On: Heating a Boat in Winter (the Devil’s in the Diesel)

The Owl will have to fill you in on the saga of Bunny (the boiler) another time, but suffice it to say: don’t get water in your diesel. Especially not when it’s about to turn Baltic. We have learned this the hard way – also how little insulation we apparently have (especially draughty around the portholes, main hatch and single glazed skylights), which means that on a cold day when we’re at home we are currently burning through between 5-10litres of diesel to stay warm.

We (by which I mean the Owl) have learned lots about filters and dieselbugs (which we don’t think we have), and had some mighty icy cold nights when the burner wouldn’t fire up in the process and our breath turned to icicles at the ends of our noses, but I think we have really grown and developed as people. I also bought a woolly hat. It’s red and has a fleecy lining and a pompom on top. It makes me happy.

Now our suspicions about the size of the big burner in the corner become realised.


I wish it had windows. Seems it’s just as well we didn’t progress our initial summertime aspirations for a cute french enamel poele a boîte – almost all the ones we spent hours deliberating over would be too small to make the tiniest dent in the dense cold fug that invades us each afternoon as the sun goes down and gets progressively colder until it grudgingly comes up again.


What we need then, is to get serious. After a quick calculation on the incomparable StovesOnline website (my new favourite site. I have been borderline stalking them for weeks) I concluded that we need a stove with an output of between 8-9kW. That’s a big stove.

The nice lady at StovesOnline sent me a quote for the Charnwood Country 8 which comes in at about £800 net (we’re hoping keenly that we can exercise our special boat VAT exemption muscle for the first time but tbc).



There are others, but I like this one because it has angled windows. In the words of the StovesOnline website:
“The Charnwood Country 8 is big brother to the Country 6. The Country 8 has a heat output of 8kW and comes as a flat top as standard but an optional canopy is available. The two doors each have a window with a curve to the outside top corners of the window. As you can see the front of the stove is slightly pointed with the doors angling back to the sides. This means that you can see more of the flames when looking at the Country 8 stove side on. The windows are kept clean by an airwash system. The Country 8 is a cleanburning wood burner making it efficient at wood burning. A multi fuel version is available as well as a 2.9kW backboiler.”

We would not get the canopy. We would get the multifuel version. We would not get the backboiler. We would use their nice chimney advice form to make sure we install the right chimney at sufficient distance from the wall so as not to release toxic nonsense from the paint and nearly burn the boat down (as the toxic yellow burn marks on the wall behind the existing boiler suggest has happened in the past).

However: there is a second possible option: biomass stoves.

RHI Payment Increase and Grant
The government have announced a doubling of the Renewable Heat Incentive to £2,000 plus a grant from next May of 12.2 pence for every kW used for seven years if you fit an MCS accredited wood or wood pellet stove. For further details see the Klover Pellet Stoves and the Broseley Evolution 26. Plus the stove, flue and installation will be at just 5% vat and you’ll be using a fuel that is over 30% cheaper than oil or electricity…”

VEEERY INTERESTING. The only issues here are:

1) they are fuuuugly. Here is the Klover:


As you may be able to tell, they are Italian. ( this is not an issue, incidentally – I’m just saying). Here is the Broseley Evolution:


Still not great.

2) they are expensive. Like, starting from £3,500 minimum. Even with the grant, that’s a lot of wonga – and apparently you don’t get the grant until after it’s installed so you have to cover all the up-fronts.

3) we may not even qualify for said grant. Apparently mobile homes are excluded, and the lady at StovesOnline seemed to think that this rule would therefore apply to us, although I think it depends on how you define “mobile home”. This we ain’t:


(in fact I would argue we’re a lot more mobile than that although let’s face it ,this argument is unlikely to help in this particular case when they seem to want us to stay put).

Anyway, she put me onto the Energy Saving Trust who I’m now impatiently waiting to come back to me to tell me if we qualify for this or indeed any aspect of the Green Deal which gives you government loans to invest in sustainable measures for your home. The chap I spoke to on Monday had never been asked the barge question before, which I can’t decide is encouraging or not…

But there’s everything to play for. If we qualify and we buy one of the horrid-looking but amazingly efficient stove boilers between now and next spring, we get an immediate payment of £2,000. With the new RHI grant, we’d then receive 12.2 pence per kW for seven years (less the initial £2,000). “On a rough calculation the Broseley eVolution 26 boiler stove could earn around £24,282 over the next seven years if it is the sole source of heat in the house… If there is another heat source then the output will be metered and the amount could be up to £17,956.”

I am also unclear if we’d need to link it to the central heating water system to qualify, which could be problematic as all the pipes are currently down the starboard side, so we’d somehow have to run extensions either under the ceiling boards or right up the port side to where the stove will sit.

So that’s where we are. We’re currently running on the old diesel we inherited in our old fuel tanks which the Owl is diligently filtering clean every day or two and seems to be working fine (except when the little can runs out and the boiler spits the dummy and refuses to light). We need to proceed with a solution ASAP, ideally before we have to start stopping off at Texaco with an empty jerry can on our way home.

In case you’re suddenly as interested in fuel and general heating arrangements as we are, I thought I’d leave you with this genius spreadsheet some very clever, interesting people at Biomass Energy Centre worked out on comparative fuel values:


Clearly wood pellets are the way forward if you can possibly manage it.

Pretty, non?

(Wonder what happens if you try to burn them in a multifuel stove like the Charnwood Country 8…)



4 thoughts on “On: Heating a Boat in Winter (the Devil’s in the Diesel)

  1. Sophie Wood says:

    Decisions, decisions! Personally I like the Klover, believe it or not! Stylish little number. Colour ways? You two have been working so hard on your lovely home. Dying to see the results.
    Sorry to hear you are freezing. Worried about you! If you need to cosy weekend, always welcome to come stay.

    Soph and Charlie xxx

    • Aw thank you! We must find a weekend. How is Jan looking? Incidentally, we’re actually toasty and warm (mostly!) just worried about the fuel bills when we run out of the free stuff… Although think we can use red diesel which will help… X

  2. Judy Havrlik says:

    Dear Aunty Minky,

    Sounds to me you should get some mink lined knickers and a cashmere bra or two. Add an electric blanket and a hottle wottle bottle and you’ll be all set for the arctic conditions thrown at Barking this winter.

    It sounds like a most interesting learning curve. I was planning on coming to see you end Jan when we get back from our trip but I will need full assurance that the heating is up and running. Maybe wait for the spring spring spring. We’ll be fresh back from sunny climes and am not sure we’ll be ready for life on the riverbank.

    Are you being the perfect aunt? I plan on going over to inspect my godson’s heir next Sunday if only briefly as we shall be on our way out to lunch in Ashtead.

    Love to the master heating engineer and your sweet self, XX Joods

    • Hello! I have mink-lined knickers. they are not as comfortable as one might think. Electric blanket is in the post and I’m employing a double bottle strategy on the hotties so I’m roastin’toastin’! The antipodean shuns such northern contraptions, but more fool him. We would love to see you in Jan and promise not to lure you under false pretences if the heating’s down again.

      The Bun is a dream and I’ve not seen enough of him, but hoping to rectify that in the coming weeks. Much love to you both xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s