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Old 03-09-2009, 12:39   #1
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Boat Rewiring Experiences

I'm doing some forward planning on a major DC electrical rework of my sailboat which is 52" LOA and a lot of sub systems.
FWD & Aft
I plan to run all my DC wire runs Fwd and aft and incorporate several extra pairs. It seems to make sense to to pre cut the longest runs wire so I deal with bundles. I will be replacing my DC panels as well so everything will be new no a retrofit.
Questions:
1) Single wires vs paired duplex
2) Flat Duplex DC Marine Grade Tinned Wire Boat Cable Tinned vs commercial
3) Over-sized all wire by one or two sizes
4) Utilize the same size regardless of voltage requirement (bulk buying cost saving)
5) Wire run protection schemes or suggestions

Any observations, suggestions and sharing of your experiences would be greatly appreciated. Jeff
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Old 03-09-2009, 12:49   #2
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For your use, you may save some money in your runs by using multi plex wiring with a common ground where applicable. Less wire means less cost and less to keep track of.

Some things that helped me when I rewired:

Label every wire coming into the circuit board.

Allow enough extra wire that you can easily open the circuit board or other component to see what's going on and work on it. (Be able to pull it out and set it down or use a hinged system)

Do the best you can to have everything accessible to test and trouble shoot.

Have an extra couple circuits available for upgrades.
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Old 03-09-2009, 13:18   #3
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As far as labeling goes, I create a "flag" with white electrical tape and mark it with an ultra fine point Sharpee. Get in the habit of labeling every single wire, at both ends...our memories fade fast, at least mine does.

With the kinds of runs you will have on a 50 foot boat, multiconductor cable (greater than two strands) may not have the wire gauge necessary to support the loads. Additionally, not all your loads are going to be in the same place, after you strip back the armor of a multiconductor cable to branch out the wires, you are left with armorless wire where you had to strip it back. Additional, your ground will need to be as large as sum of the largest the loads on that circuit. I would tend to stick with two strand tinned wire. This would make replacing an individual circuits wire much easier if it ever came to that. That's a lot better than having to splice in a butt connector to reach the termination.

Mount all your equipment first, then run the wires. Not the other way around. Leave a little extra slack in the wire in case you make a mistake making a termination and have to cut off your mistake or have to cut out a bad terminal connector in the future.

Oversizing a wire, if you are gauging for a 3 percent drop might be okay. Oversizing for two gauges is a huge waste of money. In other words, don't put in 10 gauge wire where 14 gauge would be to specification. 12 gauge wire might be okay (cost wise) for the same application. Although some manufacturers do, I would not gauge anything for a 10% drop except for perhaps very large primary wires...even then, try to avoid that.

Wire for commercial Subchapter-L boats is armored cable. That would be a total overkill for a yacht.
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Old 03-09-2009, 13:20   #4
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For home runs, I'd suggest putting the bundle in plastic conduit (ENT- Electrical Nonmetallic Tubing) and have splice boxes for the tails.
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Old 03-09-2009, 13:28   #5
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For a total rewire, have you considered a distributed power system such as the Capi2 system installed on Nigel Calder's new boat, s/y Malo?
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Old 03-09-2009, 15:33   #6
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1) Going a little oversized isnt bad, but I wouldnt overdo it. If you go with the 3% voltage drop recommendation it should be plenty good really. Most appliances are over-rated. I dont know how many times I've run #12 wire where #14 would have been fine and found out that the #12 terminal fitting didnt fit the buss bar, breaker etc properly... too big! 2) Duplex wire looks great but is hard to work with, you dont need a ground with every wire you run, expensive, and getting into it except at the ends is very difficult. 3) Not sure how many times I have put wire bundles inside spiral wrap, split shield etc just because I'm anal and really wished I hadn't. It makes putting that one new wire you add later a full day job to dis-assemble the conduit etc instead of a one hour job to run an additional wire. Also you cant see what's in there. 4) Same size wiring is economical, but dont overdo it. If your bilge pump requires 10 gage and everything else 14 gage, dont go all 10 gage! Going with a minimum size for a large bundle is fine... say all 14 gage minimum, but if you go all 10 gage minimum, it will cost you more, take a lot of room and end up with end terminal issues. (how do you crimp that 10 gage wire to the 20 gage pigtail the VHF radio came with!) It may be worth buying differnt sizes and colors as needed for a little extra money to help identify wires.
5) keep wire runs out of the bilge. That's my 2 cents worth.
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Old 03-09-2009, 15:46   #7
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Oversized never hurts, and adds minimal weight and some cost.

Duplex etc. makes sense for runs where the extra protection might make sense as through cockpit or anchor lockers.

Labeling is an excellent idea and you can use printed labels made on plain paper and sealed with clear heat shrink at the end or even mid run as well. Label both ends when you can.

Fuse wires appropriately

Dip the wire in vasoline before you crimp it, Use heat shrink over the connector.

Prepare a wiring diagram which includes:
gauge of wire
color of wire
pos, neg or ground

use a sensible color system

The diagrams can be done per system, as the overall diagram can get very large and complex
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Old 03-09-2009, 15:51   #8
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vaseline isnt a conductor is it? Yea the Duplex is nice for bilge pumps etc...
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Old 03-09-2009, 16:25   #9
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1) Single wires vs paired duplex

Both OK as long as paired are color coded. Not practical if common gnd used.

3) Over-sized all wire by one or two sizes

Why? The sizes are already 'oversized' in the charts - just stick to the charts and the loads and you will be fine (and richer;-).

4) Utilize the same size regardless of voltage requirement (bulk buying cost saving)

Meaning the BIGGER size? You can, but then you gain nothing even if you bulk buy the wire - because you will have to buy the highest required size!

5) Wire run protection schemes or suggestions

Avoid cable runs via the bilge or any spot that remains wet. If rewiring the mast too then think ahead and make sure the cables stay put (I hated mine banging around at anchor). Mark everything, both ends. Simplify things. Keep systems separate. Go for LED lights - then you WILL save on much lighter cables they require (they draw like 1/5 of the incandescent, I believe).

I do not think it advise but have a look at the microswitches technology - can you make use of it on your boat?

b.
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Old 03-09-2009, 16:51   #10
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PS

I LOVE Cheechako's joke on vaseline !!!

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Old 03-09-2009, 17:02   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
vaseline isnt a conductor is it? Yea the Duplex is nice for bilge pumps etc...
I always use ky jelly, does not help the connection but I always have a half used tube on the boat
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Old 03-09-2009, 17:03   #12
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I just finished wiring a 47' sailboat in six weeks in accordance with ABYC Standards. When we started, other than the mast, the anchor windlass and the engine starting circuit, there was not a piece of wire on the boat.

Looking at our wire usage, and bumping it up for the slightly larger boat of the OP; here is the recommended inventory:
#10/3: 200'
#14/3: 250'
#10/2: 350'
#14/2: 450'
#16/2: 350' (LED lighting throughout)
2/0 R: 75'
2/0 Y: 100'
#2 R: 100'
#2 Y: 100'
200' each of the following:
#10 R
#10 Y
#14 R
#14 Y
100' each of the following:
#16 R
#16 Y

Note these recommendations are to give you a starting point.

Hope this helps.
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Old 03-09-2009, 17:25   #13
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Would it not be better and easier to use a cable tray for wiring not in the bilge/wet areas? Surely save effort pulling thru conduit and potential damage to wire ?
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Old 04-09-2009, 04:24   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
... 2) Duplex wire looks great but is hard to work with, you dont need a ground with every wire you run, expensive, and getting into it except at the ends is very difficult ...
Quote:
Originally Posted by nautical62 View Post
For your use, you may save some money in your runs by using multi plex wiring with a common ground where applicable. Less wire means less cost and less to keep track of ...
DON’T routinely use “common” negative returns (grounds).
Generally, run a separate negative with each positive wire.
The savings (of common gnd) are inconsequential, and the potential difficulties this shoddy practice can cause are legion.
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Old 04-09-2009, 06:19   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
DON’T routinely use “common” negative returns (grounds).
Generally, run a separate negative with each positive wire.
The savings (of common gnd) are inconsequential, and the potential difficulties this shoddy practice can cause are legion.
I agree completely. My petigree is 30+ years with ATT as a cable man, and believe you me, you are asking for trouble using common grounding conductors. Will lead to back feeding during trouble shooting for instance, shadow greminlims activating circuts for no apparant reason and so on. Go up one gauge, OK, but saving money by using one common grounding conductors is not the wisest thing, keep your aluminum cans instead if the pennies saved mean that much, because you will pay for it later.

On every run leave a good stout pull string behind for future pulling, such as parachute cord or mule tape, neither are you likely to snap w/o a wench (or is that winch, it is good to have both) for future additions, and including an extra run or two cannot hurt.

As for tagging, they have tywraps with tags on them just for that purpose, more perm. than duct tape or paper tape. I will use the 25 pair telco numeric color code, with a numbered laminated master list using the color coded ties, but that is a bit much for most. I can go up to 300 pair b4 duplication, even more by adding other weird combos.
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