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Strange heating system??

Hi, I'm new to boats and looking to buy one. I have my eye on one but I can't fathom out how the heating and hot water work. The chap that showed me round it didn't know much ether as he was just a keyholder really. There is no radiator type central heating nor instant hot water gadget next to the sink or shower.
There is a large multi fuel stove centrally located, which has thick copper pipe coming out of the back of it. That pipe disappears through a unit and reappears in the bathroom where it is bent around to form a big "S" shape, making what looks like a good radiator. It then continues towards the back of the boat. I took a couple of pictures, which you can see if you click these links.
Can anyone tell me what this system is? What are the advantages and disadvantages and is it expandable? Thanks you.

Asked by: Carl Young  | 8.15am, Sunday 6 May

WW says:

Andy is right, in that this is a gravity-circulated hot water heating system. The back boiler in the multifuel stove will heat up the water, which, as it expands, will circulate round the system of its own accord. There should be a header tank, somewhere, to allow for expansion and also to top up (it is important that it has antifreeze solution in, to avoid issues with burst pipes, or more expensively, burst back boiler, during winter)
If you wanted a different heating system, you would not be able to just put a diesel or gas boiler into this system, as there would not be enough convector space to allow it to work well; also running two heating systems on one circuit usually invalidates the warranty of the heating boiler and can lead to major problems if not done well.
It is possible that your hot water is via a calorifier, heated by the engine- the engines coolant passes through a coil in the hot water tank, giving you a tank full of hot water in about 30 minutes cruising time (though just running the engine for hot water will take longer and over time, isn't good for the engine)
There may be a coil through the calorifier from the solid fuel stove heating circuit, though most narrowboat sized stoves struggle to heat boat a heating circuit and a hot water tank, though its not impossible.
It might be difficult to expand, but not impossible... however advice might be needed to be sought.
Nice submarine (or possibly ex-railway carraige) sink you have there as well, by the way!

Mark Langley  | 1.23PM, Sunday 6 May

I agree with Mark's comments, the main advantage of a gravity heating circuit is that it distributes some of the heat from the stove around the boat. Otherwise the saloon is toasting hot and the rest of the boat less so.
I would be rather concerned about the parquet wood hearth under the stove, looks nice but not very fire proof when hot ash drops on it. Nice sink.

Rupert Smedley  | 2.21PM, Sunday 6 May

Sorry forgot to say that a gravity or convection heating circuit works without using any electricity, all other central heating systems burn a fuel for heat (gas or diesel) and use electricity to run and distribute the heat.

Rupert Smedley  | 1.19PM, Tuesday 8 May

Readers say:

This sound to me like it is the very basic heating system which will work via the multi fuel stove, in the stove will be a boiler jacket which has water in it and when you light the fire the water will start to get hot to your kitchen and bathroom taps, you can upgrade this by getting a diesel boiler etc depends on what your thinking of doing i mean if its only for the odd holiday break or weekend then i would say it will be fine

andy wakler  | 11.06AM, Sunday 6 May

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