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Underfloor Heating and Galley Appliances

I'm intending to order a new narrowboat with the intention of doing some of the fitting out myself. Leaving aside the method of heating the water, is there any reason why it would not be possible to install underfloor central heating in a narrowboat? Also, when installing electrical appliances in the galley, is there any reason why one could not install normal electric domestic appliances, e.g. by Bosch or Miele (I'm thinking dishwasher, oven, hob, possibly washing machine) if one had a reasonable generator installed?

Asked by: John Blanning  | 11.32pm, Tuesday 10 August


WW says:

I have reviewed two boats that used underfloor heating - one with conventional water pipes and the other with closely spaced wires laid under the floor finish on a well insulated base.
In the first case, underfloor heating was chosen because the boat had a central corridor which left no wall space for radiators or Finrads. Eight 22mm copper pipes run the length of the boat with 50mm foil faced expanded polystyrene underneath to make sure that the heat is not wasted warming up the cut. Hot water from the engine or from an Eberspacher D4W Hydronic is directed by motorised valves into the heating pipes - and into the hot water system - simply by adjusting the thermostats. When no heat is required in the summer, the valves direct the engine cooling water into a keel cooling tank. The owner reckoned that the system was very successful.
In the other boat, the underfloor heating was used for background warmth and to avoid cold feet. The system - known as Warmup undertile loose wire heating - is powered by 230-volt electricity so it is mainly used while the engine is running but it can run for limited periods through the inverter. The whole area draws about 1kW when running.
With either system, you need to choose a floor finish that will not act as an insulator and stop the heat rising.
While acknowledging that these systems seemed to work - and at risk of sounding like a stick in the mud - it is worth asking yourself why 99.99% of narrowboats get along quite happily with conventional radiators or finrads which are for more accessible if things go wrong.
I have also reviewed many boats with the type of domestic appliances that you describe. You should be able to run a washing machine or dishwasher from a 230-volt alternator or a large inverter but you would need to run the engine for a considerable time - and in the case of the inverter solution, while you are using the appliance - to recharge the batteries.
A generator is a better solution and would enable you to have an electric hob and oven. To give you full freedom the use any combination of oven setting and number of rings, a 10 or 11 kW generator would be needed.
Airing my Luddite tendencies once again, you have to ask yourself how much you really want your peace - and that of others - disturbed by considerable engine or generator running while you are trying to enjoy the tranquility of the waterways. Gas is a lot quieter.

Graham Booth  | 10.36AM, Wednesday 11 August


Readers say:

Graham, thank you for supplying a comprehensive answer so quickly. I note your comment re gas and that may be the option that I chose, particularly if I decide to run the central heating from a boiler. My main reason for considering underfloor heating (and I would choose the piped system) is to get rid of the radiators and to have that nice warm feel under feet.

John Blanning  | 10.45AM, Wednesday 11 August

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