Houseboat Furnace Heaters - stay warm with good heat in winter?

by Phil
(Dale Hollow Lake, Tn)

Houseboat Heaters and Furnaces on House Boats.

Houseboat Heaters and Furnaces on House Boats.

I'm interested in houseboat furnace heaters, and how to stay warm with good heat during the winter months. On my 1981 Sumerset houseboat we have roof heat and air.


I have been told I could possibly install a furnace just like in your home. This way we could keep the heat on and my water tanks and water heater turned on which would let us go to our boat more during the winter months.

As it stands now, we have to carry water down to the house boat then heat it up.

Looking forward to staying warm, Phil...




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Reply - Answer
Well Phil, welcome to the houseboat forums, and sorry to hear about the cold weather creating havoc with your winter houseboating :(

If I remember correctly, the type of roof air and heat that the Sumerset houseboat has is the popular Coleman style, white roof mounted Air Conditioner with the 1500 watt heating element?

If this is the case, the 1500 watt heating element generates @ 5,000 BTU's of heat energy. This is typically not enough for chilly or cool winter weather, especially considering the amount the volume of air to heat in a houseboat.

You do have a few choices and tips on heating a houseboats interior:

1) I have used built-in propane furnaces and they generate anywhere from 10,000 BTU's and go up to 40,000 BTU units. These units produce large amounts of forced hot air. However, they have to be professionally installed, and have to meet your insurance companies policy requirements for installation and safety.

2) You can used 120v portable, or ceramic, or baseboard type heaters, yet they also produce the same amount of heat as the roof mounted air conditioner / heater units. The drawback is that they draw @ 11-12 amps to generate @ 5,000 BTU of heat energy. You will often require a few of them in a houseboat.

3) If the water temperature in the area where you're in doesn't go below @ 40 deg F, than you may find that a Marine Thermopump reverse air unit on a houseboat can be invaluable. They recirculate water through the system and are more efficient when water temp stays above 40. They do require a little more of an installation, yet they produce @ 18,000 BTU's of heat energy on @ 11-12 amp of AC current. Very energy efficient and good systems.

4) There is also some other types of less popular systems like kerosene heaters, and also some types of diesel heaters. They are not commonly found on houseboats.


I have listed some articles of interest that cover other tips to stay warm and preparing for colder winter climates.

Tips on Houseboat Living in Canada

Winter and Cold Climate Houseboat Living Tips


As you can see there is plenty that can be done to make those colder days enjoyable and comfortable, even when many of your neighbors have gone home. You can now enjoy some real peace and quiet :)


Lastly, hopefully some of our readers will share and post comments about their houseboat heating and furnace heater experiences. Feel free to use the "Click here to post comments." link found near the bottom of this page.


Thanks again for sharing, IAN from all-about-houseboats

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Comments for Houseboat Furnace Heaters - stay warm with good heat in winter?

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Pellet stoves on houseboats?
by: Anonymous

I've got a 52' Skipperliner and want to put a pellet stove on board. Anyone done this, or know about this?

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Hot water heat
by: Anonymous

Living aboard during Michigan winters we mounted a boiler on the aft deck under the winter cover and venter with a pvc stack.

Base board heaters and water pump were permanently mounted. Rubber hoses with quick connect fittings allowed connection to the boiler.

I must admit that at -8 degrees the interior stayed slightly under 70 degrees. Propane tanks and more rubber hoses provided fuel. Worked well for several winters.


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Houseboat Mishaps - unattended heating
by: Gibson 50' Cabin Yacht EXE

From my experience as a 10 year livaboard I saw that most boats that were left unattended with heaters running proved to be a safety hazard to the rest of us who were aboard full time.

By being there we were able to run gensets when there were power outages while other boats left unattended had thru-hull fittings freeze up and blocks cracked - some actually sank from the intake of water.

When it's below zero outside and the bubblers are running and powerlines are falling from ice and wind; being 30 miles away from the boat is not an option. No unattended heating - PLEASE

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Catalytic heaters on houseboats
by: Ray

I lived on a 40' River Queen for over six years year around in Illinois. The first winter was a real record breaker with the highs for two weeks at minus 10. Lows were in the mid 20's.

Prior to the intial launch, I installed two CAT brand Catalytic heaters that ran off of propane. I did insulate the walls and ceiling too. These two heaters kept my boat very comfortable. Only for two days did I have to use an electric space heater to help them out.

I bought four 30# tanks and these would last well over a month. I should add that the range was also propane so cooking was included in this usage. BTW, these heaters are now over 20 years old and still running strong. A good investment.

My present boat, a Tucker, has two reverse cycle heaters and it is well insulated too. I don't know how they are going to work but I really don't care as I will be a snow bird come next fall. I just bought this fine craft and it is still in dry storage until mid March.

I know I will have to use them but feel they should be more than adequate. Just as important as the right heaters
for your boat is having it insulated properly. Just as important as insulating a land house for heating and A/C.

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suburban propane furnace ... awesome for houseboats too
by: rick

After much research I purchased an RV forced hot air 12 volt. 35 k btu furnace. It was a cinch to install. It vented right into the engine room, keeps the propane warm enough for optimal use.

It's thermostatically controlled. It's called a Suburban 35. I didn't need to duct it but you can. It's 3 times cheaper than electric heat here in RI.

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Heating options on houseboats
by: capt Dave

I have lived on houseboats for 10 years in the midwest. I have used and installed diesel heaters, propane, and electric heaters, including the marine thermopump cruise air type. I use a 15 kw electric furnace with ducting, a separate electric service is required to operate a electric heat source of this size.

Of all the types of climate control systems I recommend a heat pump type, with outside unit on sundeck and ducting through out as needed. It is the most economical to operate and maintain.

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install a regular heat pump
by: Anonymous

Our 1989 Summerset is equipped with a household Trane Heat Pump and it is marvelous at keeping the boat warm and toasty in the coldest of conditions, very economically also I might add.

You could very easily and inexpensively install one with the condensing unit outside and the furnace and fan unit below deck in the "basement." That area will give ample space to run flexible ductwork through the boat.

Ours also has one vent in the "basement" and we have never had freezing problems...even down to a record 5-below. A 1.5 ton unit should do the trick.

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