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Old 14-06-2016, 13:52   #1
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New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

I am currently looking into building a new AC panel. I like the Blue sea panels, but they are too expensive and I think I can build one cheaper. Below is an image of what I'm thinking of (BlueSea is a nice tool to plan out )

Does anyone know of a good source of:
1. Basic tinned copper bus bars?
2. A box I can mount this panel on

Also any comments on the panel below:
All breakers (with the exception of the battery charge) get the power from the output of the rotary switch. (30A Shore or Inverter)

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Old 14-06-2016, 21:12   #2
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

silly to have a switch and dual main breakers. just put breakers side by side with sliding lockout. save lots $$ on switch.

Edit: actually that wouldn't work in that case. in that pic the battery charger is likely wired before the switch so it's only on shore breaker.

the better way is to have a pass through inverter.
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Old 15-06-2016, 08:17   #3
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by geoffr View Post
I am currently looking into building a new AC panel. I like the Blue sea panels, but they are too expensive and I think I can build one cheaper. Below is an image of what I'm thinking of (BlueSea is a nice tool to plan out )

Does anyone know of a good source of:
1. Basic tinned copper bus bars?
2. A box I can mount this panel on

Also any comments on the panel below:
All breakers (with the exception of the battery charge) get the power from the output of the rotary switch. (30A Shore or Inverter)

I think you will be able to build your own but you will need to make sure you have the mandatory and best practices bits - like a polarity indicator and power available indicator, DPDT master circuit breaker, etc. etc. Having indicator lights for each circuit breaker is a major plus but not absolutely required. Voltmeter is required (for me) but ammeter is nice too.

I just did a search for tinned copper bus bars yesterday and finally found a vendor which makes it's own and will sell a variety of them to you by the foot in various thicknesses and widths. I didn't save a bookmark nor can I remember the site. You can find it if you work at it. Sorry.
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Old 15-06-2016, 15:33   #4
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Smile Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

smac999,

Good point! (I missed this as I added the inverter breaker at the last minute)
Perhaps I can use a lock-out slider to ensure the charger is not on with the inverter on.

exMaggieDrum,

Yes - I plan on having the LEDs for polarity and power available. I won't have them on each circuit as I think that's rather redundant as you can tell from the switches.

I have googled - was hoping someone had some experience with one ordered online
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Old 15-06-2016, 16:01   #5
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

Hi,
I prefer DIN rail mount terminal blocks to the usual marine bus bars with bolts and crimped on ring terminals.

I like them because they are finger safe (no exposed conductors), more compact, easier to make more organized and label, easier to use (no ring terminals to crimp on, and then line up with a tiny screw), and more flexible -- one can easily jump two or three wires together, without loading up the screw on the breaker or a terminal block (which I've always felt is a bit tacky and spaghetti-ish). In the same form factor one can add a fuse (with an indicator light!) for those instances, when, for example, you want to flip a single breaker for the GPS, chartplotter, and NMEA2k bus power, but want them separately fused (and easily disconnectable) for trouble shooting.

There's some details to comply with to meet ABYC standards. The high quality terminal blocks I've seen meet these.

For these same reasons I like DIN rail breakers, even though they don't look 'yachty'. For the same price as the usual marine breakers, one can find ones with better specs -- more cycles, higher break amperage, and the exact trip curve that you want for the given circuit. There's also readily available relays, timers, and counters that integrate into the same rail -- for example, to count bilge pump cycles right beside the breaker. If you want to spend a lot of money, there's systems (from Siemens, I think) that will measure the amperage consumed by each circuit, separately. And a couple rows of DIN breakers is way easier to add circuits to.

Ok, I'll stop talking. Sometimes I get overly excited about nerdy details on boats.
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Old 15-06-2016, 16:26   #6
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

Here's a couple of things:

BLUE SEA SYSTEMS LED Indicator Lights | West Marine

120 Volt LED Indicator Lights - Blue Sea Systems | Fisheries Supply

I buy most of my electrical and other boat gear from Fisheries because I get a good discount and they delivery to a drop off spot in my town but they have excellent customer service and pretty good retail prices anyway. Of course, love them or hate them, West Marine has a return anything policy pretty much.

A write-up on how to wire:

https://www.bluesea.com/resources/90

You can find lots of LED indicator lights on ebay.com as well. Make sure you specify AC and voltage from wherever you get them.

Just a note on inverter pass-throughs via transfer switches: it is very common and relatively easy to do this if you have an inverter which has the feature. However, my current boat came with it and has all shorepower AC going through it. One problem that can happen is the inverter goes down so no AC to your panel. Usually you can just take out the AC in and out wires and connect them with a temporary terminal strip (the kind where you stick in the wires and screw them down are best). But I also want to bypass the inverter so that I can pick either inverter pass-through or shorepower only so I got a fairly complicated and expensive rotary switch.

I would go with circuit breakers that are readily available in your area. DIN may be superior in some ways but you would have a heck of a time finding them everywhere. You can daisy chain 10 gauge wire with terminals if you have to but it doesn't look as good as a bus bar and it could introduce by connections if not careful.
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Old 16-06-2016, 03:46   #7
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

My apologies for piggy backing on your thread,

But can somone tell me what the Reverse Polarity light is for? What's it mean?
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Old 16-06-2016, 04:01   #8
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

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My apologies for piggy backing on your thread,

But can somone tell me what the Reverse Polarity light is for? What's it mean?
What it says -- polarity reversed. It means hot and neutral are reversed in whatever you are plugged into. This can be very dangerous.

This is very useful, because marina shore power is often all screwed up. Fix it by rewiring your shore power plug, or you can prepare a polarity reversing shore power plug.

Particularly useful if you plug into Schuko socket which can be easily plugged in the wrong way around -- most places in the Baltic BTW.

I have Schuko male and female adapters in my kit (also male and female UK ones), and if faced with the normal 16 amp blue marine plug with reversed polarity, I plug in the female Schuko adapter, then plug the male one into that, but reversed. Then the shore power plug. Works a treat and you don't have to open up the plug to rewire it.
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Old 16-06-2016, 04:07   #9
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

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What it says -- polarity reversed. It means hot and neutral are reversed in whatever you are plugged into. This can be very dangerous.

This is very useful, because marina shore power is often all screwed up. Fix it by rewiring your shore power plug, or you can prepare a polarity reversing shore power plug.

Particularly useful if you plug into Schuko socket which can be easily plugged in the wrong way around -- most places in the Baltic BTW.

I have Schuko male and female adapters in my kit (also male and female UK ones), and if faced with the normal 16 amp blue marine plug with reversed polarity, I plug in the female Schuko adapter, then plug the male one into that, but reversed. Then the shore power plug. Works a treat and you don't have to open up the plug to rewire it.
So, it's like a safety warning is it?

If it detects the polarity around the wrong way does the light go out? What will it do?
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Old 16-06-2016, 04:14   #10
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

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Originally Posted by Rustic Charm View Post
So, it's like a safety warning is it?

If it detects the polarity around the wrong way does the light go out? What will it do?
If the light is on, then the polarity is wrong. I have the light on my panel but I've never seen it on.

Out of interest, what plugs are common in Aus for shore power? Normal Aussie plugs or a dedicated marine plug?


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Old 16-06-2016, 04:18   #11
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rustic Charm View Post
So, it's like a safety warning is it?

If it detects the polarity around the wrong way does the light go out? What will it do?
On my boat, the lights are "polarity correct" and "power available". If you connect shore power and everything is ok, the "polarity correct" lights up, then when you switch it on, the "power available" light also goes on. Both of them should be lit when using shore power.

An identical set is used for the generator.

The Blue Sea panel has a "polarity reversed" light instead -- that will be out unless there is a problem.

Further reading on the importance of correct polarity in boat AC systems:

Reverse Polarity (AC)

http://www.marinesurveyor.com/allport/polarity.html

http://www.boatus.com/boattech/casey...e-Polarity.asp
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Old 16-06-2016, 04:26   #12
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

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Originally Posted by hoppy View Post
If the light is on, then the polarity is wrong. I have the light on my panel but I've never seen it on.

Out of interest, what plugs are common in Aus for shore power? Normal Aussie plugs or a dedicated marine plug?


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Thanks Hoppy.

In Australia we should be using all 15 amp extensions. There not specifically marine that I know off. Common caravan cables. The earth pin is bigger than the common 10amp.
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Old 16-06-2016, 04:29   #13
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

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On my boat, the lights are "polarity correct" and "power available". If you connect shore power and everything is ok, the "polarity correct" lights up, then when you switch it on, the "power available" light also goes on. Both of them should be lit when using shore power.

An identical set is used for the generator.

The Blue Sea panel has a "polarity reversed" light instead -- that will be out unless there is a problem.

Further reading on the importance of correct polarity in boat AC systems:

Reverse Polarity (AC)

Allport Marine Survey, Steilacoom, Washington, USA - Tony Allport, SAMS® AMS® - Your AC Polarity Indicator, Its Purpose and Importance

Alternating Current/Reverse Polarit by Don Casey - BoatUS
Got ya thanks for that. I'll read up on it.

My ac power is in no way I suspect legit. It's got two circuit breakers and a milliamperes safety switch. But it all looks home made to me.
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Old 16-06-2016, 06:30   #14
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

I can not imagine trying to reinvent the wheel by building my own electrical panel. I agree they can be expensive no matter which brand you choose, but this would not be a place I would look to try and save money. There are a lot of electrical fires on boats every year, the main source of this is lack of knowledge and sub-standard equipment. Enough can go wrong with a boat that is properly wired with good electrical components, it would be tragic to return to the dock one day to find your boat burned to the waterline for the sake of saving $500 or $1,000.
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Old 16-06-2016, 14:37   #15
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Re: New AC Panel - looking for comments & ideas

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I can not imagine trying to reinvent the wheel by building my own electrical panel. I agree they can be expensive no matter which brand you choose, but this would not be a place I would look to try and save money. There are a lot of electrical fires on boats every year, the main source of this is lack of knowledge and sub-standard equipment. Enough can go wrong with a boat that is properly wired with good electrical components, it would be tragic to return to the dock one day to find your boat burned to the waterline for the sake of saving $500 or $1,000.
Despite trying to help out above, I really agree with this comment by Rourke. I know how to build a panel in a safe manner but it would be a lot of brain damage. It is especially hard to build face plates for circuit breakers even if you can get the wiring correct. Get it wrong and you can burn the boat up or die from shock or both. And the individual quality parts will not be cheap and will add up to almost the price of a ready made panel. You can save money by putting in a smaller (fewer circuits/circuit breakers) to save some money but you really have to have the right number for the installation. You also have to figure out the proper gauge wires for everything and do the proper wiring for the hots, neutrals, and grounds. If you don't have experience doing this - don't.
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