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Old 19-07-2019, 15:36   #1
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Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

There have been a couple threads here talking about various diesel heaters. The market has exploded with them.

There are the classics (Webasto, Espar) and all those new Russian and Chinese ones on Amazon.

Who has one of these installed and is using it in a more full time, liveaboard way?

What can you tell me about the best one to buy and install for years of hassle free heating?
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Old 19-07-2019, 16:31   #2
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

Both firms have really good instructions so worth reading them all several times and then spend some time on board pondering the installation and the route for the hoses. Running 60mm in our case hoses wasn't easy. Do buy a set of good quality hole cutters, for the job, not the cheap ones.

Also I think Ebar give details of how many bends and the maximum length of runs their system allows, so worth considering using their calculator even if you opt for another make.

I needed a 90' degree bend through a bulkhead so spoke to a UK supplier who turned out to be a family run business. They spent some time looking through their parts bin and came up with a mix of Eber and Webasto parts that joined together to give me the two male ends on a 90' bend. Worked perfectly and I subsequently bought a vehicle kit from them. The Russian and Chinese copies weren't available at the time.

The extra parts like mounting bracket and exhaust outlet were ordered via Turkey and whilst copies have worked well for a fraction of the price.

I believe for the UK market Webasto supply extra insulation for the hoses but this isn't universal. I went back and retro fitted the insulation and it makes a big difference. Without I can place my hand in front of the heater outlet. After fitting the insulation its too hot to hold your hand in front for more than a few seconds.

I glassed a piece of plywood into the hull side of the cockpit locker to mount the unit on which took a day to complete and allow to set. So about 2.5 days to do the whole installation. We have one outlet in the rear cabin and a second under the saloon steps on a 31ft yacht. Running the hose to the fwd cabin was a step too far and subsequently has proven not to be needed on a small boat. The 2kw of heat is more than enough for our size of yacht and we turn it down after 30 mins to half setting.

The fuel pump is noisy even though it is mounted in the cockpit locker. It's a solenoid for both Ebar and Webasto systems and goes clunk, clunk, clunk continuously like a metronome, the speed depending on how hot you have it set. I plan to mount the pump which already has a rubber c clip on a foam block to help reduce the noise at some point.

10 years on it has proven to be really good. We regularly run it even during a UK summer to help dry out the boat, us and the dog if it has been raining. The dry warm air pumped into the boat and then ventilated is much better for this than the electric mains supply oil heater we also have on board for occasional use if we are in a marina with shore power.

Would I fit it again? yes definitely, but might also look at a water based hydronic system to heat the calorifier too so there is hot water on board for the shower and galley. Sadly we have a raw water cooled engine so it would need a new calorifier with two heater circuits which just adds to the cost and complications. Also I do like a "keep it simple" approach to boat systems.

Pete
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Old 19-07-2019, 16:51   #3
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

I have a airtronic(eber) d4 heater. The fuel pump is definitely noisy, but not unbearable (I got used to it). Outside the boat, the heater is noisy.

I live aboard in Seattle full time. The heater runs great in the winter on our 42ft boat. We have a vent in the aft cabin and a custom built aluminum floor in the galley which heats up incredibly hot so it radiates out as well has having a vent on the face to heat the cabin. The vbirth and head do get chilly but we have a heated blanket in bed which we turn on 5-10mins before climbing in.

As for issues with it - we havent really had any. I would recommend going with a hydronic variant as it consumes less space for ducting and your able to heat water as well
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Old 19-07-2019, 18:00   #4
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

Living aboard in the PNW and SE Alaska for 3 years now. We have a Webasto Airtop 3500 (forced air) diesel which came with the boat. One of the best pieces of kit on it. No issues in 3 years and we use it constantly in the winter and frequently throughout the rest of the year.

The small fuel pump does go "tick, tick, tick" when it is on, but isn't really a nuisance; the fan is louder. Heats up the boat in just minutes and can keep it as toasty as you like. We have one vent in every cabin in the boat.

Can highly recommend it.
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Old 19-07-2019, 18:17   #5
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

I have one of the cheap Chinese models living semi full time I am happy with the operation so far the only thing I noticed is the need to run it for about a half hour each week to burn out the carbon buildup.
Here is the link to my refit thread the part of it that shows the installation
The unit is in a deck locker and ducted into the boat.
columbia defender hull #60
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Old 19-07-2019, 23:51   #6
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

I had both an Airtronic and the Chinese heater. Decided to keep the Chinese installation, mostly for the better remote. Everything else is very similar. Search eBay for parts you may need. One of the better additions to the boat for the winter months.
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Old 19-07-2019, 23:59   #7
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

It would be interesting to do a survey on problem rates.


I've had three different hydronic Eberspachers over 20 years, one on a Land Rover.


The first one was trouble free, the second one, an old Hydronic 10, would break down expensively every two years, just like clockwork, and was finally unrepairable. I spent a small fortune on it over 9 years and was periodically without heat while waiting for parts . I can't say it was very good.



The third one, an MII Hydronic 12, has been trouble free so far, but it was, expensively, brand new last year so I can't say anything useful.



I have never heard anything credible to say that Webastos are either better or worse, but I'd like to see the statistics.


I've heard very good things about the Russian Planar ones; some people think they are MORE reliable than the German ones.



No knowledge about the Chinese ones.
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Old 20-07-2019, 09:17   #8
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chotu View Post
There are the classics (Webasto, Espar) and all those new Russian and Chinese ones on Amazon.

If you're talking about "the classics" you should also look at Wallas. We have the 30DT on our Gulf 32 and love it. Install was fairly easy DIY, it moves air around nicely to dry things out as well as warm, low power draw, and very quiet inside AND out (some of the Webasto and Espars may be quiet inside, which is suspect because there should be a certain amount of air movement noise, but they're REALLY loud outside, like across whole anchorages).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Chotu View Post
Who has one of these installed and is using it in a more full time, liveaboard way?

I wouldn't restrict your request for input to just using them liveaboard / fulltime like. One thing to consider is how these handle not being used often, like many mechanical / internal combustion items I think a lot of these work better when being used all the time, another test is how does it fire up after a year of sitting there.
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Old 20-07-2019, 12:29   #9
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

I guess it depends on your perspective but when you say traditional diesel heater I certainly don't think of forced air central heating, I think of a traditional bulkhead mounted heater like my Dickinson Newport.

Living aboard here in the PNW I have found even in the dead of winter it gets the large interior of my boat so warm we have to open a port or two once the heater gets going. Plus it's an easy install-no ducting-and it has been completely problem-free in the two years I've had it.

I also have to add to those using forced air heaters who stay in a marina to consider your neighbors. I stayed at Point Hudson last winter and my neighbor had a forced-air heater on his Hunter 37.5. He was stern to in his slip so the noise from the heater didn't dissipate, not to mention the fumes. I sleep in my v-berth so many nights I was literally trying to sleep just a few feet from his noisy, carbon monoxide producing heater. I tried to talk him to turning his boat around but he wasn't interested.

Just sayin'

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Old 20-07-2019, 12:55   #10
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

Diesel heaters don't have to be noisy. There are mufflers available for the exhaust.
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Old 20-07-2019, 12:58   #11
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

Quote:
Originally Posted by CommodoreDoug View Post
I guess it depends on your perspective but when you say traditional diesel heater I certainly don't think of forced air central heating, I think of a traditional bulkhead mounted heater like my Dickinson Newport.

Living aboard here in the PNW I have found even in the dead of winter it gets the large interior of my boat so warm we have to open a port or two once the heater gets going. Plus it's an easy install-no ducting-and it has been completely problem-free in the two years I've had it.

I also have to add to those using forced air heaters who stay in a marina to consider your neighbors. I stayed at Point Hudson last winter and my neighbor had a forced-air heater on his Hunter 37.5. He was stern to in his slip so the noise from the heater didn't dissipate, not to mention the fumes. I sleep in my v-berth so many nights I was literally trying to sleep just a few feet from his noisy, carbon monoxide producing heater. I tried to talk him to turning his boat around but he wasn't interested.

Just sayin'

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the interesting part is mine is almost silent with no muffler or anything just about 1.5 meter long exhaust to the thru hull
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Old 20-07-2019, 13:32   #12
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

We switched from Wallas to a Planar Diesel heater. No problems, very reliable, rather quiet.

At least in Europe the planar heaters have a dealer network, so you get after-market support and a guarantee you can rely on, because you didn't have to buy from an unknown here-today-gone-tomorrow chinese company on Alibaba or Ebay.

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Old 20-07-2019, 13:39   #13
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

I just installed a chinese 5kw diesel last month and it has been going almost 24/7 since. Total price for the unit, new exhaust (need to replace with sealed type), thru hull, extra ducting and duct insulation was $350... not bad

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Old 20-07-2019, 14:39   #14
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

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I just installed a chinese 5kw diesel last month and it has been going almost 24/7 since. Total price for the unit, new exhaust (need to replace with sealed type), thru hull, extra ducting and duct insulation was $350... not bad

Matt
what do you mean need to replace with sealed type?
What do you have now for the exhaust

Mine was closer to 400 but I went for 5 ft SS exhaust flex pipe.to the thru hull .
That has to be done correct or it is a darwin award in the making.
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Old 20-07-2019, 14:54   #15
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Re: Diesel Heater Wars (Forced Air)

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Originally Posted by newhaul View Post
what do you mean need to replace with sealed type?
What do you have now for the exhaust

Mine was closer to 400 but I went for 5 ft SS exhaust flex pipe.to the thru hull .
That has to be done correct or it is a darwin award in the making.
Sorry. It is the muffler that comes with the unit that isn't airtite. The supplied muffle is made for mounting under a car or trucks and not an enclosed space like a boat... but I'm sure you know this since you were smart to replace the flimsy stainless flex pipe too. I replaced it with a Webasto sealed one piece muffler and pipe (part number 9014067A).

Being an unpainted metal boat, I didn't need the double walled insulated thruhull, so I saved money there.

Matt
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