View Full Version : Electrical install

10-20-2014, 05:44 PM
Hi im new to the forum.I recently bought a fixer upper,1977 masterfab houseboat at lake mohave. The boat is wired with one outlet and power to the 2 ac units .I am in the process of a compleate remodel,and have already compleatly gutted the interior to just a shell..
I have installed a shore power outlet , but i used basic 10 gage romex from home depot to a transfer switch than from transfer switch to a couple outlets using regular 14 gage romex..None of the wiring i used is marine grade..Does that make a difference ? If so can someone please give me an idea of what wiring, what gage, and conduit i need to use..Also does anyone have any recomendations on a good breaker panel as well.
thank you.

10-21-2014, 04:29 AM
You've already mistakenly have used romex........

10-21-2014, 06:26 AM
Since this is a remodel your insurance company may look at this as a new boat. Wiring will then have to be up to current Marine specs. In todays environment marine wiring is not a do it yourself project.

A big reason for this is not only to protect you ,but to protect the people and boats thar are moored in your area.

10-21-2014, 07:58 AM
I'm with Bamby. Unlike a house, a boat moves. Movement can cause solid wire in romex to develop cracks and fail. You want stranded wire, preferably tinned copper, in a boat. Ike's book that Bamby recommended is a winner and since he gave you the link, the price is right. If you were going to buy a book, I have found Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder to be a winner. Some links for suppliers you will want to get to know are:

Another link you will want is not a supplier but a company whose products I have found to be good is: https://www.bluesea.com/

Your insurance company and any surveyor looking at your boat will follow ABYC requirements. If you haven't heard of ABYC, you will want to become familiar with them.

10-21-2014, 09:17 AM
Sorry, I forgot to respond to your specific question about breaker panels. As a beginning point, you need to know that most alternating current ("AC") breakers won't work for direct current ("DC"). Because alternating current alternates, its wave form passes zero (or shuts off) two times every cycle. That makes it easy to turn off an AC circuit without arcing. DC current is steady and therefore more prone to arcing. The only normal AC breaker I know of that will handle DC loads is a Square D QO series. They are rated for DC power up to 48 volts which is fine for most boats. Their AC rating is more than any of us would ever need on a boat.

You can check out Square D QO panels and breakers at Home Depot. The panels are make for houses so they're big and heavy. They're not really designed to handle AC and DC breakers in one panel, so you would need two of them. Circuit labels aren't backlit and since Square D doesn't sell labels, you're using something like a sharpie or a label maker to name your circuits. The Square D panels would work, but in my humble opinion you'll end up with an ugly set of panels that look like they were installed by an amateur shopping at Home Depot.

The reason I know about the Square D panels is that I looked at nicer marine panels, balked at the price, shopped for Square D at Home Depot, then swallowed hard and shopped for the best price I could find on the better marine panels. I found something along the way. The Square D panels you buy at Home Depot are completely bare and buying individual breakers adds up. It still isn't as much money as good marine panels, but it closes the gap close enough that I decided the overall result of the better panels was worth spending more.

Here is a link to Blue Sea panels.


Using this as a starting point, you make a series of choices and end up with a list of panels that will fit your needs. I found that metering really added to the price of their panels. As valuable as I think meters are, I found it more cost effective to meter separately since I have an inverter control panel that takes care of most of my power metering needs. If you rely on battery power for your house system, I would buy a meter that gives you percentage of charge for your battery bank. I bought a blue sea systems meter because it fit well with a need I had to have decent fuel gauges. But many RV and boat people that depend on battery power swear by a Trimetric meter. Here is a link:


Or you can do it like most boat owners and wait until you ruin your first set of batteries then buy a meter to protect the second.

10-22-2014, 05:31 AM
You've already mistakenly have used romex........

My older houseboat is completely wired with romex .....

10-22-2014, 06:02 AM
My older houseboat is completely wired with romex .....

Pretty much all of them were. One of the many winter projects I have is to rewire my entire boat with stranded wire. I have one side almost complete, but the other side will be the hard one as it has all the cabinets.

Point being, if you are going to do it, do it the correct way. You will get dinged for it on a survey.

10-22-2014, 10:17 AM
Yep, if going to redo something may as well attempt to do it "the right way".

10-22-2014, 10:18 AM
I assume that the issue is flex in the solid wire - potential break over time?

10-22-2014, 10:26 AM
I assume that the issue is flex in the solid wire - potential break over time?

Yep, exactly.

10-22-2014, 11:10 AM
Mine is Romex also and I cringe when I look at how it was done ..very 1930's.

10-29-2014, 07:51 PM
Glad to see you guys already caught this one. Romex is a no no on boats. It is not only not permitted by Industry standards, it is not permitted by Federal law. Back in the 90's when we (the USCG) started paying attention to what the houseboat industry was doing that is one of the first things we cited them for. Also CB Panels. One builder had several fatalities because they used house breaker panels and ended up recalling several thousand houseboats, and going bankrupt because of it. 7 or 8 years later the one boat he missed in the recall killed two swimmers. So doing it right is very important.

The best thing is to just bite the bullet and realize that electrical systems on boats are no place to try to cut corners and save money. Best to do it right.

10-30-2014, 12:50 PM
If you are more comfortable with videos rather than reading there are a lot of good videos on youtube dealing with Marine electrical systems. The best are by Off Center Harbor .com with Don Ely at Maine Maritime Academy. Starts with DC and goes from there.
Electrical Systems part 1. Batteries http://youtu.be/tUul6kB9slo
Electrical Systems part 2. Battery cables http://youtu.be/GETAtxWuDxA
Electrical Systems part 3. Wire http://youtu.be/Zd8af95HK68
Electrical Systems Part 4. Connections. http://youtu.be/5DPtyfIm_LE

More here http://www.offcenterharbor.com/?s=electrical&go= but you may have to join to view them.