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Old 09-09-2010, 20:03   #1
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Cabin Heater Installation Advice, Please

I need advice concerning the installation of a Dickinson Newport solid-fuel heater, or any other solid fuel heater for that matter. I've already decided that solid fuel is the appropriate choice for me, and the Dickinson best fits my installation requirement: bulkhead mounted. Not surprisingly for a boat, I have a very limited space in which to mount it. The depth and height are not really a problem, but the width is (I think). The heater is 7.88 inches wide. The space I have to mount it is 10 inches wide. On one side is a wooden bunk, and on the other side is the base of my mast. The heater will be mounted to a bulkhead, and the mast extends 9 inches away from the bulkhead. My concern is the proximity of the heater to the bunk and mast (aluminum). Dickinson says that I should have a minimum of 2 inches clearance on all sides from the heater and that this minimum is only possible by insulating the surrounding materials (off-set steel and millboard or tile and millboard). If I install the heater where I plan to, it will be closer than 2 inches to both the bunk and the mast. In fact, I will have only 1 inch of clearance on both sides of the heater before I even insulate.

I've been scouring the internet for pictures and descriptions of installations, but I am finding only a few that are at all similiar to mine. What I am thinking of doing is building a cabinet of sorts, install it between the mast and the bunk and then mount the heater inside of it. In all likelihood, there will be no more than .25 inches on either side of the cabinet and the heater. I am wondering if this is safe. If it is safe, with what materials do you recommend I build the cabinet from? I have found suppliers of calcium silicate board, but that's pretty expensive stuff. I'm wondering if I can get by with standard DIY materials like plywood (not alone, of course), tile/granite/marble, stainless steel, etc.

I have no experience with these heaters. I do not know how hot they actually get. Maybe I'm delusional to think that I can go less than 2 inches of clearance, but maybe not. Many of the pictures of installations I've seen do not conform to Dickinson's installation requirements, but I haven't seen any similar to mine. Does anyone have experience with a similar installation? One where the heater was quite close to combustible and/or heat sensitive (mast) materials? With what did you insulate to ensure safety? Are you comfortable with your installation, or do you wait for the boat to go up in smoke every time you use the heater?

I'd appreciate any insight.

Joe Tighe
Albin Ballad
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Old 10-09-2010, 05:31   #2
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Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Joe.

Clearance specifications, especially from combustible surfaces, are usually considered fairly sacrosanct in the heating industry. Dickinson specifies a minimum clearance of 8", or 2" from “insulated*” surfaces, and a 4 foot flue rise.

* Insulation method ‘A’, perhaps consisting of Minimum 1/4" Calsil + 1/16" S/Steel + ½" Air Space.
DickinsonMarine.com - Heater Diagrams

Calcium silicate board is an excellent insulation/fire-stop/refractory material; but some brands are soft & easily damaged by water and high humidity.

I don’t think you have room for a safe installation; but I’d ask Dickinson about your specific application:
DickinsonMarine.com - About Us / Contact Information

See also ➥ http://dickinsonmarine.com/Manuals/N...idFuel2008.pdf
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:05   #3
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Thanks for the advice. You sound like you've had some experience with calcium silicate board. I have a supplier whose board is waterproof (submersible even) and not affected by humidity. I don't really know much about this stuff except that it's used in some pretty high temp applications (kilns, molten metal containment, foundrys, etc). Do you know, theoretically, how hot temperatures could be on one side of the board and the other side of the board still remain cool enough to touch or, at the very least, effectively insulate a combustible surface? In other words, would a calcium silicate board provide an adequate heat shield for a combustible material even if one face of the board were in (bascially) direct contact with high temperatures (1200F or so at the high end, I'd guess)? Thanks again.

In the meantime, I'll be in touch with Dickinson.
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Old 10-09-2010, 06:56   #4
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Ask your Calsil supplier what the thermal transmission would be, assuming a 1200 deg F (600 deg C) stove @ ½"* air separation.

* Newport specs ½" min sep, but most practice requires at least 1" separation.
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Old 10-09-2010, 07:46   #5
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When I removed the old diesel bulkhead mounted heater from 'Zerk, I found a 7x9" area of the mahogany had been lightly charred. Likely added a smoky/woodsy sort of smell, but certainly difficult to repair. It had what looked to be some sort of aluminum heat shield mounted directly to the bulkhead and the heater itself maybe 1 inch away. When I replace it, it will definitely get some additional space and insulation.
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Old 10-09-2010, 08:01   #6
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It help too if the heat shield is stepped off the bulkhead
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Old 10-09-2010, 08:10   #7
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Does this represent your boat?
Presume your 10" width is Stbd side near sole.
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Old 10-09-2010, 08:23   #8
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Joe, We had the Dickinson diesel heater for many years and they do generate a lot of heat, BUT, most of that heat is at the top of the stove and especially around the stove pipe. We have leaned against the heater body when lit and it is warm at the very most and some areas of the body are ambient. But that stove pipe get pretty hot. Having said that we had nothing special mounted to insulate the pipe. We did have a heat shield mounted behind the unit on the bulkhead. You can see photos here and click to enlarge, http://tinyurl.com/2cfxes7 . Chuck
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Old 10-09-2010, 09:45   #9
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[QUOTE=Waterwayguy;518923]Joe, We had the Dickinson diesel heater for many years and they do generate a lot of heat, BUT, most of that heat is at the top of the stove and especially around the stove pipe. We have leaned against the heater body when lit and it is warm at the very most and some areas of the body are ambient. But that stove pipe get pretty hot. Having said that we had nothing special mounted to insulate the pipe. We did have a heat shield mounted behind the unit on the bulkhead.

Having a solid fuel Newport that I installed aboard our Golden Gate 30 I agree that the top surface and exhaust pipe can get very hot (ours went red once!) but the sides never got close to that. I burn small chunks of "presto logs" and it makes a very cozy atmosphere. With practice you can regulate how much fuel to put in to avoid flare-ups.
PS - I have a nice photo of our installation but have to admit not knowing how to insert it here. Sorry.
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Old 10-09-2010, 10:24   #10
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I would reconsider mounting a heater that close to a bunk. THe mast should be no problem, but the bunk gives the possibility that flammable material comes in contact with the heater.
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Old 10-09-2010, 11:14   #11
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Thanks so much, espcially to Waterwayguy and Squeaks, who have given me an idea as to how hot the heater actually gets in real use. Since posting this question, I've been in touch with a high-temp insulation company, who will provide me samples of a rigid board product that will take 1800F on one side and remain cool to the touch on the other. I figure that, considering the heater's sides aren't as hot as I thought they'd be, if I house the sides of the heater in this stuff with and cover the whole thing with a stainless steel outer cabinet, I should be good to go. Of course, that's if the insulation does what it's supposed to do; I plan to hit it with a torch to see just how cool it stays.
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Old 10-09-2010, 11:28   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
Does this represent your boat?
Presume your 10" width is Stbd side near sole.
Yes, this is a picture of the interior of a Ballad. I have rebuilt my interior, so mine is a little different, but the 10 inches on the stbd side between the bunk and mast is the same. Pictures of my boat are available here:

Ballad Exchange - Little Bit remodel
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Old 10-09-2010, 15:40   #13
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Is your upholstery already done? If not, you might consider setting the cushions back from the area of the heater. My biggest issue with a heater in a similar location is when the cushions and blankets slide around, they get close to the heater. The lower part of the heater does not get as hot, you might get away with a metal plate held off of the settee front with bolts.
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Old 10-09-2010, 16:03   #14
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No, my upholstery isn't finished yet. Thanks for the advice on this; I'll fashion it so as to keep it away from the heat. When you say you have a similar installation, could you describe/send pictures of it? Thanks.
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Old 10-09-2010, 16:46   #15
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This is a Fab-All Diesel heater. I had to take out the old table and build a replacement that stands off of the bulkhead. It is hinged and in the up position in the picture. The pipe to the left is the cold air intake, it does not heat up. But I don't like the cushions touching any part of the heater. As you can see, it is very easy to let it happen.

This heater keeps the boat comfortably warm in a tee shirt down to 40F outside, and if you close the head door, can go a little lower than that. You are correct in trying to mount the woodstove close to the floor, it helps a lot in lowering the thermocline. However, even with a low heater, there is cold air on the floor. Solutions are fans to move the air, or wear warm slippers. I wear boot liners that work very well. With sweaters and warm footgear the cabin is comfortable down to about 32F outside. I don't have any extra insulation, which would probably help. I could also close up some of the vents but generally don't. The hatch leaks a lot of cold air.
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