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Electric Panel Re-Wiring

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I'm dreaming of re-doing our electric panels on Zia. Hopefully in the next year. I'm in the planning stage now & I appreciate any advice from fellow Morganeers. Especially people like Jim Cleary** who are bonafide electricians & other people with great ideas/experience. I've promised Susan I'll finish our other projects (hardwood flooring at home, and making new interior cushions for Zia) before I start another new project.

The Motivations for this Project: I've never been happy with our electric panel, but everything is mostly working. We want newer battery state-of-charge capability and tank level monitoring. I've already purchased nice Blue Sea systems for those but don't have them installed yet. We will probably be adding a watermaker & solar in the future & don't have any room for expansion. I don't like how 120V is co-mingled with 12V on the same panel, and the whole thing appears to be cobbled together by multiple previous owners with various levels of ability. The exterior looks kind of shoddy, but not horrible. However, behind the panels, it literally looks like a rat's nest. I'm too embarrassed to post a photo of behind the panel. ;) Front of existing panel shown below.

Existing Panel.png

Question #1: Because of the mixed pedigree/lineage of the existing wiring, some of it is super tight when you open the panel and others wires have lots of slack. I think I'd really like to terminate everything on terminal blocks on the wall, and then have a sort of harness/bundle that is a nice and tidy running to the panel. Is this a good idea? Or might the terminal blocks introduce other problems?

My desire for terminal blocks is inspired by Jim Cleary's** modern art shown below. Everything organized, labelled, traceable, etc. And his "Zip Tie" Kung Fu is very strong.

JimClearys Wiring.png

I've done a fair amount of electric work & have great/pro tools for crimping, stripping, safety, etc. I've taken multiple classes from Nigel Calder and know most of the stupid mistakes to avoid, especially for marine wiring. I'm sure I'll invent some new stupid mistakes along the way.

We really like to do "professional" work, and have been slowly working through Zia and cleaning up the obvious "DIY" projects of previous owners.

We like the modular design of Blue Sea's "360" panels, and I used their Panel Wizard to come up with the separate DC and AC panels below. Those are how I'm planning to organize the circuits, however the amperages are not real yet. Working on that now. I'm planning on visiting each circuit with my Amp meter & equipment documentation. Confirming the sizes of breakers & wire gauges.

The DC Panel (13.63" wide, 10.75" tall):
DC Panel.png

The AC Panel (13.65" wide, 4.75" tall):
AC Panel.png

Considering that it is legit "marine" equipment, the Blue Sea 360 panels don't seem horrifically expensive to me. I already have the State-of-Charge & Tank monitors & all of the other stuff will be around 1.5 boat bucks. Isn't that about how much a toilet seat costs at WM?

Question #2: Has anyone used Blue Sea's 360 panel system? Or any similar systems?

Question #3: Good references. Does anyone recommend any good book/article references or videos for this specific type of re-wiring? I've already got Nigel Calder's & Don Casey's latest versions. Although I'm a boring engineer, I fall asleep reading ABYC specifications, but I want to follow them, so if you know any interpretations that are easier to read, please let me know.

Any other ideas or feedback?

As usual, I'm very thankful for everyone collaborating on this forum. Thank You!

-Mark

** Standing offer to Jim Cleary. I'll provide airfare, room & board if you come out to Oregon and make Zia's "Behind the Panel" look like Dana's "Behind the Panel". And then you and Bonnie can take Zia & cruise Puget Sound & British Columbia for 2-3 weeks! Of course this would be after everyone is vaccinated & COVID fears are gone.
 

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jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark

Thank you for the kind words and for the offer to cruise the Northwest. The one thing I must add is that all the wiring work I've done on Dana, including the "behind the panel" board has taken an untold amount of hours to get it to the point it is now. I remember kneeling by the chart table doing the wiring on that board, in the winter with the boat on the hard and a kerosene heater cranking out heat, and having to get up every hour or so to let the blood flow back into my legs. If I were to hire a professional electrician to do the work, it would have cost more then the value of the boat. I would like to offer a couple of tips that might help make the job easier for you as you do the install. There are some jobs that take longer to do at the install but will save much time later down the road when you are troubleshooting or changing things.

As you uninstall the existing panel and the wiring, including the terminal strips under the chart table, Trace every wire, hot leg and return leg, and label every wire individually.

Write down everything! Wire size, color, destination, etc. You will be amazed as to how confusing it will all become.

If you are going to need to extend an existing wire to reach a new destination, ALWAYS use the same color wire.

When you are landing wires at their new location, before you crimp on the sta-kon, slide a piece of clear heat shrink tubing over the wire. With the fitting crimped, put the number and/or letter label near the crimp, then slide the heat shrink over the label and the crimp and shrink it. You will see a good example of this if you look at the red #6 wires in the lower right hand corner coming up to TB6 in the photo of my panel.

If you use the heat shrink like that you can get away without using insulated sta-kons.

Everyone always talks about using tinned wire. The beauty of tinned wire is that it helps prevent corrosion at the ends or the wire at the crimps. It does nothing for the length of the wire between the end fittings. It is also 4 time more expensive as untinned wire. You can prevent the creep corrosion at the ends by wiping a bit of Penetrox on the stripped end of the wire before crimping on the sta-kon.

Try to keep your A/C wiring completely separate from the D/C. You don't want to be in troubleshooting a 12V circuit only to find, the hard way, a live 120V hot circuit.

These are just a couple of ideas that may be of interest to you. If you have any questions that I can help you with, just drop me a line. My Son and I are going to be rebuilding the 12V & 120V panels on his 35' Columbia this spring. If you come across any good ideas, we're always open to suggestions.

Jim
 
Mark,
The new panel sounds great but it needs to start at the 30 amp inlet.
The Square D household main breaker under the helmsmans seat needs to go.
Without running too far afoul of ABYC length recommendations, I ran a 10/3 Anchor marine cable direct from the inlet to a Blue Sea ELC I/1502/ELCI_Main_30A_Double_Pole_Panel mounted on the bulkhead above the quarter berth and fed my rats nest from there.
I have learned that cheap Faston style crimp lugs are a waste of money. Double crimp lugs applied with a double crimp tool.
One crimp for the wire and the other round the insulation and the wire.
Cheers,
John
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Jim - Alas, I was (sort of) kidding and you are welcome to come take Zia out for a spin on this coast, even if you spend your time wiring your son's boat instead of Zia. ;)

I secretly really enjoy doing things like this, in a quality way. It's kind of like a combination of knitting and a puzzle. All mixed in with the threat of being electrocuted by a stray wire.

Thanks for the great tips. Clear heat shrink over the numbers is a great idea. And I thoroughly document everything with labels, photos, and notes that I put into a system called Evernote. Which is then instantly available on all my devices, and I can share it with whoever buys Zia some day. I've not used Penetrox, but I will. Yes, getting the AC totally isolated and away from the DC is one of my driving principles.

And yes, I'll heed your advice when I need to extend a wire of getting the same color & size. And I plan on butt splicing w/heat shrink. Even though I make fun of their pricing I really appreciate that there is a huge West Marine about 10 minutes from Zia.

John - thanks for the tips! That breaker has always been on my list, but it would be really ironic if I spent all that time & energy re-doing the panels, and then the boat burned down by a short at that breaker. I'm going to bump that to the top of my list and do it first. My problem is that I need to find a qualified electrician, who is also a midget & a contortionist. I've tried to get back in there and could barely manage to get a finger all the way there to flip the switch. A few years ago I replaced the plug (which was charred & partially melted) with one of those Smart Plugs, at the recommendation of Nigel Calder. We really like it and it seems way more durable.

I very much like that breaker panel you used (Blue Sea #1502 ELCI Main 30A Double Pole Panel). Did you run the AC from the outside shore power plug, inside the starboard coaming to the panel above the quarter berth? Maybe I wouldn't need to get that intimate with the old breaker in that case.

Thanks guys! Any other recommendations/thoughts welcome!
 
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jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark

As John says, the 120V switch up under the coaming MUST be removed. The ABYC rules are for the switch to be with 6' of the entrance point. So the aft end of the quarter berth will be legal. Putting it there also allows it to be accessible to actually operate it.

Another idea: in addition to the number of circuit breakers you feel you need/want, you might want to install a number of fuse holders and switches. The smallest CB is a 5A. Most of the electronics we use requires way less then 5A, more like 1A. With fuses you can customize the over current protection for your VHF, stereo, sail meters, etc as per the required amps.

Jim
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Ok - the aft end of the quarter berth. That makes sense & I can reach it easily without any yoga moves. I could de-power everything and send my son in there to take out the old Square D.

Excellent idea on the fuses. I didn't realize that 5A was the smallest circuit breaker.

Continued Thanks!
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Jim - very interesting. That panel system has circuit breakers down to 2.5A. Our super bright LED Navigation light only draws 0.3A. All of our lights are LED now. Just so it's consistent "end user" operation for everything, I'm thinking I might have them all use the same style breaker, with 2.5A being the minimum.

Do you see any problem with that?

It seems like it would only be a problem if the manufacturer says something needs over current protection of less than 2.5A. The manuals I've found so far are well above that. Our VHF is 10A, Water Pump 7.5A, Refrigerator 15A, etc.
 
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jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark

I'm surprised at the VHF at 10A. Our Icon unit calls for 1A. The pumps and the refridgeration are all good on breakers at the higher values. Circuit breakers smaller then 5A are new. The problem with working with a higher overcurrent protection then a piece of equipment is set for is that a voltage surge or loss may do damage to the unit before the protector trips. Of course, if all your electronics require 2.5A or better, then you are golden.

Jim
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
Mark, there is an electrician named Butch Bogan who redid my AC panel. I will try to get his number at RCYC when I am down there next time.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Thanks Terry! Do you recall (in very rough numbers) how much that re-wiring cost? If you don't want to post it on here, you could private message me with the 'Start a Conversation' thing on this forum. I don't know if you recall the split between materials and labor but that would be super interesting too.
 

struell

Stephen Ruell
One thing that surprised me when tackling our electrical system is that the 12V main panel is not where the challenge lies, the more difficult stuff was the heavy cable “backbone” ( for want of a better name) that you need for the big current stuff. A 12v breaker panel is actually just a branch installation off of that and fairly straightforward. I found the large 12v cables hardest to deal with, and you need to work out how those are routed since they don't turn corners easily. I made the mistake of thinking the panel was the main component and it really isn’t.

I have been working on my electrical mess for two years now. I'm still working on it and still have a rats nest of wiring to straighten out and secure neatly, but it is coming together. Most wiring in the boat will be replaced by the time this is done, except some small stuff like the cabin lights, which I probably will leave alone, just collecting them together at the new panels.

The old boat had lots of defunct and unknown wiring from stuff replaced over the years. What was there worked in general but there was no room for expansion and the whole mess looked dangerous. Fortunately the previous owner had the battery installation and shore power redone by a professional so I had a good starting point. I fixed other stuff first but finally had to address the electrical since I wanted to add a windlass, solar panel, solar controller, battery monitoring, radar, autopilot, 120VAC inverter, new radios, stereo, etc.

The other challenge is in sequencing the work without tearing everything out all at once, trying to add new stuff in the same spot as the old panels and wires, while also keeping the boat in operation.

It seemed to me that if you want to do amp usage monitoring you need a shunt right near the batteries and then bring all the cables to that point. The windlass, solar and inverter need heavy cables terminating at or near the batteries, so you need bus bars for large cable terminations and each wire needs fuse protection. There was not such an accessible place to install this in the old installation. After much puzzling I cut a new 12" square hatch (in hindsight should have been bigger) in the quarterberth deck and installed a plywood bottom several inches below to mount the fuses and bus bars for the heavy cable terminations (associated with the batteries, battery switch, shunt, charge combiner, alternator feed, windlass, solar, and inverter/charger) to be terminated on big bus bars with the required fuses. All the feeds for the new 12V panels - bilge, main cabin, and cockpit, are fed from these buses.

I built a new cabinet over the top of the existing hanging locker cabinet that is forward of the desk and cut holes between the new space in that cabinet and the main electrical panel cabinet. The new panel mounts the new VHF and stereo radios, charger ports, and Blue Sea 360 panels for 12V circuits. That panel is 1/2” Azek and hinges along the bottom with a stainless steel piano hinge. It swings down to work on it. I also reworked the old main panel location on the starboard side with another new hinged panel. These two panels provide pretty good access in behind and allow more surface area for flush mounting the equipment. I trimmed them out with cherry.

Morgan had most all of the circuits, both AC and DC, running into that secret terminal compartment, hidden in the bottom of the desk. I found the old terminal strips were made of small plastic segments on a track, and they had broken loose and were floating. It looked like a good place to have a fire. I ended up, one by one, disconnecting or cutting those wires, identifying what wire it was, if I could, then re-routing it instead to the new panels. Most were not long enough so I replaced with new wire if I could, or extended the length to make it reach the new panel or terminal strip. Replacing more of them is still a goal for another day

Once I have all the circuits wired and working I will tackle untangling the new rats nest and organizing, zip tying and supporting them better. It is less of a rats nest now but still have more to do. Also haven't finished labelling and making sure I have the schematic right.

I bought 100 ft reels of red and yellow 1/0 cable, a cutter and crimper and bags of eye terminals. That was the largest wire I needed, which is the long run for the windlass. With the left over cable I did most of the remaining big cables such as the inverter and the main panel feed, additional battery cables, even if it is larger than needed. I bought other reels of red and yellow 10, 12 14 and 16 AWG tinned wire for everything else. Finally a few places I had to buy some 6 and 8 AWG by the foot. It is pretty impractical to try to color code to match the old colors, better to use labelling.

Terminals are hard- you need to have the multiple sizes and styles, or keep running back to the store for those. They are a lot cheaper in bags of 25 than 1 or 2 at a time, if you can figure out how to standardize things. The backbone also needs quite a few individual fuses for the big cables.

Regarding breaker size I kept the ones that came in the new panels, for the most part they were all 15 amps. I understand that the breaker in the panel is for protecting the wire from over current, not the equipment, and when required you use a fuse holder with a small amperage fuse in the power feed wire to protect a particular electronic item. Most all the equipment I have bought came with that instruction, most had the fuse included and some said it voids the warranty if you don't use the fuse. Plus you probably should not use smaller than 16 or 18 ga wire anyway. If you use the Blue Sea wire sizing app for a smart phone then you can select the right wire size but it seems to usually be controlled by the length of the circuit and maximum allowable voltage drop, If you don’t consider voltage drop, then 16 ga wire can handle more than 15 amps. As I understand it that should therefore prevent a fire but is just not going to protect your actual electronic item.

The Blue Sea 360 panels are nice looking and well made but seem to be made more for small wiring circuits, not sure how you would use them for the big cables. I think the "traditional" style panel witht eh toggle switches is easier to see if it is on or off. I used that on the AC panel just to make it obvious. Probably should have made all panels the same in retrospect.

IMG_2332.jpegIMG_2333.jpeg
 

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Stephen,

I can tell you put a *lot* of hours into that. I'm good at wiring, not so much at cabinet work.

The cabin wiring uses lots of vampire types. There are probably 30 of them throughout the boat, some in hard to reach places. You will need to replace those, as it is basically damaged/untinned wire waiting to fail.

My panel was redone professionally by the previous owned. I should post some pictures, as it is pretty nice, although there are a few things I would have done differently. It's not the best professional install I have seen, but seems to meet ABYC and is fairly tidy. It is all in the stock location, 8 AC circuits, 16 DC circuits, Stereo, and VHF, with a Blue Seas VSM422. They had a custom panel cut and screen printed.

I was less impressed with the battery compartment. That is still a work in progress, with my getting ready for a Lithium upgrade.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Stephen - Thanks for the great write up & the photos help a lot. It looks like quite the endeavor.

I like your idea of adding the new compartment for bus bars. Far more accessible than how my bus bars are mounted on the sides of the battery compartment. Serious boat yoga trying to reach those.

What material is the white sheeting that all the gear/panels are mounted onto (on the main panels)?

Speaking of rats nests: For our new radar & instruments we had them all wired by some very good professionals. They showed me some of the things they pulled out, which were done by previous owners, and it was a little horrifying. Like some DC wiring was done with cut off household extension cords & the ends were joined using duct tape. I’m from Alaska and we called that “Bush Engineering”: when you are multiple airplane flights away from the right equipment you make do with what you have. I know all the previous owners lived within 30 miles of a West Marine or other chandlery, so access to the right materials wasn’t the issue.;)

I think they were showing that stuff to me to see my reaction: wondering if I had done it.

Warren: what are the “vampire types” you mentioned? I’m a little surprised your boat had 8 AC circuits - seems like a lot.
 
To clarify, there are 8 AC breaker positions. 2 for AC Main, 2 for AC inverter, and 4 circuits. Battery charger, Port Side, Starboard side, and Water Heater.
The vampire taps (typo in first post) are the type that clamp over a wire, piercing the insulation, and allowing a branch to tap into it. They are commonly sold in auto parts stores. They are horrible to use in cars, and even worse on a boat. The Morgan factory use a lot of them in the lighting.
Here is an example:
Utilitech 20-Count T-Tap Wire Connectors in the Terminal Wire Connectors department at Lowes.com
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Ahhhh, okay, "taps". Yeah, not good. I guess the one good thing is all our lighting now is LED and has crazy low amp draw. Since those circuits all survived with 10 times higher amps from incandescent lighting, I'm gonna say they are okay as is. I'll hunt those vampires on other circuits, though.
1613156395302.png

Regarding Inverters: I was going to wire in a good sized inverter, but the more I’m thinking about it, the more I’m thinking I won’t. We won’t ever use microwaves, hairdryers or TVs. The biggest draw we have is the LED monitor for my computer, and my laptop. And I can power those with a cigarette lighter inverter.
 
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As far as I know, the only place they are used is in the lighting. There are several taps on the starboard side, up near the hull/deck joint where they are very hard to reach. I found out where they were when half my LED lights went out while under passage. Not fun to troubleshoot that while sailing. The failed one was in really bad shape, and I had to cut about 1 foot of bad wire out just to make a temporary repair.

There is one(really a pair +/- ) in the hanging locker across from the head, one above the head door, one above the saloon table. I think there may be one in the V birth, one above the pilot birth, and one behind the main electric panel.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I forgot to mention that Stephen is right in that in principal, the circuit breaker is to protect the wire, and fuses should protect devices that are sensitive to over current. I still want to use my amp probe on each circuit to be sure there is nothing wonky going on.

BTW, I was watching these videos on YouTube that I really like.


Jeff Cote seems very knowledgeable & has a great presentation style. I knew much of it, but there were for sure some things I hadn’t heard or thought about. If you watch the whole series there are many interesting nuggets. For example, I hadn’t really thought a lot about why boats are 12V. It’s because cars are 12V, but cars all have such short wire lengths that it doesn’t really matter much. A higher voltage (like 24V or higher) would save a ton of money on copper wire sizes. The Europeans seem to have that figured out.

It´s funny, though, because Jeff Cote is (self-admittedly) obsessive about his wiring. He has fully re-wired his boat 5 times seeking “perfection”, which he says you can never fully achieve. I’m going to try hard to avoid that path, and shoot for “pretty darned good”.
 
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Help me out on how this works:
Has any one ever tripped a shore power 30 amp breaker which are rated at 10K AIC?
That breaker protects every thing down stream from over current and bolted short circuits at that rating
The weakest link since the 1930's has been the twist lock receptacle, inlet, cord bodies and cap. They love loosen up, burn and melt.
So the ABYC in its infinite wisdom asserts that we need a overcurrent protective device down stream of the same over current protective device?
If its considered a disconnecting means, the shore power cord inlet serves the same purpose.
If you install the newer ELCI device on the boat that's a step forward.
Having a 30 amp cb in series with a 30 amp cb is nonsense, IMHO.
 

struell

Stephen Ruell
Hi Mark:
You asked what the white panel material is- it is PVC house trim sold in the big box home improvement stores- brand name "Azek" at Lowes, another name at HD. They have boards of various sizes plus panels of various thicknesses. Cheaper than Starboard but not sure if any color choices. Easy to work with woodworking tools. If you screw up or when your electronics change it is cheap to replace. For the instrument panels I used 1/2" thick with 3/4" cherry trim so that the face would be inset. I used aluminum angles on the back side to beef up the panels holding the radios, which seemed a bit heavy. The big box stores also sell the stainless steel piano hinges pretty cheap.

I agree an Inverter seems unnecessary. This one is also a charger and automatic switches when there is shore power availability. I probably don't really need it but had in in my plan to be installed. We are out on a mooring and don't have shore power, never have had have any AC appliances to plug into the outlets except small chargers for electronic devices. Rick Dowe has installed a microwave on an inverter, maybe that would be a possibility.

Warren:
Thanks for the tip off on the wire taps- I will need to rewire the cabin light circuits it seems. The lights need a general upgrade anyway.

Steve
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Jim Cleary - a couple of questions about your "behind the panel" wiring photo above:
  1. Looking at the terminal strips, it looks like you have over 50 circuits going through there. The most I can come up with on our boat is 24, and that's leaving 4 or 5 for future expansion. Are all those DC circuits? Or are some of them maybe control wires? (like on TB-9)? Is there any AC on that panel?
  2. Some of the radical purists say the DC negative wiring should be Yellow on a boat. There isn't a stitch of of yellow wiring on Zia, and I think it would be more confusing than helpful. So I'm going to have DC negative stay black. Was that your thinking too?
  3. Some people say it's best to use heat shrink on the terminal ring fittings. To keep moisture from getting up into the ends of the wires. That's more time and a little more money, but what the heck. I think I'm going to do that.

John English - we have tripped the AC breakers inside the cabin before. But not our shore power breaker (Square D). I wouldn't doubt if that thing was corroded closed & didn't even work. It's had a hard life for a household circuit breaker. I'm very much looking forward to installing our new Blue Sea breaker. It has a "test" button to verify it still trips, amongst other things. I never really trust the shore power breakers on docks - often sketchy installs, and they are often ancient & exposed to the elements.
 
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Since others have posted panel photos. Professionally rewired by the previous owner, but IMHO only average quality work- I would have done better if I had done it myself. But a professional looking custom panel. The Terminal strips are in the factory location inside the chart table. They have been replaced and reworked a bit, but its really cramped in there. Holding tank gauge, stereo, and VHF are barely visible below the panel.

I am relocating the 12V sockets and the LEDs on the cute sailboat diagram to make room for a Victron meter.

I replaced the main breaker in the back of the boat last year, along with the power cord and socket, before needing heat for the winter. Once I got it out, the factory breaker seemed to be in surprisingly good shape. It might have been replaced before. I didn't do ELCI because I couldn't find a box that would fit one, without getting a large box, which would have been both expensive and large. While that breaker does seem a bit useless in our boats, I do understand the reasoning, or at least I have my own reasoning. One, there is no guarantee that any particular boat would be wired for 30A. A smaller boat that with just a charger and some lights could be 15A, and would then require a smaller breaker, right after the 30A socket, to protect the smaller wires after. Also, I don't trust the pedestals at most marinas. Some are downright scary, so having my own breaker that protects my boat seems prudent.

I have never tripped any breakers on my boat. The max current I ever draw is less than 20A, which gives me a good margin. I also watch the voltage in my boat carefully. As a connector heats up and becomes resistive, the AC voltage in the boat will drop if there is a large load. So watching it over time, you can see if the connectors at either end of the shore power cable need attention.

I really like the concept of yellow DC negative wires, but it is only helpful if all of them are yellow. AC hot wires are Black, and run in close proximity to DC Negative. It would be quite dangerous to accidently cut the AC wire.



IMG_3765.JPGIMG_3766.JPG
 
Just an fyi
I had our 30amp AC breaker tripping last winter when I was using a small portable heater. It was an old faulty switch. I did finally find a replacement at Home Depot, but it took some searching. I doubt it had ever been replaced.
And of course it was a royal pain it the A** and everywhere else to replace.

I have electrical panel envy now with this thread Mark! :(
Mitchell
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Terry
Is that yellow for negative for 12V as well as 120V? Would you know how recent that rule has been in effect?

Jim
 
Terry
Is that yellow for negative for 12V as well as 120V? Would you know how recent that rule has been in effect?

Jim
Yellow is for DC negative only. The reason is because black is AC hot, so yellow avoids confusion. No AC wires are yellow, so you will never accidently cut an AC wire instead of a ground wire. I don't know when the change to yellow happened, but more than 10 years ago.
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Warren
That makes good sense. Unfortunately for boats build prior to that rule change, ours, it can cause quite a bit of confusion when rewiring.

Jim
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Jim - yes, so unless we were re-wiring the entire boat, it makes sense to keep DC negative black. I think most practical ABYC advocates agree with that, from what I've been reading.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I've been rethinking the panels, and we think we prefer the more traditional Blue Sea DC panels. Instead of the super modern looking ones I posted earlier in this thread.

For one thing, they are (significantly) less expensive. Also in the future they should be easier to find parts for because they are so standard & ubiquitous.

And most importantly, according to Susan they are a better match for Zia's generation/demographic/style. More utilitarian, less flash. I agree.

The 24 position model should leave plenty of room for future expansion, etc.

DC Panel Retro.png
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark
Back in the late 80s and early 90s when I began my rewiring project, which was a slow evolution which continues today, I made due with supplies that could be midnighted from various sources. There wasn't always a choice of colors available. If you look on the photo of the backboard posted above you'll find many colors landing on the central copper buss that is the 12V negative buss. It has been a constant source of confusion when troubleshooting even with very detailed diagrams. Having one color to denote (yellow) all the 12V negative wires would be wonderful solution.

In your photo of the Blue Seas circuit breaker board the breakers are all 15A. If you order from them can you specify different values fo different circuits? In the case of the top left breaker marked electronics, would that feed a fuse panel that would feed the individual instruments?

Jim
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Jim - yes, I agree that yellow would be ideal for glancing at the systems and figuring out what is going on. But would I rewire the whole boat? Nope. I'd rather be sailing ;). And having some be yellow & some be black seems like it would confuse 'future me' & others.

On the photo of the Blue Sea circuit breaker - their stock panel comes with that many 15A breakers because that is the most commonly appropriate size for most circuits. I think they assume you will buy the other odd sizes you need to supplement the 15A.

The more I think of it, the more I'll do the "proper" thing and size the breaker for the wire in the circuit, rather than the load. So on those light circuits (like Nav Light), our new LED Nav light only draws 0.3 amps. But the wire is rated for 10A at the lengths it is running. So I think I'll put a 10A breaker in there. For loads that are sensitive, I'll also fuse them to protect the load.

That's my plan for now, unless someone points out something stupid that I'm doing.

We are very excited about having a good Battery Monitor so we can be more wise about our amp-hour usage.

Cheers,
-Mark
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark
In the case of the electronics I wanted to avoid having in-line fuse holders near or behind the radio, stereo, instruments, etc, that are difficult to find and access when a fuse blows. So I put 8 switches and fuse holders on the face of the panel to have instant access to changing a fuse. It takes up a bit more room but allows for easy troubleshooting.

You are correct to insure that the circuit breakers protect the wire size, 14awg = 15A, 12awg = 20A, 10awg = 30amp, etc but you need to look at the requirement of the equipment you are controlling. A unit that calls for 5A current interruption will be damaged if it is protected by a 15A breaker The wire may be fine but the unit may be toast.

We have a link 10 system on our house bank and it has been flawless for years now.

Jim
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Jim - that's a good point about the fuses & being easier to find & replace. I'm going to do that too. What do you think about having the fuses clearly labelled on the terminal strip board behind the panel?

Also, I counted something like over 50 circuits on your terminal strips. Are some of those controls/sensors & other things? That's more than twice our # of circuits.

Thanks
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
I think the Link system may no longer be available. I use a Balmar battery Monitor, which seems quite good. The guy at Compass Marine likes it. And you don't have to in sert shunts n the main charging circuits.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Terry - I'm guessing you have a Balmar alternator, too? I was planning on doing that some day but our new Yanmar came with a beefy 120A alternator. How nice! Kind of an expensive way to upgrade an alternator, though. :(
 
Internally regulated alternators at any amperage are hobbled by their design. External personalized regulation is the goal. Lots to think about.
I just purchased a Balmar MC-614 to solve the missing link in my Lipo installation. The market has spoken and is is in favor of this regulator.
I have up until now just monitored the alternator and turned off the field current when necessary when things got out of range. For day sails I don't turn the alternator on at all.
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
I have a Balmar regulator. Actually I have 3, since 1 never had a soft ramp and 1 died. But I am contemplating the installation of a Wakespeed regulator, which has received great reviews. See AAC and Compass Marine. I think I am going to stick with flooded batteries, which I must replace this year. With Trojan 6 volts I can get 400 amp hours into my battery locker, along with a 12 volt starting battery and Blue Sea combining relays. (My old battery combiner also died after 15 years.) I run a Balmar large case alternator (100 amps) and a small case of the same size that I keep around when/if the large case dies. But I use the boat very differently than does John.
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark
The attached photo is the face of our panel. The two vertical columns are 18 circuit breakers. The bottom horizontal row are 8 fuse holders and switches. 6 more circuit breakers have since been added to an aux panel to make a total of 24 CBs. The fuses are for the following equipment: stereo 1A, CO detector 3A, stand alone depth sounder 5A, VHF 1A, USB plug 2A, radar 10A, chart plotter3A, B&G wind inst 3A. In the event of a failure of any of these units, the first place to look is to the easily accessible fuses on the board.

Jim
 

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I have a Balmar regulator. Actually I have 3, since 1 never had a soft ramp and 1 died. But I am contemplating the installation of a Wakespeed regulator, which has received great reviews. See AAC and Compass Marine. I think I am going to stick with flooded batteries, which I must replace this year. With Trojan 6 volts I can get 400 amp hours into my battery locker, along with a 12 volt starting battery and Blue Sea combining relays. (My old battery combiner also died after 15 years.) I run a Balmar large case alternator (100 amps) and a small case of the same size that I keep around when/if the large case dies. But I use the boat very differently than does John.
Since a lot of you have accomplished this, I would love to see how you managed it. The T105s are 11" tall, and I don't have the height for that. Height aside I might be able to fit 4 of them, but no way 4 and a start battery. Currently I have 2 group 27s and one group 24. With each in its own box (which wastes space) there is no room for any more.

I am torn between 560Ah of lithium at $850, or 300Ah of Lithium at $1600 both which would easily fit. By price, seems an easy choice. 560Ah of Lithium is cheaper than Lead, and give 2x the capacity-the same as a 1000Ah Lead bank. But I am concerned about the durability of Grade B cells from China, even though they have lots of good reviews, even a few in boats. The 300Ah are new Grade A cells, and a long time proven and recommended in boats cell. And still cheaper than a dropin Lithium Battery.
 
I have a balmar regulator, and would not buy one again. I would go for the wakespeed for sure. The Balmar is quirky, and there are some aspects of how it regulates that don't seem to make sense. Somewhat difficult to program.

The biggest issues, is that it will at a *minimum* Bulk charge for 6 minutes, and absorb for 6 minutes before it attempts to calculate the state of charge. That might be fine if the battery is dead and you are running the engine to charge. Not ok if the battery is full and you are running the engine to get somewhere else. Worse, the default is 12 minutes and 12 minutes unless you get into advanced programming mode. I damaged a set of batteries by overcharging before I realized this. The batteries being full by solar, and my stopping and starting many times in one day moving around, and every time charging for 24 minutes instead of staying in float.

It isn't clear what "magic" the balmar uses to determine SOC. There is no way to enter capacity, or tail current, and it doesn't have a way to measure current. So it is a guess at best - and I don't think it does a very good job. Probably great years ago when it was introduced, but I think it is behind what is expected today.

For Lithium, I am keeping my FLA starting battery (might change to AGM) and using a battery to battery charger with a Lithium profile. This also lets me set a current limit to not overwork my alternator.
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Warren
The image is of 4 group 27 lifeline AGM batteries located in the compartment at the forward end of the quarter berth. The upper right hand battery is raised slightly (1") due to the curve of the hull. Our last set of these AGMs lasted 9 years. They are never removed from the boat. When she is on the hard the solar panels keep the system topped up. On the engine is a 110 amp alternator from HEHR with an Aqualine regulator that was installed in 2000 and hasn't needed to be messed with since. With 225 watts of solar on the bimini and the 110 alternator, we almost never run the engine just for amps. On our two 8 month journeys up and down the East coast we only needed to run the engine for amps for 3 hours after a week of solid rain at Solomon Island, MD while at anchor.

Jim

IMG_0800.jpg
 
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Yeah, that won't fit in my boat. At the aft end of that compartment, due to the shape of the hull, I can't fit a group 27 at all, much less 2 of them like you have. I can fit two toward the forward, and a single group 24 at the aft, where it is raised. Mine are rotated the other way. I assume you must have buss bars and such in the smaller compartment aft of this?

Curious exactly what the difference is though that makes my space smaller, mostly in height available by the sound of it. But also you seem to have more flat floor available.

With my setup, I do have room for charger, inverter, MPPT, and my buss bars/shunts all in the space.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Thanks for the pictures, Jim. They explain a lot. You have a very nice & functional home-brewed panel.
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
Warren, keep us informed of your project. Quite interested in the outcome and impressed with your, competence to undertake the project. Do you have the outer area, like John English, to install your BMS, combiners, busbars, etc? What number is your hull? I wonder if they lowered the battery locker floor on the boats the rest of us have, thus providing more room. One thing you might consider. Although the amp hour capacity of Lithium assumes that you can draw them down past the 50% level required for flooded batteries,, what will be the voltage at the lower levels? I have read one commentator suggesting that the voltage drops like standard flooded batteries. If so, there is equipment on most of our boats that will not run on much less than 12.0 volts true, and certainly not 10.5 volts.
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Warren
Those 4 group 27 batteries are stored in the forward end of the Q-berth on the inboard side. In the photo it is the lower left battery that is slightly raised, not the upper right, sorry.

Jim
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I finally made it to Zia yesterday to take measurements & photos. Portland had a big snowstorm a week ago which shuts down the town. People around here don’t know how to drive on snow/ice, so I avoided the roads/mayhem for a while.

Anyway, I had a few surprises, both good and bad.

The very ‘good’ surprise was that when we had some excellent professional electricians install our new navigation & radar gear a few years ago, they really cleaned up the rats nest behind the panel. I had a lot of things going on at work & didn’t really have time to look closely. They had taken out all the horrific previous owner DIY junk, and it actually doesn’t look too bad any more.

The ‘bad’ surprise is that inside of the hull where I was going to mount the terminal strip panel is far more ‘space limited’ than I remembered. The biggest thing is the holding tank discharge pipe partially blocks the area. And other wires would need to be re-routed (which is not really a big thing). I was also a little surprised at how awkward that space would be to reach, mostly because the nav desk is in the way.

39B3E0D4-87D8-45E5-87EB-C5D4AC7097EC.jpeg

Jim - I’m even more impressed with your setup - that you could get it all in that space. Your holding tank pump out port must be located elsewhere?

So, based on these revelations I’m re-thinking the need to revamp the panel. It is approaching prime voyaging weather, and I don’t want to lose prime time because the project I’ve taken on is more involved than planned. And I don’t want to take shortcuts.

For now, I might just put my Battery/System monitor and Tank monitor on the existing panel where the large, old & malfunctioning analog Volt & Amp gauges currently are.

In the long term, if I put in new panels, I think I’ll use the terminal strips/bus bar area under the Nav desk. The other pleasant surprise is that my electricians had also cleaned up that area & it looks really good now. God, I love the work of professional electricians! They make it look so easy, but I know it took twice as long as the crappy previous owner DIY work.

One downside to waiting on putting in a new panel: As a person is removing the existing panel (shown above), if their right hand fingers curl around slightly behind the panel, they will get bitten by the 110V connections you can see in the lower right of the photo. I have been bitten by 110V before and I seek to avoid a repeat. Think I’ll find some kind of insulation to put there to prevent that.

I’m looking forward to the shore power breaker replacement next weekend. Then the battery & tank monitors the following weekend.
 
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jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark
I had come to the same conclusion as you did about the space available behind the existing panel for rewiring. My solution was to relocate the new panel aft of the chart table and added a bookshelf inplace of the original. See photos. I have since removed the holding tank fill piping and am planning to remake the bookshelf. Moving the new panel aft also allowed me to do away with the terminal strips in and under the chart table. They were hard to work on and were very dangerous with the 110V in the same place as you have already experienced.

Jim
 

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mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
I’m very glad to hear that, Jim!
We were just staring at that spot wondering how the heck you got all those connections into that tiny space.
Totally makes sense now that you moved it.
Very nice looking work & we like your shelf area.
 

terry_thatcher

Terence Thatcher
One other thing to consider: The 1/4 berth is not a true double. I made the head of that berth narrower and built in a sizeable locker the height of the chart table. Lots of food storage there. You could put an electric box like Jim's above it, although then you could only open the food locker from the side. Mine opens from the top.
 

jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Terry
Over the years many people have asked "How many does she sleep". In the equation presented in the sales brochures the quarter berth is listed as a double and that the boats total berths was eight. My stock answer to that question is: "Eight naked people with no food". I then go on to explain how the boat is very comfortable for two people with the occasional guest or two. In the years that I did a lot of singlehanding, the quarter berth was the perfect bunk for a lone skipper. I have seen numerous changes and additions, on the board here, to the berth on various boats. All of them well thought out and well done. Now that Bonnie and I have resigned ourselves to mostly short coastal cruising, we have given the quarter berth a new name: GARAGE.

Jim
 
I love looking at everyone's pictures except it takes forever to load multiple 2 and 3 mb pictures. It's time to use photo resizers and reduce them to kbs.
Dare I say "Size matters"?
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Yes, John ... this forum software is supposed to automatically take care of re-sampling to appropriate resolutions. But it doesn't seem to be doing that. I need to check into it. I've experienced what you're talking about. It does surprise me though, that 3+ MB photos would still be so slow in this day & age.
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Hi Jim ... there are several ways to insert a photo, and method #1 and #2 below automatically take care of the resolution.

Method #1: Currently, usually when you upload a photo by clicking on the "Insert Photo" button: 1614116164265.png
You can choose to insert the "Full Image" or a "Thumbnail" on the page.

Thumbnail is almost always best because it puts a lower resolution photo on the main page, but if a user clicks on that thumbnail, it opens the full res photo. The Thumbnail can be 10 times smaller & faster than the Full Image photo. This method also lets you post photos "inline" and embedded within the text of your post.

Method #2 is to "Attach files" (with the button at the bottom of the dialog area). That puts a little thumbnail at the bottom of your post and a user can click to view. The disadvantage of this method is it piles all the photos at the end of your post. Depending on what you are posting, that can sometimes be fine. Your post about 6 posts above which shows your front panel and the shelves used this approach, and it works well. https://www.morgan38.org/morgan38/index.php?threads/electric-panel-re-wiring.15831/#post-133575

Method #3: Don't do this, unless you know the image to be small! The third and least desirable way to insert photos is to use your computer or phone's "Copy and Paste" function to paste a photo into the middle of some text. I've discovered from the school of hard knocks this will let you post massive photos in the main post. So they load really slowly.

How's that for a long answer? Let me know if something doesn't make sense or if I'm wrong. ;)
Cheers,
-Mark
 

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jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark
I always use method #2, attach files, because I never knew there was an insert photo button. Now that I am sitting here typing away, what do I see on the banner above me? Yup, the insert photo button. Guess you can teach an old sailor new tricks. Although I'm afraid to hit the Toggle BB Code button. So I guess I'll continue method #2 unless someone is having trouble seeing or loading my attempts with photos.

Jim
 
When I post using method 1, it inserts it full size, but also has a button to insert a thumbnail. When I press that button, it inserts a thumbnail and leaves the full size there as well, and I have to delete it. Is that normal behavior?
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
When I post using method 1, it inserts it full size, but also has a button to insert a thumbnail. When I press that button, it inserts a thumbnail and leaves the full size there as well, and I have to delete it. Is that normal behavior?
Yes, that's been "normal" since we started using this system. I don't really like it since it requires the user to delete the full size image. Which is asking a lot of a casual user. I haven't upgraded the version of the software for about a year, and I think I'll do that this weekend. Trying to stay current so we don't have to do a massive upgrade at some point.
 

rickdowe2

Richard Dowe
I am off the subject matter, I cruise around and use different sites and this is by far the best and easist site I have seen. I wish I had the technical ability to improve the other sites. Thanks for what you do Mark!
 

mpearson

Mark Pearson
Staff member
Aw! Thanks Mitchell & Rick!
Amazingly, it was 6 years ago that I took the reins and upgraded everything on this site. I had figured out how to use the old system, but the driver was when I showed the old site to my very computer-savvy wife and asked her how she would search for something, or post a new thread. It stumped her. It was an internet app from 20+ years ago.

Almost everyone has been super supportive. I was savagely chewed out multiple times by a couple of fellas, too, which was fair: change can be hard for us humans.
Anyway, thanks for the nice words.
 
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jimcleary

James M. Cleary
Mark
As always we all appreciate the never ending work you do. Let us know when you need an influx of cash to do that work.

Jim
 
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