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Home » Product & Planning Guide » Heating » Introduction to Heating on a Canal Boat / Narrowboat


"Is it warm on your boat"?

In this chapter we give you an overview on boat heating. Click through the specific heating types in the main menu on the left for more information including installation guides and technical specifications.

Yes, we boaters can have central heating! A commonly asked question by non boaters during the cold winter months is "Is it warm on your boat"? ...If only they knew!!

Typically heating systems are fueled by oil (in our case commonly diesel but more on that later), gas or solid fuel such as wood and/or coal. Boats with inverters or AC landlines/generators can utilise electric plug-in heating and whilst we have a separate category page for these systems, here we deal mainly with installed, permanent heating solutions.
Heaters can be categorised generally into solid fuel space heaters, oil fired stove space heaters, oil fired forced air burners and gas combination boilers. Radiators can be plumbed from all systems and some heaters can also provide domestic hot water.

We overview domestic hot water systems in another section on the FitOutPontoon so here simply refer to the abilities of the respective heater types. Before we do, it's worth spending a few minutes considering the overall comparisons between the various types before we look at the detail.

Solid fuel space heaters are the traditional and therefore most commonly used form of heating. They evoke times gone by with their design and function so be mindful of this when lugging 25kg bags of coal back from the merchants or storing tons of logs for winter.
Simple to maintain and easy to use, they are more controlable than many people think but create dust and need cleaning out.

Oil fired stove space heaters are designed to have no moving parts, running on a gravity fed drip from either the fuel tank or a separate bow tank. They need regular de-coking and can take longer to get to temperature from a cold start. Many people run these continuously through the winter months. 

Oil fired forced air burners are compact, clean and the most like domestic systems in operation. They can be noisy and are expensive when they go wrong. The latest systems have computer based diagnostics and need regular servicing.

Gas combi boilers are also very much like their domestic equivalents in use, quieter but potentially more expensive than the oil fired forced air burners.
People die every year through heating related accidents.

Whatever system you use, refer to the Boat Safety Scheme, your supplier/boat fitter and the manufacturers instructiions or installation guide. 

British Standards with BS 8511:2010 have a recommended best practice for the installation of solid fuel stove space heaters. Follow it!

Finally, Carbon Monoxide (CO) kills.
It occurs in the exhaust of internal combustion engines including back-up petrol fired generators. It forms from the incomplete combustion of wood, coal, charcoal, oil, parafin, propane, natural gas and rubbish.
It is colourless, odourless and tasteless.
It cannot be absorbed by the lining of the lungs and builds up causing DEATH.

Install detectors for both smoke and carbon monoxide and be safe. See our section on this topic in the Safety & Security chapter in the FitOutPontoon.

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