Cut a 6" hole in the deck and put a diesel fire right next to your bed... Sounds like a great idea — right?
In reality, it definitely was.
At the time, the Refleks and all the accompanying parts was the most expensive single piece of equipment we had invested in. There was a lot riding on it working as planned and through the past year of using it, we have had to redesign the system a few time. Once we got it right though, the Refleks has made us happy since.
Before going to Hamilton Marine (the only North American supplier) to purchase the whole system, we spent a long while designing the system. Unlike a Webasto or similar unit, the Refleks can't just be hidden inside the engine room or a locker. But why would you want to hide such a beautiful piece of engineering?! There are a lot of factors to consider, mainly the space for its hearth and where the Charlie Noble (chimney) can exit the boat. On most boats, the solution ends up being next to the forward bulkhead. In a center cockpit like ours it was not so simple.
Placing it in the salon would have meant losing the dinette, our second largest hanging locker, or our long berth. Either way, all of these options end up at least a meter forward of the mast. In other words, completely in the way of using our boat whether for a dinghy stored on the foredeck or sails. Had we placed it in the aft end of the salon, it would have conflicted with the cockpit coaming and be too close to cockpit canvas. We were left one choice - the aft cabin.
At this point we had just finished converting the two twins to a queen, which was promptly ripped out again to make room for our heater. Fitting it with all the dimensional requirements was tight (see the photo with the plate and sharpie lines). Between the heat distances, the regulator sticking out the side, along with the hot water pipe paths, we ended up designing the system with less than 3/4" spare on all requirements. In the end, it all fit perfectly; although the exhaust pipe was much closer to the bed than we had thought.
With a well thought plan any install will be easy. LOL
The install had a long path of leaks and fixing them. The solid fuel line did not take too long to figure out, but the hot water circulation was a pain in the a**. We had just brought a metric European made heater, with UK pipe threads, to the US where NPT rules over all other (better) dimensional systems. UGH. finding the proper way to go from UK to US PEX with drain valves was a pita. Here is my biggest complaint about the Refleks. The hole they provide to access the threaded exit is really not much wider than the pipe. So as an American who could only find a 1 inch long adapter to NPT, it left me with nearly no way to fully tighten the threads... aka I was left with a leaky Refleks. It took a long while to finally tighten it because you can not access the thread (its inside the outshell).
This is enough for now... I'll write more about the hot water side of things later in part 2 of our Refleks adventure. Oh but that 6 inch hole we cut into the deck? Well that did not go so well. Our boat when surveyed was supposedly "pretty dry." Water sprayed through the deck as I used the Jigsaw to cut the hole. Obviously the moisture meter was a tad wrong. Whelp add that to the list of future projects to fix....