Monday, 26 October 2015


We chose to try and sail as much as possible during our first winter afloat. There were plenty of sunny calm(ish) days to go sailing and it proved a good decision. Keeping the boat warm at night however, proved a bit of a challenge! We started initially with several tube heaters and then brought an old oil filled radiator heater down to the boat when the tube heaters couldn't keep up.

The oil heater provided adequate heating once it had warmed up but was costly on electricity. We also needed to switch it on and then escape to the pub for a pint or two to allow it to get the cabin up to something bearable (a real chore I know). Probably the biggest pain other than the electricity cost, was tripping over the oil heater which seemed to be permanently in the way (but that may just be the small boat!)

As many other recreational boaters have done before us, we started researching more permanent heating systems for the boat. We were impressed with the operation of a hot air system after spending a weekend on a friends boat with one of these systems. A trip to the London Boat show in January settled it after visiting the Eberspacher stand, where a very knowledgeable and helpful gentleman cleared up a lot of unanswered questions around installation etc. As I was intending to do this installation myself, their advice was crucial and very useful.

We have installed a 2Kw system with 3 outlets (main cabin, heads & rear cabin). Both the heads and rear cabin have closeable vents to regulate the heat in these spaces if necessary. I bought a 7 day timer option to give us the flexibility to warm the boat prior to our arrival. I also bought the temperature sensor to mount in the main cabin.

The heater unit is mounted in the cockpit locker high up on the hull. I epoxied a wooden block on which to secure the mounting bracket. The unit sucks both combustion air and fresh air from the locker space. The warm air is then piped via ducting to the interior spaces. Exhaust is out through the transom via a specialist fitting. All cabins have carbon monoxide alarms.

The heater unit draws diesel from the engine's supply - I've tee'd it off the engine feed despite all the doom and gloom in the manual about doing this.

The system fired up first time and has run reliably ever since. Comments after a few months operation: fantastic piece of kit! Very economical on diesel and also a frugal user of battery power. It warms the boat up very quickly from cold and then throttles right back when the cabin is up to temperature. We had to purchase a temperature sensor for the cabin (it connects to the main wiring harness). Without this, the unit controls the heat input by the temperature back at the heater unit. This temperature sensor also allows you to keep the unit on a "frost" setting if desired. We've also noticed much better condensation control.

One unexpected spin-off from having heating on the boat is that starting the engine in winter is dead easy - no difference from summer. Our old Volvo MD5 doesnt have a glow plug and doesn't like starting when very cold. A warmer boat has cured that!

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