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Project Log:  Sunday, December 4, 2011

With a slow and late start after doing some other things in the shop, my first task was to install the plumbing fittings on the forward water tank, which I'd not had time to do yesterday along with the other tanks, but for the sake of continuity wanted to get out of the way.  In order to install the elbow for the tank fill, I found I had to trim away one of the support cleats for the small hatch in the berth platform above, as the elbow was too tall to thread into place otherwise.


I'd mostly made up my mind to start work on the overhead and some of the trim in the main cabin, beginning with patterning the underside of the sidedecks above the dinette and galley, but I couldn't find the motivation to dive in.  Instead, I decided to install (temporarily) the main heating unit for the main cabin.   Heat from a hydronic heating system can be dispursed in several different ways; in this case, my system specified two so-called fan heaters, which were copper coil-based, finned radiators with a small 12-volt fan behind, which would blow air over the hot water-heated coils and into the living spaces. 

Based on a simple volumetric calculation for this boat, I selected two units based on their appropriate BTU ratings:  one 7000 BTU fan heater for the main cabin and other living spaces, and a second, smaller one (3500 BTU) for the pilothouse.  Because the space was very small, and our heating needs were not complex, I chose fan heaters attached to simple grills for ease of installation, with a single outlet in both main cabin and pilothouse. 


Other choices could have included fan heaters with one or more outlets for ductwork to more widely disperse the heated air, but I saw no need for this sort of installation here.  Additionally, I had plenty of room for the single, directly-mounted fan heater beneath the dinette, which was a generally central location.  I considered an additional outlet forward, but decided against it since the 7000 BTU unit was more than large enough for the entire living space (as I'd calculated), and we didn't want heat directly in the sleeping cabin anyway.  In any event, our heat would mostly be used in summer months and the shoulder seasons, when it might be used to take the chill off rather than provide life-sustaining heat, and there was no need to go overboard on the installation.  I could always add additional fan heaters later if I saw the need.  While there was nothing simple about this overall installation, everything I could do to keep it as simple as possible would be worthwhile.

I chose the large cabinet beneath the center of the dinette for the installation.  This location was ideal because of ease of access for installation and operation of the fan heater and its related hoses, plus it was centrally located and out of the way.  I decided to cut the hole for the heater now since it was a large hole, and I felt it was best to get the cutting out of the way before I began trim and additional varnish work in the main cabin.

The fan heater featured a metal grill attached directly to its front, and installation was a matter of cutting an appropriate-sized hole in the cabinet face and screwing the grill to the cabinet; the coil heater was supported by the grill itself.  I made a cardboard pattern of the grill, then made some cutouts to demark the opening I needed to cut in the cabinet.  To maintain the stability of the pattern, I only cut out triangular wedges at the four corners of the proposed cutout; this made it easy to align the template on the cabinet front and mark the corners, which marks I then connected with a ruler.  I held the grill 2" above the cabin sole substrate to allow for the finished sole and some trim, while keeping the heater as low as possible for best heating, and aligned the opening in the center of the cabinet lengthwise.


After marking the opening and double-checking its position, I cut out the center, inserted the fan heater, then marked the four screw locations.  I drilled and tapped these holes for machine screws, and temporarily installed the heating unit.  Later, I'd build a protective cover inside the cabinet.


When spec'ing the equipment for this install, I'd considered the grillwork, as there were several material choices:  white, black, stainless, and brass.  For a while, I thought I'd go with stainless, but ultimately I chose black for its simplicity and because I thought the stainless might stand more than the black.  I didn't dislike the black, but began to wonder if I should switch to a brass grill.  We'll see.  With the table and other finished items in place, I didn't think the grill would stand out much in this location no matter its color.

Total Time Today:  3 hours

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