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Old 10-16-2015, 01:58 PM   #1
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EDIT: Copied from another thread...

Year-round here, hopefully. I specifically bought a boat with a hard enclosed cockpit cabin (well, mostly enclosed) so I can use it on those chilly and blustery winter days. And, yes, it gets cold enough here in N. Florida to make boating uncomfortable enough to stay home.

Probably the topic of another thread, but can anyone recommend a good portable, non-electric, heater for use in a well-ventilated cockpit/cabin?
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Old 10-16-2015, 03:05 PM   #2
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Well, portable and non electric means either propane or kerosene.

Years ago in SoCal in the winter I plumbed a propane radiant heater into the stove's propane line to run a 3,000 btu Olympian Wave heater. Worked nicely to keep the area around the sofa in the main salon warm. Mr. Heater also makes these. Some are run off of 1 lb. propane cylinders but those will only last a few hours.

Right now I am sitting in our porch in Connecticut and a 10,000 btu kerosene heater (turned real low, probably producing 2,000 btu) is keeping us warm as its in the 50s outside now and this room has no heat.

Kerosene can be cheaper and probably safer than propane. We buy bulk kerosene at the gas station for $4.00 a gallon. Outrageous when #2 oil is selling for close to $2.00 in bulk, but cheaper than a 20 lb cylinder of propane for equivalent heat.

But you probably can't buy bulk kerosene where you are, so propane would probably work best. Get a dedicated 20 lb cylinder to run it from and it will last for a week in a small cabin.

The kerosene or propane heaters cost about the same, $100-200 depending on output.
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Old 10-16-2015, 03:59 PM   #3
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Put a heater in that uses the heat from the engine when you're running. One unit in my 35' charter boat allowed me to comfortably run in November when there was skim ice in the marina in the morning. It's free heat. Put 3 units in my trawler where the blowers were thermostat controlled. One unit will work off the flow from the engine's water pump. Multiple units will require a booster pump. Heatercraft makes these units, Hamilton Marine has the best prices on them. If you get one, make sure it has a blower, not a fan.

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Old 10-16-2015, 04:00 PM   #4
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Our 1973 boat was ordered by a customer in SFO Bay and it spent it's whole life there until we bought it and trucked it north in 1998. So it has no heating system on it at all. It's something we plan to add when we get more time to do this project, and we know what kind of diesel heater we're going to install.

We use the boat year round so for winter heat away from the dock we use a portable propane heater from Mr. Heater called the "Portable Buddy." It does a sufficiently good job to make boating in the winter relatively comfortable.

A propane heater like this has several downsides. It puts a LOT of moisture in the air so the windows tend to fog up pretty bad.

You have to be VERY mindful of propane safety with this heater. So we never use it when we are not inside the boat with it. If we go outside we turn off the heater and set it on the deck outside the cabin. If we are going to leave the boat for shore we turn off the heater, remove the propane cannister, and set it on the deck outside. Same thing when we go to bed.

The propane canisters are stored in the sailing dinghy we keep in a cradle on the aft cabin top. We never keep one inside the boat other than the one that is on the heater. If we think we might run out of propane while we're using the heater we put a spare canister outside on the deck by the door and when we change canisters we put the empty one outside.

We thought originally about using a kerosene heater but friends we boat with use one and we don''t like the smell and "taste" it puts in the air. So we went with propane.

However, the proper solution is a diesel heater or a properly vented propane heater like a Dickinson wall unit. We've decided to go with a diesel heater when we get around to it.
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Old 10-16-2015, 04:49 PM   #5
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I set up my boat with a heater that runs on engine coolant, just like a car. Free heat. But only works with main engine running.
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Old 10-16-2015, 07:55 PM   #6
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One of the smaller Wallas forced air diesel heaters might be perfect for you, though definitely not portable. Plumb directly to your fuel tank. We have the biggest one they make (the 40dT) and have used it for a year now. Love it. Super quiet, and very economical with both fuel and amp use.
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Old 10-16-2015, 07:56 PM   #7
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Since the OP is asking specifically about portable units, it pretty much rules out the engine heat and diesel heaters that are built in. In a perfect world, I'd have both. Sometimes I'll fish in the cockpit or, if it's windy or raining, at the aft end of the saloon with the double aft doors open. A portable aimed at me is a great comfort. (OK, I've a complete softy after living in NorCal for over 30 years. Hard to believe I grew up with a newspaper route in Chicago!)

I have 2 Mr. Buddy heaters - Big Buddy



and

Portable Buddy.



I bought Big Buddy first for use on the boat because it holds 2 bottles for overnight heat without changing bottles, a quick connect plug in the back for their long line to connect to a 20 lb tank and it has an electric fan powered by D cells. I found that it's high heat setting (H-18,000 BTU, M-9000 BTU, L-4000 BTU) was too high for the boat's small spaces and the fan is needless due to the high heat output, even at low setting. Fans installed in the boat are much better at distributing the heat and holding condensation down. I also found the Big Buddy size to be a just bit too bulky for our vessel.

I was strolling through a nautical swap meet with Cpseudonym a couple years ago and found a Portable Buddy (PB) that looked like new that I bought for $5. It quickly replaced the Big Buddy (BB) and has performed much better. The 2 settings of the PB (M-9000 BTU, L-4000 BTU) are more than enough for us.

We usually run it on the low setting attached to a 20 lb tank. The threaded tank connection on the PB is really a non-issue for us. I carry 1 lb bottles for short-term use and have a refill adapter onboard to permit refills from the larger tanks. We don't do it often, but it's nice to have that capability, if needed away from shore.

Two features I consider critical for any heater with an open flame is tip over protection and low O2 sensor. Mr. Buddy heaters have both. I've never tripped the low O2 monitor, but the tip over seems like a good balance (NPI) of protection and usability. I've never operated the heater in rough boating conditions so I don't know if it would get finicky with pitching seas. Even the slightest bump of the unit causes the pilot light and the glow of the panel to extinguish.

IMO, the greatest hazard is combustible materials including fumes in the vicinity of the heater. You can't let your guard down with one of these things operating. That means no hanging galley towels, no drying wet hats or clothing, no flowing fabrics or scarves nearby. (Sorry Phil Fill, no dress up around these things!)

If you and your crew can keep a good head about running these things, they can be operated safely. Just don't do anything stupid...and if you do, tell us about it.

What happened to my BB, you may ask? It now serves as a garage heater in the winter for my retirement projects. I does a great job there when our temps dip into the high 30's!
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Old 10-16-2015, 09:44 PM   #8
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We largely rely on sweaters, coats, and thick blankets during the winter. With the mild winters here (including FlyWright's territory), that's OK compared to heater-less camping at two miles' elevation with limited backpacking equipment in subfreezing weather.

Winter waters are well above freezing here. Doubt my engine ever gets below 45 degrees while idle for days.
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Old 10-16-2015, 10:21 PM   #9
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Yes, the Portable Buddy is exactly what I had in mind. I was also thinking about the Big Buddy instead, but looks like that would be overkill. Like FlyWright, I just want to have something to keep the chill off when we're in the cockpit with the rear isenglass curtain zipped up.

Thanks for the input!
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Old 10-16-2015, 11:45 PM   #10
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A few things we've learned with the Portable Buddy. If we put it on the floor in the aft cabin the heat rises into the main cabin but the windows in the main cabin don't condense moisture so much. But if you put the heater on the floor it's a smart idea to put it on a heat shield of some sort. We use a baking pan with little feet glued on the back to make an air space a half inch high or so. The heater throws a lot of heat straight out and if you have finished wood floors as we do in the GB, the heat could conceivably do some damage to the finish.

If we want more heat in the main cabin we'll put it on top of the stove and use a fan mounted in the upper port corner of the windshield to blow the heat into the rest of the cabin.

It's important to have a source of fresh air into the boat while the heater's operating. We open a couple of the sliding windows a couple of inches or so.

On the high setting the heater goes through propane a lot faster than on the lower setting. It's not like half the time, it's a lot less than that. So once the heater's taken the edge off the cold in the cabin we turn it to the lower setting.

If you have pets--- in our case we have a dog with a long, heavily feathered tail-- it's important to place the heater where the pet can't brush up against the heating element or get its tail inside the guard.

We've had our Portable Buddy for some 16 years or so now, and for a "stop-gap" heating system to let us boat year round until we get around to installing a diesel heater it's done stellar duty notwithstanding its drawbacks, the greatest being the amount of moisture it puts into the air.
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Old 10-17-2015, 08:21 PM   #11
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We have a Coleman catalytic propane heater, with ignition and two settings. We also had to make a floor pan to stabilise it. Rock steady now. Doesn't seem to create any moisture, possibly due to the heat system using platinum over a tiny pilot light. Agree a CO alarm is vital, although we have never managed to trigger it.
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Old 10-17-2015, 08:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis.R View Post
Agree a CO alarm is vital, although we have never managed to trigger it.
A propane alarm is important, too. Last week my CO detector started chirping and I discovered it was out of date. Time to replace it, so I'll be going with a combo CO/Propane monitor.
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Old 10-17-2015, 09:27 PM   #13
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Hydronic heating systems work really well. Easy enough to add another loop and air handler to cockpit if required. My pilothouse air handler has two blowers - one for the house itself and another for the windscreen demist.

Elements of the system are a furnace such as a Webasto, a circulation pump, header tank, piping and air handlers & radiators. It is straightforward to include engine heat in the circuit. And also a heat exchanger loop for hot water. If doing this and in a cold climate then one further addition is recommended. Put a 'pre-heat' tank into the loop with a 750W element in it. Then you can keep the chill out of the boat without running electric fan heaters.

A final tweak was a 'summer loop' so that the Webasto or engine heat makes hot water without running through all of the air handlers/radiators. The Webasto can deliver hot water in short order without any heating of the boat overall.
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Old 10-17-2015, 11:05 PM   #14
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A commercial fisherman I respect suggests never using propane, and no electric fan-driven ones either. If the fan quits you have a hot box that can burn you out.

He says a portable hot-oil heater is safest, and ideal for keeping your boat toasty on shore power. So even though I have diesel heat, I pay for shore power to keep the boat warm and condensation-free when I'm away.

i also swear by my electric blankets on shore power as well, they only draw 180 watts each and make bedtime heavenly, for an old man... Now go wash your mouth out with rye, after thoughts like that...
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Old 10-18-2015, 01:36 AM   #15
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"He says a portable hot-oil heater is safest"

But not absolutely safe. One of them caused a sailboat fire in Seattle a couple of years ago, the live-aboards were able to put the fire out, but the outcome could have been a lot different.

If you are going to use any portable AC heater, the best level of safety is to use it only at it's minimum heat setting, in addition to making sure all AC circuits are not overloaded and plugs are up to snuff.
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Old 10-18-2015, 07:50 AM   #16
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"If you are going to use any portable AC heater,"

Secure it to a non combustible surface , so it cant tip over.

Boats , even dock cottages, do move.

After an electric heater is on for hours , check the temperature of the plug and cord.

Like inlet plugs these too can overload and burn.
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Old 10-18-2015, 08:22 AM   #17
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Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. Great thread. My main goal is to just take the edge off the cold in the cockpit when we're out cruising and maybe just to warm things up a bit down in the cabin (as Marin does). Looks like the Portable Buddy will do the trick. I wouldn't leave it unattended or even go to sleep with it on since I've seen enough horror stories about boats burning up or occupants succumbing to CO. I already have a brand new built-in reverse cycle air conditioner to heat up the cabin when we're plugged in at the dock.
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Old 10-18-2015, 10:30 AM   #18
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Yes, those provisions are of prime importance. Using clean (and dry) A/C connections, with no extension cords, on a dedicated circuit is the key to safety.
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Old 10-19-2015, 07:24 AM   #19
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"I already have a brand new built-in reverse cycle air conditioner to heat up the cabin when we're plugged in at the dock."

Great in warm water , but get the water much below 40F and reverse cycle craps out and you are back to a toaster wire , resistance heating.
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Old 10-19-2015, 10:43 AM   #20
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Quote:
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Great in warm water , but get the water much below 40F and reverse cycle craps out and you are back to a toaster wire , resistance heating.
Fortunately, that's not a concern around here.
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