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Old 12-26-2012, 06:28 PM   #1
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Engine comp. temp. - winter

Hi there,

This is our first winter with our boat. I was wondering what kind of engine compartment temperatures people in other cold regions were seeing, what minimum temperatures they had to contend with, and what they did to hold the cold at bay.

Our boat is fully covered by a heavy snow shedding tarp so heat loss from wind isn't really an issue, and sits in brackish water that is freezing in quiet areas of the marina near shore. There are two 60 watt bulbs in the galley area, and a flat marine heater giving constant low warmth in the main berth forward. According to the son of the previous owner, this is all it has ever needed for the last 20 years, and says it has never dropped below freezing in the engine compartment. This seems pretty spartan, but 20 years of success is hard to argue with. It can drop to -20C (-4F) in this area for a couple weeks at a time.

Last week when it was -8C (17.5F) I measured the temperature in the engine compartment, which had no heat at all, and it was 3.5C (38F). Yesterday I put a 60 watt light down there with a metal bullet reflector, and pointed it towards a plastic stool to absorb and radiate the heat. This morning it was colder at -10C (14F) and the engine compartment had gone up to 4.5C (40F).

I've seen some whiz-bang fancy heaters that turn on at 35F and shut off at 45F, so this puts us right in the ballpark...so far...

What do you other cold weather folks do?

Murray
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Old 12-26-2012, 07:14 PM   #2
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Winterize..if the power goes out...you're #*%@#$.
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Old 12-26-2012, 10:24 PM   #3
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I was wondering what kind of engine compartment temperatures people in other cold regions were seeing, what minimum temperatures they had to contend with, and what they did to hold the cold at bay.
We keep an electric oil heater (the kind that looks like a little steam radiator) in the engine room. It is set to the lowest setting (600w) and the thermostat is set halfway up. It keeps the engine room at 55 degrees no matter what the outside temperature is.

Keep in mind that we do not get the kind of bitter cold that other regions get. If Bellingham gets a north wind coming down from the Fraser River valley in BC we can have nighttime temperatures in the 20s or high teens and daytime temperatures in the low 30s or even only high 20s. In these conditions, the engine room remains at 55 degrees.

However most of the winter the nighttime temperatures are in the low 30s or high 20s and the daytime temperatures are in the higher 30s or low 40s.

The reason we keep the engine room at this temperature this is that we use the boat year round. While we generally don't go out if the daytime temperatures are near or below freezing because a) our boat being from California has no heat on it other than the portable propane heater we use with some very elaborate safety precautions , and b) if the temperatures remain at or below freezing for several 24 hour periods in a row, the marina develops a layer of ice on the surface due to the high freshwater content of the water most of the time. And ice, even a thin skim of it, can do a real number on the gelcoat of a boat that punches through it. We have seen this happen on several occasions to boats that went out or came in and pushed through the ice.

But with the engine room at 55 degrees the engines (FL120s) start instantly on the first turn of the starters, exactly the same as they do during the rest of the year. The engines are equipped with cold start controls on the injection pumps to allow more fuel into the engines at startup but we have never had to use them in the 14 years we've had the boat.

When we go out we take the heater out of the engine room and stow it in a closet along with the same kind of heater we keep in the aft cabin during the winter.

Most of the other power boat owners we know in our marina keep heat of some sort in their engine rooms during the winter even if they don't use their boats at all during that time.
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Old 12-26-2012, 10:55 PM   #4
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... our boat being from California has no heat on it other than the portable propane heater we use with some very elaborate safety precautions ...
Marin, please describe your propane heater set-up/precautions. My Coot came without heat except that given off by the engine.
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:12 AM   #5
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Well, it's a little off-topic but that's never stopped me before.. We don't even a have Red Dot heater on the boat. We use a Mr. Heater "Buddy" heater. We either set it on the stove in the main cabin or on the floor in the aft cabin. We also open an adjacent window an inch or two.

Our rules are:

1. We never bring a gas canister into the boat unless we are going to use the heater.

2. We never use the heater while the boat is underway.

3. We never use the heater when we go to bed.

4. We never leave the heater on when no one is inside the boat. If we're both going to be on deck we turn the heater off and set it on the deck outside the main cabin door.

5. When we leave the boat for any reason, even for a few minutes, we turn off the heater, remove the gas canister, and set the canister outside on the deck. We do the same thing when we go to bed.

6. We store the gas canisters in the sailing dinghy on top of the aft cabin. The sailing dinghy has two drain holes in the keel and we leave them open. (We also store the gas for the Livingston's motor and the oil for our anchor lantern in the dinghy.)

But..... While this works for us we in no way consider it the proper way to heat a boat.. Besides the safety aspect, a propane heater like this puts a lot of moisture in the air. With the cold outside air on the window glass the moisture in the cabin air condenses like mad on the inside of the glass. So we have to wipe them down periodically.

The only proper way to heat the inside of a boat as far as we're concerned is with a good diesel forced air or piped hot water/heat exchanger (fan) system, or a bulwark mounted propane or diesel heater that exhausts outside the boat. There is no place to mount a bulkhead heater in our boat so a diesel furnace air or piped water system is our only option. We just haven't been able to rationalize the cost--$7,000 to $10,000 installed-- yet.

So we get by with our little Mr. Heater and the nice hand woven wool sweaters we bought in Swaledale, England.
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:36 AM   #6
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Hi there,

This is our first winter with our boat. I was wondering what kind of engine compartment temperatures people in other cold regions were seeing, what minimum temperatures they had to contend with, and what they did to hold the cold at bay.

Our boat is fully covered by a heavy snow shedding tarp so heat loss from wind isn't really an issue, and sits in brackish water that is freezing in quiet areas of the marina near shore. There are two 60 watt bulbs in the galley area, and a flat marine heater giving constant low warmth in the main berth forward. According to the son of the previous owner, this is all it has ever needed for the last 20 years, and says it has never dropped below freezing in the engine compartment. This seems pretty spartan, but 20 years of success is hard to argue with. It can drop to -20C (-4F) in this area for a couple weeks at a time.

Last week when it was -8C (17.5F) I measured the temperature in the engine compartment, which had no heat at all, and it was 3.5C (38F). Yesterday I put a 60 watt light down there with a metal bullet reflector, and pointed it towards a plastic stool to absorb and radiate the heat. This morning it was colder at -10C (14F) and the engine compartment had gone up to 4.5C (40F).

I've seen some whiz-bang fancy heaters that turn on at 35F and shut off at 45F, so this puts us right in the ballpark...so far...

What do you other cold weather folks do?

Murray
Is this a gasoline powered boat or a diesel powered boat?

If gasoline, you are really playing with fire. Get an marine ignition protected engine room heater and get rid of all the lightbulbs and such. And don't use a power recepticle in the engine room, run the cort from the heater to an outlet that's outside the engine room.

Diesel? Still questionable. Pointing a lightbulb with a reflector towards a plastic stool to absorb and radiate the heat? Not a great idea.

You probably spent several thoudsand dollars to buy your boat so at least buy a proper marine heater that can't tip over and place it down low in the engine room (heat rises) someplace where it can't move and nothing flamable can fall on it.

Someone else already stated it, but if the power goes out, you're SOL! If you won't be using the boat in the winter season, winterizing the boat is the best solution.

Some folks use a bubbler or two in the water to keep the water from freezing around their boat. Of course you're still depending on electric power here.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:54 AM   #7
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Marin: No worries about going off topic...on forums, just like in life, some of the most interesting discoveries are found on unexpected tangents

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Is this a gasoline powered boat or a diesel powered boat?
It's a diesel.

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And don't use a power recepticle in the engine room, run the cort from the heater to an outlet that's outside the engine room.
Done.

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Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
Pointing a lightbulb with a reflector towards a plastic stool to absorb and radiate the heat? Not a great idea.
The stool is about a foot away, and the light is secured not to move. Just didn't want the radiant heat to hit the hull and be wasted trying to heat the Pacific.

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You probably spent several thoudsand dollars to buy your boat so at least buy a proper marine heater that can't tip over and place it down low in the engine room (heat rises) someplace where it can't move and nothing flamable can fall on it.
We've partnered with the son of the previous owner who knows the boat well, is a mechanic, and has been taking care of the boat for years since his Dad passed away. It's been in this marina over 20 years, no harm done. He's been out of town and out of contact, so that's why I asked the question here.
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:53 AM   #8
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Marin, please describe your propane heater set-up/precautions. My Coot came without heat except that given off by the engine.

Before the Webasto we heated the salon for several years with a CAT catalytic vented thermostat controlled heater. http://ventedcatheater.com/2.html. The 6P12 ran 24/7 from October through May. It was cheap and easy to install.
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:04 AM   #9
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As Anode said Winterize.

Here in Alaska you just about have to winterize.
The power is notorious for going out in the harbor.

Easy to winterize. Just open up the top of the strainer and pour in the antifreeze. bump it over until the heat exchanger is full of antifreeze.

Done.

There is no real down side to winterizing the engine.
Just the cost of some pink stuff.

Far offset by the cost of heating the engine room.
Consider what would happen if you did get a bad storm that knocked out the power and dropped the temp below freezing for a few days. Cracked block, blown heat exchanger.

The fresh water system is a different story. If you don't winterize that, you could loose your water heater and burst a few pipes.

I would at the very least do the engine.

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Old 12-27-2012, 11:31 AM   #10
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I'm fortunate and am never more than a few minutes away from the boat and the cold weather just gives me another excuse to stop in and putter around. We run a small bilge heater to keep the motors cozy, but I also stop by and run the diesel heat a couple of days a week and try to run the boat up about once a week and take her out at least once a month in our winter months.

If the marina lost power in a freeze, it would be a simple matter to stop by or ask one of our friends to turn on the heater for us until we could make it down.
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:39 AM   #11
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Marin,
You can pick up a espar D5 on ebay for $2,000.00 bucks.

I would say that there has to be about a dozen places on your GB to install one.
They are no bigger than a loaf of bread. easy DIY.
I have installed several on other peoples boats. If you have a day tank you can plumb it into that for fuel or right off the main tank.
Diesel heat no worries about propane.
Think of all the steps you could by pass on you list.
They do use a bit of power but no one I know has had an issue running it off the usual house bank.

You buy the truck heater and for a few bucks more all you need is a Thur hull fitting for the exhaust. One small hole to drill above the waterline
Heck you could even mount it in the engine room.

Just imagine.
Nice dry forced air heat for those cold mornings.
No more wiping down the windows.

For the money you are talking about you sure could get one heck of a heating system. But like you said $7 to 10 grand. Wow!.
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Old 12-27-2012, 12:42 PM   #12
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Yeah... I'd have to say the diesel heat is one of the things the wife would insist on before going out. It produces so much heat and the boat is so comfortable after warming the cabin up. It's a must-have on the wife's list.
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Old 12-27-2012, 12:53 PM   #13
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This is the first winter I'm leaving the boat in the water, so, we'll see how it goes. I have installed a proper bilge heater which is all I hope to have to do. If we were to lose power I can run down to the marina in 10 minutes, flip the handle on the seawater intake so that it draws from a bucket of anti-freeze and run the pink stuff through the engine cooling system and go back home.

House water has already been drained.

That's the plan, anyhow!
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:40 PM   #14
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A figure a 600 watt heater will cost you between $1.75 and $2.50 a day to operate. That is between $52 and $75 a month. I'll winterize.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:52 PM   #15
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A figure a 600 watt heater will cost you between $1.75 and $2.50 a day to operate. That is between $52 and $75 a month. I'll winterize.

Yep. The boat budget is big enough as it is.

After a few years it becomes a snap to winterize.
Then you don't have to wory about it.

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Old 12-27-2012, 02:02 PM   #16
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How many times over the winter will you run the boat and have to put the pink stuff through the system again? Depending on how many times you do this the ~$5/gallon will start adding up.
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Old 12-27-2012, 02:27 PM   #17
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We used to winterize the fresh water system in the boat. We used a couple of 2-gallon jugs in the winter for cooking, drinking, and washing dishes, which was a pain. But it took all summer to get the taste and smell of the pink stuff out of the water even after flushing the whole system several times.

Then we talked to good friends who at the time had a 70' converted steel fireboat they kept on a mooring at the small island (Sucia) where they lived. No shore power and they kept no heat on the boat at all. They had this boat for a number of years but even after days of freezing weather they never had a problem with freezing in the boat's freshwater system.

So we stopped winterizing our system years ago and have never had a problem.

Power outages are not a concern with regards to our engine room and cabin heaters.. The marina has lost power a few times in the last 14 years but never more than a couple of hours at a time. The heaters we use come back on when the power comes back on-- they do not have to be reset manually. And if the power was off for several days the winter weather here is such that the risk of anything inside the boat freezing is virtually nil.

We priced a diesel heating system way back in 2000 or so. At that time the components for a good forced air or piped water system cost about $2000. Installation labor would have then been about $3000. It's 12 years later so I figure the cost of similar components and labor will have increased at least another couple thousand dollars.

Besides the fact we do not ever foresee having the time to do such an installation ourselves we are at the bottom of the learning curve when it comes to installing proper diesel heat on a boat-- cutting an exhaust outlet in the hull, running ducts or pipes, tapping into the fuel system, etc--- and it is not something we would ever have to do again. So there is no point in tackling the job ourselves and potentially making a bunch of expensive mistakes.

And we're not going to Mickey Mouse some cobbled together system into the boat, either. We'll either have a top of the line system installed correctly or we won't do it at all. We can keep going with our very much less than ideal heating solution as long as necessary until such time as we decide to have a proper system installed.
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:16 PM   #18
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This is the first winter I'm leaving the boat in the water, so, we'll see how it goes. I have installed a proper bilge heater which is all I hope to have to do. If we were to lose power I can run down to the marina in 10 minutes, flip the handle on the seawater intake so that it draws from a bucket of anti-freeze and run the pink stuff through the engine cooling system and go back home.

House water has already been drained.

That's the plan, anyhow!
Lunch break update:

House water drained as well. Also live a 10 minute drive from the marina. Apart from the "proper bilge heater", we seem to be on the same page...
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:42 PM   #19
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I think the snow shedding tarp plays a huge part in how well the boat holds the heat. It's made from a heavy dark blue rubberized material, that's sewn to fit from the temporary ridge poles to halfway between the gunwales and the water. It zippers together in three sections, has sandbags holding it snuggly against the gunwale, and a tie that snugs it against the bow. No wind gets inside. Apparently, it cost a wheelbarrow full of money to have made, but does important work when it snow 3 to 4 feet in a day, then starts to rain.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:26 PM   #20
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YES Marin that RV anti-freeze is terrible. We used it last year and had to use water jugs all summer. I've had thoughts of replacing our hot water tank and the holding tank is on top of it .. UHG. Not sure what we'll do about it yet.

This is our first winter out of the water so I've kept the bilges pumped and tomorrow I'm going down to put the pink stuff in the bilges and the sea water system. Going to run the engine. Got a long "Goldenrod" in the engine compartment (wattage ?) but it's been so mild here I've been procrastinating the issue.

In Alaska I had a 750W electric heater w a fan for when the temp went much below 20 degrees. But when the temp came back I'd go right back down and turn off the fan heater. In Thorne Bay it was $.22 a KWH.
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