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post #1 of 26 Old 04-12-2016 Thread Starter
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LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

I have a 1973 Pearson 36 that, once upon a time, likely had an alcohol stove with a heat-exchanger for hot water. This is now all gone and it has been used in a sailing school for the past while.
I am in the process of refitting it for full-time cruising. I will be adding a stove/oven and a hot water heater and maybe, a cabin heater. Since I am starting from a clean slate I am strongly considering a diesel stove and water heater. This would seem to be a much safer and simpler installation vs. LPG. I know that LP is so much more popular and seems to be the standard these days but diesel just seems so elegant. Having never done anything like this before I thought that I would solicit some opinions.
Thanks in advance for your collective wisdom and experience.

-Rich
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post #2 of 26 Old 04-12-2016
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

I have had both in my boats over the years and would prefer using diesel for my heat. If your in an area that your heater will be running a lot in early and late season diesel is the way to go. LP will put a lot of water in the boat over time. As for a stove that's different... you will not be running that for hours so go with LP. Using diesel gives you other options as well, you can tie the line to your fuel tank so you will not need to install another tank. Diesel is always easy to find any where you go and can carry gal jugs on deck if need be. The easiest is install the tank that is normally provide and drive on. If you can install that tank out of the salon area is preferred so when you have to fill there
s no chance of spillage.
There maybe some LP heaters out there that are a closed combustion chamber DV and if so those would work as well for a cabin heater. Just keep in mind that the tanks are pretty pricey.

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post #3 of 26 Old 04-12-2016
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

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Originally Posted by banjoflyer View Post
I have a 1973 Pearson 36 that, once upon a time, likely had an alcohol stove with a heat-exchanger for hot water. This is now all gone and it has been used in a sailing school for the past while.
I am in the process of refitting it for full-time cruising. I will be adding a stove/oven and a hot water heater and maybe, a cabin heater. Since I am starting from a clean slate I am strongly considering a diesel stove and water heater. This would seem to be a much safer and simpler installation vs. LPG. I know that LP is so much more popular and seems to be the standard these days but diesel just seems so elegant. Having never done anything like this before I thought that I would solicit some opinions.
Thanks in advance for your collective wisdom and experience.

-Rich
Hi Rich,

All of the stoves you mentioned will do the job. I haven't had a diesel stove, but have sailed with friends who have diesel, and others who have kerosene, so I can share some limited hands-on experience. [I have always had propane...]

In Alaska, the commercial fishing boats typically have a diesel cook stove/oven [e.g., Dickinson Marine] that is also the primary heat source. Consequently it stays lit much of the time, and is therefore always ready to use for cooking.

If not lit, it takes a couple of minutes to light a diesel [or kerosene] burner and get it going well so you can cook on it. And sometimes there are some fumes/smoke/soot during that light-up process; not unlike a pressurized liquid fuel camping stove. Nothing is instant on like a propane or butane burner.

If you need a heat source during some seasons of your sailing, you might also investigate the Wallas diesel cook stove [they have single and double burner models that use diesel and/or kerosene, and a model with an oven too]

The premise of the Wallas cook top is use the ceramic covered burner [i.e., no fumes inside the boat...] to cook, and leave it burning and close the lid when finished. It has quiet fans built-in to circulate heat throughout the boat.

This is a win win- if you need heat... as we do... so we are considering replacing our propane stove with one of these...

If you are after a simple, cheap, effective and safe [or as back-up and/or to experiment with] consider a counter top butane single burner. [As you know, butane is lighter than air, so it rises and is therefore somewhat safer than propane- which sinks...]

We keep a portable butane unit for back-up if the main stove fails, and for occasionally cooking in the cockpit, on shore, or at the dinner table...

We once had a very nice stainless steel butane burner unit built-into the galley countertop a trailerable sailboat that really worked very well. We would go through a butane canister ever 10 days or so when on the boat full time in the summer months...

Regarding water heaters, here is my blog post about our last water heater project.

Best wishes finding what is best for you.

Cheers!

Bill


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Last edited by wrwakefield; 04-12-2016 at 02:21 PM. Reason: Added water heater info
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

Diesel is elegant, especially if that's already your main fuel.
Of course, it stinks and makes soot no matter what you do, although a pricey diesel heater with external venting (i.e. Esbacher) is the cat's pajamas.

Propane worries folks because it is explosive (fuels are supposed to be) but then again, it burns CLEAN and WITHOUT STINKING.

Did I mention diesel STINKS no matter what and how you do it?

Just one man's opinion. But especially in the US market, the propane stove will add resale value, the diesel won't.

Oh, and did I mention the diesel can STINK and MAKE SOOT? (G)
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

For cook stove you have choices as long as your budget is flush. Keep in mind if you install propane you will need a locker (sealed from interior and vented outside of the boat) so budget for that. Propane is safe if you design the system well and maintain it.

For cabin heat you have some options diesel can fire a bulkhead heater (some say they are very fiddly others seem to have no issue) or a "furnace" that can heat either air or water. If it is a water based system you can port a hydronic branch to the water heater to get domestic hot water. Dickson makes a nice propane bulkhead heater that is fully sealed and even uses outside air for combustion. Or you can go solid fuel with a wood stove.

For hot water you can use a hydronic heater diesel, or heat off the engine to supplement the electric heater. I am not aware of any propane water heaters that are safe to install on a boat, though some are advertised as such.

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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

My only experience is with LPG for cooking. I'm totally paranoid about it, so I have the usual stuff -- separate locker with overboard drain, solenoid switch (but I always shut it off at the tank when finished cooking) and gas detector. I have contemplated a diesel stove but have decided against it for one simple reason: I know more than a few sailors who have thrown their diesel stoves overboard (one did so literally).

As for heating, I would definitely go with a very good diesel heater as recommended by others. But be sure it's super well vented and the lines are perfect. I agree with the comments about diesel stink -- reminds of my flying days when engine starts on our big turbine engines let kerosene fumes into the cabin and I always wanted to barf.

Last edited by Jeff_H; 04-13-2016 at 08:34 AM.
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

(The premise of the Wallas cook top is use the ceramic covered burner [i.e., no fumes inside the boat...] to cook, and leave it burning and close the lid when finished. It has quiet fans built-in to circulate heat throughout the boat. ) Do not waste your money on this unit, I had one in my Hewescraft and had a lot of problems with it. The unit is too small to use as a real cabin heater and it take along time to just make something as simple as coffee.
As stated above there are some draw backs with DEISEL units but if it is a sealed combustion unit you will not have the smell like on the Wallas cook stove. In my Cal 39 I have a Dickenson gas stove and oven, and a Wallas forced air diesel unit and they both work great. I like LP but unless I want to carry extra tanks I am stuck with a limited use. Diesel I can get it anywhere and all I have to have is a couple extra 5 gal jugs to refill the tank. I would agree that the smell of spilt diesel is pretty annoying but with pads that is not really a problem and as long as your not filling the tank in rough seas you should be fine. By the way I live in AK so we are using our heater most of the time when on the water so things have to work for use.

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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

If you don't want to go with the convenience of using propane and the hassle of schlepping the tanks to get them refilled for a cooking stove, might look at Kerosene. It burns as hot as propane but doesn't go boom if there is a leak and is very fuel efficient. You can either burn mineral spirits/paint thinner or kerosene in the stove so fuel is available anywhere and way easier than lugging propane bottles both ways. You do have to preheat with alcohol but it's no big thing once you are used to it. Don't know if anyone other than Taylors in England is still making kero stoves but they are quite expensive. You may have to rely on the used market to find a cheap one. We had a two burner with oven Shipmate when we lived aboard and cruised that worked great. Now have a Taylors 029 two burner with broiler for sailing close to home.

For heating, diesel is the way to go whether you go with forced air type heater or the wall mounted Dickinson. You can tap into the engine fuel tank or use a separate tank and if you can fit a day tank, you won't need an electric pump except to fill the day tank. Diesel is a very fuel efficient and available everywhere with most places providing drive up service. The Dickenson is available with coils for heating water but has to be factory installed according to them.

Propane is the easiest fuel to use but getting it can be a big hassle. In some out of the way places may not be available at all and is often way way way away from anyplace you can take your boat. A pack frame that you can lash a bottle too is a definite must for transporting bottles. On demand water heaters work great and are very water use efficient if it is located near the shower. Unfortunately, Propane has proven an occasional way to test the integrity of the hull to deck joint.

Diesel stoves for cooking only really work for high latitude sailing where you can leave them on constantly. They are a fixture for the Alaskan fishing fleet where they are turned on as the boat leaves the dock and off when the engine is shut down on return. They provide heat for comfort as well as cooking. Unfortunately they are not suitable for quick use as they take time to warm up. They need a dedicated 3" or so chimney which can prove an insurmountable obstacle.

Had an alcohol stove on my second boat. It was a PITA that made little heat and a lot of h20. Wouldn't boil water in a pot large enough for a lobster. People claim to like the newer alcohol stoves but alcohol just doesn't have the BTU's that I want for cooking.
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

Haven't used one, or seen one installed on a sailboat, so I have a question about diesel stoves. How does the vent work on a sailboat? I mean, the stove/oven is usually gimballed, so that it can swing to a level position when the sailboat is heeled. With propane, no problem, as there is no vent required (like hellosailor said, propane burns clean without stinking). Diesel absolutely does require a vent (yeah, hellosailor mentioned the reasons for that, too). So do diesel stoves on a sailboat have some sort of flexible exhaust vent? Not really picturing it.

Personally, my wife is a little sensitive to the smell of diesel. She can get a bit queasy feeling just from motoring downwind. So for us a diesel stove or heater is an absolute no-go.
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post #10 of 26 Old 04-13-2016
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Re: LPG vs diesel for heat / hot water / stove

Quote:
Originally Posted by sweepint View Post
(The premise of the Wallas cook top is use the ceramic covered burner [i.e., no fumes inside the boat...] to cook, and leave it burning and close the lid when finished. It has quiet fans built-in to circulate heat throughout the boat. ) Do not waste your money on this unit, I had one in my Hewescraft and had a lot of problems with it. The unit is too small to use as a real cabin heater and it take along time to just make something as simple as coffee.
Thanks for the feedback, Sweepint.

Since we have been considering one of these units, I have a few follow-up questions if you have time:

Is your Wallas cooktop feedback regarding the single or double burner model?

What size was your Hewescraft?

Was the delay heating water due to the time for the burner top to reach max heat, or just the nature of the stove even if on high setting?

Would you be willing to elaborate on the other problems you mentioned experiencing?

I ask as a prospective buyer...

Thanks again,

Bill


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