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post #68 of Old 05-09-2010
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Diesel....but with a caveat.

Being from Alaska, I have come to often desiring heat, quite often requiring heat, and fairly often needing to jury-rig ways so that I can continue having heat.

I've seen minus 58 degrees in Fairbanks, Alaska, and thus have grown quite fond of localized, indoor heat. I still hate OUTDOOR heat and humidy, but indoor heat that one can shut-off when one desires is quite fine in my book. I think too many nights of non-banking woodstoves at minus fifty degrees turned me into a real-life Sam McGee from Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee. See link here, as least as far a desiring heat.

As far as boat-heat is concerned, I have a "Hi-Seas" diesel bulkead heater that works via a small brass electric fuel-pump and a fancy, mechanical control valve. This system worked great for a number of years, and the quiet, steady tick from the fuel-pump always told me everything was okay with the system. That tick meant blessed heat...and as long as it was ticking, I was warm. Diesel is DEFINITELY the ticket for good, efficient boat heat in a cold environment...but there is a caveat:

Well, sounds can be just as deceiving as looks, and sometimes one can have more heat than one would EVER want..

The first time I woke up and put my feet down on a spreading puddle of diesel fuel on the cabin sole, I knew I should look into the cause.

The first time I woke up to a puddle of spreading, FLAMING diesel fuel on the same cabin sole, I knew I should look into the cause and find a solution RIGHT NOW...I mean, not tomorrow, not next hour...THIS minute. Nothing like flames on a boat to get one into quick action. After using almost 3 fire-extinguishers to put out the flaming puddle and making SURE it was out (a stream of flaming oil kept coming from the heater onto the sole like napalm!!), I began to ascertain the problem and then a possible solution. No damage, thankfully except for days of finding yellow extinguisher dust EVERYWHERE and my ego. I think my ego was even coated with that yellow dust!

The problem #1: The fancy mechanical control valve decided to go haywire internally. Problem #2: The trusty electric fuel pump doesn't know it was an accomplice to a boat that could have burned to the water-line and didn't know when to shut-off.

The solution. The circular file for both of offending parts. Well, I still use the electric fuel pump as a transfer pump and a bleeding pump.

I still needed heat, though. These kinda things usually happen when it's frigid...strange, eh? My solution: I obtained a copper 1 and a half gallon day tank with bicycle valve from an old kerosene stove. I went to the hardware and aqcuired a very simple and cheap needle valve-type shutoff valve that fits 1/4" copper pipe and a new length of pipe. I connected the pipe to the day-tank's output fitting and the connected the needle shutoff valve directly to the input for the heater. The day-tank fits neatly in the head, and after I took off the blue paint and polished the copper, it looks nice to boot. I drilled a small hole for an air hose through the bulkhead, and bungy-corded an old-fashioned style bicycle hand-pump to the main cabin bulkhead, this I attached to the day-tanks air fitting. Am looking for an old brass antique-style bike pump that works. Anybody have one?

The system works wonderfully and extremely simply AND much more safely. Here's how:

When I want heat, I simply pump up the air in the day-tank, pressurizing the fuel/air mixture. This starts the fuel flow. I adjust the needle-valve so it lets in just enough fuel to light the heater, I then pump up the day-tank to full pressure and re-adjust the needle-valve so it works fine for a steady flame. Gradually, as fuel is used, the tank air-pressure drops...and so every once in a while, I need to re-pump the day-tank. It is safer because if I fall asleep or leave the boat, the air pressure drops to the point where it doesn't allow ANY fuel to the heater...thus acting as a good fail-safe to anymore unexpected fires.

With this system, the day-tank fuel lasts about three days worth of heat at a gallon and a half. That's about a buck fifty a day for heating costs at three bucks a gallon. When using the original electric fuel-pump format, I used up quite a bit more heater diesel fuel and plus had the disadvantage of a burning boat.

This system keeps the boat at a toasty 68 to 80 degrees (except for the lower ankle sections of the cabin...but a flame-thrower doesn't keep these areas warm on ANY boat!), and does so with grace and simplicity and safety. And becasue I grew up as a woodstover, I love the self-reliance of knowing that I can have blessed heat even without relying on a bit of 'lectricity!! I don't mind a little keeps the blood flowing! Keep it simple.

I'll post some pictures when I get them uploaded from my camera.

"...and a star to steer her by."
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