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Old 06-12-2018, 20:35   #1
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Need cabin heaterbhelp

Hi, I’m going to be a liveaboard beginning in April. I won’t need a lot of heat to start with but come winter here in Minnesota it will be the number one issue.

My boat is a 34 foot express cruiser not a house boat. Leave that discussion for later.

There are about a dozen live aboards at the marina. All of these use propane either shore tank or on board tanks.

I’ve looked at dozens of heaters and furnaces. The boat is a gas boat however it seems to be very good as far as fumes. My engine room fume detector and CO detector have yet to go off.

So far the diesel inline vented heaters often used on big trucks look easy to install. I can get one with a fuel tank or I can fabricate one as I do this for a part time job. The separate fuel system is ok. These also are made as gas burners but I haven’t looked at those.

I’ve also looked at the enclosed burner furnaces. These require a vent that I could either have straight up to the deck or turn and vent out the hull.

The AC heater just blows cold air when the river water is 35 deg F.

So what is a good choice?

It will have to have a low setting to run when I’m gone to work.

It can get -20 F for a couple weeks in Jan. and Feb.

Currently the boat is out of the water and shrink wrapped with an access zipper door. It will be in the water the first of April.
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Old 07-12-2018, 11:51   #2
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Express cruisers aren't easy to heat, for a number of reasons. So let's look at options and see where the roadblocks are.

Hydronic baseboard heaters are pretty much ideal, as they'll give you both heat and hot water. The "boiler" can be diesel or propane, and the exhaust can be vented through the hull via a 1" or so pipe. Diesel would be my preference. It's basically the same as #2 home heating oil. But you won't find good places to install baseboards in most express cruisers, and running pipes, even PEX, could be a challenge.

Next on my list would be a diesel cook stove with heater capability. The problem here is you need more of a chimney, which presents its own problems. Also, the heat would need to circulate quite a bit to reach the berthing areas, so that's probably out.

Diesel "parking heaters" are miniature forced hot air furnaces. The fan and controls run on 12VDC. You can put one centrally and duct the air to the lowest spots you want to heat, and let circulation do the rest. Big name brands will set you back $1,200 to $1,800. The Planar brand is Russian-made, and will be less than half that, maybe one third. Cheaper still are Chinese knock-offs. Maybe not the same quality, but you can buy two or three so you always have a spare. You don't want to be without heat on a Minnesota winter night!

The very last and worst option would be electric heat. First, it's cost prohibitive. There's also the very real danger of overloading your shore power connections and starting a fire. Even if it's within the rated load, corroded terminals can overheat. It happens all the time, and almost happened to the guy renting my slip last winter. It might not hurt to have one as a back-up, however.

The source of heat is only your first problem for living aboard in winter. There's condensation, shoveling out, getting water, pumping the holding tank, and that long walk down to the boat with groceries, in a snowstorm. That said, there are also rewards. Good luck!!
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Old 07-12-2018, 12:29   #3
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Thanks for the input.
You hit some very good points.

I’m not particularly excited about a stack on the deck although there are two in the marina.

The parking heaters seem the best and safest however it will take two at least on the coldest days. The spare is a good idea. The ‘off brand’ are around $200 so I could get three of them. They could be throw away items in a year. There are gasoline powered ones too but I wouldn’t trust them.

We installed a couple of propane RV heaters this year. I thought they were pretty cheezily made. The exhaust was a smal double wall stove pipe. I couldn’t see a hole in the side of the boat and again the vertical pipe is not appealing.

The hot water would be nice but installation would be a nightmare.

Some use portable non vented heaters but these create so much moisture that it would be hard to control. I had a 30k btu one in a double garage, while it heated nicely everything got wet. I had to have the big door open a couple inches and the dehumifier ran all the time. They use the oxygen so you have to have some outside air coming in.

I think the parking heaters will be the best bet even if I have to make daily stops for diesel. The vents and intakes are not very big. I go right by the gas station so it wouldn’t be out of the way to get fuel. It’s still $3.10 per gallon here.

Shoveling the dock might be another issue if sharing the dock. I see the two on the pier I was in don’t do anything, just walk through the snow. I have ice cleats for my shoes now. I have a grocery wagon but it’s not for snow. I saw one at Fleet Farm that had air tires that would be much better.

I also have to create a ramp for my dog. I’ve got some ideas and I have some time this winter. She is very athletic and loves to climb on things so it won’t be hard to train her.

I’m planning on spending a good share of time in prep for next year.

One of the other boat has a framed door that looks nice. The wrap guy said he would help me there as he does other marinas too.

Byron
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Old 07-12-2018, 13:01   #4
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

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The very last and worst option would be electric heat. First, it's cost prohibitive. There's also the very real danger of overloading your shore power connections and starting a fire. Even if it's within the rated load, corroded terminals can overheat. It happens all the time, and almost happened to the guy renting my slip last winter. It might not hurt to have one as a back-up, however.

I disagree. Ceramic electric heaters are cheap and effective without adding moisture or needing ventilation. The shore power inlet should be replaced with a smartplug anyway - far more heavy duty than the old three pin twistlock. I have heated a 44 boat in the winter with two heaters. Granted that was not Minnesota. You could also run a second thirty amp circuit for additional heat. You should not have much trouble getting a second thirty amp connection in a marina in the dead of winter. You could also get a a 50 amp shore power connection and use a splitter. Is your electric supply metered?
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Old 07-12-2018, 13:24   #5
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

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Originally Posted by Bentwings View Post
Hi, I’m going to be a liveaboard beginning in April. I won’t need a lot of heat to start with but come winter here in Minnesota it will be the number one issue.

My boat is a 34 foot express cruiser not a house boat. Leave that discussion for later.

There are about a dozen live aboards at the marina. All of these use propane either shore tank or on board tanks.

I’ve looked at dozens of heaters and furnaces. The boat is a gas boat however it seems to be very good as far as fumes. My engine room fume detector and CO detector have yet to go off.

So far the diesel inline vented heaters often used on big trucks look easy to install. I can get one with a fuel tank or I can fabricate one as I do this for a part time job. The separate fuel system is ok. These also are made as gas burners but I haven’t looked at those.

I’ve also looked at the enclosed burner furnaces. These require a vent that I could either have straight up to the deck or turn and vent out the hull.

The AC heater just blows cold air when the river water is 35 deg F.

So what is a good choice?

It will have to have a low setting to run when I’m gone to work.

It can get -20 F for a couple weeks in Jan. and Feb.

Currently the boat is out of the water and shrink wrapped with an access zipper door. It will be in the water the first of April.

heating with propane in a cold climate onboard is just not economical. Diesel has 50% more BTU's per gallon. (139000 vs 91000) Almost all liveaboards where I am (Toronto) heat with either diesel or electric. Propane has in addition to the usual issue or heavier than air... the need to store bog bottles unless you want to swap 20lb tanks every few days. If your boat is out of the water its going to be even worse as there is more surface area to loose temp too. I would double check if your choosen marina will even let you stay aboard with the boat on the hard (I haven't been at a marina yet that permits that!)

I would recommend 2 different heat sources. Power does fail and heaters do clog. I used to run with a Dickinson fireplace style heater and a couple of electric heaters ( 34ft sailboat) This next time I'll be using a espar type chinese Heater (8kw model) and another dickinson heater. both diesel but I carry 100+gals of it so can go most of the winter in a single ill ( I think)
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Old 07-12-2018, 13:39   #6
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Again thanks for the thoughts, I really appreciate them.

Yes the shore power is metered. I don’t know what the rate is. He didn’t charge me for the two months I was there this fall plus he gave me a big discount on the winter pull out and storage storage.

I can get either a splitter or two 30 amp cords. So electric power is available. I agree about the corroded connections. There is simply too much wiring that is buried on this boat to trust to a heavy load. A separate cord for heating only would be ok. I may have to allow for a bubbler but so far the river is still running pretty fast even though it’s down a foot or so.

Since a ceramic propane heater is not too expensive, I may just try one out this year/season to see how it performs. The marina does not allow propane to be stored in the boat so I could put the tank on the swim platform as others do. At work we deal with an RV. service center so I could get any length hose I need made.

I have four bilge fans in the engine room. Even without them there is no gasoline smell ...to my nose and neither the fume detector nor the CO detector has gone off. Both do work. So the engine room is reasonably “ clean” also the hatches are pretty tight.

It might be a good idea to experiment some this year/season as I get mixed recommendations cations locally. We actually are having a pretty mild Dec. and Nov was the same. That doesn’t mean it can’t get brutally cold very quickly however.

Byron
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Old 07-12-2018, 13:50   #7
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

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Originally Posted by Bentwings View Post
Since a ceramic propane heater is not too expensive, I may just try one out this year/season to see how it performs. The marina does not allow propane to be stored in the boat so I could put the tank on the swim platform as others do. At work we deal with an RV. service center so I could get any length hose I need made.
Byron
Did you mean ceramic electric? If you are referring to propane catalytic the moisture that it would add to the boat would be unbearable. It would be dripping from every cold surface.
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Old 07-12-2018, 15:20   #8
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Sorry to confuse. I m not in it this winter and next year it will be in the water. No it’s not permitted to live aboard on the hard.

Yeah I was thinking of just testing the ceramic propane but I think I’ll just forget that. The diesel truck heaters will be best. Easyier to install and far less moisture.
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Old 07-12-2018, 16:26   #9
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

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Sorry to confuse. I m not in it this winter and next year it will be in the water. No itís not permitted to live aboard on the hard.

Yeah I was thinking of just testing the ceramic propane but I think Iíll just forget that. The diesel truck heaters will be best. Easyier to install and far less moisture.
Be advised that you cannot install that diesel heater in your gasoline engine compartment as it is not ignition protected.

Simplest thing to do is replace your air conditioning unit with a Flagship Marine unit. The a/c side of the Flagship unit is water cooled just like you have now but the heat side is straight electric furnace.

or just buy 3 oil filled heaters and keep them all on low, should be lots for your boat.

We have been using a Flagship system living aboard (not counting the five winters we spent cruising the Bahamas) just west of Toronto since 1994 and have replaced 2 relays at $20 ea. in that time.
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Old 07-12-2018, 16:36   #10
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Electric radiant heaters might be an option.

I like pcmm's idea of two sources. So maybe an undersized parking heater to maintain 45f or so when you're not there and add a couple electric units for backup and some extra heat when onboard.
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Old 07-12-2018, 16:47   #11
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bentwings View Post
Hi, Iím going to be a liveaboard beginning in April. I wonít need a lot of heat to start with but come winter here in Minnesota it will be the number one issue.

My boat is a 34 foot express cruiser not a house boat. Leave that discussion for later.

There are about a dozen live aboards at the marina. All of these use propane either shore tank or on board tanks.

Iíve looked at dozens of heaters and furnaces. The boat is a gas boat however it seems to be very good as far as fumes. My engine room fume detector and CO detector have yet to go off.

So far the diesel inline vented heaters often used on big trucks look easy to install. I can get one with a fuel tank or I can fabricate one as I do this for a part time job. The separate fuel system is ok. These also are made as gas burners but I havenít looked at those.

Iíve also looked at the enclosed burner furnaces. These require a vent that I could either have straight up to the deck or turn and vent out the hull.

The AC heater just blows cold air when the river water is 35 deg F.

So what is a good choice?

It will have to have a low setting to run when Iím gone to work.

It can get -20 F for a couple weeks in Jan. and Feb.

Currently the boat is out of the water and shrink wrapped with an access zipper door. It will be in the water the first of April.
Seattle is not Minnesota but it does get cold there too. We lived aboard for 10 years. Our boat needed 11,000 BTU once the temperature got below freezing. Propane will not provide the BTU you need. Electric heaters with 1500 watts won't either given the type of boat you have, in my opinion.

You need diesel heat. We installed an Espar forced air heater, which we used only while aboard (did not leave it running while we were gone). We replaced it after two years due to cost of repairs and switched to a wall mounted fireplace type diesel heater and added fans to circulate the hot air. The Espar was better and quicker but temperamental. We left an electric, ceramic, heater going on low to keep the chill of while we were at work. Our wiring was good.

The biggest problem with this set-up was the soot from the diesel. You must keep the fuel air mixture perfect or your neighbors will hate you, to say nothing about you own weekly clean up tasks.

The other was that when we got home from work each day the boat was cold; we had to wear coats during dinner. We'd light the heater and the boat would warm up, just about the time we were ready for bed, then it was too hot!
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Old 07-12-2018, 16:51   #12
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

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So electric power is available. I agree about the corroded connections.
Corroded marine grade electrical connections are pretty rare in the fresh water of the Great Lakes.
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Old 07-12-2018, 20:06   #13
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

Let's review some facts about electric heat.

Electric heat is 100% efficient. In other words, ALL the electricity you put in is converted to heat. It doesn't matter if they put some ceramic around the elements, or if it's a $15 WalMart space heater, or oil-filled, or in an Amish hand-made fireplace.

North American household plug-in electric heaters are designed to work in a 15 Amp outlet. 15A times 120 Volts = 1800 Watts. Home circuits aren't designed to run at their rated capacity for more than a few minutes, so most heaters have a "high" setting of 1500W. That's all you get, no matter how much you pay.

Note that two of them (the minimum you'd need to keep the chill off a cruising-sized boat in any "real" winter weather) is already taxing a 30A shore power system, before turning anything else on aboard. And yes, a salt environment is harsher, but there's still a pretty significant risk of fire when maxing out your shore power system, regardless of what brand cord or what type of water.

Finally, cost. If you can get free electricity to run them, you've won the lottery. I'd be willing to bet that at some point, like after they get their first electric bill, the marina will change their mind about that.

One electric heater on a 30A boat is probably about the max you want to run. And it would make a great back-up for when one of the other systems fails, or on those coldest nights when it can't keep up.

I would think you'd be able to run a parking heater or two without having to fill the diesel tank daily, but maybe someone who's used them more than I could say for sure.
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Old 07-12-2018, 20:24   #14
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

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Let's review some facts about electric heat.

Electric heat is 100% efficient. In other words, ALL the electricity you put in is converted to heat. It doesn't matter if they put some ceramic around the elements, or if it's a $15 WalMart space heater, or oil-filled, or in an Amish hand-made fireplace.

North American household plug-in electric heaters are designed to work in a 15 Amp outlet. 15A times 120 Volts = 1800 Watts. Home circuits aren't designed to run at their rated capacity for more than a few minutes, so most heaters have a "high" setting of 1500W. That's all you get, no matter how much you pay.

Note that two of them (the minimum you'd need to keep the chill off a cruising-sized boat in any "real" winter weather) is already taxing a 30A shore power system, before turning anything else on aboard. And yes, a salt environment is harsher, but there's still a pretty significant risk of fire when maxing out your shore power system, regardless of what brand cord or what type of water.

Finally, cost. If you can get free electricity to run them, you've won the lottery. I'd be willing to bet that at some point, like after they get their first electric bill, the marina will change their mind about that.

One electric heater on a 30A boat is probably about the max you want to run. And it would make a great back-up for when one of the other systems fails, or on those coldest nights when it can't keep up.

I would think you'd be able to run a parking heater or two without having to fill the diesel tank daily, but maybe someone who's used them more than I could say for sure.
Three oil heaters on low 700Watt setting spread over two 30amp supply cords is well within the limits of the electrical equipment. Using three unis on low will allow much better heat distribution by simple placement of the units.

Electricity here in Ontario is the most expensive in Canada and our bill for winter electricity is about $120 per month for two 30amp cords on our 38' trawler.

The only place to put a diesel "parking" heater in an express cruiser is in the cabin, not sure I'd want to listen to that roaring all night long and then there is the two new holes in the boat for air intake and exhaust output. Also most marinas prohibit fueling other than at the fuel dock.
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Old 07-12-2018, 20:54   #15
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Re: Need cabin heaterbhelp

One thing we haven't discussed is insulation. You need to do some insulating everywhere you can down to the waterline. We used a product called "Relectix" Worked great. We also shrink wraped the boat every winter with a clear shrink wrap.

along with that you still need ventilation. humans create lots of moisture. good air flow under your mattress is important or you'll wake up with damp mattresses

Here is our cover with the chimney sticking out the top. We also cut a couple of dinner plate sized vents in the bow and stern for air flow . The cover helps alot. we often wore t-shirts in the cockpit...in February!
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