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Hello all -

I am about 75% complete on my ESPAR hydronic system installation in my (new to me) Catalina 310. We cruise here in the PNW, and being cold can really be a drag. Plus, it keeps the Admiral happy and willing to go with me.

I will be into this project for less than $2,000 (pro's want something like $6,000), and countless crawls into the port stern cavity. Believe me, I understand the labor cost factor at this point, but I really enjoy projects like this. I also am a tool guy - think "Tim Taylor" without [most of] the grunts - and this turned out to be a GREAT way to familiarize myself with the boat's innards.

I have a couple questions for the forum:

1) The Raymarine fluxgate compass is going to be within 12-18" of the stern fan heater (the fan will be furthest away), and the spiral vent hose to the cabin will go right over the top of it. The vent hose is like mylar with a stainless steel spiral wires (4" diameter). The manual for the compass says stay away from LARGE metal objects and wiring.

Any major concerns or recommendations from you knowledgeable folks out there? Moving it is nearly impossible, but I will listen to knowledgeable advice.

2) I have been taking lots of digital pictures and keeping good records of the install process. I have also recorded good sources for the bits and pieces at the best prices I could find. Is there any interest in me posting this information here?

If so...

3) What would be the best way? Serial posts? Other?

Thanks for your help.
 

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1) The Raymarine fluxgate compass is going to be within 12-18" of the stern fan heater (the fan will be furthest away), and the spiral vent hose to the cabin will go right over the top of it. The vent hose is like mylar with a stainless steel spiral wires (4" diameter). The manual for the compass says stay away from LARGE metal objects and wiring.

Any major concerns or recommendations from you knowledgeable folks out there? Moving it is nearly impossible, but I will listen to knowledgeable advice.
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I owned a 310 and installed the flux gate under the sink and as close to the center line as possible (behind the waste basket). You want one as low and as close to the center of the boat as possible. Use a boy scout compass to make sure you get no interference.

Personally I would not install it in the stern...
 

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Bender of Nails
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Like MaineSail said, I'm sorta questioning the compass' location myself.

That said, I've installed a bunch of both the Airtronic and Hydronic Espars. They are a great little heater, that's for sure - a hydronic would be my first choice as well.

A couple quick suggestions...first, they don't like to share a fuel pickup. It doesn't take much draw to starve them.
Second, too many false starts in a row and the computer will lock the unit. An airlock in the coolant circuit will do that too. The bleeder is a slotted screw on top of the unit (it isn't marked and I can't read German, lol)
Third, allow for a ridiculous amount of combustion airflow - it's used to cool the unit as well as burn the fuel.
The unit will stink at first at might even give a little smoke inside the compartment. It's a pretty distinctive smell - it's the lagging (fibrous insulation) you wrapped around the exhaust. It's normal and it'll go away after a bit.

Finally, the pump needs to be near the unit so prime it to within a few inches of the pump. A valve at the tank will make your life a little easier here - you can close it after you've primed the line. The pump is a solenoid driving a diaphragm, so using it to prime by feeding it 12V constant will burn it out. If you make up a pigtail with spade connectors on the pump end and leave the end of the power wire bare, barely touching it to a 12V source will give you an intermittent connection that works like a charm. Wow, that was tougher to explain than to actually do it...

Oh, and the condensate drain coming off the exhaust elbow will get VERY hot in use - be sure it's in free air. I still have the scar on my elbow...:D

I can't think of anything else at this point that might make your installation go easier but if you have any questions, fire away.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The compass was installed there by the PO (or the Broker, can't tell). I will investigate moving it, as you guys suggest. If I'm lucky (usually am), the wire will have lots of excess still...

I figured the boiler unit might stink for awhile. Having one of the fan heaters in the same cavity with the boiler is going to be interesting. I think I will buy the back end fitting for the fan, and pull outside air using the vent system, via a "Y" tube. Otherwise, the fan will pull the smell into the cabin.
 

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Espar Hydronic: My worst buy for a boat. I purchased from Ocean Options. When I started having problems they told me that Maint. on such a unit would run about $1000.00 a year! The computer will shut down after too many failed starts and can't be restarted without an additional computer. Good Luck.
 

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jon, if you don' t move the fluxgate...Fire it all up, have someone watch the compass while you move the ducting over the fluxgate. If the compass reading changes--which I suspect it will--then the simplest solution is probably to cut out 2-3 feet of the ducting where it runs over the fluxgate, and splice in a piece of non-magnetic ducting instead.

You can get clothes dryer duct made from 'waffled' aluminum with no metal wires. Or all plastic, or even a piece of thinwall PVC plumbing pipe will do just fine. Whatever is on hand at your hardware store and fits the location, this is not a critical material as long as it won't collapse or burn.

You can also take a plain hand-compass to the hardware store (and use it for the ducting you have on the boat) and if the needle swings when you hold it next to the duct's wire...no good, the fluxgate will be affected too.
 

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And watch out for that fan motor. I had very erratic behaviour from my autopilot until I figured out that things went screwy when a fresh water pump on the other side of a bulkhead came on. Moved the fluxgate and things settled down. A fan motor is very different from a water pump, but check it out anyway.
 

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Well - I am a HAPPY camper. Finished the Espar installation over the weekend after a couple long and satisfying days. Fired it up yesterday. Had to bleed it several times, and restart a few times, but after about an hour, it started and stayed on. DEADEYE - smoke and smell counsel was dead on. Stunk for a bit, and then... heat, GLORIOUS HEAT!. And quickly too. I'd say within 5 minutes the cabin was heating very nicely. We (Admiral and I) ran it for about an hour, while I checked for leaks, and generally was full of myself. My wife was actually impressed. All in all, a big win.

As in all projects, I made several quick trips to West Marine and the hardware store, as I neared completion. The final frustration on the final task (cutting the diesel pickup tube) was having the hacksaw blade break. Admiral to the rescue! Called her up (pretty frustrated, I was), and she went to True Value, and purchased one package of every kind blade they carried (She is SO good). Anyway, all is well, and I have plenty of pictures and data to share, if anyone needs it. Regards!
 

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Glad it went so well. They are a pretty efficient unit. One thing concerns me a bit though...in the event of an exhaust leak at the burner, will exhaust (and CO) be drawn into the cabin by the bus heater ? I think CO poisoning is cumulative. Either way, now that you're heating the cabin through combustion, a 12V CO monitor might be a good investment.

To answer your original question, I think a thread would be useful. I'll see if I can dig up some of my install photos as well.

Sorry you had crappy luck aluminun. Good point though - if it doesn't start, find out why before restarting it. I'm not sure how one could spend a thou a year to keep one running, but that's JMHO.
 

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"I think CO poisoning is cumulative."
It is. First it makes you drowsy, then it puts you to sleep, then it kills you. And if you evacuate, it remains in your blood and prevents oxygen from getting in, so just evacuating may not save you.
Anytime there is an open flame source "indoors" and you plan to sleep with it, a CO detector should be there. They're cheap enough these days.
 

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Hemoglobin, the part of the blood that transports oxygen throughout the body, has about 200 times greater an affinity for CO than it does for Oxygen. Once the hemoglobin in your blood is bound to CO, it can not carry oxygen any longer. In severe cases of CO poisoning, blood transfusions are required to provide enough blood oxygen carrying capacity to prevent death.

PLEASE install and use a Carbon Monoxide Detector if you have any sort of combustion based heat source on your boat.

"I think CO poisoning is cumulative."
It is. First it makes you drowsy, then it puts you to sleep, then it kills you. And if you evacuate, it remains in your blood and prevents oxygen from getting in, so just evacuating may not save you.
Anytime there is an open flame source "indoors" and you plan to sleep with it, a CO detector should be there. They're cheap enough these days.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
All -

Thanks for the concern. I already installed the CO Monitor, but am taking it one step further. I have on order some fittings to plumb the fan heater to the outside air. The back of the heater will be fed from the outside air vent. In the meantime, that heater fan will stay off.
 

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All - The installation is complete and running well. The first few times running, the smell of theheat wrap burning off was pretty nasty. I hooked up the aft fan heater to the fresh air vent tube with a "Y" fitting, and that helped with the smells being introduced to the cabin.

A few observations:

- ESPAR makes a heck of a unit, in my opinion. For its size, they pack in a huge amount of heating capacity, functionality, and technology. I am impressed.
- Hot Water tank heats up in about 45 minutes (20 gallons) to a pretty high temperature. I'm guessing around 160. Not horrible, but bears paying attention.
- Buddy recommended the muffler as part of the installation,a nd I am glad I used it. It is pretty quiet.
- MSR Fan Heaters (msrheaters.com) are nice units with good quality. Jim, the guy I spoke to several times on the phone, was excellent to deal with, and their prices were much better than the other folks here in Seattle.
- Two 8,000 BTU units plus routing through the water heater is just about right for the ESPAR capacity on my Catalina 310.
- Labor costs for professional installation make sense (to a point). LOTS of things to do to hook this system up.
- Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!
 

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Installation question

Hi,
I have a Catalina 34 and was wondering where your friend placed his heater fans. Also did you install the heat exchanger so you can get heat off your engine?
Any info is appreciated.
Currently, I'm planning the installation of a Espar Hydronic D5 on my Catalina.

Thanks
 

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hydronic proheat partially installed

hi all
i bought a cal cruising 46 from a guy who had started to install a proheat hydronic heater. he was about 1/5 the way donewhen sold: the heater is installed on a stand in the engine room and the transome exhaust was installed and some of the hoses have been snaked in the cabin

i believe this unit though still new and unused is probably
6 to 8 years old. after reading about hydronic heaters about how good they heat up, they are not without problems. one little thing that malfunctions,
the whole unit fails. so many moving parts,hoses can leak.

the boat came with a wood burning fireplace
i wonder if it would be less trouble it i just replace that with a diesel
powered heater with gravity fed fuel to avoid headaches or if i should procede. i am not rulling out explorint thr PNW and even the med someday

i live in los angeles and dont realy use the boat much in winter at this time
 

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ed, in the US "hydronic" heat is just a fancy phrase used to justify high prices on what is simply "hot water heating" aka "baseboard heating" in homes. On a boat it can simply be hoses and radiators with no moving parts, although a fan at each element and a hot water pump would be typical.

Point being, only the bare minimum of moving parts are needed and the systems tend to be bog simple and reliable. Add a water heater of any type, and again, it is still a bare minimum of moving parts, still reliable.

I found a proheat x45 manual online, if that's what you have there's a lot of bells and whistles and "more stuff" that can fail. How much you need or want to install, I don't know. I'd rather see simple, with fewer options and parts.

But if you install a diesel heater (i.e. Esbacher? Esper?) you're going to have about the same issues with reliability and installation. You have a heater that needs to be fed and ventilated, a heating element that needs warm-up and cool-down or else it can crack and fail, possible soot issues, and then you need to distribute the war air so you have larger air ducts to install instead of smaller hot water hoses.

Bottom line about the same either way, I'd say.

If the PO bought good quailty hose nd you double-clamp all the fittings properly, leaking shouldn't be a big issue. These systems routinely go 40-50 years in home baseboards without any leaking and even then, it is usually something minor and easy to correct.
 
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