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Old 10-11-2012, 14:23   #1
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Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

Four weeks ago I became a full time live aboard. I have already weathered one of the worst hurricanes in New York history and a couple of days later a raging Nor' Easter. Knowing full well the realities of our winters I fully investigated what the boats heating equipment would be and settled on the Dickinson Newport diesel heater. The cost of the equipment was substantial and the labor, (I installed myself) was considerable.

I am going to relate my experience with the company and equipment. First and foremost the instruction manual for the heater is poorly written, vauge and contradictory. In spite of this I managed to do a beautiful installation and it was with great anticipation of surviving cold New York winters that I started using the unit. Basicly I am very disappointed with the heater.
1. The heater is absolutely filthy, it spews soot and carbon balls all over the cabin top, sail cover and rigging. This crap gets all over my beautiful boat and it stains what ever it gets on permanately, I have had to cover the mainsail cover with shrink wrap as it was ruining the material. This morning was the final straw as the cabin top looked like someone emptied a coal bin all over it. Had to get out on the deck at 7:30 and hose everything down.
I am under the impression that I am not getting the heater burning efficiently
and the soot is a result of this poor combustion. While the height of my flu is within the companies specs for a good burn (5') the installation would not accomidate the reccommended barometric damper.

2. When the new heater arrived I was shocked at how flimsey the construction appeared, very thin stainless sheat metal. The nice tile sailing ship on the front of the stove that I saw in so many of the adverts was no longer there, replaced by some crappy Dickinson logo. So a couple of days after using the stove and with my lady friend on board the stove stops burning. Dickinson incorporates a fused link on the fuel metering adjustment valve with the idea that if you get the stove burning to hot, low down in the burner the link melts and stops fuel to the unit preventing a fire, a good thing right? So not wanting to freeze I get out the poorly written manual and fumble with trying to resolder the adjustment screw back together. I am unable to accomplish this and the next day am forced to contact the company. The young man I get on the phone informs me that they use what is called a low temperature solder, melts at 105 degrees and is critical for the safety of the boat to have this reapplied. When I ask him where I would get this solder he indicates that they usually purchase it from hobby shops. I am dead in the water with no heat and the company is actually reccomend that I go driving off in search of low temp solder at a "Hobby Shop". I currently have it soldered back in place with some electrical solder, totally wrong but for the moment I have some heat. So a couple of nights later I come home from a hard day to a cold boat and go to start the stove and it won't light.
I take out my flashlight and inspect the front of the stove only to find that the fuel metering adjustment screw has fallen out and is laying on the floor, high quality product here or what. The lastest issue is that some of the sheet metal on the inside top of the stove has actually started to seperate and hang down from the top of the stove. It appears that it is not standing up to the temperature of the heater and has just started to warp.

Monday I will be calling Dickinson to see what can be done with all the problems.
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Old 10-11-2012, 14:30   #2
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

I have one of the units that I have not installed yet. I'm not looking forward to those kinds of problems when I do install and head north.

Sorry to hear of all the issues because at one time it was considered one of the best for the money.

Please keep us informed.

kind regards,
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Old 10-11-2012, 14:39   #3
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

My experience with those type, including other brands, is you are going to have dirty canvas and sooty deck no matter what you do.... unless you let it run continually to keep it burning good. Another option is to run kerosene which will burn a lot cleaner. It's just a drip devic really isnt it? in order to vaporize well, it needs to have the burner hot... until it gets there, unclean burning takes place.
Some people are more sucessful with them... hope you get it sorted out.
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Old 10-11-2012, 14:42   #4
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

IMHO the only place for a diesel heater vent is on the transom eg: Webasto, Espar, Mikuni etc.. and then aim the boat away from the prevailing winds.

Any diesel fired unit can run sooty especially upon start up. I have a customer who spent nearly 7k on new canvas. He then fired up his SIG heater and ruined his dodger, bimini and sailcover.... He had no idea from inside the boat that the heater was running sooty..

I have also seen wood stoves melt holes, with sparks, in canvas... Never been a huge fan of midship stacks, unless it is for a propane appliance.

Sorry to hear of your issues..
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Old 10-11-2012, 14:51   #5
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

Quote:
1. The heater is absolutely filthy, it spews soot and carbon balls all over the cabin top, sail cover and rigging. This crap gets all over my beautiful boat and it stains what ever it gets on permanately, I have had to cover the mainsail cover with shrink wrap as it was ruining the material. This morning was the final straw as the cabin top looked like someone emptied a coal bin all over it. Had to get out on the deck at 7:30 and hose everything down.
I am under the impression that I am not getting the heater burning efficiently
and the soot is a result of this poor combustion. While the height of my flu is within the companies specs for a good burn (5') the installation would not accomidate the reccommended barometric damper.
That sounds like an airflow problem--you are not getting enough fresh air to insure proper combustion which could be the result of too high a fuel flow setting or not enough air coming into the cabin from outside.
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Old 10-11-2012, 15:24   #6
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

And I would guess not enough draw (flue height)

You can add a temp piece above deck. When I installed my Dickenson I too was pretty frustrated with it. My Neighbor had one that was lower in the boat and it ran much, much better than my install did.
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Old 10-11-2012, 15:52   #7
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

Quote:
Originally Posted by Maine Sail View Post
IMHO the only place for a diesel heater vent is on the transom eg: Webasto, Espar, Mikuni etc.. and then aim the boat away from the prevailing winds.

Any diesel fired unit can run sooty especially upon start up. I have a customer who spent nearly 7k on new canvas. He then fired up his SIG heater and ruined his dodger, bimini and sailcover.... He had no idea from inside the boat that the heater was running sooty..

I have also seen wood stoves melt holes, with sparks, in canvas... Never been a huge fan of midship stacks, unless it is for a propane appliance.

Sorry to hear of your issues..
Thanks, the problems that I see with teh units you mention is the complexity of the equipment. The idea with the pot burner was it was supposed to be completely simple, no electricity, few moving parts, no circuit boards, etc.

Wouldn't it be great if Dickinson had warned me of the filth there hjeaters spewed before I bought it.
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Old 10-11-2012, 16:30   #8
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

FWIW,

We have a Fab-All heater which is essentially identical to the Dickenson, and don't have any problem with sooting from our stack which is just abeam of the mast.

We did have a couple of backflow issues in strong gusty conditions, which put soot and smoke into the cabin. I made a little timber adapter and put a muffin fan on the air inlet of the heater. This has (so far) eliminated the back flow issue, sped up the lighting and warming up phase, and I believe increased the heat output as well. Something inexpensive that you could try... might help.

Cheers,

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Old 10-11-2012, 17:08   #9
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

While at dock or anchor try a 3foot extension on outside deck fitting to increase draft. What color is your flame, that will tell you your chamber temperture but since you have already melted your fuse link it sounds like you are running very hot. My neighbor and I both use the Dickenson Alaska model with very few problems, his does not have the barometric flu and runs a little cleaner then mine. Mine has the water coil which lowers the chamber temperture so my flame does not burn as clean till it gets hot. Then there both the same. But we don't have a soot issue when everything is running correctly. From your picture it looks like the inside heat shield has warped from the heat, this will affect the airflow inside your chamber and cause incomplete and poor combustion if what I am looking at is what I think it is.
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Old 10-11-2012, 17:45   #10
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

airflow, as Astrid was saying.... The Big ol Dickenson oven-types I've used had a fan mounted. This helped to get em started. Once hot, they burn clean.because going well, the warm pipe encourages Draft .
Also,as the others are saying, a long pipe,tall stack with a good cap will help this draft and maybe keep soot further away...as in the Steamships- a tall funnel!
Exaggeration, maybe, but Fisherfolk here seemed to light em once and never put em out- boats might change hands, but the stove was still going!

That said, they weren't for me on my sailboat.... soot, aye, and a nasty quirk of going out when heeled. The next tack would then allow fuel into the hot burner ......
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Old 10-11-2012, 18:21   #11
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

Happy Seagull, you got it right. All the towboats and commercial fishboats I worked aboard had their deisel stove going 24/7 all year long for heat and cooking. I don't recall sooting, odor or smoking to ever be a problem. They all had a tall stack as well. Phil
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Old 10-11-2012, 19:08   #12
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A few thoughts:

1. Did you use 3" chimney accessories? If not, there's your problem.

2. Soot tends to be a startup-only problem on properly installed units. Don't start the unit on low. Rather, crack open a hatch and start it on high until you get the unit up to speed.

3. Find someone in your neighborhood who knows these systems and get 'em on board to examine your installation. You have a problem somewhere. It's possible that an objective observer--and by that I mean someone who didn't labor to install the unit--will see the problem.
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Old 10-11-2012, 21:20   #13
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

We had a Lofoten for years, here's my advice/experience:

Kerosene is your friend. Burns cleaner and hotter and tends to gunk up Dickenson's wee fragile metering apparatus much less often. It's not 100% clean but it will help a lot with the soot.

And speaking of the metering valves, go ahead and buy a spare now. We went through three, and none of them ever worked completely right. The design is just poor... it's too complex and fiddly for a boat, as you are noticing. I was also initially pleased with the idea that a pot burner of that type was going to be simple and robust, but that all falls apart with the fuel feed mechanism. It clogs easily, it's hard to troubleshoot, and it's easy to damage or break when trying to clean or fix.

Good luck!
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Old 10-11-2012, 21:26   #14
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Talking Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

+1 on what Bash said. My Dickinson is mounted low in the focsul and has a six foot stack topped with an anti back draft cover. It is true that combustion is more stable after an hour or so of operation. I use the booster fan to lean the mixture as the temperature increases. You want to see blue yellow flame ascending the super combuster to just above the removable ring. The stack will get very hot. I use a double wall stainless stack that is one piece (not sectioned). It's open at the bottom and vented near the overhead. Convection drives heat out the top like crazy and keeps the stack cool enough to prevent combustion of things that may momentarily contact the stack. Such as foulies or bedding. I get very little soot.

Its possible that the heat you need exceeds the btu available without forced air around the stack. You must not run the heater without adequate fresh air. Just sayin........

Todd
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Old 10-11-2012, 21:33   #15
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Re: Dirty Filthy Flimsey Dickinson Heater

I have a Dicken cook stove in my hunting cabin. Works pretty good there. But fiddley. Can't imagine it on a boat though. Have Airtronix on boat. Hot, dry, clean. Joy!

I'm not fussy, I still use kero cook stoves.
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