Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Living Aboard Part 6: Home Comforts

Living aboard a narrowboat

I am sometimes asked, have you got a TV, shower or toilet on a live-aboard narrowboat? Most boats for sale have all of the above and depending on your budget you can have all mod-cons including a bath, microwave, dishwasher and washing machine! The complicated part is do you have a big enough water tank and an electric system that can cope with the demands of modern life? Running these modern luxuries is easier if you are on a mooring with 240 volt electric supply and your own water tap. If you are continuously cruising you will need to find out about generators and invertors and make sure that you have a good sized water tank. Chemical toilets can either be the pump-out type, which is emptied at a pump out point (pumped out by a machine), or an Elsan (sometimes called a ‘porta potty’) which can be emptied by hand into a sewage disposal point. An Elsan toilet will need emptying more often than a pump out, but may be supplied with a spare cassette (sewage container).

The cooking will be done on gas, and may be a mini hob and oven in a smaller boat, but will often be a full size cooker. It will sometimes run off butane, but more commonly the gas bottles installed on the boat will be propane. Fridges can be 12 volt electric or alternatively they might run off gas. 12 volt fridges may drain your power if your battery bank is inadequate, so you could add a large solar panel on the roof. A gas fridge has a pilot light which will go out when the gas runs out and will then require re-lighting. Most fridges will have a small freezer compartment but a full size freezer is uncommon on a boat because of the 240 volt power that it requires. If you are on a mooring with a permanent 240 volt supply this may not be a problem for you.

Domestic hot water may be heated by a number of means. A common solution is a tankless gas water heater such as a Paloma or a Morco which supply instant hot water. This requires a gas flu to be fitted above it, through the roof of the boat. Alternatively you may have a hot water tank, heated by a gas boiler and this could also heat a radiator system.

A calorifier is a hot water tank containing one or more coils of copper pipe, which heat the water. The heat in the coils may come from the engine cooling system, a solid fuel back boiler or both.

Water tap to fill the water tank
If you don't have a big enough water tank and an electric system that can cope with the demands of modern life this can be more easily rectified than major alterations in a house. If you see a boat for sale that you like, remember that electric systems can be improved, domestic boat batteries can be added, a generator can be bought and water tanks can be expanded. There are live-aboard boats to suit all budgets for sale at http://grandunion.boatshed.com  Boatshed Grand Union has second hand narrowboats, wide-beams and barges for sale on the Southern Grand Union Canal and London inland waterways.

Wind generator on a narrowboat roof


Disclosure: I was commissioned to write this post for the Boatshed Grand Union website. It was my choice to re-publish it here where I hope it is of interest to some of my readers.

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