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Old 20-10-2011, 16:38   #1
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Best Diesel Heater

I am thinking of putting a diesel heater on my boat. This summer I spoke with a few cruisers who froze their ass's off heading down the ICW because of early cold fronts or in some cases, just leaving late from the North. I carry 200 gal. of Diesel on board so that is the fuel of choice for me. I have a Caliber 40 and am looking for advice on a diesel heater. Any advice?????

Bob
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Old 20-10-2011, 16:44   #2
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Re: Best diesel heater

if you mean forcred air, I like the little Webasto's. Installed quite a few with no complaints. One Alaskan customer bought a brand new boat from us, he had been to the boat show and insisted on buying an Espar this go around. His comment months later was that it was a mistake. Although the Espar was a good unit also. If you mean bulkhead... be prepared for soot on everything as you just cant keep them operating perfectly. Some people use kerosene in their bulkhead units for a cleaner burn.
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Old 20-10-2011, 16:46   #3
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Re: Best diesel heater

Make sure you have a good installation and be careful about down drafting (where the air goes down the exhaust, snuffs out the flame, and the cabin fills up with diesel fumes). For us it happens in some wind directions, but definitely any time we tack and and the staysail's "vacuum" sweeps past the air intake.

We have a 36 year old SIG Marine (back when it was another brand) and it works great. You can see it on the left here, we have a gravity tank that feeds it (with it's own deck fill).

Rebel Heart - Sailing, cruising, liveaboard blog and website - Eric's Blog - a couple steps closer with the diesel heater gravity*tank
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Old 20-10-2011, 16:48   #4
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Re: Best diesel heater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
if you mean forcred air, I like the little Webasto's. Installed quite a few with no complaints. One Alaskan customer bought a brand new boat from us, he had been to the boat show and insisted on buying an Espar this go around. His comment months later was that it was a mistake. Although the Espar was a good unit also. If you mean bulkhead... be prepared for soot on everything as you just cant keep them operating perfectly. Some people use kerosene in their bulkhead units for a cleaner burn.
I think some of the "passive" units allow you to put a little fan inline which in addition to the "H" flue caps are supposed to keep downdrafting and sooting problems to a minimum. I remember several instances in a gale with my wife grabbing our newborn out of a cabin and standing in the cockpit with diesel smoke so thick the smell didn't go away for days.
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Old 20-10-2011, 16:51   #5
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Re: Best diesel heater

Rebel Heart, That is exactly what I am trying to avoid. I don't mind spending a few dollars but I want a system that will produce under way and at anchor.
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Old 20-10-2011, 16:55   #6
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Re: Best diesel heater

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Originally Posted by rnjpinz View Post
Rebel Heart, That is exactly what I am trying to avoid. I don't mind spending a few dollars but I want a system that will produce under way and at anchor.
It's a crummy deal but to some extent you're not going to know until you start throwing wind at it. More than likely every heater will eventually fail in some condition. Hurricane force winds the wrong way, etc. And honestly in the worst storm conditions I turn the thing off just because it's hot and people need to walk past it without burning their hands or melting their clothes. And the worst of the storm only lasts a few hours usually. But I digress.

You can do a lot to set it up correctly though so that you reduce the odds of problems. An active venting system, intake and exhaust above deck level (which can look weird and creates great ways to snag lines), and an H flue cap are good starts. If you talk to the guys at the heater manufacturers they're pretty helpful about installation guidelines that work the best and will keep the thing going smooth 99% of the time.
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Old 20-10-2011, 17:28   #7
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Re: Best diesel heater

The has been discussed before and it will be again. My thoughts....

I don't want to have another fuel system or source or tank to worry about or take up space. I wanted something which would heat up quickly, be quiet, not a drag on the batts... well too much, was thermostatically controlled and it was easy to put the heat where I wanted it.

Solution:

Espar (or Webasto) forced air diesel fired. My 36' sailboat has the Airtronic 4 but of course you need to size the heater for the boat. You have relatively easy to run 3" flexible high tech duct... grilles which you can rotate to direct the air or close them...which puts more velocity to the remaining opened ones... obviously you can't close them all.

Uses fuel from main tank... rather quiet... especially once it reaches set room temp. Has exhaust to outside through transom (VERY hot)...

Excellent for most conditions... I run it when I work on the boat in water winter storage and it's nice a toasty. Great for Fall and Spring sailing to keep the cabin warm and dry... and do it quickly!

Highly recommended ... YMMV
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Old 20-10-2011, 17:34   #8
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Re: Best diesel heater

i have a dickinson diesel heater for sale-- but ye have to pick it up in mazatlan......
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Old 20-10-2011, 18:10   #9
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Re: Best diesel heater

As usual, there is a selection of solutions appropriate for different situations.

I have a bulkhead Sigmar (pot burner). It is efficient, simple and reliable, and no electricity required (although a 120mm instrument fan pulls the air off the overhead). It is gravity fed. It is possible to back-draft; this can be prevented by a second, identical 3" deck fitting for a balanced input/output. Or the optional draft fan can help prevent this (my choice). The limitation is that it operates continuously, and low output is half of high for a limited range of heat outputs. It works for me.

The hot air heaters cycle on/off as controlled by the thermostat so have a wider range of heat output (and don't require going through the startup procedure pot burners use). They require electricity, which may be an issue when not at the dock. The air hoses move the heat around the boat well but consume a lot of storage space. This is a convenient and comfortable solution once installed.

If I had a larger boat I would use a hot water diesel heater. Espar and Hurricane are two names in the business. Basically it is a very compact diesel-fired boiler, which can be used to circulate hot water to radiators around the boat. It can also heat a water heater through its heat exchanger, and heat the engine (useful in very cold environments). For just knocking the chill off the boat under way the same radiators can be used with the engine providing the heat. The hoses are small so little space is lost. A bit more electricity is required to circulate the water and for fans in the radiators. I think it is the best approach but is also easily the most expensive as well. It may not be worth it if not wintering on board.

If you already have propane on board then a bulkhead propane heater is a decent solution for occasional use. For regular, long-term use it might be too inconvenient to haul that much fuel.

Good luck,

Greg
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Old 20-10-2011, 18:16   #10
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Re: Best diesel heater

We have two boats each with an Espar D4. I installed the one in the larger boat myself, 44' center cockpit. I put the Espar in the engine compartment with a single short and simple air hose into the main cabin. Works a charm. Left the boat in the winter over the winter and used it all through. Wilmington, DE area.

I would run it all the way down when off the boat and it would keep the boat around 44. Then we would crank it up for the weekend.

The aft cabin is pretty cool. I have installed an old Taylor kero unit back there but have not really used it yet. Sleeping bags and good company work well.
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Old 20-10-2011, 18:37   #11
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Re: Best diesel heater

I have the ITR hurricane combination unit -
Hurricane Heating System Models
It is the most comprehensive and scalable system.
Separate water circuits for domestic hot water and heating.
Can connect heat exchanger for bi-directional heating of engines, and multiple fan coil units/thermostats for control of separate and/or disparate areas on the boat.
Maybe overkill if only need to heat one space...
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Old 20-10-2011, 18:44   #12
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Re: Best diesel heater

I have an Espar D5 hydronic with 4 zones. Great when it is working good but can be finicky. Using the summer diesel found in most places south of Nanaimo can cause sooting problems. Winter diesel is hard to find. Running it on Kerosene once in a while helps clean out the soot. If the voltage drops too low it will not work. Needs yearly de-carbonizing. Produces good dry control heat. Depending on the number of fans used it can be a power user.
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Old 20-10-2011, 19:13   #13
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Re: Best Diesel Heater

I have an Espar D4 and absolutely hate it. We bought the boat with an old unit in it that would only work once a week. After much screwing around trying to fix the thing we removed itt and installed a new one. The new one is not much better it cycles on and off as if it reacting to the thermostat but the temperature read out doesn't corroborate. The thing absolutely wreaks when it runs and the "fan only" setting hardly puts out any air. Double thumbs down for this unit and one middle finger up for all of the time spent stuffed in the engine compartment trying to fix the old one. Yes that is a Tyvek suit I am wearing and yes the person taking that picture did eventually put down the camera and help me out of the compartment.

I have a Dickinson Newport that keeps my sailboat toasty. My only complaint is that it can be a tad hard to light. The soot factor isn't too bad and it comes with a fan installed to prevent downdrafts.
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Old 20-10-2011, 19:24   #14
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Re: Best Diesel Heater

Carina PDX, Greg, has done a good job of describing the positive side of a diesel heater ... I lived aboard for 20 years and my Dickinson Antarctic heater was a gem during Washington, DC winters. Trouble-free, cheap to operate and kept the boat toasty warm with low humidity. I often put a pot of water on the burner top to increase humidity.

I suffered two backdrafts that did soot the cabin, but the optional low-current fan eliminated future problems. Moreover, the heater came with a nice polished skirt that prevented direct contact with the hot stove. Never burned myself once, and no damage was ever done to the varnished teak two inches from the skirt.

If I didn't have my sights set on heading south, I'd buy another Dickinson (my original has a new home), probably a bulkhead mount that would take up less space. Great quality and they will take time on the phone to discuss features, installs, etc.

Roger
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Old 20-10-2011, 19:47   #15
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Re: Best Diesel Heater

I have an Espar forced air system on the cat and it works great in a somewhat cold climate. System is ducted through out the cabins and the cold air return is from inside the cabin as well. Previous owner changed this after he was destroying fan bearings by pulling in wet / salty outside air.
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