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Old 05-07-2019, 06:43   #1
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Question Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

I've been a live-aboard in New Haven, Connecticut, for almost a year, and I survived my first winter! I love the lifestyle and cost-reduction, and I can imagine staying on the water for years to come. I have 33' Egg Harbor.



During the first winter, I used two oil-filled radiators, which kept the boat livable although not what I would call toasty. However, my electric bill was $2,000 for six months.


I'm looking for better heat for the coming season. Most of the threads I've found on Cruiser's Forum are several years old, so I'm looking for 2019 recommendations.


Mr. Heater seems to be a recommended propane heater. I also see this inexpensive electric heater from West Marine that looks promising. Anyone have experience with either one?


https://www.westmarine.com/buy/west-...eater--7867500


Thanks! Valerie
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:12   #2
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Val, electric heaters are very efficient but switching from oil filled to fan type isn't going to make any difference. You will use the same amount of electricity.

This motorboat you have, what fuel does the engines run on? doesn't matter if they work or not, what fuel is in the tanks?

And related Q, how about a Dickinson heater, some even provide hot water?

http://dickinsonmarine.com/product_cat/diesel-heaters/

Do you have any canvas for the open stern deck during the winter, keep the heat in cut drafts etc?

What insulation are you going to fit this summer ready for the winter?

And finally what do you have in the way of ventilation? a boat will feel cold if its damp.

Pete
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:31   #3
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Hi Pete,


Thanks for your reply.


The engines are gas-powered (and they do work!).


I haven't added any canvas to my south-facing stern. The boat's huge windows provide a lot of solar warming in the winter but also a lot of cooling when the sun isn't shining.



There hasn't been any extra insulation added yet. I considered wrapping the boat in clear plastic last winter, as others in marina have done. That might be an option for the coming winter.



I have no active ventilation. I expected the boat to be far damper than it has been. I've heard that's a big issue in the winter in northern climes.


The Dickinson heaters look amazing. I might have to consider that investment for both the heater and the installation. Not sure I have the buckage for that project this year. Of course, the whole package would be less than last winter's electric bill!



Best, Valerie
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Old 05-07-2019, 08:54   #4
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Our story. We had a new kitchen and boiler fitted in the house during Feb 18. We took a gamble that the UK would be warming up at the end of February. We lost the gamble and it turned out to be the coldest on record for nearly 3 decades. For the first 48 hours after moving on board condensation ran down the lockers and everything was damp as the boat was bitterly cold when we moved on board. Walking across the car park for a shower at 6am each morning took fortitude. Sea water was freezing on the jetties and slush around the boat.

However, after 2 days the oil filled radiator plus the Webasco blown air heater slowly dried the boat out and the temperature rose to 77f during the evenings, very pleasant actually. The blown air heater pumped warm dry air into the boat and the vents in the deck meant damp air was removed. We survived just long enough because they even turned the water off in the marina to stop the pipes freezing.

I think you need thick curtains for the windows and a diesel heating system of some description. Electric heating doesn't turn the air over, just warms it, so water vapour from cooking etc isn't removed. Gas cooking also generates water as do people, so some form of ventilation is needed. Burning damp air from inside the boat and chucking it out through the chimney will do nicely. You are only going to buy it once. Lugging diesel and fitting a suitable tank may need to be thought about.

Also closed cell foam Insulation behind the panels and thick carpets on the floors. If the canvas work is too expensive and you will need a lot of it, how about a wooden temporary frame with a door when you tent the boat. Or a cheap white tarp just for the stern and chuck it next spring.

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Old 05-07-2019, 09:13   #5
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

you need a VENTED propane heater. but then you have to worry about filling propane bottles in the middle of the winter. up to you.
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Old 06-07-2019, 09:48   #6
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Stay away from that West marine heater. It is no bargain. If you are going with electric you can find ceramic heaters on sale for about $30. Ceramic heaters are much safer because they do not get hot enough to ignite even paper. They are self regulating in that as they get hot their internal resistance goes up and their heat output goes down. In other words if the fan fails or the airflow is blocked they do not overheat.

I use Pelonis heaters but there are many brands/shapes available. They are small and thermostatically controlled. You can use multiples to heat different areas of the boat. In severe winters I had one in the head.
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:01   #7
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Please also know that small, medium and large ceramic heaters almost all use the same amount of wattage, thus provide identical amount of heat. Bigger units take more room so go small.

Some small ceramic heaters in my experience do not put out warmth that can be felt below about 40 degrees ambient. Coil heaters seem more effective in that regard.

I opted for an Aladdin genie iii from Lehman's and it worked well for me. I've read both 2,000 and 2,500 but for the lantern. You MUST use the mantle (which is delicate, and about $15) to get the full benefit of the heat it throws off.

Something to consider, and please note the furthest north I've lived off grid aboard my boat was the Florida /Georgia line. And no, I didn't use electric heaters at anchor.

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Old 06-07-2019, 10:12   #8
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Hi Valerie,

We live on our boat and spent the winter before last in Petersburg, AK. It wasn't as cold as interior Alaska, but was very wet. Condensation will be your enemy. Here's what helped us

Tarp over the cockpit. We have a cockpit enclosure, but the tarp helped keep that in good shape. Using the cockpit as a "porch" really helped keep wet stuff out of the cabin. Boots, rain jackets, etc.

Fans to move the air around in the cabin really helped mitigate the condensation. Small 12v ones that you can run almost constantly are good

Insulation. As much as you can above the waterline. Helps the thermal break between the hull and the outside and inside temps.

Good heater. We have a diesel Webasto aboard that proved to be pretty efficient and less expensive to run than using just electricity. If you are going to be in a cold New England winter, I think you should consider putting a small diesel heater on, like the Dickinson or a Refleks. Even if it requires a small diesel tank, the installation is worth it.

You need to ventilate. Even if you wrapped the boat up in plastic, you need to vent the boat through the hatches and opening ports. This is especially true if you are using propane to cook with.

Good luck on the water! Enjoy the sailing in the summer.

Ron
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:40   #9
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Unfortunately gas engines means, that for a diesel heating system, you will have to fit an auxiliary tank, if you choose to go that route. As was stated earlier, propane is doable, just a pain to change tanks. You might have to look at a marina with lower electrical fees (if possible). Wish I could be more help.
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Old 06-07-2019, 11:04   #10
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

There is really only one good way to go which is a forced air diesel heater. It is economical, provides plenty of heat and also blows in (heated) fresh air from the outside. The heaters come with a small diesel tank that you can install anywhere. The installation will take a day but it will be worth it. One tank will last you weeks and you can easily get extra diesel from any gas station. Everything else has issues:

Electric means you still need to ventilate and they are usually underpowered (typically 1500W, so you need two which will max your shore connection).

Dickinson drip heaters are more work to install and provide point heat only which means your sleeping areas will need additional heaters.

Reverse cycle AC with heat is expensive and does not always work well at lower temperatures.

Propane I would not recommend for long term usage. It is easier and safer to get diesel.
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:46   #11
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

One advantage of small electric heaters is that you can put them anywhere. There is no installation cost. You can just heat the area that you're using. I have a small ceramic heater on my 28 ft sailboat. Also in connecticut. I think I got it at home depot. It does a nice job when I'm at the slip. I've been on the boat when it's been around 30 degrees and it keeps up. I also have a fan in each cabin to keep the air moving.
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Old 06-07-2019, 14:09   #12
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

When we were in the Pacific Northwest we met people with small diesel heaters that were like a tiny glass enclosed fireplace. If memory serves they just added a chimney to the outside and that was it. You would have to add a small tank for diesel fuel.
Since I posted this I see others have added the info
https://ca.binnacle.com/BBQ-Stoves-a...duct_info.html
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Old 06-07-2019, 15:56   #13
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

The Planar diesel heaters on eBay look to be Russian clones of the Webasto units and they are under $200 us. Might be worth a try even though you’d have to rig a Day tank of sorts.
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Old 06-07-2019, 19:35   #14
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

Mr Heater is a non vented heater and can kill you. They are not meant for closed spaces. It also puts a huge amount of moisture into the air.

I would go with a diesel heater that is forced air. A typical electric heater at full power is about 5000 BTU's. You can use that as a guide to how many BTU diesel heater you need based upon your last years heating with electric.
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Old 06-07-2019, 23:18   #15
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Re: Living-Aboard in New England/Heating Recs

If you think electricity is expensive wait till you try propane.

Diesel Planar heater will be the easiest solution and reasonably priced.
I have their hydronic version, neighbours have the air heater. Both work well and, so far, are much easier to maintain than Espar.

A heated mattress pad under a foam mattress will keep your bed dry and costs pennies to run.
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