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Old 05-10-2013, 03:10 PM   #1
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Pellet Stoves onboard

Ok, I'm not sure why with all the hardy year round boaters here there hasn't been more discussion about pellet stoves onboard. Doing a search for "pellet stove" yielded one thread only. I have had one before and loved it...but not on a boat.

Unlike coal and wood, pellets aren't as messy....plus they are self feeding for 12-36 hrs. Storage of fuel might be an issue for some, but others have plenty of upper deck space for winter months. I know I do. And davits to bring it up too.

I know that anything that burns presents a hazard for fire, but that's not really the issue I'd like to discuss....other things do too including fuel for the outboard for a dinghy, propane fueled stoves, BBQ's, electrical items, etc, etc. Pellet stoves don't get as hot on their outer surface as a woodstove. The fire is contained in a small burn pot usually several inches across. The greatest threat I can envision is actually in emptying the ash pan, but that too is just because it is hot...it really never has embers in it. You wait for it to cool.

I have thought that a Thelin Parlour 3000 pellet stove would be ideal. It has a much smaller footprint than a traditional pellet stove at 20x20 inches while 43 inches tall, , is much nicer in appearance (enamel coatings in just about any color),uses a 3" vent pipe and only draws 27 watts (2.25 amps) on 120v. It also has a battery backup of its own....which I wonder if it could be plugged into the house batteries on board for extended reserve and or running while on the hook without gen or inverter.

Its 40,000 BTU on high and capable of heating 2000 sq ft according to the company. I have approx. 400 sq ft above decks, and another 150-200 below decks, but considering the boat has an aluminum hull and is not as well insulated as a house...my guess is on a VERY cold winter day when the temp was in single digits it would be running on high, while on a more temperate winter day I might need a medium setting.

The largest problem I see with this type of heat is circulating it through the whole boat. You don't want the salon at 90 degrees with the staterooms and head at 60. But....air circulating fans could potentially help depending on the layout of your boat. In my case I have tons of space below decks, and I could even add an outlet down there to keep water pipes from freezing and the previous owner already ran a lot of PVC piping down there for A/C and heat.

They can be run with a thermostat, but the circulation had better be good and some thought or trial and error involved regarding placement of said thermostat.

I think it may be less maintenance than a diesel heater and cheaper, cheaper than electric heat alone. They aren't cheap to buy, but what is? Electric heaters are cheap, but I think the stove would pay for itself within 2 seasons.

Any thoughts?
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Old 05-10-2013, 03:42 PM   #2
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Yes they work very well in the marine environment from my experience here in Vancouver BC.

I mean they use bio fuel how can that be bad.

Mom in law changed out the diesel heater I installed on her conversion to a pellet stove and just never looked back staying nice and warm with little hassel or mess. Surveyed fine and insurable. Mind you electric was the primary power source for heat till it got real cold.
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Old 05-10-2013, 03:47 PM   #3
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Is it distributed with air ducts? Why use electric as a primary heat then....or is it just due to the fact that pellets are heavy and in big bags? lol
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Old 05-10-2013, 04:19 PM   #4
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Is it distributed with air ducts? Why use electric as a primary heat then....or is it just due to the fact that pellets are heavy and in big bags? lol

We looked a pellet stove, but the heat was need down in the staterooms, and I did not want to cut a hole in the roof or side of the boat, plus we want something that was thermostat controller, self igniting and hade safty features. What we installed as a CAT propane Catalytic vented 12 volt thermostat controlled heater. http://ventedcatheater.com/ since we already had propane tanks on the boat.

We ran the heater for three winter 24/7 for 9 months, until we bit the bullet and installed a Webasto diesel boiler heater. The Webasto heats keep the living are and the engine room a at 65 to 70 degrees, heat the hot water and even can pre heat the main engine 671. Best investment we have made and the reason we are still a live aboard in the dead of winter when most have move back to the dirt.

Anyway there are other better ways to heat the boat then a pallet stove. Leave the pellet stove on the dirt where it belongs.
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Old 05-10-2013, 04:35 PM   #5
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Anyway there are other better ways to heat the boat then a pallet stove. Leave the pellet stove on the dirt where it belongs.
I understand that electric works well to heat, and diesel can work well to heat...but I am not interested in using pure electric (other than reverse cycle, which I like), and I'm not sure diesel is the best choice for me yet.

What was your initial cost for your diesel boiler system, and how many gallons of diesel do you use per month in cold weather to heat the boat?

Honestly, coal and wood stoves were used for years on boats, and I consider them pretty inefficient and dirty too, but pellet stoves are pretty efficient and clean, so I'm not sure why you think they should remain on land. lol

What are the other better ways to heat?

I guess I should add that I heated my house previously with a pellet stove. 1800 sq ft and I used 2.5 tons of pellets for the winter. That prices out to just over $550.

Not to mention it was wonderful to watch the fire. I'm not averse to cutting a hole in the boat. Its aluminum and easy to weld later if I need to.
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:01 PM   #6
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Did you take a look at the CAT? In below freezing temps, two 5 gallon tanks lasted about a week, running 24/7. it heated the salon and pilot house so which freed up the 30 amps AC electric for the staterooms. We made by for 3 years.

Well, that depend on the installation and how much you do. We picked the diesel boiler as we have diesel already on the boat, installing only required drilling 1 holes and if air the air would have cooled down to much running though the bilge. The reverse air was out because of the cold temp of the water. We pick the Webasto because of the number installed and the availability of parts and service. I did most of the grunt work, about 80%, and the installer did the remaining 20%, The cost was about 15 grand as we had domestic hot water and pre heating the 671. The install took about two weeks. We burn about 400 gallons of diesel per year, but it keep my bare foot painted pedicure toes warm. On real cold days I may wear my pink bunny slippers, but they are usually to hot. But that is another story!
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:14 PM   #7
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At 5200 BTU's for each larger CAT I would need at least 2 and that might not be enough. Plus I'd need to still circulate it around the boat. So multiply your 10 gallons of propane times 2 for the week...that's 80 gallons of propane a month...that's easily $300 a month at $3.50 a gallon and I'm not sure 10,400 BTU's is enough to take the chill off my boat.

With the pellet stove pictured I can put out 40,000 BTU...

Love the slippers!

Plus on the diesel...though I can do a lot of the work too 15K is a large investment when I want to TRY living aboard. The operating coast in diesel is higher too. I figure for 3K and a little work I can have toasty heat aboard....maybe

Which is why I posted it here to get ideas! Come on you lurkers....chime in! lol
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Old 05-10-2013, 05:54 PM   #8
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At 5200 BTU's for each larger CAT I would need at least 2 and that might not be enough. Plus I'd need to still circulate it around the boat. So multiply your 10 gallons of propane times 2 for the week...that's 80 gallons of propane a month...that's easily $300 a month at $3.50 a gallon and I'm not sure 10,400 BTU's is enough to take the chill off my boat.

With the pellet stove pictured I can put out 40,000 BTU...

Love the slippers!

Plus on the diesel...though I can do a lot of the work too 15K is a large investment when I want to TRY living aboard. The operating coast in diesel is higher too. I figure for 3K and a little work I can have toasty heat aboard....maybe

Which is why I posted it here to get ideas! Come on you lurkers....chime in! lol
The key is how to circulate the heat though out the boat with out over heating the area where the heat source is? Blowing cools th air, so that is not a good solution. The heat source should be close by. Heat rises so most of the heat source should be down. We have 6 exchange down in the staterooms and only two in the salon, and non in the pilot house.

I don't think your insurance comapny will allow a pellet stove. Might wnat to check? i know the here very specific when we where looking. The CAT is a proven RV marine application and so is the Webasto. They require cerain safty features so keep that in mind.

When you own/live on a boat some times cost is the driving factor.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:08 PM   #9
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Yes, I had mentioned that circulating the heat is the major issue with these things, and cost was definitely a reason I LIKE the idea of a pellet stove. It is far less costly to install and operate than most options I have seen.

I do disagree that blowing cools the air though. It just moves it. Heat loss is through 1. Convection 2. Radiation 3. Evaporation 4. Conduction. So well insulated ducts can carry hot, or cold air without much loss. With 40,000 BTU's available I should be able to easily heat the living spaces AND warm the machinery spaces enough that I don't have to worry about freezing pipes.

In my case I am lucky as almost all my living space is on one level, with machinery space below all of it. So the ducting doesn't present a challenge. Just moving the air efficiently does. My biggest fear is that I would need a monster fan by the pellet stove to move air quickly to other parts of the boat before overheating the area in which it sits. LOL But then again, I COULD create a duct that attaches to the blower outlet on the pellet stove and immediately ducts away part of the heat...

I imagine I would still need additional duct fans to move it effectively over the 35 ft or so of ducting, and perhaps a good return duct as well.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:27 PM   #10
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If it will make you feel better, I am comfortable that a pellet stove is no more dangerous than lots of other things in the boat including the driver. Having said that one of the problems you may face is that much of the heat from the stove pictured is radiant. I like wood heat generally and have used it a lot but am less familiar with pellet equipment and wonder if any units are designed with convection in mind. That would help your circulation focus immensely.

One other consideration, instead of trying to move the hot air from above it, might be to shape the flow by controlling the cool air below the unit and deliberately drawing it fro the cooler areas. It is a little easier to do this and nature will find a way to complete the circuit.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:37 PM   #11
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We have a nearly new pellet stove (PS) and I hadn't even thought about one on a boat.

2.25 vac would be about 25 amps dc so I think a PS on a boat would be limited to dockside operation. And I don't know if they even have PS w dc fan motors and sophisticated electronically controlled PS like ours probably don't exist for dc .... but I don't know.

They don't come in very small sizes either. We have few complaints w ours at home and we've oriented it so the fan blows the heat toward the hallway so we get fairly good heat circulation. It's fairly quiet but a lot noisier than our Wabasto on the boat. I'd say it's a bit on the noisy side. No trouble talking next to it while running though.

They range in price from $1400 to 4 or $5000. There is even a furnace availible now. Ours was/is high end and has a sophisticated system that controls the heat output better than a thermostat and shuts itself down and starts back up. I think you could say ours is computer controlled. We clean it every 2 or 3 weeks and it's not much of a job. On a large boat if you can deal w the electrical draw it should be fine. And very economical to feed. Exhaust is easy to deal w too.
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Old 05-10-2013, 07:12 PM   #12
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Bob, the pellet stoves are NOT mostly radiant like a wood stove. The surfaces get hot but not in the same way. the heating is done via tubes that pass air through the interior...the burn chamber. This is then forced out by the fan. That's how they make that small flame in the burn chamber put out so much heat...plus there is air blowing over the burning pellets to burn them hot. Usually its only a few pellets in the burn pot at any one moment.

manyboats....no, the draw on that Thelin is 2.25 amps on 120v. About 1/4 the draw of a fridge, and mostly due to the fan requirements. Electrical guys help me here....wouldn't that mean that a 1700 amp deep cycle battery would operate it for......how long? Not sure how to make the conversion from 120v amps to DC...but apparently the unit is made to run on either.

If you were using it during cruising you'd need to power it with its backup (which could potentially be charging from your alternator at 60, 80, 100, 140 amps...whatever you have). At rest, either shore power or an inverter.

That Thelin Parlour 3000 has a battery backup of its own in case power goes out, but I see no reason if its 12v as I suspect that you cant use your boat's batteries. Its only 20 in x 20 in and 43 in high weighing 180 pounds. Its small compared to other pellet stoves!
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Old 05-12-2013, 08:16 PM   #13
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aronhk_md,
Well did you ever find out if I was correct about voltage and current?
22.5 amps at 12vdc. I think it must be that IF it's 2.25a at 110v.
Perhaps you meant to say it drew 2.25a at 110v. Perhaps that what you read or heard.
My PS has a rather aggressive fan. Hard to believe 2 amps 12v would drive it.
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Old 05-12-2013, 10:41 PM   #14
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Eric, I suspect you are right. 2 amps at 12v would be like a small work lamp...22.5 amps is much more likely. As I said above though, if you were using it during cruising you'd need to power it with its backup battery(ies)(which could potentially be charging from your alternator at 60, 80, 100, 140 amps...whatever you have). At anchor an inverter. Docked, shore power.

How long could you power 22.5 amps off a battery bank with twin 1450 amp deep cycle batteries before lets say reaching 50% SOC and needing to turn on a genset or main engine while anchored?

Seems like a very viable setup to me.

Also, these pellet stoves are SMALL and LIGHT. 40,000 BTU's is nothing to sneeze at. On my boat with workspace under the deck from bow to stern ducting air isn't a big issue. Some boats it might be.
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Old 05-12-2013, 10:44 PM   #15
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OK good ....... Let us know how the project goes.
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Old 05-12-2013, 11:23 PM   #16
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I do not have a problem with a pellet stove.

If your boat has a place where you could put the stove and have it look nice, and be secure while at sea.

If you can figure out a way to get heat to the lower cabins where you need it the most.

If your insurance company is good with it.

Why not. Diesel heat is very expensive at the price per gallon of diesel now days. The pellet stove represents a renewable sustainable energy source for allot less $$ per BTU than diesel.

You know, there are plenty of radiant heaters on boats already. Most seem to be diesel units but they are out there.

I do not have an issue with the power they use. 22 amps DC is not trivial, but its not all that significant if you have a large house bank and plan for the recharge cycles.
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Old 05-12-2013, 11:40 PM   #17
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I agree. In my boat there really ARENT any lower cabins. Its almost all in one plane with machinery space below. Easily fastened to the deck as well.

To be honest, I hadn't planned to inform my insurance company. I own the boat outright, and IF for some reason I burned the boat down and then they tried to deny the claim I would either fight them or accept the loss.

These things are mobile home approved and there is no good reason to consider them more a danger than other fuel burning heaters. Its a tiny burn pot a few inches across inside a big metal canister that burns a few small pellets with high heat by fanning air across them. You don't open the chamber to refill fuel as you would with a wood stove where there is the possibility of an ember falling out.
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Old 05-13-2013, 12:36 AM   #18
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On real cold days I may wear my pink bunny slippers, but they are usually to hot. But that is another story!
HIJACK ALERT:

Holy crap, Phil! Did dwhatty send you those pink slippers? They'd go great with the pink hat like his lovely wife's that he sent me for Christmas!



We now return you to your normal programming....
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Old 05-13-2013, 12:57 AM   #19
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lol
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Old 05-13-2013, 07:23 AM   #20
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With a boat , and its usually high glass area and usually no insulation more BTU per sq ft is required than a well built house.

Heat is like filling a pail but its from the top down.

Depending on the boat it can be 85F at the overhead and 55F at the cabin sole.

A fan will mix the air allowing it to feel warmer sitting down or at your feet.

As most bilge areas are unheated the first thing is to insulate the cabin sole, wool rugs work great , and a top layer of bathroom carpet is a great live aboard help.

Bathroom carpet does not have to be bound after cutting to shape and is machine washable. Mud and snow come aboard and its hard to get visiting folks to take winter foot wear off.

Next the windows and glass area need covering , big box home store , double stick tape ,clear plastic shriuk to almost invisible with a hair dryer. Its a kit , do both inside and outside.

Then its time to find Dorades and other built in venting and seal it up..

The style of heat will depend on the lowest outside temperatures in your area and weather the boat will sink if deprived of 120V for a week or two, after any winter storm.

There are many good commercial units , usually the problem is the "best" (for big boats) is circulating hot water that takes time and skill to install.

Things like toe kick heaters installed in each cabin require electric to function so the 120v supply may need a backup.

Forced air works , but most of the units are truck/coach sourced so noise is a factor , complexity is very high and most service is not easy or neat.

For boats that can use the system the Dickinson oil fired range , with a second antarctic floor unit is my first choice. No electric required .

As with battery items or refrigeration requiring less costs way less than providing more.

On a new build (50ft +) baseboard heat with a marine furnace would be first choice as there are now baseboard radiators that put out 300% more BTU per foot.
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