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Old 04-19-2018, 08:35 PM   #1
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"Smart" switch for block heater

Been thinking about this for awhile. We've been putting in more and more "smart" electrical components in homes, thermostats, garage doors, light switches, etc that can be operated with your smart phone.
I'd like to be able to turn on the block heaters a couple hours before actually going down to the boat. Maybe a "smart" outlet would work for this. The marina has wi-fi available.
Has anyone done this, or perhaps have a better solution?
Thanks
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Old 04-19-2018, 08:36 PM   #2
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"Smart" switch for block heater

Max, my suggestion would be to install an oil pan heater and just leave it on 24/7.
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Old 04-19-2018, 09:58 PM   #3
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Max, my suggestion would be to install an oil pan heater and just leave it on 24/7.
I like the immersion heaters better myself, but agree with just leaving them on all the time except the warmest months. Keeps the block at an even temperature.
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Old 04-19-2018, 10:53 PM   #4
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Vera remote system

I installed a Vera Plus system that consists of 3 flood sensors, a motion sensor, temperature / humidity sensor, and a 20A – 120V on/off controller. These sensors are z-wave compatible. The Vera is linked via wifi through the marina or any access point I connect to. I can monitor the system and turn on or off individual items from home or from my Android tablet. The Vera is programmed to notify my cell phone and home computer if there is an alarm situation. ( water intrusion in a bilge area) The temperature sensor will automatically turn on my engine block heaters when the temperature drops below 38 degrees and turns off at 48 degrees. (can be programmed for any temp) I can remotely turn them on at any time. With this system there is only the purchase cost … no monthly fees. It does take a little time to fully understand and to setup the system and communications. When my 33’ boat was on a lift, I did not have the same worries as now when my 37’ is afloat.
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Old 04-20-2018, 05:28 AM   #5
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Check immersed oil pan heaters to see if they are covered in burned carbonized oil.

Even the small magnetic pan heaters can cook the oil.

The block heaters in the coolant do not have this hassle.
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Old 04-20-2018, 06:01 AM   #6
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I agree with others about just leabing on the block heater.

I have wolverine oil pan heaters and they stay on all the time.

But...

Turning a 120 volt circuit on and off remotely is easy peasy.

I have a Lowes Iris alarm and control system on the boat and use it to cycle the engine room heater on and off all winter.

Works great!
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Old 04-20-2018, 10:38 AM   #7
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I should add, my ZeroStart immersions had thermostats; given the choice, if I had a boat without them I'd invest in thermostats rather than a smart outlet.
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Old 04-20-2018, 11:02 AM   #8
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A little more info, I do have the immersion type block heaters from Kim Hotsart. They are 750Watts each. When they are on and heated engines up to their designed temp, the blocks do produce considerable heat. I haven't shot my temp gun on them, but the temp gauge on the dash shows around 110deg. The electrical meter is really spinning when they are both kicked on, so in the interest of keeping the electrical bill down I haven't left them on 24/7. When using the boat in the colder months, I like to get the heaters on min 4 hours before we start up and leave. I'd also like to be able to switch them on remotely when temps drop significantly.
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Old 04-20-2018, 11:46 AM   #9
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I have a siren marine monitor it has 3 outputs that I can turn on from my phone it also gives me the cabin and engine room temps, bilge info .it does have a monitoring fee ,and works anywhere there is 3g . you can also set to automatically turn on at a temp alarm.
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Old 04-20-2018, 11:59 AM   #10
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Just curios, without a block heater, do you have trouble starting your engines? I ask because I have had a wide variety of diesel equipment including several that live outside in sub zero (F) temps and have never used or needed a block heater for any of them.
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Old 04-20-2018, 12:28 PM   #11
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I don't have one but it takes awhile for mine to warm up .I was thinking it would be a nice addition . I try to keep the engine room above 40 deg anyway . a 60 deg engine may be a way of doing that.
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Old 04-20-2018, 07:07 PM   #12
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Just curios, without a block heater, do you have trouble starting your engines? I ask because I have had a wide variety of diesel equipment including several that live outside in sub zero (F) temps and have never used or needed a block heater for any of them.
Definitely starts easier and lots less smoke than starting from cold.
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Old 04-20-2018, 07:29 PM   #13
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Definitely starts easier and lots less smoke than starting from cold.
Max, I also have Kim Hotstart immersion heaters, 750 watt. I use timers with mine, 2 hours on, 2 hours off when it's cold. 2 hours on, 3 hours off in the shoulder seasons. Keeps everything warm and dry in the ER. During winter, keeps the engine room about 20 degrees above ambient.
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Old 04-20-2018, 09:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Check immersed oil pan heaters to see if they are covered in burned carbonized oil.

Even the small magnetic pan heaters can cook the oil.

The block heaters in the coolant do not have this hassle.


Not immersed and not magnetic. Also not hot enough to cook the oil.
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Old 04-20-2018, 10:20 PM   #15
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Just curios, without a block heater, do you have trouble starting your engines? I ask because I have had a wide variety of diesel equipment including several that live outside in sub zero (F) temps and have never used or needed a block heater for any of them.


I don’t use a block heater, but an oil pan heater. I have no problem starting the engine without it, even in the coldest weather.

The reason I use it is to keep the engine and the ER from getting too cold and to reduce moisture on the engine. It warms the entire engine from the bottom to the top. On average, it keeps the engine about 15-20 degrees above ambient. Less moisture, and then hopefully less corrosion. It does cost me in terms of electricity use. The pan heater is 250W.

The OP was looking to warm up his engine before starting. Not a problem for my engines but maybe for his. Certainly can’t hurt. So the OPs goals are a bit different than mine.
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Old 04-20-2018, 10:26 PM   #16
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It's interesting that many people use the engine heater more as an ER space heater than to pre-heat the engine for easier starting. I can certainly appreciate the value in keeping the chill out of the ER (actually the whole boat) in the winter for moisture control, etc. We get that through our diesel heat, including enough residual in the ER to keep the worst of the chill out. Space heaters work for many people as well.
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Old 04-20-2018, 10:52 PM   #17
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It's interesting that many people use the engine heater more as an ER space heater than to pre-heat the engine for easier starting. I can certainly appreciate the value in keeping the chill out of the ER (actually the whole boat) in the winter for moisture control, etc. We get that through our diesel heat, including enough residual in the ER to keep the worst of the chill out. Space heaters work for many people as well.
I have always left my Water Heater and my charger on in the ER. Both provide a consistent level of heat that has never, even in sub zero (°C) cold weather, allowed the ER to get cold.
My engines start on the first revolution in the summer, but in very cold weather, I have never had to crank more than 3 or 4 seconds.
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:27 AM   #18
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A huge benefit with engine heaters is reducing corrosion both inside and out. Here in the SE USA we get wild swings of temp and humidity and if a warm front comes through, that cold engine sweats like a cold beer.

But the Kim Hotstart heaters are not really designed for this, they have way more power than necessary. They are designed to aid starting in arctic conditions.

One option I have used is to buy a 240vac element and then wire it to 120v. Draws about 1/4 the power. Just enough to keep engine like 10F above ambient, and that is plenty to solve the condensation issue.

I don't really like the thermostat system as in cold temps there is no need for engine to be 110F. Just want it 10F above ambient.

On my personal boat I have not installed any block heat. The boat is right behind the house and if I sense a warm front coming, before it arrives I go crank up the engine for ten minutes to build up a little heat. Boat also usually goes for a local run at least once a week, so that helps too.

Block heaters are power hogs and I don't like wasting energy and money. I guess I am just cheap.

Seen several boat fires where poor connections at shore power burned up and the primary big load was block heat. Way less likely for a poor connection to heat up when only load is a batt charger and dehum. Unfortunately the way my ER is configured, can't really get dehum in ER unless I cap off ER vents. Maybe I will make some caps for the vents...
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:37 AM   #19
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I used to have a block heater on the Cummins I repowered my ex boat with. I had it on 24/7 initially, but the engine got too hot. I think it had a 130 F thermostat. Even opening the engine hatches to check oil and do a visual it was too hot. I had to unplug it and only use it sparingly.
Kept the salon floor nice and warm on those early spring days though.

Had a similar heater on my Dodge/Cummins pickup which sat outside all the time in Ct. I used a timer on the element and would set it to run 1 hour before I fired up in the am to go to work. That was enough time to heat the top of the engine to at least 60F so that the grid heater would not come on, even in zero degree weather. That was nice.
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Old 04-21-2018, 10:07 AM   #20
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I have used some very low wattage battery heaters attached to the oil pan to just add a small bit of heat. Less electricity cost, low chance of too much heat, just enough to keep the cold away. They make them as low as 25W. This one is 60W:

https://www.amazon.com/Kats-22400-Wa.../dp/B000I8XDAS
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