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Old 24-11-2010, 12:17   #1
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Organizing 12vdc Distribution Panel

So I have pretty much wrapped up the battery switches and heavy wiring work and hope to get started on the new distibution panels soon. I will be installing (2) new panels, Blue Seas panels with 13 breakers each. Panels are to be installed vertically so I will essentially have a column of 26 switches.

I have written down every existing switch label and the ones I inetend to add. Im looking for advice on how to organize the panel. Im thinking Cabin lights switch should be at top so they are easy to find in the dark but beyond that I have not given it much thought. I guess no matter how I lay it out I will get to know where things are with time. Should i put all the lighting related switches together and maybe all the instrument and eletronics together? Alphabetically? Any good ideas or am I just spending way too much time thinking about this crap.
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Old 24-11-2010, 12:33   #2
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Personally I more and more have come to question the switch panels existance at all, for the equipment that already have their own switches...
I mean, you have switches at every light source, you turn the instruments on and off at the instruments themselves etc. That said, I rewired my 12V system first thing after sailed my boat home, then adding switch panels that covered everything on board. But I would have been just as happy with a panel/central with fuses only, no switches, when I look back at it.
I chose to start with all nav.eqpt, then pumps & fans followed by comfort equipment like heater and fridge etc- Finally all light switches on their own 6 switch panel.
Im happy with the layout, I find what I need even in the dark but still.. lf I were to do it again, Id just put nav-lights etc, that dont have their own switch on a panel like that and keep the rest on a "fuse only" panel. Why? Well, why not keep it simple? An extra switch is an extra connection subject to potential corrosion.
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Old 24-11-2010, 12:45   #3
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Personally I more and more have come to question the switch panels existance at all, for the equipment that already have their own switches...
I mean, you have switches at every light source, you turn the instruments on and off at the instruments themselves etc. That said, I rewired my 12V system first thing after sailed my boat home, then adding switch panels that covered everything on board. But I would have been just as happy with a panel/central with fuses only, no switches, when I look back at it.
I chose to start with all nav.eqpt, then pumps & fans followed by comfort equipment like heater and fridge etc- Finally all light switches on their own 6 switch panel.
Im happy with the layout, I find what I need even in the dark but still.. lf I were to do it again, Id just put nav-lights etc, that dont have their own switch on a panel like that and keep the rest on a "fuse only" panel. Why? Well, why not keep it simple? An extra switch is an extra connection subject to potential corrosion.
I came to a similar conclusion myself some time ago, and minimize panel switches. Though I do like to have some "master" switches for some things like all cabin lights, all navigation gear, all ventilation fans, etc. even if there are individual switches, as it allows one to quickly turn off all related items in one go when needed. But the less switches the better...
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Old 24-11-2010, 12:48   #4
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Originally Posted by SV Escape Plan View Post
So I have pretty much wrapped up the battery switches and heavy wiring work and hope to get started on the new distibution panels soon. I will be installing (2) new panels, Blue Seas panels with 13 breakers each. Panels are to be installed vertically so I will essentially have a column of 26 switches.

I have written down every existing switch label and the ones I inetend to add. Im looking for advice on how to organize the panel. Im thinking Cabin lights switch should be at top so they are easy to find in the dark but beyond that I have not given it much thought. I guess no matter how I lay it out I will get to know where things are with time. Should i put all the lighting related switches together and maybe all the instrument and eletronics together? Alphabetically? Any good ideas or am I just spending way too much time thinking about this crap.
I would organize the switches by "mode of operation". I.e. stuff that you tend to switch on/off together when getting underway, or when living aboard over the weekend, etc. such that you are working with adjacent switches when changing from one mode of operation to another. But that's just me. I'm sure it's ultimately a matter of taste how your panel gets organized. Cheers.
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Old 24-11-2010, 12:51   #5
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The only thing that I would suggest is that if all possible you keep all inductive loads off of the panel that has your lights and instruments on it. Inductive loads are anything with motors. Water pumps, refrigerators though ones with danfoss compressors are not too bad, windlasses, electric winches, any kind of solenoid such as the propane gas cut off are all inductive loads. They throw tremendous voltage spikes onto the the line every time they are stopped. Voltage spikes are hard on electronics. We all have surge protectors on our computers at home but we don't have them on our 12 volt electronics on our boats. Regular lights are pretty much immune to the effects but these spikes are death to LEDs and LEDs are expensive. When you see complaints about LEDs not lasting it's probably spikes or corrosion. If you have a separate wire from the battery to each panel the battery will do a great job of absorbing these voltage spikes and protecting your electronics.
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Old 24-11-2010, 13:00   #6
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Until it’s time to take action; you cannot OVER-think a subject*. Notwithstanding, I think you’ve thought it out quite well.

Lighting at top.
Then grouped by function (or mode of operation).

I note that you’re actually planning your breaker distribution (not “switch”) panel.

* I’m told that I’m a chronic “over-thinker”, playing endless “what if” scenarios until circumstances dictate an urgently instant answer. I feel that this helps to keep my natural impetuosity under control, and may provide the basis for making a more reasoned judgement, than my rash nature might otherwise predict.
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Old 24-11-2010, 13:05   #7
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The panels will each have separate feed from a positive bus very close to the panel location. This bus is fed by a 1/0 battery cable from a positive bus at the battery switches. I like the idea of separating the inductive equipment. My electronic equipment list consists of:

Radar/Charplotter, instruments, autopilt, VHF, Stereo. I do my navigation off a laptop powered from the inverter with a USP GPS. Pretty sure when I add SSB it will probably come on its own feed from the positive bus at the battery switches.


Gord you always seem to have such a way with words!
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Old 24-11-2010, 14:25   #8
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When I rewired my boat last year I asked the same question and didn't like any of the answers. My solution was to leave all the wires too long and use cheap terminals - I just wired everything in a way that seemed ok. A year later I knew exactly what I wanted where, and trimmed all the wires and used quality terminals.

I had a list written on paper next to the panels so I knew the job of each breaker - it was easy to move things and make a new list. After rearranging the panels for the last time I waited a week before attaching the permanent breaker labels to make sure I really liked the order of things. (Remember to label the WIRES too.)

FWIW, I used the same two Blue Seas panels as you - wired them separately from the source and protected them separately. One panel has all the electrically "quiet" stuff - lights and instruments, and the other panel has all the "noisy" stuff with motors - pumps and fridges etc. I've been told that doesn't make a difference, but it was fun to do. (Thanks Cap. Bill ) One panel breaker is about twice the size as the other. The separate panel breakers also allowed me to work on one panel without shutting down the whole boat.
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Old 24-11-2010, 14:38   #9
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My view and its the way the boat is now wired, is to put all the CB's in a fairly out of the way place, and not at the nav table. ( I once fell again the CB panel and managed to switch on things that were meant to be off and vice versa).

I then have a proper switch panel at the nav table, for common things, Nav Lights, All instruments, some cabin lights , etc.

Dave
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:10   #10
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I've been told that doesn't make a difference, but it was fun to do. (Thanks Cap. Bill )
Just wondering..... Was the guy telling you it didn't matter also selling you electronics?
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Old 24-11-2010, 15:22   #11
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I came to a similar conclusion myself some time ago, and minimize panel switches. Though I do like to have some "master" switches for some things like all cabin lights, all navigation gear, all ventilation fans, etc. even if there are individual switches, as it allows one to quickly turn off all related items in one go when needed. But the less switches the better...
The panels serve more than switching....they are circuit breakers, to protect the boat from a fire. Don't skimp on safety.
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Old 24-11-2010, 16:15   #12
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I broke mine out by port, starboard, bow, head, galley, navigation, pumps and motors, cockpit, and worked hard to have 10% spare.

- The V-berth has one breaker for 2 reading lights and 2 fans.
- The salon port side has 4 lights (2 red/white general and 2 reading lights) and 1 fan (ditto the starboard) on one breaker.
- The head has light, 12V outlet, toilet macerator, and shower drain on 3 breakers.
- The galley has overhead light, fan, propane control, 12V outlets, and stereo on 3 breakers.
- Navigation are running lights, anchor light, spreader light, foredeck light, autopilot, navcomp, inverter, sail tri-data, VHF, SSB w Pactor, GPS, radar, and AIS on 16 breakers.
- Pumps are fridge, bilge, deck wash, oil Reverso, 12V diesel aux pump on 5 breakers.
- The windlass is on it's own high current breaker.
- The cockpit has 2 12V outlets, power for portable instruments, cockpit light on 3 breakers.

That's 33 and I have 3 spare. I don't have meters in the panels but do have a Victron BMV602 battery monitor. I also have breakers for the 2x135W solar panels and 30A wind generator.

I considered backlit labels but the current draw and cost was too high. I did go with LED indicators next to the circuit breakers because the current draw for 36 LEDs was more economical. I also changed out the red LEDS for green for the noncritical systems. I bought white and red handled breakers with the intention that the red ones were the ones I wanted on 24/7. Now I can look at the panel and know which LEDs should be on and if the breaker's tripped, the LED isn't lit.
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Old 24-11-2010, 16:38   #13
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The panels serve more than switching....they are circuit breakers, to protect the boat from a fire. Don't skimp on safety.
Safety isnt to take lightly, I agree. But you wouldnt necessarrily have to use a panel with switches as long as you have fuses to achieve that. IMHO an extra, not needed, switch reduces safety due to it being just one more source of potential failure.

If (or rather when) I trade up in boats I will most certainly do a rewire on that one too, as I have done in just about all boats Ive had since my first small daycruiser many years ago. But this time Ill skip one or 2 switch panels and instead use a water proof electric central that houses auto breakers seated on a DIN-line rail. Ala house/home style. One switch panel for other stuff, like nav.lights and bilge pumps etc, will oc be installed.
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Old 04-12-2010, 18:21   #14
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Just wondering..... Was the guy telling you it didn't matter also selling you electronics?
Can't recall any single specific person telling this to me, and I'm pretty sure that I've heard it five or six times. The logic is that when current going *this* way changes because of, say a wash-down pump turning on or off, then current going *that* way will feel it and therefore it is of no use to isolate the CB panels.

Unless you have each of the panels feeding off of separate battery banks, that seems logical. For my boat, and probably many others, the "source" for the panel(s) is the rotary switch just after the batteries that combines the house banks with the starting battery for emergency starting. I have two house banks, and they come together at that switch, then leave separately to each of the two CB panels. So, each panel pulls off of both battery banks equally - meaning, if a pump turns on/off from the "noisy" CB panel, then the electronic equipment in use on the "quiet" CB panel will feel the surge.

Makes sense, so I kept the concept in the back of my head.

But what if all the wire is over sized to the point of 'no' resistance?? THAT is something to ponder, and I didn't get far enough in Physics to be able to figure it out on my own. Which doesn't seem to matter because two of my best friends are a physicist and an electrician, and they can't answer that either. Someday I'll get those two together and buy them beers until I get an answer.
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Old 04-12-2010, 18:24   #15
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But what if all the wire is over sized to the point of 'no' resistance?? THAT is something to ponde
The internal resistance of a lead-acid battery is significant. This is why using larger than specified wire is of little use. Contact resistance at the dozen interconnects between the battery and a load is more significant than most people realize ... and that's if the connections are good ... and many are bad.
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