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post #45 of Old 03-08-2010
JohnRPollard's Avatar
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Originally Posted by MedSailor View Post
...John, I suspected that my stove sucked, and that propane might have some redeeming features in other models. Still, while my BTU rating is tragically low and inadequate to heat half my boat, it still cooks through a 5gal bottle in 5 days or less. If I were to use the dickinson with twice the BTU wouldn't I be going through 3 (heavy) propane bottles a week? Also since my overpriced stove burner IS vented I don't get the rainforest effect, though that is it's only advantage over running the stove.


A couple things: When you said that "propane sucks" earlier in this thread, I suspected that you likely had a Force 10/Sigma Cozy Cabin propane heater. Many folks with that unit have the same impression of propane. Not only is it a tiny, low out-put heater (way too small to make any difference on your boat), but it is a notoriously "wet" one.

Yes, your propane heater IS vented. But that's not the same as having the combustion taking place in a sealed chamber. It helps some to have that vent stack, but you will still get a fair bit of moisture released into the cabin space because the flame is in "open air".

The solution to that problem and other safety issues (such as oxygen depletion), is Dickinson's sealed combustion chamber coupled with a double-walled chimney. It is a much smarter approach.

Also, on the "burn rate" of propane: Our P9000 will run continuously for almost 6 days on a 20 lb tank of propane. But it would be unusual to run it continuously. Most folks that use these have more limited heating requirements.

In our case, we typically use it more like 4 hrs in the morning, 4 hours in the evening. Often less. Sometimes in very cold weather we might run it for a total of 12 hours. So we could easily stretch that propane out 2-4 times as long, i.e. 12-24 days of moderate to heavy usage. That would cover a 3-week vacation trip, or ten full weekends. For many sailors, ten weekends represents the entirety of the spring and autumn "shoulder seasons" when supplemental cabin heating is needed.

Having said all that about pounds of propane consumption, I have to ask: Do you have any idea how many pounds of firewood you'll be going through with one of those wood stoves!? Good lord almighty, there will be no comparison.

A large portion of our heat growing up was from wood, and even today we supplement during the cold weather with wood. I like wood heat. But one single armload of wood weighs more than a 20lb propane tank!! And an armload lasts about 1/4 a day in a conventional woodstove. Not to mention the mess.

So I remain baffled by the suggestion that propane is not a good fuel for heating due to burn rate, but wood is!?

I would agree, and have said repeatedly, that propane isn't the best solution for SERIOUS heating requirements away from the dock. On most boats, diesel(preferably of the Webasto/Espar variety) or kerosene is likely the best solution for those requirements.

But propane has it's place. A correctly sized and designed bulkhead propane heater is almost ideal for weekending and vacationing on moderate-sized boats. They are simpler to install, and burn more cleanly, than comparable diesel versions. And compared to woodstoves, they are the epitome of practicality and convenience.

Even dockside liveaboards might consider propane. With shore power, propane can be easily supplemented with small, thermostatically controlled, oil-filled electric heaters. Yes, picking up another canister of propane every few weeks is an inconvenience. But I know in my case I'd rather do that than cart jerry jugs of diesel back and forth to the filling station - even if at a less frequent rate.

Unfortunately, the O.P. never told us how he plans to use his heat. Weekending/vacationing? Living aboard at the dock? Long-distance high-latitude voyaging? It's difficult for any of us to offer a firm recommendation without knowing the answer to that question.

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Last edited by JohnRPollard; 03-08-2010 at 07:57 AM.
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