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Old 08-02-2014, 03:27   #1

Join Date: Sep 2007
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Household Switches For Marine Use?

In my head I have 2 switches side by side. One is standard household 110v in a box with the cover plate used for the saltwater system. Right below that is a 12v marine toggle. Ive replaced the toggle twice but the household switch works smooth and sweet. I paid less than a buck for the household unit about $2 if I include the box and cover plate. The 12v toggles are around $5. Since then Ive added a switch panel at my sewing center with all household switches. Why the heck not? Other than the having to have more room I think the switches are far superior construction. Another one of those instances where "marine" designation simply means overpriced ripoff?

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Old 08-02-2014, 03:36   #2
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Re: Household Switches For Marine Use?

I've found that there is a wide variation in the quality of products that have been stamped as "marine" by their marketing departments. There are plenty of companies in China who will stamp Marine on any product they make, for a slight charge.

And as long as people continue to buy the chrome plated zinc handles and hardware, and brass plated hinges and switches, they'll keep selling them.

It helps to examine this stuff before you buy it, and put some thought into the use and environment. Look for stainless, solid brass, no steel threaded into aluminum, and generally try to avoid steel in general. Solid construction. Company reputation. I try to take a little magnet with me when I go hardware shopping for the boat.

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Old 08-02-2014, 07:37   #3
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Re: Household Switches For Marine Use?

Our boat had domestic electrical lighting, switching, breaker box, appliances, water heater, water jet pump and pressure tank, battery charger etc. The only difference was GFI protection on some circuits. In 20 years we had zero problems related to the marine environment although we well protected from salt spray in the pilot house and below decks.
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Old 08-02-2014, 08:08   #4
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Re: Household Switches For Marine Use?

Rebuilt my entire boat out of Home Depot and Sams. All the commercial work boats in the Gulf use household electrical parts. If you are working a boat for a living, you don't waste money on it.
Most sailboats are hobby toys and owners will spend insane amounts of money on the latest gadgets and brightwork.
Mind you, there is nothing wrong with having the snazziest sports car on the block, unless you are 50 and bald, in which case folks will flat out laugh at you.
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Old 08-02-2014, 08:44   #5
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Re: Household Switches For Marine Use?

Made in China and labelled marine just doesn't sound comforting.

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Old 08-02-2014, 08:44   #6
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Re: Household Switches For Marine Use?

The problem isn’t “marine” vs “domestic” - it’s Alternating Current vs Direct Current.

If a switch is used in a DC circuit & that switch is opened under load, an arc will be produced & will exist for a lot longer than an arc caused by an AC voltage (since the DC voltage is constant - not alternating). This longer arc causes significant damage to the switch contacts.

If a switch is used in a DC circuit that has an inductive load (ie: pump motor), the arcing across the switch contacts will be even more severe due to "Back EMF" created by the inductor as it's magnetic field decays.

To answer your question, you can use a quick-make or break (snap-action) AC switch in a DC application, but the circuit voltage must be significantly smaller than that of the AC voltage. At a rough guess, I would say no greater than about 10% - 15%* of the rated AC voltage.

*A commonly applied "rule of thumb" is that switch contacts, relay contacts, contactor contacts and small circuit breaker contacts, That are marked "AC only" can in fact be used on DC, but only at about 10% of the rated voltage.

It must however be stressed that this is only a "rule of thumb", and that such use may well violate the NEC or other codes and regulations, and/or result in early failure* (usually contact welding - closed).

* Much more likely with a cheap $1 switch rated 120VAC only, as opposed to a quality $5 switch rated 120/277 VAC.
Gord May
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Old 08-02-2014, 08:50   #7
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Re: Household Switches For Marine Use?

Thanks Gord! so, 10% of 120v=12v so a quality switch in a plastic hazards/outdoor enclosure is good for all but inductive (motor?) loads?

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