Shop front in the summer

Friday, 24 February 2012

Diesel heating

I woke up in the middle of the night sweating... Not because I had dreamt something bad, but because the temperature; over night, was a lot higher than it has been for months. My fire is turned down on it's lowest setting, so I will have to turn a radiator or two off and benefit from "extra warm" hot water!

I never thought that I would say it, but you just can't beat diesel heating.

For those that know me well, will know that I have been involved with canal carrying for a good number of years, and over those years I have transported hundreds of tonnes of coal (and other cargoes) by canal all over the country. I used to love nothing more than settling down for a winter's evening with a roaring coal fire and I even used to have a fire alight during the summer to boil kettles and cook dinner!

Leaving the National Waterways Festival in 2011 with Clover and Fazeley
loaded with 40 tonnes of domestic bagged coal. Captured by Marie Sumpter.

When I was in the process of buying the Ant; some years previously Simon had fitted a Bubble diesel stove along with a back boiler feeding the radiators and heating a calorifier along with a backup heating unit in the form of an Eberspacher, I was seriously considering removing the stove and fitting a conventional multifuel stove. I decided to live with it for a few months. I quickly realised the benefits (no dust, lumping coal around, emptying ashes) and two years on, I love it. They do take a bit of "setting up correctly", but along with a yearly service and "clean" diesel you just can't beat them in my opinion. They must burn with a "blue" flame. A "yellow" flame is a "dirty" flame. This can be caused by a number of factors, mainly due to the fact that the fire isn't getting enough oxygen which is normally caused by the holes in the burner pot getting clogged up. This causes a carbon build up and the fire will just not develop the heat that is required. It's lovely to go out to work and come home some nine hours later and the boat is still lovely and warm and you have plenty of hot water!

I'm not so keen on Eberspacher's (Mikuni's/Webasto's) as a main heating source, but I find my Eberspacher very handy in the summer months to heat the calorifier and during the chiller mornings and evenings during the early spring and late Autumn just to warm the boat through. These heaters were originally designed for use in vehicles and therefore were designed to run on (clean) white diesel. I must say that I haven't had a problem with mine coking up, but I do service it on a regular basis and I also put Exocet fuel additive in my diesel tanks to prevent any contamination.

A lot of people ask me if diesel heating is more expensive than coal. I don't think it is, but it all depends on the system and the heating source. As a general rule of thumb, an Eberspacher/Mikunui/Webasto uses about 1 litre per hour whereas a Bubble stove uses a lot less. I rarely turn mine above number two on the regulator and I use about 20 litres during a period of seven days and that's running all day for seven days a week.

You can't get away from the smell of real coal though. So when I bought the Ant it was a MUST to fit a coal fired range in the back cabin. A roaring fire makes boating delightful in the cooler or damp/wet weather. You can keep a kettle boiling on top of it for endless cups of tea and a casserole or joint of meat in the oven to keep you warm inside too!

One things for sure - I will never get cold on the Ant!

Until tomorrow.


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