solution for our boat and how we want the heating system to work and be configured.
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Old 11-23-2015, 07:59 PM   #17
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Marin,
Will the Wallas put out enough heat? I estimate you will need a minimum of 2000btu and preferably 2500. Should have three heat outlets as you are a three cabin boat. Stop at Sure Marine in Ballard. I don't have enough trouble to be on a first name basis but their service is local and excellent. Then go to Scan Marine and see what the Wallas has to offer. They have been in business for many years I know. Actually I think the only reason to get the Wallas is the quiet operation. Everybodies quiet and noisy are different. The Wabasto dosn't bother me a bit but ....... ? You can listen to mine if you like.
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Old 11-23-2015, 08:02 PM   #18
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The typical electric space heater is 5000btu on high.

The typical 35 to 40 footer needs 2 or 3 heaters to warm the cabin to 70 degrees when the outside temps are in the 40 degree range and a bit of wind.
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Old 11-23-2015, 08:57 PM   #19
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Forced Air Diesel Heater

We really like our Webasto forced air hydronic. However...

It came with the boat. We know several people who have both a forced air hydronic and a Dickinson and they find that they prefer the Dickinson. One fellow heats hot water with his unit. That said there are real advantages with the force air. We have engine heat which is really nice and forced air on the PH windows. Also very nice. That said a hydronic is an expensive install. We had our repaired this past fall and it was 2 boat units.


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Old 11-23-2015, 09:24 PM   #20
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I should add...when we stay overnight on the boat in the winter, we fire up the Webasto when we arrive. When the interior gets up to temperature, we switch over to electric space heaters, which we use over night. We are not on a meter so power is free.




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