Q&A: Which Heater Is More Efficient?

Question: Could you please address the fuel consumption of forced-air bus heaters vs. the Refleks?

Answer: An accurate comparison of fuel consumption and relative efficiency between the two technologies would require equipment and time we don’t really have at our disposal. However, since both systems burn with an essentially clear exhaust, indicating good efficiency, and diesel fuel has a fixed amount of available heat per unit of volume, I think we can assume that their base efficiency is very close to identical. But the air bus heaters lose a lot of heat through their ducting, as much as 20% in a cold bilge, I’m told, and in addition, more fuel must be burnt—unless the boat is fitted with a wind generator and the breeze is very steady—to replace the electricity used by the bus heaters. Bottom line, I would expect the Refleks to be a clear winner in overall efficiency.

See this post for a general comparison of the Refleks and Eberspacher heaters.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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