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Old 09-02-2012
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DIY hydronic heat?

OK thinking about keeping a boat in the water for the winter. And for me thinking is always a dangerous thing! I started to look at bulkhead heaters, and forced air heaters, and finally hydronic. I like the idea of forced air the best as I think it will do the best job of drying the boat, and you have options to pull outside air and what not. Also forced air generally gives very fast heat when you get on board, but they are quite expensive. Looking at the latest issue of Good Old Boat they have a hydronic install. In this one they hook it up to a water heater, and I started to think hey couldn't you hook up a hydronic to existing hot water heater? Get a couple of radiators some pex hot water tubing and hook up a pump to cycle the water through the water heater and let the shore power heat the water?

I am thinking perhaps part of a multi-fuel, redundant heating system. Good to leave on when away from the boat at a slip when I may not be comfortable keeping the bulkhead heater on. Seems better than a space heater, and could even incorporate a coil in the bulkhead heater to run the whole thing without shore power and have more even heating and enjoy a hot shower if I go out for a nice winter cruse.
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Old 09-03-2012
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Re: DIY hydronic heat?

I had a neighbor liveaboard who did a great job making his own hydronic install. He used a dickinson heater and wrapped household copper tubing around the exhaust stack. He added a continuous duty heat-rated 12V pump (the expensive part) and an expansion tank (the important part!!!) and it worked great. He ran the copper tubing through all sorts of lockers to keep the PNW mold at bay and hooked up several forced air heating registers to it as well.

On the other hand, I have another friend who paid $18,000 to have a yard install a webasto hydronic system. The coolant sprung a leak and the unit fried itself. Many thousands of dollars later it's working again.

At least if you build the system yourself, you'll be able to fix it and if it springs a leak, it won't fry itself either!


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