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OK - so I know we plan to spend a significant amount of our time in the tropics. But we also find ourselves in temperate and cooler zones. The boat is our home and I insisted on having heating aboard. When we brought the boat we included the heater options - which gives us heating if required whenever the boat is under power. That is all well and good - but useless when at anchor (Unless you are prepared to run the engine!). We needed a 2nd heating option.

Many people seemed to think we were crazy and we had suggestions from: Just wear a sweater/hat to use those small camping propane heaters. I didn't like any of them. There are a number of really good, established bulkhead diesel heaters - but the options of where to mount one on the boat, and the requirement for a chimney of appropriate hight had us rule them all out (chimney would interfere with boom everywhere we would want to mount the heater). We did a LOT of research there seemed 2 sensible options. We ruled out propane heat due to the extra moisture, and speed at which the heater will empty those tanks, and for the smaller units, ! We ruled out heaters needing a chimney as there really seemed nowhere safe to install it, and give the appropriate (manufacture required) chimney height (and boom clearance). For occasionally removing the chill, some folks suggested using those no-flame propane heaters used by campers - but I ruled out having to step over heaters and store lots of them on the boat!

  1. Forced Air Heat - a unit that heats air, and pushes it through vents to outlets fitted throughout the boat. There are a number of manufactures (Espar and Webasto being the key ones). These units are used on large trucks/lorries to heat the cabin for the driver over night when parked. The ducts are quite large (complicating matters).
  2. Hydronic Heat - a unit that heats a liquid and pipes it throughout the boat terminiating in fan heaters. This unit has the added advantage of being able to ALSO heat water for the boat. The liquid pipes only need to be small, making it very easy to ensure the boat has heat in all corners.

We had to chose between the two above. Given we would be at anchor, and away from the dock for the most part, we were forced to consider the power consumption of each system. The hydronic heat systems use less power at the heater - but then requires power at EACH of the vents you install. The Forced air heat uses a little more than the hydronic, but then requires no extra power for all the vents you install. Adding up the power requirements we decided the forced air system was best for us. (If you were mostly at the dock, or had lots of batteries and charging options, you would no doubt make a different choice). Given this selection we (and a bunch of others) could find no easy way to duct the heating to BOTH sides of the boat - so we had to choose a side. We chose to heat the Starboard side of the boat (where the master cabin is). This successfully keeps us toasty anywhere on this side of the boat, or hanging out in the dining area. It is definately cooler in the port hull (especially the head) - but WAY better than it would be without heating (If at a dock we sometimes run an electric fan heater in that hull, if underway we have the factory heater running in that hull). We have output ducts in the stbd rear berth, in the galley by the stove, and in the master berth. The one by the stove is always open, the others can be closed if not required.


For pictures see Directory

We installed (had installed) an Espar D4 Forced air heater. It installed under the strbd berth (on the outboard side of the water tank) - note others have had some concern for the heat generated, and fire risk. Our unit was installed by an authorized Espar dealer, and we have had no issues, but we'll pass along the warning just in case. The unit is fitted about mid water tank outboard. Going back is the exhaust/intake pipe - which goes through the buoyancy tank, into the rear locker (at top of Stbd steps) and out at the side of the boat - we wanted to be sure the hot exhaust would not burn our dinghy. The exhaust pipe is double covered it to keep the walls from being too hot.

Fuel Supply: We have a separate fuel tank for the heater. Heater can run on either diesel or Kerosene fuel. Kerosene burns cleaner, and is better for the longevity of the heater unit, but diesel is much more available. We asked PCI about tapping into the engine fuel tank - they said not to (the tank is pressure tested and any new hole would not be "approved") we asked about t'ing off from the existing pipes - they said not to since this would leave lower fuel pressure for the engine, and may cause engine problems (although it would be rare for us to be using the engine and the heater at the same time). Many others have successfully installed heater systems with these methods of fuel pickup. We decided to install a separate tank which enabled us to run from diesel or kerosene. This tank is installed in the rear stbd locker (on the deck / top step to the hull) outboard, and besides the stbd fuel tank. This is a standard 6 US gallon metal tank, mounted on a fitted shelf and strapped down. Cut into the tank is the pickup for the heater. Tbe fuel pump is installed in this same area.

Ducting: > From the heater unit. A hot air duct/pipe splits with a Y just forward (behind the bulkhead) and there is a hot air vent on that bulkhead (which we generally leave closed/don't use). Additionally there is a vent open to prevent suction building up / take air to help circulate in that compartment. (not ducted). The duct then runs through the bottom of both of those lockers in the STBD berth, into the galley, under the stove (through cabinet)and Y-splits to a vent just forward of the stove. The duct then raises, under the sink and long the outboard wall in the galley locker forward of the sink - into the master berth entering the master berth just below the counter top. It then runs high behind the cubbyhole/draw type things into the skinny closet just forward of the draws/cubby on side wall. From there it does a 180 up to the vent. Since the ducting runs through the galley under counter storage area - reducing space somewhat - and keeping that area warmer than you might want

Exhaust intake/vent: was installed on rear outboard starboard hull (outside steps). We have no cap for this, Espar used to provide them, but now don't. In heavy seas (and if not using the heater) we can put a bung in the vent to prevent water entering.

The cabin air intake is from the 1/4 berth bulkhead/room

Vents: There is a vent (which we mostly keep closed in the 1/4 berth bulkhead), an always open outlet at the left of the stove, and a 3rd vent in the main berth (on that wall forward of the shelf above the draws/cabinets).

Electrical - I don't know exactly what route the electrical stuff is piped from the controller to the Espar - but in the cubby outboard of the mater bed, behind the wall where the unit is, there is an electrical box. Cables run down from there and then at the bottom of the inboard galley cupboards - from there it (somehow) gets to the Espar - probably under the steps. Power comes from the batteries on the Port Side, via on 8 gauge wire - (I think, voltage drop is a real issue for the espar) under the cockpit doorway across to the starboard rear berth to the Espar.

Thermostat - The on/off switch and thermostat is in our galley - but would have been better placed in the bedroom (so we don't have to fight over who gets up to turn it on).

Cost - We paid to have it installed $ouch! as we wanted it done before we collected and moved aboard the boat (we live aboard). Cost was $5100 installed. We would have saved much of this if we had installed it ourselves, but we did not have the time, nor the inclination. Initial qoutes were for less, and I think we had a frosty relationship with the dealer, which no doubt added to our bill.

As for exhaust noise Ė yes, you can definitely hear it if outside the boat. I donít really hear it inside, but it may just be competing with the air flowing out of the vents. The noise is not so bad that the neighbors are disturbed. I don't think it is any worse than an electric fan heater.

Does it work? - It gets very toasty very quickly. Initial power usage is high, as power is basically a factor of temperature difference. When temperature was just below freezing we could heat the cabin to lower 70's in about 15 mins using 5Ah of electricity total. Starts with a load of 8A but tapers to 0.3A

We have our thermostat mounted just at the end of the inboard galley shelf, against the bulkhead to the main cabin - but would in hind sight have installed in the main cabin - so it can be turned on from in bed.

Installation (by an approved dealer) was in 2 days - we paid to have it done before we moved in to the boat - although we were not too impressed with the company we used - but were at least pleased with the results.

If we were doing it again?

We really considered each hull and which was the best for both fitting and heating to choose. I think we are happy since the starboard hull heat the living area just fine, and also the main berth (which we use). It seems others have found a way to duct to BOTH hulls - that would obviously be much better. We don't use our water pressure, nor heater when cruising/anchored (unless we have just arrived under motor), so hot water was not an issue. Thermostat Position - we would install this in the bedroom if we were to do this again (may even get around to moving it!

Other Info

Of course, hot water bottles, hats, sweaters/jumpers etc have always also been part of our lives aboard a boat (especially before the Espar).

There is an excellent dealer in Seattle with a good web page, and I understand give good telephone and email advice also.

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