Saturday, November 27, 2010

The 3 stages of boat frost protection

As temperatures plunge, and the kids wait excitedly for the snow to arrive  I start to fret about Herbie and frozen pipes.  Normally in winter when we abandon ship to go home, we frost protect Herbie at Level 1 - turn off the water pump, turn on the water taps to get rid of water pressure in the plumbing, and drain the morco gas water heater.  All in all a 2 minute job.  That's all we ever did until 2 years ago.

Now with the benefit of experience I know that escalating to Level 2 is not all that much bother.  So today with a prolonged sub zero period promised, I made the journey back out to the boat to escalate the protection.  Our moorings at Iver are some way out of town and they do get colder than built up areas nearby.  There was some ice on the canal today.

Level 2 requires me to:

1. Properly drain the plumbing by bleeding off the taps on the floor at the rear of the cabin.  This gets the last couple of litres out of the pipes.

2. Remove the water pump, empty it and store it in a well insulated cupboard.

At one time I would have thought that removing the water pump was too big a job merely for precautionary purposes, but experience shows that it only takes a couple of minutes, and as I learned to my cost last April, a new water pump costs nearly a hundred quid.

"Is there a level 3?"  I hear you ask.  Why certainly there is. When the temperature really drops and you can walk on the canal, more stringent measures are called for. In fact there are two options.

1.  The unpleasant option.

 Drain the calorifier (hot water tank) which sits in the engine bay.  I have never done this as a) it is a lot of water to somehow collect and try not to spill and b) it is quite well lagged and c) I am too lazy to work out which pipes to disconnect to do it.

2.  The rather pleasant option

Move on to the boat for the duration of the big freeze.  Light the fire, run the engine or the Eberspacher to heat up the calorifier, get a good book, put your feet up and enjoy.  Being snug and warm on a boat when there is ice and snow outside is one of the Best Things.  Herbie enjoys it too.


Anonymous said...

I'm hoping that our chosen option - leaving the webasto on timer and heating the boat up for an hour so every day to keep things frost free will also work.

Of course, that means the odd visit to check that it's not drinking too much diesel - at least we're not worried about the batteries with shore power.

How are your solar panels - are they keeping your batteries topped up in the cold weather?

Sue, Indigo Dream

Vallypee said...

The only snag with living on a boat here in the big freeze is that our waters are tidal and trying to mount a very very steep gangplank when it is covered with snow and ice is a bit hair raising. Yur option 3 sounds wonderfully relaxing and tranquil.