Phil Sampson takes a look at 7 of the best boat heaters to protect your yacht’s interior from the worst of the winter weather

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As a general rule of thumb, man-made things don’t like being left out in the cold. Take roads, for example; exposed to the elements day-in, day-out, they end up full of potholes.

Similarly, boats suffer too, and while a cut and polish is all that’s needed to protect the hull and topsides, the interior of your pride and joy will also need some TLC if the ravages of winter – which typically manifest themselves in the form of damp, mould and mildew – are to be avoided.

While boat dehumidifiers go a long way to keeping matters in check, drying the air is only part of the solution and even the most efficient dehumidifier is likely to struggle to do the entire job of protecting a boat on its own.

The other part of the equation, which boat owners ignore at their peril, is maintaining the onboard temperature at a level sufficient to protect against the chill of the long, dark winter months ahead.

The best boat heaters come in a number of forms and types, and while permanently-installed, diesel-fuelled products such as those made by Webasto and Eberspächer do a brilliant job, it is simply not practicable to leave them running continuously throughout the winter.

Better then to install a temporary plug-in boat heater which can run off of shore power and be set to a low level to provide frost protection, similar to the overnight or ‘away from home’ setting of a domestic central heating system.

This approach effectively narrows the winter heater options for boat owners to two categories; thermostatically-controlled heaters or fixed, low power output heaters.

One final point to bear in mind is that while a single boat heater may be sufficient to warm the air in the cabins and saloon, a second boat heater strategically placed in the engine room can work wonders in terms of keeping the cold and condensation down there at bay.

7 of the best boat heaters available right now

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Dimplex Electric Cold Watcher 500

One of the most respected names in the heating world, Dimplex’s heavy duty Cold Watcher 500 boat heater is compact and robust and can be depended upon to provide protection against the cold and frost.

The unit’s powerful 500 Watts element is controlled by a rotary switch enabling the output to be maintained at a constant, steady level.

This is a freestanding boat heater which measures just 25.5 x 33 x 15 cm. For added protection, the unit has a water resistance rating of IPX4 and has been tested against the British Standard for frost protection.

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Stor-Dry Air Heater and Circulator

The Canadians know a thing or two about the cold, so the Stor-Dry air boat heater and circulator from Ontario-based heater and fan specialist Caframo should be more than up to the job of keeping your boat protected over the winter.

Available from Force 4 Chandlery, the Stor-Dry is a low wattage warm air circulator designed to combat mould, mildew and musty odours.

The unit draws less than 75 Watts and is rust and corrosion proof. As a dual action air dryer, the Stor-Dry features both a heating element and a fan in a single unit. With no reservoir to empty, the unit can be left running continuously.

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PureMate Digital Convection Radiator

As a 2,000 Watt convector radiator, the PureMate portable electric boat heater provides a high output should it be needed. For those needing less power the unit has four settings, the lowest of which reduces the output to 667 Watts.

There’s also a 24-hour timer, an adjustable thermostat dial, temperature control and an ECO mode for added control. Supplied with a remote controller and featuring a thermal safety cut-out, the PureMate is an oil-free radiator.

Designed to look good as well as being versatile, the unit features a sleek design and measures 55.3 x 25.5 x 64.5 cm.

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Dimplex OFRB7N Eco Chico oil free radiator

Neatly packaged in a compact, if somewhat bulbous design, measuring just 44.6 x 29.6 x 19.4 cm, the Dimplex OFRB7N is a high performance, free-standing, mini radiator delivering 700 Watts of heating power.

Weighing in at just 5.4 kg, the unit can be easily moved around if required. As a state-of-the-art product, the Eco Chico uses Dimplex’s patented oil-free technology, which in addition to giving what Dimplex describes as an ultra-rapid heat-up time, is eco-friendly compared to its oil-filled counterparts.

This attractive little radiator is also BEAB (British Electrotechnical Approvals Board) approved and comes complete with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.

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VonHaus Mini Oil Filled Radiator

As a budget priced electric radiator, the 800 Watt VonHaus Mini offers good power and excellent value for money. While this radiator is oil-filled, the unit does incorporate an automatic tip-over switch – which is obviously a key point to note for any product being used in a marine environment.

There’s also a thermal safety cut-out to protect against overheating and an integrated rotary thermostat which is fully adjustable. The lightweight 3 kg design measures just 38 x 28 x 14 cm, making the product convenient to use and easily transportable. Rounding off the spec, the VonHaus Mini is supplied with a full two-year warranty.

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Dimplex ECOT2FT Tubular boat heater

Designed to be left running continuously, the Dimplex ECOT2FT is a compact tubular boat heater measuring just 71.3 x 8.1 cm. The unit’s low power 80 Watts rating means that it perhaps best described as a trickle heater; it won’t keep your boat warm but it will provide sufficient output to ward off the chill.

Popular amongst the owners of smaller vessels, boat heaters such as the Dimplex ECO2FT are noted for their durability, dependability and economy.

Their reliability is doubtlessly enhanced by the fact that there is very little to go wrong – for inside the tubular metal casing there is just the heating element, a thermostatic control and precious little else.

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Dimplex ECOT1FT tubular boat heater

The smallest of the boat heaters covered here is also unsurprisingly the least powerful, for the Dimplex ECOT1FT tube heater delivers just 40 Watts of warmth. It’s also an unashamedly basic product with no programmable features or timer functions.

But what this little boat heater is good at is delivering a low amount of heat continuously. All of these attributes, or lack of them, is what make this 40.8 x 8.1 cm product ideally suited to being situated in an engine room over the winter months.

Essentially, it’s a fit and forget product that will take the edge off the chill and help protect your engines against the cold all winter long.

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Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.