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Old 07-03-2010, 09:53   #1
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Cabin Heater - Espar or Webasto?

We are looking to buy a central cabin heater and have a hard time deciding which one would be the best when it comes to efficiency, fuel consumption and especially reliability (not really big fans of having to fix something we just bought). Currently looking at Espar Airtronic D5 and Webasto Airtop 3500. We welcome your opinions and experience.

MONICA's hull is 38 feet and has four separate rooms (five if you count the bathroom). We are looking for an unit that would keep the boat comfortably warm during the migration South.
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Old 07-03-2010, 14:30   #2
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The specs say Espar is more energy efficient, and I think the Espar D4 is more comparable to the Webasto Airtop 3500. The D4 should be enough for your size boat unless it's poorly insulated, but if you have a fiberglass boat with cored hull/deck you should be in good shape with the D4. I've owned an Espar, which did need some rather expensive servicing due to soot fouling -- and can't vouch for reliability of either brand.
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Old 07-03-2010, 15:03   #3
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I'll throw Wallas into the thread as we have one and it has been fantastic. We have the 40 and it keeps our 40' pilothouse warm and dry here in the PNW, even for winter cruising. We have had it for two winters now and use it a lot. So far it has worked flawlessly and seems to be very economical, although I do not have a way to measure fuel consumption other than the tank fuel guage, and they are large tanks. Dealer support was great during installation, haven't had to contact them since.
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Old 07-03-2010, 15:52   #4
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I have an Airtronic Espar D4 that seems to work fine but I have not used it much. It puts out lots of heat for my 33'er.

JRD22 - which Wallas unit are you talking about? The furnace or the stove/oven/heater?
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Old 07-03-2010, 15:53   #5
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There's also Eberspaecher. Ours (a 10kW hydronic one) came with the boat. We had to spend a ton of money on it to get it working (over two boat bucks) but it works well now. I don't know if it's better or worse than Webasto or the others. We also have Eberspaecher (coincidentally) on an old diesel Land Rover, without which the old bus would never start in cold weather.

You might think about hydronic instead of air-based. Hydronic is the only way to go if you want to heat different spaces. Quieter, too. Plus you can heat your domestic hot water with it.
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Old 07-03-2010, 16:01   #6
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Installed a D5LC seven years ago. It's been great. Light use, but runs when I need it. PLENTY of heat for my 42' sloop, even in the very coldest weather.

This year it's gotten a real workout, running continuously for weeks at a time. Even when it's 12 degrees F and blowing like the devil outside, the D5LC seems to idle along and keeps the boat warm.

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Old 07-03-2010, 16:19   #7
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not trying to steal the thread ,but curious about the size of these units and am assuming they all run on diesel (for convenience sake) we have a 37 GulfStar with electric heat no good on mooring
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Old 07-03-2010, 16:22   #8
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Originally Posted by mike d. View Post
not trying to steal the thread ,but curious about the size of these units and am assuming they all run on diesel (for convenience sake) we have a 37 GulfStar with electric heat no good on mooring
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Old 07-03-2010, 16:56   #9
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I'd look at the electrical consumption of each unit. I think Espar's usually have better (lower) amp draw than Webasto's. You might also consider the D4 vs. D5 for the amp draw.
We like our Webasto heater (hydronic), but would shop for the most battery-friendly one if we ever need to replace it. As far as reliability, our Webasto is great- as long as you keep up with regular servicing.
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Old 07-03-2010, 17:13   #10
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I've had two Webastos, a hydronic system on my previous boat and forced air on my current boat. I had the first system for eight years and have had the current one for three years; neither has suffered a breakdown. That said, I'd love to own something that draws fewer amps while on the hook and that had a fuel pump that didn't go thump thump thump all night. On the upside, the Webasto system uses very little diesel. Highly efficient on that end.
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Old 07-03-2010, 17:50   #11
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Espar (Eberspaecher) hydronic D5 is a wonderful unit. I ran one around 100 nights per winter for six years for radiant heat in a big truck accross the north US. After sitting for two years I took put it in another vehicle, hooked it up and it has run flawlessly for another winter, although this time just to preheat my new 1982 Mercedes 240D which doesn't like cold. Besides being trouble free the unit is very economical burning a max of .16 gal/hr on high but it cycles on and off as needed so the fuel burn is way less. I think the amp draw was 5amp when on high. The circulator pump is always on when the system is activated but the fuel pump and combustion air fan only come on when needed. I supose that a thermostat could be rigged to the circulator pump to shut it off if heat wasn't required in effect making it a zone.
Even though the boat I am looking at has a Dickinson pot burner stove that can take a waterloop, I plan to install the espar. Heat and hot water.
I have heard of the units needing new nozles and was warned to carry a spare but mine has been flawless.
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Old 07-03-2010, 19:28   #12
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I'm happy with Espar. This winter I sent my 20 year old Espar D3L to Ocean Options when it failed. They indicated it hadn't been opened since it was new (?!?!). I've owned it three years and only used it occasionally during that time, and I don't know how often it was used prior to my taking possession, but either way, 20 years is a good run.

I replaced it with a new D5 - it's a much improved unit. It varies the fuel and air flow to meet demand, and usually just idles along, much quieter than the old unit. NYC has been relatively cold this winter, the water has been less than 40F, and I've burned about a gallon a day.
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Old 07-03-2010, 19:51   #13
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I installed a Walas Nordic 40D and am reasonably happy with it. They are very efficient. I reused the ducting from the Wabasto that had been in the boat and lose a lot of heat to the hull. Before next winter I will insulate the pipes and expect to see real improvement. I'm heating a 41.5 footpilot house. 14 ft. of beam and a lot of glass in the PH so figure it's working pretty hard. I think if you are aboard a lot a hydronic system might make sense but I didn't want the cost or disruption so decided forced air. The Walas are very quiet outside the boat and in the cabin not bad. I think they beat many of the other systems on quiet and efficieny basis. Cost a chunk bt I guess they all do.
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Old 07-03-2010, 22:57   #14
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Own a Espar forced air. Loud- but gets the job done in the middle of the PNW winter. If It breaks I am going with a hydronic.
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Old 07-03-2010, 23:12   #15
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Had a Webasto forced-air heater (it was on the boat) for the first 2 years I lived on board. It averaged $400-600 a year in parts to keep it going. The third year I installed a Sig Marine pot heater mounted to the forward bulkhead in the main salon. It has worked flawlessly for 8 years. My experience was similar to several others who were living aboard in Valdez, AK.
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