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Old 31-08-2009, 05:21   #1
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Wire

Is there really any differnce in inside "boat" wire and the wire you get at Home Depot (other than the price)? If there is, is there really any need? Seems that inside wiring is just wiring. Cars get just as wet and don't have special car wire!
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Old 31-08-2009, 05:38   #2
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There is a clear difference but whether its worth the cost difference is another question.

It's an interesting question. Nigel Calder has made a big deal about tinned wire and how stupid you would be to use anything else and he has gotten most of the US boat building and ABYC to go along. BUT, the Europeans really don't agree at all. Even the European 'cost no objective' superyarchts use plain copper (not tinned) wires inside.

When I built our boat I put tinned wire in, but I have since been a place or two since where I could not get it and had to use normal untinned copper wire, and I can't honestly say I see much difference in the longevity.

I do have some tinned bus bars and some untinned bus bars, and the untinned ones are still perfect and have no corrosion on them at all.

Your car analogy is not perfect because cars are usually not soaked in SALT water.
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Old 31-08-2009, 06:00   #3
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This is a topic that often comes up. I have always been a firm believer of tinned wire and I have some personal experience where it out performs plain copper wire.

However, many CF members have posted personal experience where plain wire performed as well as tinned wire and I can't discount their experience.

Perhaps it depends in part on what I might term as the "micro-environment". Some boats are relativity dry inside and others are very wet. The shorter life that I have observed have always been in very wet areas but then again, others report the opposite.

Two things I am sure about:

1. Tinned wire is easier to rework once it ages
2. Untinned copper has no advantage other than cost but MIGHT have some disadvantage.

FWIW, the aviation world only uses tinned copper but that is not to say the marine world should.
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Old 31-08-2009, 06:03   #4
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When you consider the best practices for boat wiring, issues like connectors and the time and effort to do the job properly saving on wire isn't that much money. Household wiring is based on AC current. With DC you have to be more mindful of wire sizes relative to distances. Your basic household wire can get you in trouble with wire size that you couldn't have in an AC wired house running far higher voltages. Household wire is not as flexible so can be a problem routing in a boat. Many commercial wiring projects also use conduit to enclose the wires as well. So applying those standards to boats also presents issues you won't want to deal with. If it's only the price of wire then what about all the rest?

Isolating just the issue of solid conductor vs. tinned copper isn't so easy since many of your projects will include wires you just can't get at a home building center.

I know I have a few bits of household wire on the boat but it's just a small fraction of the materials. Longevity isn't easily seen in periods of time as short as say 5 years. Tinned copper shows a lot more forgiveness with issues of age and water. Most boats can easily last longer than cars. If you have ever had an electrical problem on a car you know it's your worst nightmare. Cars are not really held to as high a standard as boats in any respect I can think of. Home construction is even less than that.
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Old 31-08-2009, 06:59   #5
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I agree that the connectors should have careful attention. As to wire; I'm talking about stranded wire not the solid core wire. The inside of my boat isn't normally soaked in any water, let alone salt water. I think for wires that normally get sprayed I would think the tinned wire makes sense.
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Old 31-08-2009, 08:54   #6
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Don,

One of the things I have found interesting on a number of boats on which I have worked, is that if un-tinned wire has been used for an add-on equipment, generally the cheaper, non-heatsealing terminals have been used. And conversely, if tinned wire has been used, heatsealing terminals have been used. (conscientious worker)
I would argue that if one is going the un-tinned route, where corrosion can readily be seen when doing a cut-back on older wire, then the use of sealed terminals would have provided better protection at the outset. Tinned wire has it own corrosion protection (in comparison to un-tinned), where one could argue in favor of the cheaper terminals.
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:15   #7
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I love tinned wire and would use it throughout. But the cost.

My solution is: tinned in critical and everywhere moisture can get in. Plain elsewhere.

b.
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:37   #8
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Note the following.

Many companies that supply equipment use pigtails etc with non tinned wires.

My european built boat is going on 25 yrd old and the original wiring appears to be performing as it should. No fires but perhaps some resistance and loss of current? I can't tell.

When I do upgrades I used the tinned wire and I have replaced much of the original wiring but not for house lighting.

Tinned is obviously better. But it may be not necessary.
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:39   #9
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Note the following.

Many companies that supply equipment use pigtails etc with non tinned wires.

Those same companies also supply pigtails that, to me, are woefully undersized.
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:43   #10
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Good point about the mismatch between quality tinned wires to connect "good" equipment with regualr wires.

Even though solid is more a pain to work with; wouldn't it be better as to a corrosion point as it sealed to the insulation. If you soldered the connection so it is in fact tinned, wouldn't it be the best connection?
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:46   #11
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Is there really any difference in inside "boat" wire and the wire you get at Home Depot (other than the price)? ...
Most assuredly - YES, there is a significant and valuable difference!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
... As to wire; I'm talking about stranded wire not the solid core wire...
Please specify, exactly which 'Home Depot' stranded wire you propose to use, for what specific purpose.
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:52   #12
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haven't chosen any wire yet. Have 2 quick projects:

1 - add an extra run of wire to my engine start soleniod to reduce any voltage drop.
2- add a float to a bildge pump (this one has to have good sealing even though it normally is dry)
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:53   #13
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I agree to the soldered connection and would add to use a sealant coated heat-shrink tubing as well over the joint.
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Old 31-08-2009, 10:57   #14
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Z,

But for some of this gear you can't break into the box to change them out! it would void the warranty.
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Old 31-08-2009, 11:49   #15
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If you've taken some old untinned wire pieces out of a boat you can see the problem. These wires may have been working, but if you peel back the cover, you will see discolored, corroded copper way back into the wire a foot or more. I'm sure if you measured the voltage drop on those lengths you see some pretty good drop. The big advantage though is avoiding corrosion at the terminal, which is the usual defect area over time. I have used untinned wire many times when I needed to install something, and if it is a wire that can be replaced without a lot of work and saves me a trip to the store (or I'm in Timbuktu!). But wiring a boat? or routing a wire through hard to reach places...? Tinned for sure! It's hard to believe that people will spend hundreds (thousands?) of dollars to have gel batteries when wet work just as good, or on other things that really aren't needed, but want to scrimp on wire...
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