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Old 09-06-2021, 18:58   #1
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Older AC panel, err, confusion

OK, apologies in advance, been staring at this for too long and can't wrap my brain around it. I'm OK with DC but all my AC stuff has been standard household or solar built from scratch (at a cabin), trying to figure out someone else's work is confusing me.

Back story: 1988 Gulf 32, assuming all the wiring is factory standard as the panel is. Latest insurance survey found this as a fault:
"The hot water heater power supply neutral connects to the shore power input neutral before the double poled main breaker, and so is always connected to shore neutral regardless of the main breaker position.
Recommendation: Wire the hot water heater neutral through the shore power main breaker."

So did some investigation and whadda you know, surveyor was right. The shore power neutral is combined with the hot water heater neutral in a single ring terminal. That I get. But the ring terminal is on a terminal strip / terminal block and I think I'm missing something about how the breakers are wired (there are two jumpers in there that confuse the heck out of me).

Anyway, picture's worth some words, right? If anyone is willing to take a look at this and see if they can make any sense of it I'd sure appreciate it.

Here's the outside of the AC part of the panel for reference (pretty straightforward):


Here's the inside of the panel showing the wiring, with my notes as best I can sort out what's going on doing some continuity tests etc. The color coding is old school at best, Yellow = Hot, Brown = Neutral, Green = Ground:


I realize sometime in the not too distant future we're due for a full panel upgrade, but for right now I just need to get the shore power inlet neutral separated from the hot water heater neutral... but where does it go?

The fact the neutral from the outlets is a step "above" the outlets breaker switch totally confuses me... could I put a new ring terminal on the hot water neutral and attach it there as well?

Any help appreciated, but if the idea of advising an unknown on AC power wiring I understand

-- Bass
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Old 09-06-2021, 19:12   #2
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

Are you sure of your identification of the wires? Are you sure you actually have a problem? Have you traced them with an ohmmeter or other reliable means?

If your identification of the wires is correct, then "Neutral from inlet" should be swapped with "top of panel outlets neutral." By eye the wire sizes to the inlet look too small. They should be 10 gauge.

I am skeptical


"Neutral from battery charger" should go to the bottom (neutral) terminal not one of the upper (ground) terminals
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Old 09-06-2021, 20:01   #3
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

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Are you sure of your identification of the wires? Are you sure you actually have a problem? Have you traced them with an ohmmeter or other reliable means?
Pretty sure. I did some continuity tests with multimeter to come up with which was which. I know the inlet neutral and the hot water neutral are crimped together in the same ring terminal.

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If your identification of the wires is correct, then "Neutral from inlet" should be swapped with "top of panel outlets neutral."
That makes sense to me, joining two "internal" neutrals instead of one "internal" and one "external" (i.e. before the panel) makes more sense to me than the way it is now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
By eye the wire sizes to the inlet look too small. They should be 10 gauge.
Good eye. Another ding in the survey was that, for a 30a circuit, the wiring from shore power inlet to panel is undersized. I'm trying to make sure I have the correct wiring at the panel and then will work on pulling new 10ga from the shore power inlet (haven't quite tracked down where those 3 wires run just yet...)

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"Neutral from battery charger" should go to the bottom (neutral) terminal not one of the upper (ground) terminals
So are you saying that the second breaker block down (the one that has no corresponding switch on the outside, so therefore I'm assuming it's a double breaker?) is where the neutral should come in from the inlet (left side in this picture) and then go out to all the "past the breaker" neutrals (right side of this picture - hence jumping it down to the terminal strip)?

Thanks.

-- Bass
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Old 09-06-2021, 20:17   #4
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

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So are you saying that the second breaker block down (the one that has no corresponding switch on the outside, so therefore I'm assuming it's a double breaker?) is where the neutral should come in from the inlet (left side in this picture) and then go out to all the "past the breaker" neutrals (right side of this picture - hence jumping it down to the terminal strip)?

Exactly.


You may find that the strategy of crimping two wires into a single ring terminal will no longer work once you are using 10 gauge wire as then they will not fit into the ring terminal. May need to add another terminal strip.
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Old 09-06-2021, 21:12   #5
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

First off your wiring is too sloppy and crowded. The barely visible terminal strip should be relocated and all the AC wiring should have a protective cover over it. Next, where are your ground wires connected? Or do you even have ground wires? It looks like you have plenty of room above the circuit breakers to do something much neater. Put two short buss bars above the circuit breakers, one for neutral and one for ground. If you do not plan to add any more circuits you can re-use the panel. Just re-organizing the wiring, correct the faults you are aware of and you should be good to go.
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Old 09-06-2021, 21:29   #6
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

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First off your wiring is too sloppy and crowded.

Tell me about it!! However, this is where I am, with a 1988 boat that is functional and I haven't burst into flames yet, just trying to be safe and cover myself with insurance based on recent survey, I have neither the time nor inclination to do a complete rewire a'la brand new Jeanneau.



Quote:
Originally Posted by stormalong View Post
The barely visible terminal strip should be relocated and all the AC wiring should have a protective cover over it.

The cover was mentioned by the surveyor as well, he also mentioned the compartment needs to be secured so it can't be opened easily. I screwed it shut (which I sort of don't like because I like quick access to things) but figure that takes care of covering the AC... don't unscrew the panel until the AC's off.



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Next, where are your ground wires connected? Or do you even have ground wires?

Yep, grounds are in there, all the green. They seem correct. No isolator or anything right now.



Quote:
Originally Posted by stormalong View Post
It looks like you have plenty of room above the circuit breakers to do something much neater. Put two short buss bars above the circuit breakers, one for neutral and one for ground. If you do not plan to add any more circuits you can re-use the panel. Just re-organizing the wiring, correct the faults you are aware of and you should be good to go.

Thanks!


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Old 10-06-2021, 08:58   #7
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

I am still a noob at electrical but I am a little confused about one thing. From your picture it looks like the ground and neutrals are connected together for the charger on the little terminal strip. aren't AC grounds supposed to be on a separate bus tied to the DC ground bus? Shouldn't the charger ground be tied into the DC neg bus and the neutral on its own bus that connects all the neutrals back to shore?
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Old 10-06-2021, 10:19   #8
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

It's hard to tell from the photo, so I could be wrong, but I'm not convinced the wires are all labled correctly.

wire labled "1" - looks like water heater ground.
wire labled "neutral from battery charger (upper arrow)" - looks like outlets ground.
wire labled "2" - looks like ground from inlet. But also has smaller "light green" wire in same terminal.
wire labled "3" - looks like neutral from battery charger (if it is, it should not be attached here!).

There does not appear to be any ground going to the battery charger.

The "light green" wire goes to the indicator lamps ... I suspect this should be wired to neutral, not ground, but is hard to tell.

I'm no AC expert, but I think what I would do is ... 0) double check the labelling, and physically add lables to the wires for next time. 1) swap the outlets neutral with the inlet neutral. 2) dedicate the terminal strip to neutral wires only, and jumper all the terminals together. 3) install a new terminal strip to act as a bus for the ground wires, which currently seem to be all mixed up with the neutrals. 4) check if the battery charger needs a ground, and if so where it's gone. 5) I suspect the surveyor would want to see a cover over the AC circuits separating them from the DC circuits even with the panel screwed closed (a homemade plywood box kept my surveyor happy). 6) TBH if I was doing all this, I'd probably also replace all the AC wires with new ones and try to route them so they aren't chafing against the main battery cables.
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Old 10-06-2021, 10:55   #9
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

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It's hard to tell from the photo, so I could be wrong, but I'm not convinced the wires are all labled correctly.
I knew I was tired, just didn't realize I was THAT tired. You are right, they were mislabeled. I updated the original photo and here's a slightly different view of the terminal strip:


Thanks.

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Old 10-06-2021, 12:12   #10
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

Thx for the update. You may consider drawing a wiring diagram to clarify what you photos are trying to show. That would help all of us including you.
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Old 10-06-2021, 12:14   #11
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

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Thx for the update. You may consider drawing a wiring diagram to clarify what you photos are trying to show. That would help all of us including you.

Good idea, I'll give that a shot when I get time. Part of my focusing on pictures not wiring diagrams is I'm a little unsure what a few of those terminals are, specifically the second from the top on the breakers...
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Old 10-06-2021, 16:29   #12
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

The charger neutreal going to the ground is also wrong.., You need a bigger neutreal bus.

Inlet netreal - main breaker - netreal bus. - charger, hwt, outlet.

Put inlet netreal to right right side of breaker. Move grey wire from right to left side of breaker so it feeds bus from breaker output. Put all load netreals on bus.

So 4 wires need to go to those 2 bottom neutral screws. Or buy bigger bus.


That 25a outlet breaker is scary. should be 15a. With what looks like 14awg. Plus most outlets are only 15a.

Also the inlet cable looks same size as all loads. Probably 14awg? If so the main should only be 15a as well untill You replace the inlet cable. I bet it’s 30a?

Those 2 things are way worse then having the netreal wires on wrong side of main.
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Old 10-06-2021, 16:56   #13
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

All the neutral wires I have seen in the U.S. are white. Old hot was black now yellow. Nice if all consistent color coded to avoid confusion. Good luck.
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Old 10-06-2021, 17:23   #14
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

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All the neutral wires I have seen in the U.S. are white. Old hot was black now yellow. Nice if all consistent color coded to avoid confusion. Good luck.
AC hot is still black. DC ground is yellow but black is also acceptable.

DO NOT GET THIS MIXED UP.

DC ground is now yellow to differentiate it from AC hot.
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Old 10-06-2021, 17:37   #15
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Re: Older AC panel, err, confusion

Definitely add a new ground bus.
Install a new neutral bus at the same time.
Ground and Neutral bus should be electrically separate.

AC Electrical work should be undertaken by Registered Trade Person.

However see attached sketch based on your posted photos and wording that should help you correct the issues if followed.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Gulf 32 Distribution_00.pdf (231.9 KB, 14 views)
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