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Old 27-12-2011, 18:53   #1
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New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

Hi everyone,

I know nothing of electrical. My new Alberg 30 has basically 75% new wiring.....however a really old garbage electrical panel. Really old.

My thought is if I tear out that panel, follow all the leads, label all the leads, replace any crap I find..... It will be a great opportunity not only to learn about dc electrical but also about how MY boat is wired.

So, get a new panel... And that's my electrical school. From what I have seen they are not too pricey.

Any thoughts. Advice. Lessons learned?

Thanks everyone

Joel
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Old 27-12-2011, 19:08   #2
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And how will you recognize existing faults?

Mistakes of the POs? Substandard practices? Alterations that should have been made to accomodate added equipment?

At a BARE minimum, I would get a good book on marine wiring. There are many. Read it cover-to-cover, compare what you read to your existing systems, draw up a plan, and only then, begin. I would be very surprised if a little redesign is not called for.

If you are really starting from scratch and have no education in electricity, that you have someone qualified review your plans. There are many pitfalls, both in details and in concepts.
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Old 27-12-2011, 20:15   #3
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

If the panel and wiring are really old, I recommend pulling ALL of it out and starting over with good quality marine grade, tinned wire.
By the time you're done, you will know where everything is, why it works, and best of all WHY it works.
If you need to repair anything in the future, you will know where to look.
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Old 27-12-2011, 21:16   #4
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

There is much to know about electrical wiring. Doing a panel swap, which I am guessing is changing from an old fuse system to a circuit breaker system could be a problem. Because you have fairly new wire the insulation should be in good condition. The old wire should probably be replaced for many reasons. But to do a good, safe and clean job is always first.
The most likely problem you will run into is the wire is just a little too short to reach the breaker. Stretching it is usually not possible; so you now need to decide whether adding a few inches is a good idea or replacing the run is what you have to do.
Sitting down with the code book is a good start. If you do not understand that you need to learn more.

The importance of knowing what you are doing with electricity can save you and your boat. This was demonstrated on a friend's boat. He was wrapping up a few project things before we were getting ready to shove off for a day of sailing. He plugged in his GPS to a 12v dc outlet. Nothing happened. Below it worked, topside nothing. But, then we smelled smoke. Smoke and flames were coming from the 12v outlet. Grabbing a screw driver he unscrewed the socket and the wires were on fire.They had shorted and caused a fire. With speed we got that fire out and the socket fell out onto wet paper towels. Whew, that was very close.
Then we saw more smoke and lifted the locker lid to look at the battery compartment. More wire was on fire, this time at the batteries. Fire extinguishers were used to fight that fire.
With needle nose pliers and a screw driver more wire was pulled out. We felt the wire run from the batteries and most areas were not hot or affected by the melting wires.

Here is what the problems were. First, someone had installed a cigarette lighter style 12v dc outlet in the cockpit; it was a car/truck/rv unit, not something designed for exposure to the elements in a marine environment. It was also light duty, not designed to be plugged into and pulled around in a sailboat.
Second, the wires were strung incorrectly from the battery attachment up to the 12v outlet.
Third, and absolutely the most dangerous of the mess, there was no fuse. Fourth, the wires were bare and shoved into the the + and - posts of the battery terminals.

If we had not been right there when this failed he most likely would have had his boat burn. It might have been too late if we were sitting on the dock or anywhere else on the boat.

The post mortum. The cigarette lighter failed when he plugged in the dc adaptor for his GPS unit; it shorted out when the + and - parts touched each other after many times of use wore through the plastic case. That short caused the wires to over heat and start on fire. There was no fuse on the wire to break a short. The hot wires at the battery melted there and caused the second fire, after the first fire was extinguished.
The lack of a $1 fuse holder and $1 fuse almost burned a beautiful 38 ft sailboat up.

That is why you need to know what you are doing when doing electrical work.
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Old 27-12-2011, 23:10   #5
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

What Me-and-Boo said above!

But don't let that scare you off. The requirements for a safe and effective electrical installation are not that hard to understand. The difficult part is needing to be a contortionist and having to wipe up the blood when you're done. With a good book, a few proper tools, the appropriate wire and connectors, and a little practice you can do it.

It's always a good idea to have someone who knows this stuff give you advice and check your work.
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Old 28-12-2011, 07:59   #6
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

I would suggest you get Nigel Calder's book. We have two posts on our blog when we added a small panel and when we replaced the main panel...
Replacing The Main Electrical Panel
Adding A Small Panel
Hope this helps some. Chuck
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Old 28-12-2011, 08:25   #7
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

Joel:

Even if the existing wiring is long enough to reach the breakers on the new panel, that is not the best way to do it. A better way is to install terminal strips, typically located on the inside of the hull behind the new panel.

Terminate the existing wire on one side of a terminal strip and then complete the circuit by installing a short wire from the other side of the terminal strip to the breaker. This makes a much neater and easier to maintain system. It is also how most new boats are wired.

David
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Old 28-12-2011, 08:58   #8
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

For such a big job, invest in a good pair of wire strippers and a separate pair of crimpers (both with the proper wire size dies). Like the ratcheted/geared types offered by Mac tools.

Avoid the cheap all-in-one strippers/crimpers offered by your auto parts stores.

You will be glad you did.
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Old 28-12-2011, 11:05   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thinwater
Mistakes of the POs? Substandard practices? Alterations that should have been made to accomodate added equipment?

At a BARE minimum, I would get a good book on marine wiring. There are many. Read it cover-to-cover, compare what you read to your existing systems, draw up a plan, and only then, begin. I would be very surprised if a little redesign is not called for.

If you are really starting from scratch and have no education in electricity, that you have someone qualified review your plans. There are many pitfalls, both in details and in concepts.
Good solid advice. For sure a Pre study is in order.
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Old 28-12-2011, 11:05   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by senormechanico
If the panel and wiring are really old, I recommend pulling ALL of it out and starting over with good quality marine grade, tinned wire.
By the time you're done, you will know where everything is, why it works, and best of all WHY it works.
If you need to repair anything in the future, you will know where to look.
This is what I was thinking.... Anything old or iffy needs to go.
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Old 28-12-2011, 11:17   #11
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by westsail42 View Post
For such a big job, invest in a good pair of wire strippers and a separate pair of crimpers (both with the proper wire size dies). Like the ratcheted/geared types offered by Mac tools.

Avoid the cheap all-in-one strippers/crimpers offered by your auto parts stores.

You will be glad you did.

truer words have never been spoken... if you dont have heart palpitations looking at the price tag, you need to select a higher end tool. strippers and crimpers are not that place to cut corners (which is also a great euphemism).

-steve
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Old 28-12-2011, 11:20   #12
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Re: New electrical panel..... A learning oportunity.

Here is an excellent link for wire termination from Maine
Marine Wire Termination Photo Gallery by Compass Marine at pbase.com
Both the tools to use and a how-to
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Old 28-12-2011, 21:22   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Me-and-Boo
There is much to know about electrical wiring. Doing a panel swap, which I am guessing is changing from an old fuse system to a circuit breaker system could be a problem. Because you have fairly new wire the insulation should be in good condition. The old wire should probably be replaced for many reasons. But to do a good, safe and clean job is always first.
The most likely problem you will run into is the wire is just a little too short to reach the breaker. Stretching it is usually not possible; so you now need to decide whether adding a few inches is a good idea or replacing the run is what you have to do.
Sitting down with the code book is a good start. If you do not understand that you need to learn more.

The importance of knowing what you are doing with electricity can save you and your boat. This was demonstrated on a friend's boat. He was wrapping up a few project things before we were getting ready to shove off for a day of sailing. He plugged in his GPS to a 12v dc outlet. Nothing happened. Below it worked, topside nothing. But, then we smelled smoke. Smoke and flames were coming from the 12v outlet. Grabbing a screw driver he unscrewed the socket and the wires were on fire.They had shorted and caused a fire. With speed we got that fire out and the socket fell out onto wet paper towels. Whew, that was very close.
Then we saw more smoke and lifted the locker lid to look at the battery compartment. More wire was on fire, this time at the batteries. Fire extinguishers were used to fight that fire.
With needle nose pliers and a screw driver more wire was pulled out. We felt the wire run from the batteries and most areas were not hot or affected by the melting wires.

Here is what the problems were. First, someone had installed a cigarette lighter style 12v dc outlet in the cockpit; it was a car/truck/rv unit, not something designed for exposure to the elements in a marine environment. It was also light duty, not designed to be plugged into and pulled around in a sailboat.
Second, the wires were strung incorrectly from the battery attachment up to the 12v outlet.
Third, and absolutely the most dangerous of the mess, there was no fuse. Fourth, the wires were bare and shoved into the the + and - posts of the battery terminals.

If we had not been right there when this failed he most likely would have had his boat burn. It might have been too late if we were sitting on the dock or anywhere else on the boat.

The post mortum. The cigarette lighter failed when he plugged in the dc adaptor for his GPS unit; it shorted out when the + and - parts touched each other after many times of use wore through the plastic case. That short caused the wires to over heat and start on fire. There was no fuse on the wire to break a short. The hot wires at the battery melted there and caused the second fire, after the first fire was extinguished.
The lack of a $1 fuse holder and $1 fuse almost burned a beautiful 38 ft sailboat up.

That is why you need to know what you are doing when doing electrical work.
Wow, good lessons learned there!
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Old 28-12-2011, 21:23   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djmarchand
Joel:

Even if the existing wiring is long enough to reach the breakers on the new panel, that is not the best way to do it. A better way is to install terminal strips, typically located on the inside of the hull behind the new panel.

Terminate the existing wire on one side of a terminal strip and then complete the circuit by installing a short wire from the other side of the terminal strip to the breaker. This makes a much neater and easier to maintain system. It is also how most new boats are wired.

David
What are terminal strips?! Off to google for me!
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Old 28-12-2011, 21:25   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mitiempo
Here is an excellent link for wire termination from Maine
Marine Wire Termination Photo Gallery by Compass Marine at pbase.com
Both the tools to use and a how-to
God i love this forum! Thank you!!
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