By far one of the most common questions Jill and I get about life aboard is, "What's the deal with the heat?" This question comes from worried moms and dads, friends, boat neighbors, and even others who can not seem to mind their own business. It's okay though because we love telling just about anybody about our rag-tag-jury-rig of a heating system.
Good news first because good news is better than bad news. We have air conditioning! This is very useful in this frozen wind swept river where waves crashed six feet high over the docks last week. I honestly wonder if we'll ever use it. It came with the boat and is part of a non-existent heat system that was supposedly part of the boat as well. The previous owner did mention he never used it. It is basically a heat pump manufactured by a now out of business, Eastern Marine Manufacturing. The heat is extracted out of the ocean water...I think. It's been a few months since I tried to fire that bad boy up and investigated any potential solutions. The bottom line is there no heat coil in the heat pump nor is it wired to the controls for heat. So bum deal there...but there is AC and we're able to run the fan on the system for air circulation.
With this great news...Jill and I started looking for alternate heat solutions throughout the fall. Apparently an Espar heater is like the Rolls Royce of heaters. Does anybody else have a Rolls Royce in their basement? Seriously? We got quotes starting at 8k and it just seemed liked a huge investment given our cruising plans (i.e. places where the bathing suits never come off and they put an umbrella in your drink) They are nice and they are the best...but just not in our budget...not this year!
We had an old Lasko electric heater from our old house. This got us through the fall pretty good on those cool nights, but knew it could not handle the deep freeze like we find ourselves here in January. Enter the world of balancing electric loads on the boat's 125v/30 amp shore power service. I could bore you all talking volts and amps...but here's the the quick version...volts is potential energy and amps is the energy being used.
I bought 3 West Marine electric furnaces all 1500 watts. I still do not know what a watt is, but I was able to convert it to 12.5 amps.
Okay folks...quick math...3 heaters x 12.5 amps = 37.5 amps
And we have 30 amps available to us...again good stuff here Jill and I are learning our first winter. After blowing a few breakers and talking to anyone who would talk to us, we got this all figured out. We can only run two heaters. We still needed to have power to run a the fridge, cell phone chargers, TV, computer, etc. Note, we actually have to unplug one heater to run the coffee pot in the morning...once cruising the coffee pot will most likely be deep sixed(sent overboard) in favor of something more efficient.
The heaters work well and surprisingly keep up with the demands of this harsh environment. We have one in the main salon/galley and one in the aft cabin. They switch between a heat and fan setting and have a heat selection dial for low-high settings. Do not let their size fool you, they crank some serious heat.
Finally, we picked up a propane "Mr. Heater Big Buddy". Besides the heat, the surly looking camper on the box is the best part. We use this to help the electric heaters catch up and for heat during my nightmare scenario of the power going out. This is pretty new, so I will keep you posted on how it works out.
We miss our fireplace at the old Dupe, but our boat is warm and cozy even as we head through our first deep freeze aboard.
Does anybody know what the #1 most common question about living board is?