Tag Archives: installation

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.



Solar power

Aquatic Park Sailing Club has a mooring field, not docks, and the Club House itself is solar powered so our situation necessitates some thought into electricity generation and conservation. This is fine, as I love being independent of the plug.

I opted to install two solar panels, big solar panels, on my Hunter 340. They fit perfectly on top of the bimini, and provide as much power as you can squeeze out of a solar panel. The panels are Kyrocera 270w each running at 24v with a MorningStar MMPT charger. I am pleased with the installation as they are pretty inconspicuous, hovering about an inch an a half above the bimini. I have since replaced the old 12v batteries with two sets of 6v batteries.


Yes, that is 30 amps of solar power!

In terms of performance, the panels are great. Even on overcast days I have more electricity than I can store. During the day the batteries don’t dip, so the only cycling that happens is from evening usage for the fridge/stereo and lights. I am adding some LED strip lighting from Ikea, which should help reduce the impact from the Halogen bulbs. With something like 14 lights I don’t think it makes financial sense to swap out the bulbs for LED, besides, we never turn them on all at once.

There is some boom shading on the forward panel. I have the panels on separate breakers so I should check to see the performance impact from the shade. Two panels of this wattage is overkill but the panels were not that expensive and I figured if one is good, two would be great!


The panels were installed for the 2014 season and I spent last year on the old batteries. Spring 2015 I upgraded the batteries to 4 x 6volt, paired in two, with a set in starboard and port lazarettes.

I did the installation myself, anchored one end of the panels to the arch and the other end to a rail that runs parallel to the bimini. This arrangement creates a bit of spring on the rail end but I’m not concerned. Ideally I could run a pole to the rear railing and perhaps tab the front one to the bimini railing. I cut small wedges out of starboard keep the mounting square.


Slight alteration to the wiring configuration, one battery switch vs three.

I’ll keep chipping away at this post, apologies if it is a bit brief.