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SVArgo 08-17-2009 06:52 PM

Cabin Heater Type and Arrangement
For some reason I've decided to winter in the Northeast (NYC) and need to get a heater installed in the next couple of months.

Does anyone have experience with what works and doesn't, especially with regard to type and mounting location on a 37'?


okapi3 08-17-2009 11:36 PM

I have a 31 with a Force 10 Cozy Cabin LPG heater installed on the port side of the forward bulkhead. I didn't install it but I am very happy with it--it's simple to use, compact,sturdily built of brass and stainless steel and heats my 31 easily. Rated at 6000BTU and looks like they're selling for about $400. I realize there is a lot more volume to heat inside a 37 than a 31, but there's my $.02 anyway.

JohnRPollard 08-18-2009 08:21 AM


If you plan to be dockside for the winter, the easiest/cheapest option would be electric heaters, which have the benefit of being temporary if you won't need heat again. A downside is that they won't work during a power loss.

As far as more permanent installations, the consensus seems to be that a Webasto or Espar forced air system is among the best options for long-term live-aboard. But these are fairly pricey, require more electric power, and installation is fairly involved.

Somewhere in the spectrum between electric and forced air are the bulkhead-mounted cabin heaters (such as Okapi described) that usually run on propane or diesel/kerosene. These are nice units for weekending/vacationing. Since they are passive heaters, they have almost zero electric consumption (although it helps to run fans to circulate the heat).

We have A LOT of threads here on Sailnet that discuss diesel and propane cabin heaters -- lots of good information already there that can be found with a quick search (try search term "cabin heater"). If you decide a bulkhead mounted propane heater is what you want, be sure to understand the benefits of a sealed combustion chamber (such as those offered by Dickinson's Newport heaters). Those threads I mention discuss this issue quite a bit.

In your case, a bulkhead mounted unit might suffice for a single winter season aboard, especially if you could supplement it with an electric heater as needed.

SVArgo 08-20-2009 11:33 PM

Okapi, Thanks for the input, I have been looking at the Force10's and SigMar's for awhile now.

John, Thanks for the info. We'll be at the dock but also need a heater for full time cruising in cold environments. From a quick look on the web, the forced air heaters are going to draw 10+ amps and I think that's going to be a non-starter for us.

I'm looking into Sig Mar and Dickinson bulkhead and floor mount heaters now. I will definitely poke around other parts of the forums and see what I can find.

JohnRPollard 08-21-2009 08:11 AM


One of the issues with the Force 10/Sigma Cozy Cabin heater is that the combustion chamber is not sealed. This allows moisture (by-product of propane combustion) to escape into the cabin -- much like using your cooking stove/oven. For limited heating it's probably okay, but if you plan to operate the unit for long periods, you will begin to notice the dampness in the cabin (and condensate dripping from your cold, bronze portlight frames).

The Dickinson Newport heaters are more expensive than the Cozy Cabin units (by a factor of 2-3), but they have a sealed combustion chamber that exhausts all the moisture out of the cabin via a double-walled chimney (the interior flew exhausts the by-products of combustion, while the exterior flew brings air for combustion from outside the cabin and simultaneously cools/insulates the hot interior flew). This results in a nice drying heat.

Here is our Dickinson Newport propane cabin heater (not the greatest photo). It's the smaller of the two sizes offered (P9000). I would think on your boat the larger 12000 btu unit would be preferable, supplemented by a few electric heaters when dockside:

P.S. You may also want to consider some way of insulating your portlights if you are going to stay put in one place for the winter. I have seen various methods but one I liked was clear bubble wrap affixed to the exterior -- which still allowed light penteration.

unomio 08-22-2009 03:06 AM

Regardless of the type of heater you decide to install, your boat should be as well insulated as you can make it. In addition to having Pacific Seacraft insulate our deck and hull (down to the water line), we added 1/4" and 3/8"
closed cell foam to the inside of hull and deck surfaces that were exposed to the outside. We also put expanding foam insulation in the cavity left by the hull deck where we couldn't reach it to push a half-cylinder of closed-cell foam up to cover the wiring and seal off the hull-deck joint cavity. We glued acoustical wall covering to the inside of the V-berth where it was exposed--it's better looking than closed-cell foam. Without the insulation condensate dripped down inside lockers.

Friends who own a PSC 37 showed us how to make a clear plexiglass "curtain" that snaps onto the side of the cabin trunk, forming a fitted cover for all of the portlights at once. You can still open the portlight and let in a bit of air, but condensation is cut to almost nothing.

We have an Espar, but it had a hard time keeping up with the cold winters in Washington State and Canada until we installed the insulation. The Espar ran at least 50% less after we got all the insulation installed.

If you haven't read "The Warm Dry Boat" we recommend it. The most important thing we did (described in this book) was to be sure we had adequate air circulation. We used a combination of slightly open portlights, hatches, and cabin fans to keep the air moving. Even so, if you're at the dockside in a cold, wet climate you may find you need a dehumidifier to make life bearable. The majority of our condensation problems were caused by cooking--opening the hatch over the stove helps, but there is still a lot of moisture to get out of the boat.

Definitely look at electric heaters if you're at the dock and have dockside power. We used a Caframo floor model, but friends swore by one that heated oil in a radiator-like free-standing job.


thyra37 09-03-2009 05:47 PM

ARGO I pass your beautiful vessel as I travel along the west side hiway. I tried to PM you but being a newbie I was not allowed . I have a sister ship #290 up the river a few miles in Nyack. Have you found your winter berth? If I can be of any help let me know. THYRA

BillNorrie 09-14-2009 04:17 PM

Hi gang, we have Dickinson Newport desiel heater in our PSC 37 LL ,#231 for 18 years with prior owner and it works great here in BC , but hellish messy to clean. Cheers, Bill

pc37howard 09-28-2009 03:36 PM

i have a pc 37 , removed my heater , i have all the parts , would like to sell it .email me if you would likem to buy it thank pc 37 howard

Lansdowne 09-30-2009 09:36 AM

winter heat
We do a lot of winter sailing, liveaboard life in the PNW. Have found that running 2 110 volt heaters can overrun the dock power. Trips the breaker. Still, running 2 heaters on Med. is better than one on high.
We also have an Espar forced Air Diesel heater, the combo gets us thru snow on the deck weather.
Boat was in charter out of Bellingham, WA for ten years, no problems with cold.

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