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Old 31-01-2023, 04:11   #1
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Question Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

I've been gifted with a like-new Dickinson Newport diesel heater by one of the local schooners. The captain said he's never going any place where it's so cold that he'll need it.


I want to hear about other folk's experiences (with this or other models of non forced-air diesel heaters) before I cut a huge hole in my deck for the Charley Noble. I expect to have to pay careful attention to operation of the heater to avoid major soot problems and take it as a given that there will be some small amount of soot to have to clean.


Other tips on installation / operation are most welcome.


Thanks in advance,


Jeff


s/v Aurora, Key West

(headed to New England for the Summer and Fall and expect to need a heater)
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Old 31-01-2023, 04:30   #2
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

20 years ago when I lived aboard my boat in San Francisco, I installed a SigMarine version - functionally identical. Rated at 17k Btu as I recall. I had problems with back-puffing so I added a third section of stove pipe (6-feet total) and also tried an H-style Charlie Noble. I also had a small fan at the bottom to force air into the combustion chamber.

It didn't back-puff often but when it did, could be pretty serious. If the flame extinguished, fuel will continue to drip into the super heated chamber and vaporize making a helluva mess. Also seemed to be an explosion risk.

Consequently, I would not use it when unattended nor would I use it during the night. I would not install it again.
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Old 31-01-2023, 04:41   #3
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mvweebles View Post
20 years ago when I lived aboard my boat in San Francisco, I installed a SigMarine version - functionally identical. Rated at 17k Btu as I recall. I had problems with back-puffing so I added a third section of stove pipe (6-feet total) and also tried an H-style Charlie Noble. I also had a small fan at the bottom to force air into the combustion chamber.

It didn't back-puff often but when it did, could be pretty serious. If the flame extinguished, fuel will continue to drip into the super heated chamber and vaporize making a helluva mess. Also seemed to be an explosion risk.

Consequently, I would not use it when unattended nor would I use it during the night. I would not install it again.
I had the Dickinson Lofoten. Same burner. Same exact experience as MVwwebles.

I switched over to the Dickinson Newport propane heater and was very pleased with that one. You could leave the propane heater unattended and overnight and not even think about it. However that diesel heater required a lot of attention and was quite annoying when it had the back puffs.
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Old 31-01-2023, 05:54   #4
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

A friend had the propane version. It was a slick little unit - deck exhaust hole was relatively small, 1" I think. Smaller and less heat (6k Btu?) that worked well for his Cal 31. Obvious downside is you need propane which isn't always easy to source. And of course, OP was given a diesel heater.
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Old 31-01-2023, 07:29   #5
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

Another ex-San Francisco Bay liveaboard who had a Newport. The key to reliable operation (for me) was getting a swiveling Charlie Noble. The kind with a cap that always pointed into the wind.

If you get significant soot, you are not getting it hot before turning the fuel flow up, you are firing it too high, or your stack is too short (and hence too little draft). There shouldn't ever be any soot on deck to clean up.

I loved mine. Nice, comfortable, dry heat. Add fans in the cabin to move the hot air around.
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Old 31-01-2023, 13:01   #6
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

For any stove to draw well & cleanly,the stack must be hot & stay hot.
The usual solution locally (45degN) is double wall stack pipe inside & outside,sufficient (3' or more) outside length to clear air space above deck obstructions & a good H cap.
Every stove needs a sufficient supply of fresh combustion air-preferably piped in from outside the cabin via dedicated vent & pipe/hose.



Sometimes this may no look very yachty,but it works. Your choice.
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Old 31-01-2023, 13:19   #7
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

An insulated outside stovepipe is another method of keeping stack hot.Click image for larger version

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Old 31-01-2023, 14:38   #8
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

I’m about to install a P9000 Dickinson propane heater in my 28 foot Bristol Channel Cutter. If anyone out there has done this install specific to a BCC I’d love to connect with you.
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Old 31-01-2023, 15:57   #9
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

In the first years of use with my Newport (diesel), I did not use the combustion fan (wasn't hooked up). Although the heater functioned just fine, I did experience 2 small backdraft "puffs" and some "carboning" of the combustion chamber.

Then, about 8 years ago, I started using the combustion fan continuously, and on a very low setting. Since then, there has not been a backdraft, and the flame was able to "self clean" the soot from the inside of the combustion chamber.

At no point during these 20 years of off-and-on use, did I find any soot or ash anywhere on deck.
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Old 31-01-2023, 16:37   #10
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

A lot of the discussion is not correct. Well, it’s actually correct but it’s not applicable.

These specific heaters suffer from problems.

Basically there are these little diesel explosions every once in a while that blast soot out at you.

I have quite a bit of experience with stacks and chimneys. I have heated boats for more than a year or two using wood. I have heated using the Dickinson Lofoten diesel heater and the Newport propane one.

The only one that gave me trouble was the Dickinson diesel heater. The burner just sucks I guess. First, it’s really annoying to have to light it. You have to preheat the thing and do all of this stuff to get it running. But those in frequent but very annoying explosions are the problem.

It has nothing to do with the stack or the temperature of the stack as far as I can tell. Just something goes wrong and there gets to be a buildup of diesel mist or something. And poof you get a big blast of black soot coming out.

That’s why I don’t use those heaters. Otherwise they make a lot of sense. I would prefer them over the Chinese diesel heaters and Webastos and all of that. Because they can be run using very minimal power. I am forgetting if they run with no power. I don’t think that’s the case. But that is the case for the Dickenson Newport propane heater. It doesn’t even require power.

But the big drawback is definitely the explosions of black soot that happen I’d say maybe once every few weeks. Running it every day. They are infrequent but boy do they suck when they happen. Bad enough to send me and the ex-wife to a hotel one of the times. Everything got black soot all over it.
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Old 31-01-2023, 17:22   #11
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

After reading of Chotu's "explosions", I will clarify that the 2 "puffs" that I experienced were caused by wind pressure building up against the Dinghy and/or mainsail cover. They had nothing to do with a secondary ignition.

There is definitely a learning curve with these stoves. Some folks, with some installations never seem to "get it right".

Perhaps a bit of luck is required.
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Old 31-01-2023, 17:31   #12
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Panope View Post
After reading of Chotu's "explosions", I will clarify that the 2 "puffs" that I experienced were caused by wind pressure building up against the Dinghy and/or mainsail cover. They had nothing to do with a secondary ignition.

There is definitely a learning curve with these stoves. Some folks, with some installations never seem to "get it right".

Perhaps a bit of luck is required.
Iím starting to agree with you after reading your posts and others.

I donít think there was anything inherently wrong with the installation. It was correct. I have a lot of experience installing natural air draft heaters. And using them.

This one was just weird. I wonder if it was may be defective in some way. The only way I can think of is if the geometry wasnít right. I guess your mileage may vary on this thing.

I definitely had a few of those explosions/ignitions. They werenít dangerous. But they just popped out a bunch of soot when they happened. Into the cabin. Maybe that was a self cleaning feature. Ha ha ha.
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Old 31-01-2023, 18:37   #13
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

I don't have their heater, but I've been using the Pacific stove for 30 years.
The stove runs 24/7 for 6>7 months a year, (it's on now and the boat is warm and dry).
There is a learning curve, of that there is no doubt.
Soot is the result of incomplete combustion, generally a result of improper air/fuel ratio or draft.
Stack temp IS important if operation without the fan is desired, without a long enough column of rising hot exhaust gases there will not be enough draft.
In windy conditions running the fan is more-or-less needed to prevent backdraft, especially on the heaters, (with their small stacks the volume of rising exhaust gas is small and more easily overcome).
A 4" computer fan can be better than the factory fan at low throttle settings.
The "pulsing" that some have mentioned is primarily related to the superheater and its ability to vaporize the incoming fuel.
In the old days, (when diesel was REAL diesel without Bio in it and contained lots of Sulfur,) the problems discussed here were much less frequent.
Sulfur is an accelerant in the combustion process, and the Bio content raises the temp needed for efficient vaporization of the fuel.
With todays Ultra Low Sulfur and high Bio content, Dickinson has had to design a new superheater with an additional cap to hold more heat in the burner so as to more efficiently vaporize the fuel, (it MUST have good/clean contact with the bottom of the burner pot to work,) it's a "stopgap", if you will, but it is what it is until a better superheater comes along.
If you're getting "road diesel", (no red dye,) you're getting anywhere upwards of 15>20% Bio, trying to burn that stuff is like trying to run the unit on mayonnaise or butter, the superheater has a hard task, and soot can be a problem, (dull yellow "lazy" flame, lots of soot, little heat).
If you're getting "off road" fuel, (red dye,) ask your supplier what the Bio content is.
I've found that even with 5% Bio the stove runs MUCH better/cleaner with a quart or so of kerosene in each 5 gal. of diesel.
The small amount of kero lowers vaporization temp and somewhat makes up for the absence of Sulfur.
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Old 01-02-2023, 06:28   #14
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

It's hard to get confirmed, clear direction when everyone's experience seems to vary. I don't understand why there should be any soot or puff making its way into the cabin. Aren't these stoves gasketed and airtight, like modern wood stoves? With a fresh air intake from the bilge or from outside, there should be zero chance of any pollutants, dirt or CO entering the cabin.

It sure would be nice to be able to setup one properly and be able to run it 24 hrs a day, even when away from the boat for days at a time, without electricity or fan.

So, what is the optimum installation - is the key to do the following?:
  1. add gaskets to make the stove truly airtight
  2. have a dedicate fresh air intake,
  3. a nice long chimney,
  4. a swiveling Charlie Noble
  5. finally, to mix some kerosene into the diesel feed tank?
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Old 01-02-2023, 06:40   #15
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Re: Soot problems with Dickinson Heater?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mako View Post
It's hard to get confirmed, clear direction when everyone's experience seems to vary. I don't understand why there should be any soot or puff making its way into the cabin. Aren't these stoves gasketed and airtight, like modern wood stoves? With a fresh air intake from the bilge or from outside, there should be zero chance of any pollutants, dirt or CO entering the cabin.

It sure would be nice to be able to setup one properly and be able to run it 24 hrs a day, even when away from the boat for days at a time, without electricity or fan.

So, what is the optimum installation - is the key to do the following?:
  1. add gaskets to make the stove truly airtight
  2. have a dedicate fresh air intake,
  3. a nice long chimney,
  4. a swiveling Charlie Noble
  5. finally, to mix some kerosene into the diesel feed tank?
They are not gasketed. They are natural draft stoves with air intake from the room. Or at least mine was.

The Newport Dickinson propane model was gasket it and had a double wall chimney. fresh air was drawn down that chimney to the combustion chamber and then hot air went up the other part of the chimney for exhaust.

The Dickinson diesel heater however, operated more like an old time woodstove where the cracks allowed air to get in for combustion from the room.

If you have set up your chimney properly, you donít have to worry about carbon monoxide with wood stoves or with these. The draw from the chimney, using a Charlie Noble like you said, is constant when there is heat from the flame. Thereís no chance really of carbon monoxide coming back. I mean you should have an alarm, but in all my years using these natural drafts those there has never been any that came back.

The puff I experienced, kind of like a little explosion inside the thing, may have been explained by Bowdrie. I used road diesel because it was cheaper. I had a separate tank for the diesel heater. This was the standard Road diesel. Marine diesel is significantly more expensive even if it is not taxed for the road.

So maybe these things are formulated to run more properly on the off-road diesel like he was saying? I really donít know. It seems like they should run on whatever diesel. But maybe thatís the explanation. What happened in mine is that out of nowhere sometimes you would just get a bunch of diesel vapor that would explode. It would kind of heat and steam or boil off somehow and you get the little explosion in there. A big puff of black soot would come out the cracks and if Iím remembering correctly, mine had a little cast iron burner on the top. Like the kind you can pull off and cook on top of. That burner plate would pop up in the air a little bit in a bunch of soot would spray out around it during the small explosions.

But maybe this is explained by using road diesel. I donít know. I just want to put my data point out here so people know that it can happen. Even though Iím not sure why it happened.
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