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Old 28-07-2022, 07:23   #1
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Electrical Panel replacement

Not sure if this is the right section of the forum for this or not, but there was nowhere obvious that an electrical question for a boat goes...even though it is not about batteries or solar.

I am going to undergo a refit and am looking at the electrical systems onboard.

The electrical panel is quite old. The boat was made in 1987 and it looks like the electrical panel is what it left the yard with. I would look to modernise the boat electrical system and this would (potentially) include rewiring the boat with a digital switching system.

Reasons for wanting to replace wiring is to be sure there is no wiring on the boat that may be in a dangerous condition and to be sure the wiring is in tip top shape and not a hotch potch of wiring jobs/repairs/additions done one upon the other over the years. Electrical wiring looms are complicated enough without having to figure out some ones addition or back yard fix that may have occurred in 1998 or 2006 etc. It represents a brilliant chance to bring the electrical system into the 2020's. Things like the Maretron Mpower system,

https://www.maretron.com/products/mpower.php

Sim Marine lighting control




The panel itself looks quite old and dated - what is the life of the switches/circuit breakers/fuses on an old panel ?



I want to redo the whole Nav Station/electrical panel area as it looks quite dated and a bit of a mess at present.



So considering all of the above and from reading done so far it appears as though if one were to install one of the Maretron TSM810C 8" vessel monitoring and control touchscreens then all the monitoring and switching could be done from the monitor and/or a PC.

Is there any need for a traditional electrical panel with a digital switching system?
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Old 28-07-2022, 08:13   #2
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

Probably not what you want to hear, but... I think plain old analog systems are reliable and easy to repair when you are not on the dock at home. Digital? Fussy, and just a replace/throw away as necessary thing. I'm probably a bit old school, but on boats believe strongly in the KISS method. Black boxes are just tough to deal with.
The breakers in the old system either work or they dont. They are common, easy to find and do fail occasionally, usually by tripping with too low a load, but are not expensive if you look around.
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Old 28-07-2022, 08:25   #3
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

[QUOTE=Cheechako;3659486]Probably not what you want to hear,

I dont mind hearing all sides to the argument.

but... I think plain old analog systems are reliable and easy to repair when you are not on the dock at home.

Tend to agree but its a once only chance to do an overhaul like this and I am quite keen on the monitoring ability the digital systems give, both aboard and from afar.

Digital? Fussy, and just a replace/throw away as necessary thing.

Yes that is how it would be - something dies, just replace it. The wiring backbone and all the connections would not be affected - just the "smarts" of the system, which in itself is saying plenty - I suppose keep a spare on board?

I'm probably a bit old school, but on boats believe strongly in the KISS method. Black boxes are just tough to deal with.

Agree on that, but think just having another box in stock deals with it. Seem to be way too many advantages Vs the pitfalls.

The breakers in the old system either work or they dont. They are common, easy to find and do fail occasionally, usually by tripping with too low a load, but are not expensive if you look around.

I need to replace the whole electrical panel. Its well over due for an upgrade. Its a chance to get some monitors built into the panel so that various items can be monitored and relayed via IP to the outside world as needed
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Old 28-07-2022, 08:28   #4
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

What is the expected life of 1987 vintage wiring subjected to a salt air environment for 35 years ?

Is replacing the wiring something that I should seriously consider or not really? I am concerned by corrosion and who knows what loads and thus "events" the wiring has been subjected too
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Old 28-07-2022, 09:00   #5
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

I have a 1991 IP and while the original wiring jacket/ insulation have lost some flexibility it is just not a big concern. This assumes the OM used reasonable quality electrical cable. If the electrical system is properly protected against faults and overcurrents then problems can be fixed/ replaced when they crop up.


As to system configuration, depending on a digital bus to turn on my bow lights makes me want to go screaming into the night (and I have been designing electrical systems for over 70 years). Ever hear of lightning.

Requirements of modern craft electrical systems have increases radically in recent years. My approach is to start with redundant house banks connected through 1/2/ both battery switch feeding a high amp ANL fuse block (starter, alternator, solar, inverter, windlass, main electrical panel, ect). You can make a setup yourself with a short length of copper bar, some Starboard, and a handful of nuts, bolts, and washers.

I redid my IP32 17 years back in the above configuration, and never looked back, and never an issue. I also did away with my starting battery, but understand some not ready to take that leap.

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Old 28-07-2022, 09:07   #6
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frankly View Post
I have a 1991 IP and while the original wiring jacket/ insulation have lost some flexibility it is just not a big concern. This assumes the OM used reasonable quality electrical cable. If the electrical system is properly protected against faults and overcurrents then problems can be fixed/ replaced when they crop up.

Frankly
The boat was made by Garcia in France so I would expect everything was done to a high level.

I need to put in an inverter and battery system so lots of cables will be replaced with heavier duty cables anyway.

The electrical panel is due for a face lift I feel. It may not be a technical requirement but I would love to make it softer on the eye. So there is a great chance to do all manner of things - which does not necessarily mean one should do all manner of things. hence asking those who have the real world experience.
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Old 28-07-2022, 11:19   #7
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

It won't get you away from still having a panel but it appears that you have plenty of room in the lower area to move it out of the way.
There are 3 necessary functions on the existing: Information display, system switching and over-current protection. Moving the breakers and mechanical portion of the switching to a drop down panel in the lower area would allow you to give the upper area a completely new look. It will take a few boat bucks but is certainly a desirable update.
Please post updates as you progress.
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Old 28-07-2022, 12:26   #8
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

The worst that can happen with a normal system is that one or a few lights may not work. The worst that can happen with a switched system is that no electric is working until you get a replacement for whatever broke. If far away from home that can take a while. What happens if the manufacturer stopped producing them or are producing incompatible hardware?
I would just make a new panel.
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Old 28-07-2022, 12:58   #9
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

Let me relate a story about a disastrous failure of a digital panel such as you are proposing:

My friend chartered a Dufour 45' sailboat which had just such a panel (a small touch screen surrounded by a lot of lighted icons representing and controlling everything electrical on the boat). We met up with them in Puerto Escondido in the Sea of Cortez and the skipper picked us up in the dingy to come to the boat for drinks.

As we approached the Dufour he remarked, "Oh, the crew must be welcoming you, they have the boat all lit up."

But no, the crew had not turned everything on, the electrical panel had and the touchscreen was totally non functional. Everything was on and stayed on. They could turn nothing off without switching off the main battery switch, then they had zero, including no engine starting.

As the batteries quickly ran down we disassembled the electrical panel and started looking for a solution. On the back of the panel were electronic breakers and we could disable them one by one to see what was what. Eventually we got to a point where we could operate the boat by working on the back of the panel with tools, one breaker at a time.

The next day they called the charter base. A technician arrived and together they all determined that a whole new panel (about 12"x10" which included an integral digital control about the size of a phone) was needed, and those came from France. Replacing it once a spare part was acquired would require complete rewiring the entire panel since the positive and negative bus bars were on the panel and all the boats electrical devices were connected to the back of the panel.

Nobody had a clue what caused this failure and what could be done to prevent it in the future.

So how many spares should one carry?

Me? I don't mind complex toys but I want my important stuff to be simple and field repairable.

By The Way, my electrical panel is 38 years old and a lot of the our wiring is over 25 years old and it works perfectly and reliably.
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Old 28-07-2022, 13:23   #10
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

On a boat you want good quality analog switches along with easy-to-read meters to monitor volts and currant.
If the meters say "Weston" or "General Electric" on them, you'll know that they will give dependable service.

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Old 28-07-2022, 14:21   #11
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

I too am a fan of the KISS principle.

Several options for panels:
or if you wish to design your own,
For circuit breakers/switches, again Blue Sea Systems. or Carling Switch, the latter can be purchased from the online electronics outlets such as Digikey, Mouser, RS

If you wish to add snap-in indicator LEDS, again Blue Sea Systems, Dialight and many others. (Remember to buy ones with a built in current limiting resistor).

Unfortunately I don't have a photo, but last year I installed a small DC panel on my partner's yacht. I designed the panel using Front Panel Express, and used Carling M-series toggle circuit breakers. I managed to obtain the circuit breakers with screw terminators (using ring terminals) instead of the normal spade connector. Copper strips were used as the +ve bus bar to connect the breakers. I've attached the file created for Front Panel Express (rename the extension to .fpd)
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Old 28-07-2022, 14:24   #12
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

I am a giant electrical nerd (I've installed a victron cerbo with the touchscreen for monitoring loads, charge sources and other stuff) and even I will agree with everyone else - for controlling individual circuits, you can't beat an electrical panel with breakers.

Your old one is probably completely fine but a new one (like a blue sea) will look nicer and far more modern, not to mention can integrate a multimeter in. So really up to you
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Old 28-07-2022, 15:26   #13
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

Electrical panel on my 1970 Willard Trawler is fine. Some items should be modernized- the anchor windlass is via 3x50A breakers vs a solenoid, but the panel and breakers are fine. In industrial applications, wiring and panels last decades. Not sure what problem you are trying to solve, but total replacement is a PITA, expensive, and time consuming. And it adds very little value to your boat.
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Old 28-07-2022, 15:35   #14
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

All I did om my 1978 panel is change the analogue meters for digital and a Balmar battery mon fitted nicely !
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Old 28-07-2022, 15:58   #15
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Re: Electrical Panel replacement

I am going to split the difference here…

I love the capabilities of the modern digital systems and I have them for some of my systems. The operational convenience and capability is well worth it.

But…. EVERY circuit has an analog switch or breaker to turn it on/off if (when!) the digital system has an issue. It’s actually an ABYC requirement for digital systems.
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