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Old 17-03-2014, 09:41   #1
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Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Hello all,

So our house is under agreement and by the end of April we should be full time live aboards. We have owned our current boat for 3 years and have lived on her April through December all ready. We usually just use a small space heater and that keeps the boat plenty warm. But now that we will be full time I am trying to get some input on the heating system. We will be in a slip while we continue working to fill the cruising kitty and don't want to go through installing a diesel heater since we will only need to deal with one winter in New England before we leave to go cruising. So here is my plan. Please give me any input you have.

The boat is a Catalina 310 which has an open plan and is essentially one big cabin. There is a bulk head between the salon and forward birth but there is a door and a large window opening that are both always open. In the stern, there is also a bulkhead with a hatch that separates the rear birth from a mechanical area with the water heater in it.

One thing I read that has been incorporated into our plan is that you are better off using multiple heaters on low rather than fewer or one heater on high. I also have a propane heater that is safe for indoor use that will be our backup incase we ever loose power. But from talking to people at the marina where we plan to stay they don't have that problem often. We do also plan to do a clear shrink wrap enclosure for the winter.

So here is my plan (see attached picture). Heater #1 the Envi wall mounted panel heater. Based on the reviews and product literature, its a cool to the touch electric heater that puts out good heat and is safe to leave unattended. It has a thermal cut off for safety and no moving parts that could clog up with hair or dust. That would be the primary heat that would run 24/7. I have a good fan mounted in the open window on that bulk head that would push the heat generated into the forward area.

Heater #2 would be the Caframo 9206. The top step on our companion way stairs is open and this heater will fit there. This heater will be turned on when we come back to the boat and used to give a boast until we go to bed. It will most likely be shut off at night with just the Envi running through the night.

Heater #3 would be an electric space heater with a thermal cut off and knock over safety. That would be placed in a 2' x 2' opening in the bulkhead that separates the rear birth from the companion space. It would be used to keep the temperature in that area above freezing so that our water heater can remain in use during the winter. We currently just bypass and drain it as we get towards freezing temps.

OK, let's hear it. How bad of plan is this?

Thanks,

Jesse
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Old 17-03-2014, 09:49   #2
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

It seems a bit complicated for your needs. Why not just an inexpensive sealed oil portable radiator for primary heat and a portable cabin heater for as-needed spot heating?
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Old 17-03-2014, 11:24   #3
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Heater #2 and the west marine heater you showed are the same. Just the west marine one costs $25 more.

I am a little scared of the oil filled heaters. There have been two recent boat fires I read about by the heaters. One was bc the heater was too close to the bulk head and caught it on fire. The other the metal rotted out because it's not made for the made for the marine environment so it developed a pin hole leak and even though it was off there was enough heat to start a fire.

That's what lead me to the envi heater. It costs about the same as the oil filled and says it's as efficient but safer.
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Old 17-03-2014, 11:37   #4
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

We have one oil-filled electric heater that gets occasional use at our house. They're quiet and they put out a steady, even heat. But there's alot of metal so rusting could be a factor.

I don't think there's such a thing as a safe indoor propane heater. (for example) . Please consider something else, for when electricity is not available.
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Old 17-03-2014, 11:45   #5
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lake-Effect View Post
We have one oil-filled electric heater that gets occasional use at our house. They're quiet and they put out a steady, even heat. But there's alot of metal so rusting could be a factor.

I don't think there's such a thing as a safe indoor propane heater. (for example) . Please consider something else, for when electricity is not available.
The propane heater is a Buddy Heater. It is designed for use indoors. It has low oxygen shutoff and tip-over shut off. I have been using it for about 2 years in my garage and feel safe with it for a backup incase we were to loose power. Again, this wouldn't be the primary heater.

Thanks,

Jesse
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Old 20-03-2014, 12:02   #6
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

An electric heater consumes 1500 watts on high (approx.). This is about 5000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). So really any 1500 watt heater is going to give you the same heat as any other. It seems fan based heaters move alot of air around and might have a problem with heat loss due to blowing heat out draft spots. Oil radiator types seem hotter to me, but perhaps this is because I they avoid heat loss due to air movement. Fan based heaters heat up faster though and are much easier to place.

I am purchasing a reverse cycle A/C heater. This heater will produce 14,000 BTUs and consumes only 1100 watts. I like this, but it's kind of big and only works to about 32 degrees.
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Old 20-03-2014, 12:23   #7
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Robert644 ......

If you are considering reverse cycle a/c - heat. You should take a look at Flagship Marine. Their systems are reverse cycle on the a/c side and straight electric furnace on the heat side. I lived aboard for many years with one of these units and was very happy with it.
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Old 20-03-2014, 12:26   #8
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Quote:
Originally Posted by JK n Smitty View Post
The propane heater is a Buddy Heater. It is designed for use indoors. It has low oxygen shutoff and tip-over shut off. I have been using it for about 2 years in my garage and feel safe with it for a backup incase we were to loose power. Again, this wouldn't be the primary heater.

Thanks,

Jesse
This heater does not meet ABYC standards and may be a problem for your insurer.
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Old 20-03-2014, 13:34   #9
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Never use an unvented liquid/gas heater inside a boat. ABYC requires venting of combustion products for good reason. Even if the CO monitor always worked (don't bet your life on it) the water vapor given off will add to the moisture in the boat. I have seen too many boats dripping condensation from the overhead hatches and portlights - it is miserable. And encourages mold - even more misery. Just don't do it.

"High efficiency" electrical heater is a complete nonsense - marketing gone mad. Substantially all of the electricity is converted to heat - where else? - in all electric models. Even fan motors make heat, and the movement of the air is ultimately energy that becomes heat.

Personally I hate the noise of fans, although I do use a heater with fan sometimes to quickly boost the temperature. My main heater is one of the oil-filled radiators - dead quiet. This is my first winter with it and I love it. My interior is always kept dry, and I am not in a salt environment, so corrosion is not likely to be an issue - at least until I start moving again. If it did corrode I would toss it before failure and spend another $40. Still cheap and effective.

Edit: I mostly use the low and middle output settings on the radiator, which would not be enough heat to be a fire hazard. The high setting does get hot, so when using I am careful to keep away from flammables.

Greg
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Old 20-03-2014, 14:15   #10
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Being a cheap sailor and an engineer, I converted a buddy lp heater to run off the large propane tank at low pressure (not as the manufacturer does with high pressure), mounted it to the bulkhead and then designed a flue, draft hood and vent flashing for it. Adding a vent hood, gets rid of the moisture and CO issue. I used 1-1/2" copper pipe, an 8 inch square non Teflon cooking pan and some basic fittings (from a salvage yard) for the vent hood and flue. Total cost, less then $200

It works surprisingly well.

Note that doing the above, voids all warranties and if installed incorrectly could cause fire and or death.
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Old 20-03-2014, 14:53   #11
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Wow - I am surprised that we are down to just two suppliers of marine propane bulkhead heaters in the US: Dickinson and and SigMar. And they start at about $500. So SailorChic saved at least $300 - good going! But I second her warning: it is potentially dangerous to roll your own. There are few CF members with her skills that could have confidence in a safe solution.

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Old 20-03-2014, 15:24   #12
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Thanks for all of the replies

To clarify again, the propane heater is only a backup incase we loose power. Last winter some friends of ours were living aboard their boat in Quincy (a 30 foot Freedom). During a blizzard they lost electricity and the only way they had to keep the boat warm was to keep the oven going all night until the governor lifted the state of emergency and I could drive the propane heater over to them. They had to use the propane heater for two days until the power came back. That is the situation where I would use the propane heater. Not for normal use.

Robert644, thanks for the info on heater efficiency. I didn't know that. I wish a reverse cycle would work but Boston Harbor gets too cold in the winter. Also, it would be a big expense since we only plan to be here one winter. Then it's off to warmer waters where we won't need this type of aggressive heating plan.

CarinaPDX, I keep going back and forth between the oil-filled and the panel heater I had in my original post (the envi). The two big things that keep leading my back to the envi is that we have a dog that will be living with us and the envi claims to be room temp to the touch. Even on high. The other thing is the space/tipping factor. I could mount the envi to the bulkhead in the middle of the boat. I think that would give great heat dispersion. I could also mount an oil filled there too. I don't mind spending up to $300 on this heater. Essentially if I don't keep my wife warm all winter I will be in it deep since I already promised I could.

Also, like I said before, I plan to have a small fan style unit (the Caframo). My thought is the oil filled or panel heater could be on all day on low or medium to maintain a decent temp, say 55-60. Then when we get back to the boat from work we can turn on the fan style to boost the temp into the high 60s. Then turn it off before we go to bed and the other heater would maintain a decent temp while we are sleeping.

Sailorchic, I like your plan. If we were looking for a permanent propane set up I would look more into that.

Thanks again everyone.

Jesse
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Old 20-03-2014, 15:41   #13
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

In the winter in Boston an electric heater on medium is unlikely to keep the boat warm enough in the daytime, at least during the cold spells. That is what I use here in Portland, OR. When I wintered in Gothenburg, Sweden, I was running my diesel heater full time and at least one electric heater full time.

Remember, you must ventilate your boat: bringing cold dry air in from outside and exhausting warm moist air. Without substantial air flow the boat will become very damp inside. So you will use more heat than you might expect.

If you have the surface area then your Envi looks good. But if I read it right it only puts out 475W. I would expect you to need a total closer to 2kW, or even 3kW, on the cold days.

Greg
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Old 20-03-2014, 16:04   #14
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

Quote:
Originally Posted by JK n Smitty View Post
Hello all,

So our house is under agreement and by the end of April we should be full time live aboards. We have owned our current boat for 3 years and have lived on her April through December all ready. We usually just use a small space heater and that keeps the boat plenty warm. But now that we will be full time I am trying to get some input on the heating system. We will be in a slip while we continue working to fill the cruising kitty and don't want to go through installing a diesel heater since we will only need to deal with one winter in New England before we leave to go cruising. So here is my plan. Please give me any input you have.

The boat is a Catalina 310 which has an open plan and is essentially one big cabin. There is a bulk head between the salon and forward birth but there is a door and a large window opening that are both always open. In the stern, there is also a bulkhead with a hatch that separates the rear birth from a mechanical area with the water heater in it.

One thing I read that has been incorporated into our plan is that you are better off using multiple heaters on low rather than fewer or one heater on high. I also have a propane heater that is safe for indoor use that will be our backup incase we ever loose power. But from talking to people at the marina where we plan to stay they don't have that problem often. We do also plan to do a clear shrink wrap enclosure for the winter.

So here is my plan (see attached picture). Heater #1 the Envi wall mounted panel heater. Based on the reviews and product literature, its a cool to the touch electric heater that puts out good heat and is safe to leave unattended. It has a thermal cut off for safety and no moving parts that could clog up with hair or dust. That would be the primary heat that would run 24/7. I have a good fan mounted in the open window on that bulk head that would push the heat generated into the forward area.

Heater #2 would be the Caframo 9206. The top step on our companion way stairs is open and this heater will fit there. This heater will be turned on when we come back to the boat and used to give a boast until we go to bed. It will most likely be shut off at night with just the Envi running through the night.

Heater #3 would be an electric space heater with a thermal cut off and knock over safety. That would be placed in a 2' x 2' opening in the bulkhead that separates the rear birth from the companion space. It would be used to keep the temperature in that area above freezing so that our water heater can remain in use during the winter. We currently just bypass and drain it as we get towards freezing temps.

OK, let's hear it. How bad of plan is this?

Thanks,

Jesse
My main comment to this is that a place to sleep on a boat is a "berth", not a "birth". Sorry, but makes my hair stand on end.
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Old 20-03-2014, 18:03   #15
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Re: Electric Heater for Liveaboard in Boston

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My main comment to this is that a place to sleep on a boat is a "berth", not a "birth". Sorry, but makes my hair stand on end.

Glad you had so much to add.
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