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Old 19-06-2017, 09:46   #1
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Power panel breaker lights

When I turn on my water heater, all the other breaker lights go out. They still have power, but lamps are dark. Why would this be happen ending?
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Old 19-06-2017, 10:36   #2
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

Did this just start happening all of a sudden? Or did something change right before this started?

Are you on shore power or generator?
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Old 19-06-2017, 12:58   #3
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

I'm new to the boat, so not sure if it's always done this. On shore power
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Old 19-06-2017, 22:54   #4
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

This is possibly an earth fault - and you may want to be very careful until you determine the cause. On the basis you have a 110VAC supply to this panel and lights.... One scenario is that the lamps for the other services are neon's and go from the hot side to the local neutral. One reason these can go out is they loose their running voltage, and that can happen if the bus they are tied to (should be neutral) goes high or "hot" when the water heater starts drawing a lot of current, which it seems to be doing from the picture of the ammeter (I am guessing that is the lower gauge) when the switch is closed. This could happen if the return from this switchboard neutral to the shore supply is poorly connected - and this situation is quite (read very) hazardous (1) other 110VAC appliances could come off ground and shock people, and (2) you could have a fire risk from the high resistance neutral return to the shore power lead causing an overheat. In this scenario you should have already tripped an RCB (residual current breaker) in your shore supply on the boat side - so if you have an RCB fitted and it has not tripped then I suspect this is not the problem and it is something far more mundane - however if you do NOT have an RCB then whist I hope I am incorrect, there is a real chance this could be the issue and I would suggest that you get a qualified electrician to check this out ASAP and NOT use the heater at the very least until this is addressed.
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Old 19-06-2017, 23:27   #5
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

As an additional note to my preceding dialog for those thinking about the mechanics of the above..... if you look at the voltmeter, first thoughts are the above scenario does not seem possible. There is plenty of phase - neutral voltage available to prove the strike and running voltage for neon indicators. True, but these meters are normally wired on the _shore_ side of the switchboard, not the service side. Second, why is the neon for the water heater brightly lit? Should it also not be extinguished? Yes, indeed if the whole neutral was being pulled up - which does not appear to be the case here, as the water heater is working. My guess (just a guess) is mis-wired earth or neutral involving the water heater or the neutral for the other services on the panel being incorrectly returned to the shore neutral...... hopefully I am wrong!!
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Old 20-06-2017, 08:22   #6
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

Interesting.

A big question is whether all the other loads still work normally while the water heater is on?

If so, there's a possibility that the indicators themselves are mis-wired, maybe using the water heater "hot" (downstream of its breaker) as the lamps' "neutral". Turning on the heater would put 120V on both sides of the lamps, extinguishing them. Not too likely, but strange happens.

I find it odd that the FWD AIR COND and AFT AIR COND are on the same panel - would normally expect that they would have a separate inlet with its own main breaker. A Water Heater plus two A/C sounds like a lot of load for a single 120V inlet.

A more likely possibility is what snaptwo posted, especially if other loads do NOT work normally - there is a problem somewhere in the neutral connection, and the draw of the water heater is causing the neutral voltage to rise to somewhere between 0 and 120...
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Old 20-06-2017, 09:04   #7
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

Hi RedLine, yes, indeed agree. Ideally it is a lamp mis-wire... and yes, a good indicator would be functionality of other loads.....
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Old 20-06-2017, 09:26   #8
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

AC lights used to kind of flicker... or pulse really... a lot on a boat I had. But not go off like yours.
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Old 20-06-2017, 09:33   #9
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
AC lights used to kind of flicker... or pulse really... a lot on a boat I had. But not go off like yours.
The neon indicator lamps tend to do that, but usually an irregular flicker.
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Old 20-06-2017, 12:25   #10
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

Just my two penneth. I had a water heater where the element had split and water was in the element. Did some curious things like make light do a dance and including make all the water tingly. The Calorifier is now tied down to earth and has a new element.
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Old 20-06-2017, 17:09   #11
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

This is what I guess. The neons are original. Over the years they need more voltage to ignite the plasma. When the hot water heater turns on the voltage drops slightly below the threshold needed to light the other bulbs. The hot water light was replaced within past few years which is why it works and is a different color from the rest. If all other appliances work normally then don't worry about it.
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Old 20-06-2017, 18:03   #12
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

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This is what I guess. The neons are original. Over the years they need more voltage to ignite the plasma. When the hot water heater turns on the voltage drops slightly below the threshold needed to light the other bulbs. The hot water light was replaced within past few years which is why it works and is a different color from the rest. If all other appliances work normally then don't worry about it.
If the other lights "cycle" as the thermostat turns the element on and off, I would buy that.

I'm voting for the miswired pilot lights.

But don't dismiss it, if it's a bad ground or something akin to that, it's a potential dangerous situation.
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Old 21-06-2017, 20:41   #13
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Power panel breaker lights

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Originally Posted by transmitterdan View Post
This is what I guess. The neons are original. Over the years they need more voltage to ignite the plasma. When the hot water heater turns on the voltage drops slightly below the threshold needed to light the other bulbs. The hot water light was replaced within past few years which is why it works and is a different color from the rest. If all other appliances work normally then don't worry about it.


Hi Transmitterdan,
Neon's maintain their strike (circa 90VAC for a small indicator lamp) and run voltages (circa 50 to 60VAC) pretty consistently during their lives, and just slowly (really slowly) get dimmer over many years. Often more to do with dirt and crazing of the lenses than anything else. And yes, they do flicker - a fact used by lamp manufacturers to aid them in making versions that look like candles for front door imitation gas lamps seen on some of them larger type mansions xxxxxxx homes. ;-) The flickering is the adjustment being continuously made in the ionization balance in the gas and discharge in the lamp its self, and quite pretty to my mind. Now back to the facts. As seen in another post, a close shave and a fatality are bedmates. The "tingly water" is a close shave, and I want to prevent one, or it's companion here. This is either a 30 second fix of a miswired lamp return, or a real, dangerous fault, and from the information provided to date it is not possible to discriminate between the two. It will require a person experienced in LVAC wiring , ideally with professional training to make that determination, which should be done no matter what the thoughts and suggestions we may proffer here. Electrocution on vessels is up there with falling drunk off of passarals as a leading cause of walking onto a boat and being carried off. Please don't arbitrarily dismiss this from a distance, or encourage someone without experience to make a determination from information such as this (including mine, I might add) that is not based on actual, present at the scene fact. :-)
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Old 22-06-2017, 13:05   #14
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

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Originally Posted by snaptwo View Post
As seen in another post, a close shave and a fatality are bedmates. The "tingly water" is a close shave, and I want to prevent one, or it's companion here.
Can I just add that as an electronic engineer I immediately realised the danger but my colleagues on the boat didn't, they thought it was funny and thought I had done it deliberately for "fun". I inherited the elctrics and after that I went through them, a mains check and rewire was one of those jobs I put off to another day. So comments on the close shave/fatality, you never know when just ignoring something or putting off an important job can be fatal. I really should have known better the PO or "bodger" as my family knew him had a track record of dangerous practices.
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Old 22-06-2017, 16:57   #15
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Re: Power panel breaker lights

Thanks Fiona........ :-)
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