||Heating Basics
Heating Basics 2017-06-27T11:09:45+00:00

HEATING BASICS

“Is it cold on your narrowboat?” is a common question asked by non-boaters. Heating systems on a narrow boat are typically 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

Narrow boats have plenty of heating options, from multi-fuel stoves to diesel central heating
A roaring fire on a narrow boat
Ventilation on a narrowboat is vital regardless of the type of heating used

Heating Basics… The Options

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.

Solid fuel space heaters are the traditional and therefore most commonly used form of heating on narrowboats. 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 controllable 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 on their narrow boats.

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.

Words of Warning…

People die every year through heating related accidents on narrowboats.

Whatever system you use, refer to the Boat Safety Scheme, your supplier/boat fitter and the manufacturers instructions 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!

Heating Comparisons… Solid Fuel Stoves

Typical Price Range £500 – £1200
Features Considerations
The most reliable heating solution Regular manual lifting & sourcing of heavy solid fuels
Can be very economical Poor or inefficient combustion with generate CO
Extremely effective, localised heat source Localised heat source can leave cold spots
Low cost, low maintenance Hot exposed fire is a burn hazard
Cosy ambience on cold winter nights Regular maintenance is required for efficiency & safety
Optional back boilers for some models

Heating Comparisons… Oil Fired Stoves

Typical Price Range £800 – £2000
Features Considerations
Fuel storage already on your narrow boat Localised heat source so can leave areas of the boat cold
Silent operation Requires regular de-coking
Do not use any electricity when gravity fed No automatic thermostatic control
Heat output is easily controlled Burn hazard for anyone on the narrowboat
Constant 24 hr heat Requires an electrically powered pump if not gravity fed
Optional water heating with many models

Heating Comparisons… Forced Air Combustion

Typical Price Range £500 – £2500
Features Considerations
Low maintenance Can be noisy
Can be installed in the engine bay Requires good quality fuel
Compact dimensions Maybe considered expensive if used all the time
Room or radiator thermostats
Can heat domestic hot water
Optional water heating with many models

Heating Comparisons… Gas Fired Heating

Typical Price Range £500 – £1200
Features Considerations
Much smaller hoses to run through bulkheads Fuel cost
Can also heat domestic water BSS pressing to remove gas fired applicances from inland waterways for safety reasons
Less heat loss over distance than blown air or space heaters Mains 240v AC alone only suitable for heating a small tank or calorifier, NOT a full radiator system
Simpler technology
A well specified system can also run from 240v AC
Home style familiarity

Heating Comparisons… Electric Heating 230v AC

Typical Price Range £30 – £500
Features Considerations
Silent Expensive to run
Maintenance free Power hungry
Mostly a simple installation Not practical for all owners
Cheap to install Some types are a fire hazard
Readily available at retailers (not marine specific)
Can be purchased cheaply

Heating Basics

Not what you're looking for? Try some other items within this chapter...

Did you know we offer a complete range of industry leading Narrowboat & Widebeam Design & Build Services...

Canal Boat Design
Canal Boat Building