Maintenance Q&A with Warren

Published in the July 2019 Issue July 2019 Multimedia Warren Childers, Sunstar Yacht Sales & Brokerage

Question: I recently had a survey completed on my houseboat and the surveyor listed, “Fixed Fire Suppression System” as a requirement. Looking around, I see a lot that say automatic at 175 degrees Fahrenheit. What is your opinion on what options to go with? As usual there are cheap options and there are expensive ones. I want it done correctly, but without going crazy. Submitted by Andrea Loman, Austin, Texas

Warren: You should use a marine fire suppression system. Fireboy seems to be the most common system in the houseboat industry. You need to figure up how many cubic feet you have in your engine compartment and buy a system that is appropriately sized. Most are mounted in the center of the engine compartment near the generator and between the fuel tanks. All of the marine systems I am aware of automatically discharge at 175 degrees. I completely understand not wanting to go crazy on the price, but you and your family’s life may depend on the system. Choose something that is quality.


Question: We’ve owned our houseboat for 25 years and now the transom is rotting out. It’s a 1971 35-foot SilverQueen with the Chrysler 318 and Dana outdrive that would cost more than it’s worth to fix. It sits in the water year-round. It doesn’t leak, but water gets in over the winter. I think the hatch drains freeze and the water spills into the bilge, hence the rotten transom. My question is how do you dispose of a 35-foot fiberglass houseboat when it reaches the “end of life”? Submitted by Mark Sanders, Salem, Mo.

Warren: It’s sad to see a boat reach the end of its life but all things come to an end. Fiberglass boats are generally stripped of all machinery, appliances, wiring and plumbing. When everything is stripped out, the cabin and hull are cut into pieces and disposed of. With aluminum hulls and steel hulls, the hull is generally cut up and recycled. Depending where the boat is, there are marine salvage yards that will take old boats to salvage for parts. 


Question: We are considering installing a solar panel system on our 16- by 80-foot Summerset houseboat so that we can keep our inverter batteries topped off and run some of the 12-volt pumps and so forth. What is your experience with installing a solar panel system on a houseboat? Do you have any recommendations for companies who design or install solar panels? Submitted by Todd and Dianne Gagon, Calistoga, Calif.

Warren: This is a great question. Solar systems are becoming more popular in our industry as the technology advances. I get a mixed review talking with people with solar charging systems on their boat. While people in places like Lake Powell love solar charging systems due to all the sunshine they get there, folks here in Kentucky do not seem as excited due to cloudy days and shady coves. With the technology advancing at a rapid pace with more efficient panels and lithium ion battery technology, I believe solar charging systems will become far more common in the houseboat industry.

Currently, we generally only pre-wire for solar systems on new builds. We recommend our customers contact a company who designs solar systems for residential use in their local area. A local company will know the local conditions and requirements needed to design a system to work for the customer’s needs. Most of these companies even offer DIY options as well. I would be interested to hear your feedback if you choose to install a solar charging system.


If you have a question about houseboating, shoot Warren an email at

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