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Author Topic: Diesel heater installation  (Read 8871 times)

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Jack Hutteball

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Diesel heater installation
« on: January 30, 2008, 01:22:43 PM »

I am about ready to spring for a heater for the boat (admiral says about time!) and spent some time at the Seattle boat show yesterday doing research.  One thing most dealers said was that I needed a separate pipe from the fuel tank to serve the heater only.  The Racor filter has an additiional outlet I could easily connect to.  I am not wild about drilling a new hole in my fuel tank, which is plastic by the way.

Thought I would check to see if any of you out there have connected a diesel heater to your fuel filter or directly tee'd into the fuel line to run yout heater, and if so, have there been any problems.  Would also like to know if you have, what type and size of heater you have.

It does not seem to me that these small heaters with the small amount of fuel they sip, that they could cause a problem pulling fuel out of the line going to the engine, especially considering that the fuel will gravity flow to the Racor as the entire fuel tank is higher than the filter in my boat.

Jack
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Jack and Ruth Hutteball
Mariah lll, #1555, 2001
Anacortes, Washington

waterdog

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2008, 03:40:15 PM »

Jack:

I installed a Webasto 3500 unit last year.   Works great by the way.   We were out between Christmas and New Years.   Snow on the mountains.  Ice on the docks.  Toasty warm inside. 

I looked at Webasto and Espar and was unable to really distinguish much of a difference between the two units.   Webasto seemed to do a much better job of kitting all the bits needed for a do it yourself installation and so I went with them.   No regrets.  Works great.

I heard the same thing about a separate fuel pick up.  Seems to me they probably have a reason for suggesting it and so I went with their recommendation.   I installed a separate fuel pick up direct from the tank.   It is a five minute job.  Cut the pick up to length, drill hole in tank with hole saw, insert pick up and tighten the nuts.   

Steve
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Steve Dolling
Former 1988 #804, BlackDragon - Vancouver BC
Now 1999 Manta 40 cat

canuck

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2008, 05:31:02 PM »

On Latitudes, 2004 #1678, we installed an Espar Hydronic D5. The Esapar is mounted under rear port lazarette and the tank is mounted on the outdoor shower faucet bulkhead. Fuel is drawn from the main tank fuel line. We have one main heater in the cabin which is mounted in the middle of the the port settee, halfway up from the floor. We cut two 4" holes in the immediate lockers to increase air flow to the fan. Make sure all your heaters have adequate ventilation or the fans will cavitate. When securing to fiberglasss or wood, I suggest a rubber washer with each mounting screw.
Second heater is mounted in the V berth area at the same height and to the right of the little door and has it's own switch.
The third heater (for aft cabin) is mounted under the head sink with one duct to the head and the other to the aft cabin. The switch for this one is mounted on the engine cover bulkhead, just above the HX zinc!
Was down to the boat today and cranked it up to max and it quickly heats up the boat. Run it at least once a month throughout the year. Changing coolant is not required as per dealer. This puppy has given us faithful service for four years and is hoooked up to heat the water heater as well!!
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Jack Hutteball

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2008, 05:34:24 PM »

Steve,
Thank you for the reply.  I assume your tank is alumunum based on the year of your boat.  Were you concerned at all about the metal particles getting into the tank while drilling the hole?

Jack
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Jack and Ruth Hutteball
Mariah lll, #1555, 2001
Anacortes, Washington

Jack Hutteball

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2008, 05:46:45 PM »

Canuck,
Did you just tee off your fuel line or bring the new line from your Racor fuel filter?  If you have been using the heater for 4 years I assume you have had both engine and heater running at the same time with no problems.  also interested how the system is connected the the hot water heater.  Did you just connect it up to the engine/waterheater loop or did you disconnect the engine loop and just hook up the hydronic heater.

Thanks, Jack
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Jack and Ruth Hutteball
Mariah lll, #1555, 2001
Anacortes, Washington

waterdog

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2008, 06:28:08 PM »

Jack - the tank was aluminum.   I wasn't concerned about particles in the tank - and I'm sure there are a few at the bottom no matter how careful I was - I just ran the shop vac and the drill together.   No evidence of anything in the filter.  I don't lose any sleep.  I'm sure there some who will tell you it's very bad and risky thing to do and others who will say it's no problem.  Plastic - I don't really know.   As a lighter material, it probably has a greater chance of becoming semi-suspended in the diesel and being sucked up a pickup, but I doubt if there is any risk of it cutting through a filter element.

My guess is that the fuel system on our boats is robust and you probably won't have an issue taking the second tap off the Racor.   If there is a problem, then you can always do a separate pickup later.  What would be the downside in trying it?

Seeing canuck's post, I realized I don't know what kind of "heater" you're thinking of.   I installed a forced air furnace.   Low cost - big ducts.   Canuck is talking about hydronic system with piped hot water to individual radiator elements with fans.   Easier routing hose than duct, plus you can create hot water on the hook without running the engine.   Either system would be great - it just depends on your preference and budget.   

I think I need to take a few pictures of the installation because I've had a few questions on it and I sure wish I had other's pictures for reference when I started.   

Do you plan to do the install yourself?
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Steve Dolling
Former 1988 #804, BlackDragon - Vancouver BC
Now 1999 Manta 40 cat

Tom Clay

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2008, 10:02:07 PM »

Jack,

We installed an Espar D5 hydronic (18,000 BTU) in November of last year. It was easy to route the plumbing, and the heater heats very well. The heater is in the aft port locker. I installed 2 registers one in the Salon and one in the head. I plan on hooking up the hot water tank to the system next month. The heater keeps the boat warm in 20-30 degree weather.

We have a aluminum tank and it was easy to tap into it. Everyone I spoke to that installs these heaters said do not tap into the engine fuel line, so I went with there recommendation. They said that folks tend to have more problems with the units if they don't have there own pickup point from the tank.

Total cost for all materials $1800.00. I had a friend with a Catalina 350 help and he said if he has trouble with his Espar air unit he would install the hydronic.
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Tom and Lynn Clay
2006 34' Hull #1760......Somewhere
Olympia, Wa.

Jack Hutteball

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2008, 10:45:02 PM »

Thanks for input from all.  Am weighing the ease of install of hydronic vs lower cost (I think) of forced air.  Tom, I would like to know where you were able to get all the parts for the hydronic for $1800.  That is less than the parts for the forced air units I looked at yesterday.  If I can get all the parts for that price it will seal the deal. 

Seems like tapping the tank is the best way to go.  looks like I am one of the few guys out here with a plastic tank

Jack
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Jack and Ruth Hutteball
Mariah lll, #1555, 2001
Anacortes, Washington

Hank Busey

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2008, 07:27:50 AM »

Jack, I installed a Webasto unit on Bitterroot 3 years ago, and we love it.  The boat is at Cap Sante, and if you would like to look at the installation, email me.     Hank Busey (hwbusey@montana.com)
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Ray & Sandy Erps

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2008, 08:18:17 AM »

Hi Jack,

Our boat came with a furnace already installed.  It was tee'd in at the Racor.  It would lose it's prime each time the Racor was serviced, so it was one more thing to bleed.  Of course we didn't discover this until one dark cold night when the furnace wouldn't start up.  That may be why the manufacturer recommends a dedicated fuel line.  Otherwise, when the fuel line didn't have any air in it, it worked fine whether the engine was running or not.
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Ray & Sandy Erps,
'83, 41 Fraser "Nikko"
La Conner WA

Stu Jackson

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2008, 02:52:25 PM »

Jack, Jim Moe wrote an excellent article in the August 2007 Mainsheet C34 Tech Notes, which may have been part of your research.

An excerpt of what he wrote includes this:

"The DW4 unit contains the combustion chamber, diesel fuel pump, diesel filter, ignition glow plug, blower for the combustion system and a circulating pump for the hot water. It also has a thermostat for maintaining circulating water at 160 degrees F when the main switch is on. Thus the thermostat in the salon only controls the air circulating muffin fans for the heat exchangers. The control unit for the D4W is entirely solid-state. It provides a modulated flame to maintain the 160 F circulating water temperature, purging of the combustion chamber on start-up and shut-down, and system safety monitors.

"The DW4 SC kit comes with very small, tough plastic tubing for tapping into the diesel fuel supply line. This was connected into the fuel line between the engine fuel filter and the electric fuel pump using the supplied tee fitting. Thus the DW4 receives filtered fuel, though as noted above there is a fuel filter within the unit. Fuel consumption is only 1-2 quarts a day, even in the coldest weather."


It thus appears that the idea of using an individual tap into the fuel tank is directly related to the need to re-bleed the heater when changing the fuel filter.  It would seem advantageous to have the fuel to the heater be filtered first by the Racor.

I've been thinking about a heater, too, and after lengthy discussions have determined that the hydronic is a superior approach given two very major issues:  (1) it's easier to route the pipes around than ductwork, even knowing the extra electrical wiring needed for the fans behind the heating coils; (2)  being able to make hot water without running the engine (or having to buy a generator).

Now the only choice is whether or not to get a heater or a generator!   :roll:
« Last Edit: January 31, 2008, 02:59:30 PM by Stu Jackson »
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Stu Jackson, C34 IA Secretary, #224 1986, "Aquavite"  Cowichan Bay, BC  Maple Bay Marina  SR/FK, M25, Rocna 10 (22#) (NZ model)

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waterdog

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2008, 03:32:11 PM »

I've been thinking about a heater, too, and after lengthy discussions have determined that the hydronic is a superior approach given two very major issues:  (1) it's easier to route the pipes around than ductwork, even knowing the extra electrical wiring needed for the fans behind the heating coils; (2)  being able to make hot water without running the engine (or having to buy a generator).


I wouldn't weigh the advantage of pipes over ducts too heavily.   While I think it is generally true, on the C34 (at least the MKI) there is a path along port side for ductwork that is dead easy to access and takes up very little usuable storage space.   True you need to drill bigger holes, but I think that extra effort for ducts over pipes is pretty much a wash when you factor in the need for the wiring.  It's not that big of a deal.   Advantage 2 above is a much more compelling reason to go with hydronic.   I be interested to know if the fans on the hydronic system would make it a noisier alternative.   Also make sure to consider long term maintenance.   In 10 years if air duct gets chafed through, you have warm air escaping somewhere.   If a fitting fails or hose chafes on a hydronic system its a messier problem. 
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Steve Dolling
Former 1988 #804, BlackDragon - Vancouver BC
Now 1999 Manta 40 cat

Jack Hutteball

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2008, 03:33:57 PM »

Thanks Stu,
Yes, Jim's article was where I started.  Good article by the way.  I am getting mixed signals here by talking to the local distributor/installer who suggests I may need to have a seperate fuel pump and water circulation pump on the system.  They obviously want to design and install the system for me, but I am a do it yoursef kind of guy an generally don't have a problem getting things installed and working.  I want to keep it simple!!

Maybe I should talk to Jim directly and have him talk me through it.  I notice he even used a smaller heater than was suggested fo me.

Regarding tapping the fuel line after the Racor filter.  Would that not be the same as using the second tap on the filter itself.  I believe that comes off after the fuel has been through the filter.  Seems that either way there is a possibility of introducing air into the fuel lines when the filter is changed.

I already have a Honda 1000 to keep batteries up on long trips.  After I bought it I thought I should have gone for the 2000 so I could heat water.  So now I am leaning more to the hydronic.

Jack
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Jack and Ruth Hutteball
Mariah lll, #1555, 2001
Anacortes, Washington

Stu Jackson

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2008, 09:49:45 AM »

Jack

If the unit has it's own fuel pump as noted in Jim's article, I have no idea why they'd suggest yet another one.

If the second tap is indeed useful, by all means use it (read the literature / manual for the unit to assure yourself that this is actually how it is designed to work). You're right about the fuel filter change, but that was discussed earlier.  Based on Ken Heyman and Ron Hill, need for bleeding the fuel lines is significantly reduced if you fill up the filter with fuel or injector cleaner.  When I did ours the last time I used the injector cleaner, the only thing I needed to do was twist the knurled knob twice to get the engine to start, so there was a minimum of air in the lines.  But there was some, so learning to bleed both the engine AND the new heater is a good thing to know.

I was kidding (a little bit) about the heater / generator thing.  If we do ever buy a generator, it'll be the 2000 for the reasons you mention.  We keep a good electrical system going with a 360 ah house bank and new 100 A alternator and Max Charge regulator, so we have more than two nights on the hook without having to run the engine, but hot water for showers is nice, especially when it's cooler outside.

Your DIY approach is very good, because that way you'll know everything about the new system.  Good luck, take some pictures and write it up for Tech Notes.

There's not much more that I think Jim could add to his well written and documented article.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2008, 09:53:38 AM by Stu Jackson »
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Craig Illman

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Re: Diesel heater installation
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2008, 11:45:20 AM »

Jack, Stu, Ray - I have my Espar heater tapped off the Racor. I don't have to bleed the heater fuel pump. It make take a couple start cycles to push the fuel up the line to the unit in the port cockpit lazerette. Jack knows that if I have the valve to the heater pump off, my heater won't start. I've only been setup this way for about a year. I haven't sucked any air, but I also can shut the valve off to minimize the risk. Given the height of our fuel tanks, relative to the Racor, unless the Racor was seriously plugged, I don't think I'll suck air. Just in case, I added the vacuum gauge between the Racor and the valve to the heater fuel pump.

Craig
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