Join Date: Mar 2007
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I installed a propane heater in our boat last winter. Although we already had a propane system for our stove/oven, I considered using the disposable tanks because leading a new propane line looked like it would be a real hassle - very long and circuitous.
However, after conferring with the manufacturer of the heater (Dickinson), they dissuaded me from using disposable cannisters. Two primary reasons: You still need to keep the disposable tank outside the boat, which usually requires temporarily running a fairly long line each time you plan to use the heater; and the limited "burn-time" of the disposable tanks would require that quite a few of them be kept aboard to get any serious heat from the unit.
That said, the folks at Dickinson indicated that some people do opt for the disposable cannisters. They also said that most people who do, end up later trying to make a proper installation with a larger tank after growing frustrated with the burn time of the disposables. (I ended up plumbing a propane line to our propane locker.)
If you have a diesel engine abaord, I like Valiente's suggestion to go with a diesel heater, since you don't already have a propane system.
By the way, if you decide to go with the propane heater, compare the Cozy Cabin to the Dickinson Newport. The Cozy Cabin is a nice little heater, but the Dickinson has some advantages. The Dickinson flame is in a sealed firebox, rather than open/exposed. The Dickinson has a "double-walled" chimney that serves both to pull air in from outside the boat for the combustion chamber and to insulate the interior exhaust portion of the chimney (which can get quite hot). It also has a built-in electric fan which helps to circulate the heat better. The Dickinson costs more, but might be worth the extra amount to you. We got our Newport P-9000 from Go-2-MArine for $540.
Good luck to you.