Diesel versus propane - SailNet Community

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Old 03-11-2009
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Diesel versus propane

Here's my situation. I'm looking at several boats that have propane stoves and bulkhead mounted propane furnaces. I haven't come across any yet with diesels, which baffles me.

The boat I buy will become an immediate liveaboard.

This poses a problem for me. Propane seems wasteful and inefficient, not as much BTU bang for the buck, not to mention propane is more dangerous. It seems like a diesel stove is much more efficient, more BTU's for less dollar, and the stove can double as a furnace.

So, my thinking is I have several choices:

1) Buy one of these boats with propane furnace, keeping the propane stove, but scrapping the propane furnace and replacing it with bulkhead mounted diesel furnace. This way, I wouldn't need to make any more holes in the deck for an extra exhaust.

2) Scrap the propane stove and furnace, replace it with a single diesel stove/cabin heater, but then have the problem of:
a) needing to make a new exhaust hole above the stove, or...
b) pipe the stove exhaust across the cabin to the old propane exhaust vent (not an option, really)

3) Buy a boat with just the propane stove, no cabin heater, and replace that with a diesel furnace/stove, making only one new hole. This is logical but more costly and I may not have that money initially.

4) Wait and hope a boat comes along with a diesel just the way I want it.

Watcha think? I'm thinking of the Sigmar diesels because they don't seem to have the soot problem according to Hal Roth.

By the way, do diesel furnace/stoves make the boat smell of diesel? Not having encountered one yet, I can't sniff things out.
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Old 03-11-2009
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Why would you scrap a perfectly good propane heater? They're not really dangerous if properly installed. They're also quite efficient. Propane is also a much cleaner fuel than diesel is.

The problem with using a diesel stove/heater combo unit is that IIRC, it is not vented. It will introduce a lot of moisture into the boat, since it doesn't have a chimney/exhaust. It also runs a slightly higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Also, diesel stoves, IIRC, have to be pre-heated, so you'd need alcohol aboard the boat to pre-heat it with.
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Old 03-11-2009
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Diesel heaters, like the Dickinson (DickinsonMarine.com - Diesel Natural Draft Heaters) or Refleks (Outline for installation - Refleks Olieovne A-S - Ringe) are vented, but SD is right that you need to preheat them. You can, however, do that with tabs or strips, so that you do not have to fiddle with alcohol in a rolly anchorage. But I have to agree that the propane stove is efficient and clean.
Btw. I just love my Refleks heater, it makes a very large difference on a cold and/or wet day + it uses no electricity at all.

Last edited by JomsViking; 03-11-2009 at 03:54 PM.
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If you're going to be tied up at a dock where electricity is available, why not buy a decent quartz heater and just plug it in when you need it. It's a clean source of heat, requires no ventilation, and is inexpensive to buy. This will also allow you cut way down on your propane use.

If you're away from the dock, your propane heater should work quite well for you. Your propane stove is little different than the stove I'll be cooking on tonight and is almost maintenance-free. So, why change it out?
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Old 03-11-2009
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We spent years with alcohol stove and no heater for all the usual reasons. We switched to propane stove, and added a vented propane heater and would never go back.

Properly installed and handled the propane is not really a problem, and you're guaranteed no odours, lighting problems, etc. Diesel stoves can also be difficult to "turn down" during the shoulder seasons, getting uncomfortably warm at times.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zAr View Post
4) Wait and hope a boat comes along with a diesel just the way I want it....
Everybody has their preferences (I'm very happy with our propane stove/oven and bulkhead heater), but regardless I would not make the existence of an installed diesel heater and stove the litmus test for which boat to buy.

Find a boat that best fits your needs and budget, then modify it over time as you see fit. Price, length, displacement, draft, sailing performance, sail and gear inventories, etc would be much higher priorities as I tried to eliminate prospective candidates.
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Old 03-11-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnRPollard View Post
Find a boat that best fits your needs and budget, then modify it over time as you see fit. Price, length, displacement, draft, sailing performance, sail and gear inventories, etc would be much higher priorities as I tried to eliminate prospective candidates.
You're absolutely right. I've found the boats that meet my needs in terms of price, length, displacement, draft, sailing performance, etc. I'm now down to several different boats of the same two makes (CS36T or Niagara 35 Mk 1), some with heaters, some without.

For anything else, such as electronics, I would say the same - do my own modifications - but this is a matter of modifications already having been made - with big holes in the deckroof - and the possibility of making new holes or filling the existing holes.
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Old 03-11-2009
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I've read that given the heat output of propane versus diesel, for the same price you'll be making more trips to fill up the tank with propane than with diesel. So, in other words, even though diesel is more expensive, a single liter gives you more heat and diesel heaters use less fuel per hour than propane. A quick scan of the diesel/propane heaters on the market and their heat outputs would seem to confirm this.

Plus, as I mentioned, the diesel gives you the option of having one stove which does double duty as a heater and stove. That's one less fuel you need to carry on board.

Then there's the fact that diesel heaters can burn #1, #2 or kerosene. And I think I read somewhere that diesel is more readily available outside of North America than propane.

Has anyone smelled a boat with a diesel stove? I hate the smell of diesel, so that would sort of answer the question right there.
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Old 03-11-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanBrown View Post
If you're going to be tied up at a dock where electricity is available, why not buy a decent quartz heater and just plug it in when you need it. It's a clean source of heat, requires no ventilation, and is inexpensive to buy. This will also allow you cut way down on your propane use.

If you're away from the dock, your propane heater should work quite well for you. Your propane stove is little different than the stove I'll be cooking on tonight and is almost maintenance-free. So, why change it out?
One way a diesel is supposed to be different from a propane stove is that the diesel can double as a cabin heater.

I should have mentioned I'm trying to be as off-grid as possible. I'm looking into solar panels and wind generators too. I'm not sure how much electric I'd use with a heater in a Canadian winter, but my impression is that electric heaters are the most wasteful or energy inefficient of all.

Of course, living on diesel is not exactly being "off-grid", is it...but at least it means I can go for long passages without needing to plug into shore power, which is what I'm aiming for.
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Old 03-12-2009
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So... you can rip out a serviceable propane stove, and for a couple of thousand dollars, have a more efficient diesel stove that may be so hot during the summer that you end up having to go out to a restaurant because using the stove makes the boat too hot to sleep aboard.

How much more efficient is diesel fuel compared to compressed gas? Are the savings big enough to warrant thousands of dollars in up-front installation costs, or will it take eight to ten years to break even on a new diesel stove/heater, compared to just using gas in the unit that's already there?
If you find a diesel stove in a boat that suits you, great, but don't be looking to save money by making large capital outlays when you don't have to.
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