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Old 08-18-2015, 09:40 AM   #1
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Question about cabin heating

Greetings from a newcomer to TF. I am boat-shopping here in the Pacific NW, looking for a vessel in the 35-40' range for use on our big inland lake here in north Idaho. Because our summers last about two months, most of the use of the boat will be in cooler weather; adequate cabin heat is therefore a requirement. As we will be using the boat both at and away from the dock, I'm looking for a boat with a heating system that will serve in either scenario. What sorts of systems work well in cooler climates? Will most boats for sale in the PNW already have cabin heating systems? If I buy an older boat (likely, given economics), would it make sense to retrofit a newer, more efficient system? If so, what do people recommend?

Thanks in advance for any information and advice!
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Old 08-18-2015, 10:05 AM   #2
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If supplemental heat is available, or it never really dips below 40 degrees, a Wallas DT 40 is pretty sweet for a boat that size.

Better than the rest? Better is a funny word, but it is quiet, efficient, reliable and loved by many of its owners.

My recommendation.

My preference is hydronic...but overkill and costly for my application.
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Old 08-18-2015, 10:20 AM   #3
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Don't underestimate the value of having something HOT right in the cabin for true comfort. I sailed thousands of miles with a diesel Dickenson Newport heater made right there in your part of the world. It ran 24 hours a day for months and one is going in our new boat.

I once installed central heating in a house that had run on electric. I put baseboards in one room and modern radiators in the next. There was very noticeable difference in comfort from one room to the next which I guessed to be several degrees before I balanced the system. When I put the thermometers all over the house to do that, I found that the air in both rooms was the same temperature! That is the difference between just warming the air and directly warming the stuff (people) in the room with radiant heat.
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Old 08-18-2015, 11:04 AM   #4
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Hydronic is different than a central radiant cook stove. It gets heat into other compartments. Hose runs along the hull help keep lockers warm and dry. Defoggers can be added at helm. It's also possible to leave the boat for extended periods running on a furnace - not advisable with a cook stove.

If heat is important then I strongly suggest at least two sources - e.g. A stove/fireplace AND a hydronic/forced air system.

You might also look at putting Red Dot style heaters in to the engine cooling system to scavenge waste heat underway.
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Old 08-18-2015, 11:06 AM   #5
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We have used several Dickenson stove/ heaters, Wallas and Webatso. All worked work well and all have pros and cons. The Dickenson are by far the most used in SE Alaska.
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Old 08-18-2015, 11:08 AM   #6
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I set up a system where coolant from my main engine goes through a large automotive heater core with a 12v two speed squirrel cage fan. Under the steps into cabin, can aim air flow either into cabin or into pilothouse or sort of split it. The system works great, but only while main engine is running.

With engine off, I use reversible heat pumps but those don't work well when water temp gets below 45F or so. Then I use resistance space heater cubes. Not real efficient, but when it is below freezing outside, I want heat!!!

Diesel fired heaters make real heat, but can be complicated to install and noisy.

The best system depends on how you intend to operate the boat.
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Old 08-18-2015, 11:09 AM   #7
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We have a hydronic Webasto, 3 zones, circulating coolant to radiators with forced air. It has recently failed (rusted out heat exchanger). Several owners of KK42's have both the hydronic heat and the Dickenson diesel heater. These people seem to prefer the Dickenson diesel furnace and use it almost exclusively over the more technically complicated systems.


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Old 08-18-2015, 11:09 AM   #8
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I have 3 heat sources on my boat - electric, hydronic and a Dickinson central heater. Of the three, my preference is the Dickinson. Electric is ok as long as it's not too cold. Most of the year we can get by with this as long as we're at the dock. Hydronic is great while at the dock or traveling about, but uses a lot of power so I need to run the genset a lot to keep the power up while at anchor. Also it does not ventilate the boat so it gets quite humid after a day or two. The Dickinson is great but you have to bring the heat into the dead air areas like the berth. We use a solar/battery fan to move the warm air into the berth area. Using this heater we have no condensation build up anywhere in the boat. We often anchor out for a week or so without moving during the winter and unlike the summer the doors or windows are not open as much, condensation can become a big issue and for our boat only air exchange will keep it dry.


As mention above by psneeld, the Wallas is popular as well, but I don't know anything about them.
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Old 08-18-2015, 11:15 AM   #9
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There are several types of diesel boat heaters:


1. Drip type bulkhead mounted- These use a regulated drip of diesel to burn in a small bulkhead mounted unit with a small flue pipe. The Dickenson Newport heater mentioned above is one example. These can be installed with an optional hot water heating coil that can be plumbed to your hot water heater to make hot water for showers. These are probably the cheapest type of boat heaters.


2. Forced air- Like the Wallas mentioned above, or Espar and Webasto. These are remote mounted, often in the engine room and are a tiny forced air furnace where the hot air is heated and ducted through the boat. The flue exits the side of the boat.


3. Hydronic- Arguably the best, but the most expensive. Like a home oil heating system, a central "boiler" heats water which is circulated to several fan/coil units in the boat. These can also be plumbed to heat hot water.


You can spend from $2,000 for a simple drip heater installation to more than $5,000 for a hydronic system. For weekend use in your climate I would install the drip type. For live aboard, the forced air or the hydronic system would be my choice.


Fortunately many boats for sale in the PNW already have heating systems installed.


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Old 08-18-2015, 11:40 AM   #10
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Being in Alaska this is a subject near and dear to my heart.

On a boat of the size you are considering, having the ability to provide differeing amounts of heat to different areas of the boat is essential.

That is where a central furnace, or furnaces is very handy.

As to technlogies...

Electric would be cheapest, if you are willing to run your generator when you need heat. Built in electric heaters are easy to install, (except pulling the cable) and are very safe. You can use the built in units designed for home use.

Diesel heat is an option as well. You can choose from forced air, hydronic, or convection, just like in a home. All three technologies have advantages and disadvantages. I have had several of both forced air and hydronic systems on my boats and have installed several of both types.

On our current boat I designed the heating system, and installed part of it, leaving the rest to a ship yard when I ran out of time. I used three Wallas forced air furnaces. One for the salon, one for the cabin deck, and one for the pilothouse.

Why Wallas? Why forced air?

Well, the Wallas units are dead quiet, something the other units are not.

I chose forced air specifically because of the ventilation capabilities. In my environment it rains approx twice as much as Seattle, something over 60" a year. The weather often hovers close to the dew point as well.

My furnaces are set up provide a mix of outside and recirculated air. This fresh air is in my experience very good at keeping the boat dry and fresh.

I chose this over hydronic simply because it was easier to get fresh air intake with a forced air system.

On a large boat, expect to spend between ten and fifteen thousand dollars for a heating system, parts and labor. Parts on my system ran about $7500, and i paid another $5,000 for installation of two of the three furnace units.
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Old 08-18-2015, 11:55 AM   #11
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l really appreciate all the thoughtful responses to my neophyte questions. While it seems likely that any boat I am considering for purchase in the PNW will already have some kind of heating system, you all have given me some specific things to consider when looking at Boat A vs. Boat B. Also, the heating system (or lack thereof) can be a negotiation input when talking $$. And being new to the boat-buying game (and I'm sure there is a 'game' specific to boat-buying), I need all the insight into that process that I can get....
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Old 08-18-2015, 12:08 PM   #12
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Also, your PNW location is closer to ITR in Vancouver than the euro manufacturers. And you should drop by Sure Marine in Ballard the next time you are in Seattle - you will almost certainly need some of their fittings and accessories even if you don't buy a unit from them.

If you can wait through this winter, the best prices will be at the early-in-the-year boat shows.
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Old 08-18-2015, 12:47 PM   #13
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Even for used boats? Hmm. I thought end-of-summer-beginning-of-fall would be best for shopping, since people might not want to haul their boat or keep it over the winter.
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Old 08-18-2015, 01:03 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldToby View Post
Even for used boats? Hmm. I thought end-of-summer-beginning-of-fall would be best for shopping, since people might not want to haul their boat or keep it over the winter.
Double check with brokers...but that seems to ring true to me in the Northeast and Mid-West....
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Old 08-18-2015, 01:21 PM   #15
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Question about cabin heating

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldToby View Post
Even for used boats? Hmm. I thought end-of-summer-beginning-of-fall would be best for shopping, since people might not want to haul their boat or keep it over the winter.
Ah, I was referring to heaters!

Fall is an excellent time to buy a boat but not the best time to buy a heater.
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Old 08-18-2015, 02:48 PM   #16
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We have a small Wabasto forced air heater.

Right now I'm completly re doing the fuel system and switching to kerosene .. from diesel. Much cleaner burning but it requires a dedicated fuel system.

I'm switching from rubber fuel hose to copper tube and mounting a small aluminum tank on the back of the cabin bulkhead .. outside. That reminds me ..... the usual practice of not bringing SS and Al together because of corrosion issues probably applies attaching male threaded SS pipe fitting to the Al tank in threaded holes of aluminum. Two places I'd like to do this thinking the liquid pipe thread sealant will/may keep the two different metals apart enough to live happily w/o corrosion issues. Has anyone experienced corrosion from such a mating?

Re the Wabasto we find it plenty quiet enough. Chris is sometimes annoyed by the fuel pump "ticking" but only occasionally and now the pump will be well aft (V berth fwd) so no doubt won't be heard now. I think how much electrical draw they have has a lot to do w the range of shutdown to startup temps. If it shuts down at 70 degrees and re-starts at 68 there will be many more startups and that's where the electrons are largely eaten up. This of course is a function of the thermostat and not the Wabasto. I've modified my thermostat so it functions down to about 40 degrees so we can use it as freeze protection or have it on as a backup for dockside electric.
Sometimes underway I step out on the afterdeck and the cold air reminds me the Wabasto is on.
I think following the installation instructions is very important.

refugio,
Yes Sure Marine is a very good place to go. Was there just a few days ago and they were very busy. A young man named Graham was very helpful. Now I'm all ready to install my new fuel system and looking fwd to warm boating all winter.
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