Cabin Heaters for the WS42

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  • November 23, 2012 7:15 AM
    Message # 1144279

    After the continual ebb and flow in the decision process, I am nearing the moment for making a choice on how to effectively heat the cabin or, should I say, cabins of our WS42.  While I don't want to worry this to a frazzle, I need to make the most effective, yet economical, decision possible.  I appreciate any input.

    For the proper context, we are not currently living aboard, but that possibility does exist down the ways.  Our primary sailing area will be the East Coast with a Northeast concentration.  Initially, we'll cruise Maine and New England through early November.  At some point we may head south.  The cabin heater(s) would provide warmth and a means to dry the atmosphere inside the boat during rainy and/or raw days.  The heater(s) will need to cover the galley/dinette/salon and forward, as well as the aft cabin.

    My considerations have included (1) diesel cabin heater in salon with propane unit in the aft cabin (e.g. Dickenson); (2) Propane units in both cabin areas (e.g. Dickenson p9000 and p12000); (3) Espar D5; and (4) hats, gloves, and blankets!  I did look at a solid fuel stove for the salon, but decided against it because of the fuel storage issues and the operational safety considerations if we only use it infrequently.  While we don't inhabit a marina slip during "normal" usage, we would engage those considerations should living aboard become a reallity:  in that case supplemental heating options exist.

    Currently, option 3 is holding sway, and option 4 gets a facetious nod.  Option 3 has the heaviest initial cost and promises to occupy some under berth real estate, but seems to offer the most economical run rate.  Options 1 and 2, while easy DIY installs, offer more expensive run rates and take up both floor and/or bulkhead real estate.  Reliability is a key issue and each option has it own collection of supporters and detractors.

    Again, actual experience and personal preference are both valuable input.  In our old Vanguard we could combine oll lamps with heated flower pots on the stove burners to warm the small cabin, but the heat dissapated by morning.  Our WS42, Harmony, has larger cabin areas and will be used more extensively through the seasons.  Thanks!


  • November 23, 2012 8:32 AM
    Reply # 1144317 on 1144279
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Interesting subject -- I've added some links and images for the readers reference. - Espar heaters

    Last modified: November 23, 2012 2:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • November 23, 2012 11:57 AM
    Reply # 1144410 on 1144279

    Thanks Jay!  However, my confession is that I have leaved through the manuals for all of these heaters so many times I have blisters on my callouses!  I have also cornered the market on toner as I printed out all of those tomes!

    Anyway, humor aside, I do like the P9000 and P12000 because the are sealed flames and use outside air for combustion.  The downside is that they do use propane fairly quickly in the absolute.  Although they may be fairly efficient for their genre, I may spend more time filling the propane tanks than actually enjoying the heat!

    Relative to Espar, I do have a quote for an installed system.  However, as I said, the investment is sizeable, but the efficiency and ease of integrating into the boats systems is relatively simple.

    I am just not sure which choice to make, and before I pull the trigger it would be great to learn what others have used and their relative satisfaction with the equipment.  But to paraphrase the Stones, "you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you find that you get what you need!"


  • November 23, 2012 2:16 PM
    Reply # 1144468 on 1144410
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Douglas Tate wrote:

    Thanks Jay!  However, my confession is that I have leaved through the manuals for all of these heaters so many times I have blisters on my callouses!  I have also cornered the market on toner as I printed out all of those tomes!



    Doug: Sorry - I've changed the text slightly - as the photos / links were intended for the readers of the forum to know what you were talking about.  

    On Pygmalion -- I have to have diesel and LPG - plus alcohol and kerosene for the heater -- plus lamp oil for the owners cabin lamps - my advise would be to minimize hazardous chemical storage on your vessel - would save on keeping them all filled and seems safer. 

    Fair winds ... 

  • November 23, 2012 9:08 PM
    Reply # 1144603 on 1144279
    Deleted user
    Diesel is messy but convenient.  My diesel bulkhead on a scale from 1 to 10 on the dial bakes the whole boat when turned up to a 2 or 3.  Sips diesel.  Runs on the same fuel as the auxillary motor so no storage issues but and it is a big but it is messy.  I spoke with Dickensen about the smudge pot and they said to adjust and tune which I did and it helped.  But it is messy.  So if you like a clean boat use propane.  But if it's cold and you plan on running the heater alot then go with diesel.  That's what I say but what do I know.
  • November 24, 2012 7:52 AM
    Reply # 1144855 on 1144279
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Edward:  When you say messy - are you talking soot / diesel smells / leaks etc ... can you clarify?  What temperature ranges are you using the heater? 

  • November 24, 2012 8:28 AM
    Reply # 1144889 on 1144279
    Deleted user
    Clean, dry, and warm inside.  Sooty outside.  Better when tuned but not clean burning like propane.  Tends to stain deck/sails.  I am looking into options like a copper screen cage to trap large soot pieces.  The heater is VERY efficient and nice just sooty on deck.  As far as temps.  Artctic I would imagine.  When its warmer I just plug in the smaller electric heater and an electric blanket.
  • November 24, 2012 8:47 AM
    Reply # 1144897 on 1144279
    We have a W32 not a W42, but I'll throw in my two cents anyhow.  This year, for the first time we are wintering in a place where we need heat in the winter.   We have a Force 10 propane heater and an electric space heater.

    Propane is much easier to deal with than diesel heat and safer too. Our friends Don and Margaret on the W32, Heron nearly died from CO poisoning when their Dickenson diesel heater malfunctioned. 

    We find that with outside temperatures in the 40s F, we are comfortable with the propane heater running at minimum, provided that we run a fan mounted high above the heater.  We almost never need or use the electric heater.  Bear in mind that we live and sleep in the main salon, not in the V-berth.

    We have never let any heater run all night, even in sub freezing temperatures.  We're plenty warm in our bed.  We run the heater about 30 minutes in the morning, and 3-4 hours at night.  It is the captain's job, not the mate's, to get up first in the morning and start the heat.  At that level of use, the cost of propane fuel is not a major factor.

    Of course the better solution is to sail somewhere where nighttime temperatures are around 65F (18C) year round.  Most years we sail from latitudes 25 to 45 in pursuit of that perfect weather.

  • November 24, 2012 9:56 AM
    Reply # 1144921 on 1144279
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Dick:  On Pygmalion I have 2 small non-standard 2.5Gal LGP tanks - how much LPG are you carrying  and do you have issues refilling -- if I had to refill in the SF bay area - I'd really have to look for a place on/near the water.  Whereas diesel is on the water - expensive but available. 


  • November 24, 2012 7:46 PM
    Reply # 1145169 on 1144279

    Jay, I do appreciate your post of the material, as my thread was hopefully going to be useful to more than just me.  However, I did mean to make fun of my tendency to get analysis paralysis with print-outs out the wazoo!!!  :-)  Beyond that, the reponses have been very helpful.

    As I suspected the propane heaters do run cleaner.  However, I do worry about the downsides of the propane system:  fuel leaks, storage and filling of tanks, etc.   I do like the propane heaters I have looked at in that they pull in outside air and come in sizes that would fit my cabins nicely.  But, I keep coming back to the frequent need to refill them:  the usage rate is about 7 hours per pound on low.

    While I am not surprised by the soot issue with diesel heaters, this is an issue I have heard less frequently than I thought.  Like anything, good maintenance regimens are important, but diesel doesn't burn clean and our hulls often show the marks of our using the engine.  I have heard of the large heat output.  I do like the ability of minimizing the amount of fuels kept on the boat not just for safety, but simplicity.  With whatever system we choose, we are installing a CO monitoring system in order to keep safe.

    I spoke with a friend who lifes on board in Boston and he just installed a diesel heater in his Tayana 37:  a SIG 100.  He likes the fuel simplicity, but hasn't run it enough to comment on the presence of soot issues.  He did say that a neighbor of his has an Espar system and takes his "glow-plug" out each week to clean it.  This may well be over doing it a bit, but the level of routine maintenance is a consideration.

    As with most things, trade-offs and compromises are present.  Our initial usage will be very seasonal and light, but the potential of sailing down south during late Fall is high with living aboard at some point a possibility.  Using the ICW as a proxy, heat would probably be needed most of the time until well south.  Initially, the propane option would probably be best, but if the journey down south late in the season or living aboard was the norm, then an easier to fuel system would be better.

    Well, I really appreciate the opinions of others on this.  The Espar system I looked at was relatively clean, good BTU's, and economical with fuel, but WOW it is expensive and somewhat fussy.  Propane and Dickenson/Sig style diesel heaters are relatively simple and have big DIY potential.  Anyway, more to think about before I decide.


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