Sure, we would all like to think that every day on the water would be an even 75 or 80 degrees with a crystal-clear sky, but we know that the reality is often far different. Learning to live with — and even love — bad weather is part of becoming a boater. That is not to say, however, that you should not try to mitigate the effects of bad weather when you encounter it. Sometimes a heating or cooling source can make all the difference between a good excursion and a bad one, and though it is not a necessary part of a boat, installing a heating or cooling system can make your life aboard a little more comfortable.
Heating Systems on Boats
Before deciding what kind of heating system to buy for your boat, consider when you would be using it. If you are boating during the beginning of the fall months and into the winter, or for the occasional cold summer night, you are probably in the market for a temporary heater.
There are several different types of temporary heaters, which include electric space heaters, kerosene stoves, and charcoal heaters. These types of heaters will take the chill out of the air, but their heat only reaches a radius of a few feet. Therefore these types of heating systems are not suitable for heating large boats or smaller boats for long periods of time. Also, remember that many such heating systems draw in air as part of the combustion process, so you must make sure that the area you are using them in is well-ventilated and that they can draw air from outside the cabin. Failure to do so could result in excess amounts of carbon monoxide in the air, which is something to be avoided at all costs.
If you are planning to be on your boat for extended periods of time during cold weather, or need to heat a boat with multiple cabins, you probably need to search for a more permanent heating system. There are several types of permanent heating systems, with their own unique advantages and drawbacks. You will be choosing between propane and diesel as far as fuel goes. Both are good for efficient heating, but diesel stoves can heat for a longer time with a full tank.
For diesel heating systems, you should consider whether you would prefer a diesel hot air furnace or a diesel drip heater. A drip heater requires more frequent maintenance, but this upkeep is relatively easy to do, in comparison to the intensive work that a diesel furnace requires. A drip heater uses no electricity, while furnaces use enormous amounts of electricity. On the other hand, the furnace can provide instant heat, and is not subject to the problems with chimneys that the drip heaters have. In other words, there are a variety of differences between the two, and you will have to weigh the costs and benefits of each and decide which works best for you.
Cooling Systems on Boats
When the sea breeze is whipping the temperature down to 50 or 60 degrees, it can be hard to imagine why you would ever need an air conditioner on your boat. But eventually you will encounter one of those terrible windless, humid days when you feel like you are sitting on what feels like an enormous mirror. On these days, having an air conditioner aboard can make you a lot more comfortable.
Just as when buying an air conditioner for a room in a house, think about the size of the area that must be cooled. Marine air conditioners will specify the boats they are meant for, and you have to be extremely careful to stay inside the size limits — on boats, electricity management can be very delicate.
In addition, since your boat will be out in the sun all day every day, air conditioners often take a long time to work after they have been turned on. If your cabin is stuffy and humid, turn the AC on and sit on the deck in the shade until the system gets working. Sometime it can take several hours for the cooling system to kick in.
What all of these systems have in common is that they should be sized and installed by a professional. Many aspects of boat maintenance can be done on your own, but with these complex systems you need proper installation to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Once they have been installed, you can kick back and enjoy the marine temperature-controlled life!