Question: Is it common to get an alarm system for a houseboat, particularly during the winter? If so, what factors would you consider to make sure it's a good one?
Submitted by Simon and Lacy Iverson, Russell Springs, Ky.
Warren: Alarm systems are more common than you think on houseboats. You can use normal house alarms on your houseboat. If you have WIFI at your marina you can even connect with alarms and cameras via mobile devices. One thing to be mindful of is the placement of motion sensors. Boats will move around enough to trip these sometimes. Some of the new wireless systems are very easy to install and work very well. I have even seen cameras added in the engine compartment and bilge. These can also be streamed to your computer or mobile device, giving you a little peace of mind while you are away from your boat.
Question: What is the most common maintenance issue during the colder months in your experience, and how could it be avoided?
Submitted by Don McCormick, Shasta Lake, Calif.
Warren: Probably the most common issues we see are battery and fuel issues. Batteries tend to go bad over the winter. They don’t hold up as well in the cold weather. Ethanol-enriched fuel can also be a major issue when stored over the winter. When left to sit in the tanks for months, the ethanol can drop out of suspension in the fuel, where it settles to the bottom of the tank. This has to be pumped off if this happens to you. If you store your tanks full during the winter, get non-ethanol fuel if possible. If you have to use ethanol-enriched fuel be sure to use a stabilizer that is for ethanol-enriched fuel.
Question: What options does a houseboater have for upgrading his power? Is it relatively simple to just upgrade the engines?
Submitted by Haley Larson, Lancaster, Tenn.
Warren: I wouldn’t say it is easy to upgrade to larger engines, as in most cases it will mean making modifications to the engine beds and transom if you’re changing outdrives. However, in most aluminum hull houseboats, there is plenty of room to add larger engines. I would recommend leaving this to a professional mechanic.
If you have a question about houseboating, shoot Warren an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.