Cabin Heater

After sleeping on Georgian Bay this weekend, it occurred to me that a cabin heater might be prudent, especially with small children that like to throw off their covers and then cry “I’m cold” at 4 am.

Dawn mist on Georgian Bay
small black heater
Cheapo 120v heater

Our Hunter 340 came with a heat exchanger and blower to make use of engine heat, but that’s only useful when the Yanmar is running (incidentally, it also heats the hot water too). I have a little car 120v forced air heater I picked up on clearance at Canadian Tire. Plugged in it provides fast heat and warms the cabin quickly. It’s rated at 900w and I suppose I could plug it into the inverter but that seems like an awfully destructive thing to do to a battery bank and inverter.

I did some research on cabin heaters and like all things boat, it seems you need to drop roughly $1000. Burning anything in your boat requires venting for exhaust and fresh air intake, so add money for flues, vents and extra time/money for installation.  A heater means cutting through your cabin top and headliner then sealing it. You now have another thing to get your rigging caught on and a new tripping hazard!

small stainless and brass bulkhead propane heater
Cozy Cabin heater

My first thought was a wall mounted propane/kerosene/diesel heater.  Seems the Force 10  Cozy Cabin (now a Dixon/Sig product out of Vancouver) runs $600 plus tax plus plus. Forum feed back is that this propane heater is not sealed and propane is a very moist fuel.  This means that after several hours you will see quite a bit of moisture buildup inside the cabin.

bulkhead mout heater
Dickson Newport

The Dixon Newport received very good reviews, but again, $800 plus plus…. and it requires 12v for the fan and needs 4′ of clearance from the ceiling…. There is the solid fuel version that might work for the occasional heating, but carrying sticks and charcoal seems redundant when I already have propane and diesel onboard. It’s also big and ugly.

Stainless Refleks bulkhead heater
Refleks 66MW Diesel Heater

More surfing led me to find the Danish Refleks diesel stoves. Apparently, they are the cat’s meow, the bee’s knees. Simple, efficient and well built.

Alas, they are over $1,000 for the baby wall mounted unit.  Most are stove topped and would be perfect in a larger boat with a bit of floor space to mount it.
There doesn’t appear to be a Canadian Distributor, but they are available in the EU.  Here’s a fun video about Refleks from an entertaining and industrious Dane.

Finally, I looked at used truck diesel heaters from Webasto and ESPAR.  These units are widly available and burn diesel and are fan driven with thermostats.  They cost over $1,000 new but can be had for three to five hundred off ebay in various states of neglect. I have read they need frequent cleaning (glow plugs) but are generally very reliable if taken care of. Of course, they need an appropriate space, to be wired, plumbed and upgraded to marine standards if you have a truck version. If you are brave enough to take on this on the upside is you can tee into your main diesel tank, so no axillary tank to locate and fill. Finally just set the thermostat and crawl up with book, all very civilized.



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