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Old 15-03-2012, 18:57   #1
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How Many Circuit Breakers in Your Panel?

Hi all,

We are about to start our electrical overhaul. It's a 1976 32', and starting from a relatively barebone system. The old DC fuse panel is beyond repair, and for a variety of reasons, we've decided to go with a circuit breaker system primarily. We will have a small fuse block available as well for items that are better to be fused. Also, all loads that require it will be fused at the load as well. For some of the loads, the circuit breaker will also be used as the switch.

Despite being a small boat, we are adding a lot of systems to her, including computer based chartplotter, refrigeration, watermaker etc. As we make a list of all the items, I'm blown away at the number of breakers we'll need. It seems that if we try really hard, we can get the number down to 24 breakers, with absolutely no room for extras. 28 is comfortable.

Due to the way our electrical panel can be sized it seems that we either get 24 breakers, or 32. We're leaning on a custom Blue Sea Systems 360 panel, set up as 2 high by 5 wide: 2 high by 4 wide for 32 rocker circuit breakers for DC, and the remaining 2 high by 1 wide for 8 breakers for our AC panel with switch for shore/inverter, plus AC loads. This feels like a lot to me, but every time we work through it, it seems the best option for all loads, plus leaving a little extra for unexpected projects.

So, how many circuits breakers do you have? Is 32 circuit breakers ridiculous?

(I searched the archives, but didn't find this topic addressed)
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Old 15-03-2012, 19:10   #2
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

My suggestion is go with the next largest panel than you think you need because something else will almost certainly come up. BlueSea makes some nice products. A few pics of my set-up attached. The original was a really nicely done custom panel, but with only 18 DC breakers and 4 AC breakers. I had to add another small AC & DC panel to accommodate expansion.

One slick feature I really like about the original panel is that they used only one breaker for the nav lights, but have a rotary switch for selecting the appropriate configuration of lights -- even have a fancy little diagram of the boat that lights up showing which nav light configuration you have selected. Also a couple of good uses of rotaries for selecting what source you want to use for displaying AMPs and Volts at the meter. And, a rotary for selecting AC power input (Shore & Inverter in my case, but I suggest including "Gen" if you do this...just in case you add one).

Would love to have an entirely new custom panel done and get rid of the small add-on panels, but that's way low on the priorities list.
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Old 15-03-2012, 19:16   #3
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

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Originally Posted by serah View Post
So, how many circuits breakers do you have? Is 32 circuit breakers ridiculous?
There's no way I could fit everything into 32 breakers.
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Old 15-03-2012, 19:58   #4
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

If you find you cannot service all circuits with the number of breakers you have, and don't want too large a panel, one solution is to use a single breaker for each "system", and run a suitable gauge wire to a bus bar somewhere behind the panel, to which are attached the components of that system.
For example, one breaker labelled "Navigation Lights" serves a bus bar, from which you run port running light, stb'd. running light, stern light, steaming light, anchor light, etc. These would each have the appropriate fuse.
The "Instruments" or "Electronics" breaker can feed the VHF, depth sounder, chart plotter, etc.
Not the best arrangement, and you'll find lots of forum members who will say: "A circuit breaker for everything!" - and I am not disagreeing.
Some will say: "There will be NO FUSES on MY boat!" Others will say to use fuses.
If you do use a fused bus bar system, make sure you have plenty of correct-sized spare fuses, stored right with the bus bar, and make sure the location is accessible, and make sure everybody knows where it is!
I'm sure I have suggested something that is taboo, and I am equally sure someone will jump in and correct me!
Just do the job in a seamanlike manner, using good terminals and a proper crimper, and label the wires to make future projects and repairs easier.
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:15   #5
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

I built a panel myself with 22 positions for DC switching. So far I've filled up 16 of the slots, but have plans to separate a few loads. For instance I put the depthsounder on the same circuit as the SSB receiver and GPS. It's really annoying to have the sounder on all the time, listening to the ticking, when all I want to do is receive a weatherfax.

I have plans to add a PC chartplotter also, on it's own circuit. But beyond that I've run out of stuff to cram into a 32' boat!!
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:20   #6
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

"I have plans to add a PC chartplotter also, on it's own circuit. But beyond that I've run out of stuff to cram into a 32' boat!!"

Then, despite what your "significant other" might say to the contrary, you clearly need a bigger boat!
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:21   #7
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

......... and, more "stuff"!
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:22   #8
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

Thanks for the answers! I feel better knowing that 32 is not particularly excessive. It's so nice to be able to start completely fresh and choose what we want, not based on what the PO happened to have, as who knows what his or her constraints were...

We're pretty careful about the electrical system, hence the long forethought before we actually started the project. The first day that we had the boat in the water (we bought it on the hard) we flipped the bilge pump switch to check that it worked; it did, but we let the magic smoke out of the wire. Ack! An electrical fire is scary stuff. We understand that the circuit breaker is protecting the wire; the fuse at the load is protecting the item.

We figured that we are more space limited to have separate "system" panels elsewhere than to have it all on one big honking panel. This way we can group them nicely on the panel... and have space to move them if we need to!

On an aesthetic side, we just had the entire cabinet redone in "Graphite" Formica laminate. I did a vector diagram in Inkscape with all objects to scale; that really helped to decide what goes where. The 2x5 360 setup was so much less obtrusive on the eye than the 3 column x 13 breaker large sized traditional panel.
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:23   #9
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

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Then, despite what your "significant other" might say to the contrary, you clearly need a bigger boat!
She already makes enough fun of me fretting about the amps for what we've got!!
I think when we hit "Watermaker" the electrical loads were complete
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:35   #10
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

So here is what we have on the DC circuit breaker list so far, just in case anyone has any other required/nice circuit breakers we're missing! The wording is a bit weird, but these are the options Blue Sea seems to have...

Tricolour Light
Navigation Lights (the ones on the bow, plus stern light, for use in harbour)
Steaming Light
Anchor Light
Lights FWD (v-berth & head)
Galley Lights
Saloon Lights
Exterior Lights (we'll be splitting this one, as I don't want the spreader lights on if I just want a bit of light in the cockpit for drinks)
Engine Room Lights
12V Outlet Inside
12V Outlet Outside
Autopilot
Instruments (GPS, depth sounder, compass light, etc. All will have a separate "on" switch as well)
Network
SSB (will likely migrate to fuse block)
Computer
Computer Monitor
Radar
Stereo
Shower Sump
Washdown Pump
Freshwater Pump
Watermaker
Refrigerator/Freezer
Heater (may be fused, to prevent accidental power disconnect during shutdown cycle)
Fans

On the fuse block:
VHF
Propane solenoid
Bilge pumps

What am I missing, or have I got wrong?
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Old 15-03-2012, 20:48   #11
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

Serah

I would put the nav lights on one breaker with separate switching for each configuration.

Cabin interior lighting is often done with 2 breakers, best to separate port and starboard so if the breaker pops you still have light in all areas. Especially if you are using Led's the amperage will be low for each breaker. Lights usually all have their own switches.

Propane solenoid is often combined with a sniffer and I usually fuse this direct to a battery.
I also fuse bilge pumps direct to the house bank so they are active with the main DC switch off. Usually I use a Rule or Blue Seas bilge pump switch.
Some fuse the vhf direct to the battery so when the sh*t hits the fan it is the last thing to be disabled.

I use a breaker for heaters - Wallas, Espar, etc.

Looking at your list with these changes that makes 24 breakers by my count.
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Old 15-03-2012, 21:00   #12
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

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....
Some will say: "There will be NO FUSES on MY boat!" Others will say to use fuses.
...
I don't like in-line fuses either, but in some installs they are a necessary evil. I know of a couple of boats that have been burnt to the water line for want of a fuse in the proper place. Take a look at ABYC standards and manufacturer's recommendations for systems you plan to install.
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Old 15-03-2012, 21:16   #13
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

I use inline fuses where the manufacturer calls for them for electronics, alternator regs and so on. But the wire starts at a breaker panel correctly sized for the wire.

Main fuses for house and start banks close to the batteries of course as well as alt output and charger output.

Ideally every wire is protected by either a fuse or breaker.
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Old 15-03-2012, 21:30   #14
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It sounds like you have thought the design through pretty well. You may want to consider wiring the compass light with the navigation light circuit breaker.
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Old 15-03-2012, 21:31   #15
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Re: How many circuit breakers in your panel?

Serah

What type of interior lighting will you be using? led, halogen etc.
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