Narrowboat Heating Systems
Keeping your boat warm in winter can be a challenge, but with the right decisions made at this stage, it shouldn’t become a drama. There are 2 options here, which can be used separately or together. The Solid fuel stove, and Central Heating systems such as those found at home
The Solid Fuel Stove is the traditional option, and is still the most commonly found heating system on board most narrow boats. They run on coal, or wood if there is a shortage of supply, and have been in use since the working boat days, so they must be doing something right! Easy to install and to operate, and never having the trouble of break downs, it is easy to see why they’re popular. There are disadvantages however – they take time to light, and the heat level is difficult to control. The stove and its fuel will also take up a great deal of space – 2 feet for the stove alone – and you can’t put anything near it for fear of overheating or burning. Then there’s the smell – fine for a short while but may begin to offend either you or your neighbors after a while!
Central Heating is the major alternative to the solid fuel stove – although many people choose to use both – one for effect and the other for day to day use. But central heating come with its own set of problems, and can be very expensive to fit.
The simplest system makes use of the cooling water circuit from the diesel engine. The water is circulated through radiators to heat the cabins and through a calorifier (see “water” Section) to provide hot water to the taps, before returning to the engine again. This really is only suitable for small cruisers or barges, as there supply is minimal. Also long circuits through radiators may lead to problems with over cooling the engine.
Next up is using a separate boiler to heat the water for your heating circuit. Systems are available that fit neatly in cupboards or corners and take up the minimum of room, running off Diesel or Gas. The advantages and disadvantages of these two types of fuel are outlined in detail elsewhere on this site, and the use of each should be decided in conjunction with the decision as to what you intend to use for the other applications on your boat.