Are you keeping warm?

This is probably the question that I have been asked the most, since moving onto the boat. And it is not a stupid question. I have just been puzzled by it being the top first-and-most-frequently-asked question. So here are the answers to that and a few heat-related questions that I thought you might also be interested in.

Isn’t it cold to live on a boat

It is not cold to live on a boat. Most of the time, that is. Because unlike in a house, the heat is not turned up all the time. We mostly turn off the heat, when leaving the home – just like most people turn off the lights, when leaving the house. So when we come home from work or play, it will be cold for a little while, until the boat is warmed up. This is however mostly an issue in the coldest months  (We live in Denmark so….), because just as the cold weather means cold boat, warmer weather means warmer boat. Some boat owners isolate their boat with materials such as Armaflex to keep this balance more even – not so cold and not so warm – but so far we haven’t found this necessary. Considering it, though. Always considering 😉 

Where does the heat come from?

Our primary source of heat is our diesel heater from Webasto (model is Air Top 55). It is placed in a cockpit locker, has an intake from our diesel tank, fresh air intake at the stern and has an easy control panel inside the salon. We can set the temperature as a thermostat, and it pumps warm air into the saloon and all cabins. It also has a timer, so that we can turn it off at night or when going out, but have it automatically start at a certain time. Our secondary source of heat is two electric heaters that we mainly use for extra heating in the forward cabin, where the warm air from the diesel heater has most trouble getting to. 

Is it as hassle-free as in a house on land?

No. Nothing on a boat is.

We had our diesel heater replaced last year, and it works like a charm. Most of the time, that is. We had it fixed a couple of times, when it suddenly stopped working.
First time, we replaced the old heater that came with our boat, it was done… out… dead… 
Second time, the temperature gauge was placed too close to a warm power strip, making the heater stop because it thought that the boat was already heated. (Not my fault!)
Third time was our fault entirely. We had the burner run dry of diesel during the night. A default emergency stop set in, preventing the burner from being destroyed. However, to start it again, an official Webasto dealer needs to reload a programme; we can’t do that ourselves. Which of course is annoying and costs money. So we will have to set a notification to ourselves to check the diesel level every week when we are not sailing and using the engine – where we check it all the time… 

How is that sustainable?

The use of diesel you mean? Well, compared to warming up a house of say 130 sqm and keeping it warm 24/7, a boat is probably like 15 sqm of living space, which makes the comparison a bit off. The heater uses between 0.18 – 0.61 liters of diesel per hour – give or take – and we turn it off most of the night, using the timer to make sure that the boat is heated again when we get up.

Most of the summer season, we won’t use the heater at all. As for the electric heaters, they run on our land power, which to my knowledge at this point is not from sustainable energy sources. Unfortunately, unlike in a household where you choose your energy supplier and can actively choose power from renewable sources, this is not up to us. We can only put pressure on. In the meantime, we have just installed 1000 watts of solar panels on the boat, so that we mainly can use our own, sustainable power – depending on the seasons – and use the shore power primarily for backup when the sun is not out (we do still live in Denmark!).

All in all, part of the joy of having a sailboat is that it can use wind to move and sun to run. So this is an important question to me. But the amount of diesel and power from non-renewable sources used on our boat is so small that I can decisively say: it is comparably definitely sustainable.


  • Erling Poulsen
    Posted at 15:30h, 04 December Reply

    Can’t you write it in Danish too

    • admin
      Posted at 10:23h, 05 December Reply

      (answer in Danish).
      Hej Erling,

      Tak for din besked. Det vil lige overveje og snakke om. Det tager en del tid at lave indlæggene og vi skriver dem på engelsk, for at så mange som muligt kan læse med. Men hvis vi kan lave en smart løsning til oversættelserne, så vil vi prøve at gøre det.
      Kan se du har skrevet dig op til nyhedsbrevet, tak for det. Det er noget nyt vi vil prøve af den kommede tid.

      God dag fra Sydspanien.
      Rasmus & Anne

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