How to light a Hampshire Heater (technical)

An dessert spoonful of ash on top of the wick…

….absorbs the meths and keeps the flame in the right place.

It’s taken long enough but finally, I think I’ve cracked the business of lighting my Hampshire Heater.

The company does send out instructions with every new heater but these are fairly basic and I have to admit, I struggled.

So, getting on for half-way through my second winter with the heater, I have this advice:

  1. Rake through the cold remains of last night’s fuel with a long-handled screwdriver to knock the ash into the ash-tray. Remove the ash tray. Save a dessert-spoonful of ash and dispose of the rest. While doing this, have something like a baking tray underneath to catch any stray pieces of fuel or ash.
  2. Before replacing the ash-tray, put a small amount of lumpwood charcoal into the cylinder – no more than 30mm deep. The reason for this is to allow plenty of air to flow up through the fuel – so don’t use the end of a bag of charcoal for this because it will block up the gaps with coal dust. Do this without the ash-tray attached. You do not want unburned fuel to drop into the tray because it will ignite from the hot ash falling on it. This will set off your Carbon Monoxide alarm as the gas escapes through the vent rather than up the chimney. Some small pieces of fuel will drop through into the baking tray. Add them back to the top.
  3. Carefully pour the dessert-spoonful of ash onto the top of the wick.
  4. Equally carefully, pour a capful of methylated spirit onto the ash on the top of the wick. The reason for doing this is because I found that the wick itself does not absorb all the meths and the excess runs down into the tray which can cause a disconcerting blaze – and even blow out the wick. The ash on the top of the wick absorbs all the meths and keeps the flame where it should be. (The manufacturer now recommends barbecue lighting gel instead of meths – it stays put but it smells awful).
  5. Replace the top of the heater. Open the vent and light the top of the wick. Replace the ash-tray.
  6. Do not add more fuel until the heater is well alight. Adjust the vent – a quarter turn is enough to keep it burning.
  7. From this point on, you may continue to add more fuel as you please. However, if you just add a shovelful of charcoal to the top of the cylinder while it’s burning, the hot air rising will blow coal dust all over your cabin. To avoid this, load the refills of charcoal into paper bags and keep a supply of them ready. One bag lasts about 90 minutes.

4 Responses to How to light a Hampshire Heater (technical)

  • Hi Andy and/or John,
    I have recently bought a small boat and contacted HH to enquire about getting a charcoal heater but… when I spoke to the owner of the company he told me that he was no longer in business and was retiring, he had no heater left and wasn’t going to make any more. The company website has now been removed The small boat solid fuel heating market is very limited (like the space I have for a heater!) and I’m not really convinced about the other heaters available. This is a very long shot but if you happen to come across a HH for sale anywhere, please let me know.
    Gary Palmer 01892 547259 (UK)

    • Hi Gary, Sorry to hear that Hampshire Heaters have closed – surely some recently-unemployed metalworker would like to start their own backyard business – the construction in unbelievably simple for anyone with a bit of experience with stainless steel. Did you know about Pansy Stoves – also out of production but you might be able to find one second-hand. Good luck. John

  • Hi John’ do you find the heater warms up the floor or do you get a cold area around your feet? I have a HH but yet to fit it and whilst I would love to put it low down there is very little chance of that in my Rival 32 which has the more usual layout. Hope you are well. Andy

    • Hi Andy, You’re right. You do get cold feet. I haven’t found a solution to this (apart from very thick socks and putting your feet up on the other bunk). I now have a heat-powered stove fan which sits on the top in calm weather and stirs the warm air about a bit. John

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