PDA

View Full Version : Electrical advice - AC circuits



KC55
02-03-2013, 09:04 AM
Hello,

I did a search on AC circuit breakers here on the forum and also looked on the www but couldn't find what I was looking for, so here's my question. I am looking for the correct setup for my AC main/breaker panel and want to know what specific model/brand I should look at. I have found some stuff but it seems to be leaning towards the DC side of the fence. I get the drift that a residential breaker box is not the correct way to go. That is what is installed in my Kingscraft Houseboat (from the factory I think). Is a residential setup legal? If it is kosher I would not mind going back with residential, but if I am going to the expense and trouble of putting in a new system I want to do it right.

I believe what I want is a dual 50 Amp main with at least 6 circuits per side. I would like to have the DC side of the system in the same box (if this is legal). I just don't know what is out there, what is legal, and what is the best investment. I don't want to spend any more than I have to (have you ever heard anybody say, "Yea, I want to put more into this system than I need to, money is nothing! I haven't), but I want to have a safe, lasting, low maintenance electrical system.

I would appreciate any comments (AC or DC) with specific recommendations.

KC55

captrsimon
02-03-2013, 09:59 AM
Go to http://bluesea.com/ they will have what you are looking for. Find the part # and do a search on the net for the best price. It will be a little pricey, but if you want to do it right and look good. Also the best price on boat wire I have found out there hands down is http://genuinedealz.com/ I have used them more than once, 4 years ago when I did a complete rewire of our 72 Stardust and last summer when I upgraded our 88 Liberty Bells electrical to put in air.

Bamby
02-04-2013, 05:36 AM
Their are some important differences between ac wiring in the home and a boat. In looking at a photo in your blog it really doesn't appear to a home panel or an appropriate boat panel either. The mains need to be and are required to be isolated from the other breakers feeding circuits throughout the boat. As far as spark or ignition protection requirement of a marine breaker, in your case since the panel is located far from the engine compartment and ignition fumes read fuel you actually could get by safely with common AC breakers, but it would still be lacking the required code requirements.

Ike who is a member here has a pretty extensive post on boat code and electrical requirements on his site. It starts here with "Basic Electricity - DC Circuits (http://newboatbuilders.com/pages/electricity1.html)" and continues on to AC at page 7 on a fourteen page post on the topic. Their are also a lot of included links in the pages leading to references of the topic also included.

You may also find this link "Electrical Systems Planning (http://newboatbuilders.com/pages/electrical_planning.html)" useful.

I know I found the information extremely useful when rewiring our boat.

Endurance
02-04-2013, 01:01 PM
I have no ties to Blue Sea Systems, but I'm with Cap't Simon in saying if you can replace a residential panel with matching AC and DC panels, you're smart to do it. Some of the residential panels are legal. But as you pointed out, most everyone views them as cheesy. I looked at a lot of options for my boat, including fabricating panels from aluminum an adding components. I found that when I added up the cost of a panel, individual breakers, meters, and the like, a bluesea panel isn't even that expensive and they make an outstanding product.

If you want specific recommendations, you could give us a little more to go on. For example, dual 50 amp mains could mean the two hot legs of a 220v main or two separate 110v mains. If you have a generator that makes 220 volts, there are pros and cons to wiring it at 220v or 110v. If you don't have any metering, now is a good time to think about it. At very least, you will want to know voltage for your DC system. Your metering needs will help decide on panels.

captrsimon
02-04-2013, 10:37 PM
After looking at your pics I have a question. Do you have two shore power cords coming into the boat? If so are they 30 or 50 amps? If they are 30 and you are thinking you need 50 amps I would really look into the added cost of upgrading. Cord set alone could be very $$$ 50 amp 3 wire run 450-500 each while 30 amp run 50-100 each. Also you will need to upgrade the main wiring from shore power to main breaker to 8 AGW and so on and on..... I just went through this last summer, when I upgraded our electrical system to accommodate air. I decided to go with wiring it for 50 amp but only using 30 breaker and cords. I wasn't sure 30 amps would be big enough to handle two roof airs. 1-30 amp service works for us due to gas range, water heater and gas/elec refrigerator.

KC55
02-05-2013, 06:00 PM
My shore power is currently 2 -30Amp service. I did not realize the additional expense of an amperage upgrade. The links to Ike's site are awesome, I will be reading and learning. This is the stuff I needed. I'll keep you up on what I decide.

JTAlberts
02-05-2013, 07:54 PM
I rewired mine with the blue sea panel. Top quality.

Frantically Relaxing
02-17-2013, 10:13 AM
Couple of things: First, I'm not sure how or why a residential electrical panel designed to supply power to the home you live in would be considered "cheesy"? Because it doesn't look flashy or expensive? Then give it a fancy paint job, or hide it in the closet or under the helm like mine...

Second-- Since what you plug your boat into should have a properly functioning GFI main breaker, is the expense and redundancy of another main in the boat necessary?

KC55
02-17-2013, 10:43 AM
I am still looking into this. Just for clarification, I didn't use the term "Cheesy", I am concerned about meeting code and safety. I still have research to do before I make this purchase. I still have reading to do (as suggested in this thread), I want to look at current houseboat manufacturers and see what they are using, and balance everything with the almighty dollar. I would prefer to be buying pepperjack or swiss and have crackers and beer.

I am in the middle of the electrical tear-out/assessment. 38 years is a long time for people to make changes and additions and leave abandoned circuits in place. I'll try to take some pics and post them today. Thank goodness we bought an aluminum boat, I would consider being discouraged if we had to deal with rot and structural damage.

It would be easy to cover problems up and slap some paneling and paint on it and go on. I just wouldn't be happy. My goal is to have a boat to enjoy, not to keep fixing.

KC55

boatlover
02-17-2013, 09:53 PM
I agree with Frantically. There is nothing wrong with a properly wired household panel. There is nothing special about a Blue Seas breaker except it is designed to be on display. I would spend any extra I had on a Isolation transformer instead of a panel for display.

Here a pic of the panel in my boat.

http://i944.photobucket.com/albums/ad290/picabo1/100_0563_zps0358422a.jpg

On the left one of 2 C Power Isolation transformers, Center main panel, Right HVAC panel. Boat has 2 50a 125/250 inlets. One for main and one for HVAC.

captrsimon
02-17-2013, 10:52 PM
There is a difference between residential and boat breakers. it was also covered here before http://www.houseboatmagazine.com/fusetalk/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=3&threadid=13464.

OLD HOUSEBOATER
02-18-2013, 09:17 AM
On a metal boat I would (for sure) install an isolation transfomer. I had them on my River Queens and Pluckebaum.

Frantically Relaxing
02-19-2013, 08:43 AM
Geez, boatlover, you running a machine shop on that boat? Looks like you may have more breakers in that panel than we have running our whole house, and we DO run a machine shop (engraving biz) in our basement!

Nice setup! :)

boatlover
02-19-2013, 05:26 PM
No Machine shop. LOL Just the work of a Great Builder. Lots of individually protected circuits. Other people on here think this is sub standard because it's not a "marine" panel with "marine" breakers. The difference in a "marine" breaker is the temperature it's calibrated at and no aluminum components. They work they same.

Funny how we can use household breakers in a exterior panel, mount it outside exposed to rain and snow 24/7/365 and thats OK. But if it's inside the protected interior of a boat on a river or lake then it has to be "Marine". Make's real sense to me.:rolleyes:

Marine Applications
Circuit breakers can be supplied
to meet the following marine
Specifications:
U.S. Coast Guard CFR 46 ABS
American Bureau of Shipping
IEEE 45
These specifications generally require
molded case circuit breakers to be
supplied with 50C ambient calibration,
special nameplating, and plug-in
adapter kits. When plug-in adapter kits
Are used, no terminals need be supplied.
Circuit breakers can also be supplied
to meet UL489 Supplement SA
(Marine Use) and UL489 Supplement
SB (Naval Use).
UL489 Supplement SA applies to vessels
Conductors or terminals.
over 65 feet in length. Requirements
include 40C ambient calibration, special
labeling, and no use of aluminum components.

Ike
02-22-2013, 02:58 PM
The difference in a "marine" breaker is the temperature it's calibrated at and no aluminum components. They work they same.

That ain't necessarily so. Marine breakers are also ignition protected, and tested by UL to a different standard than non-marine. see http://www.mechprod.com/circuit-breakers---ul-standards/ As some one stated you may not need ignition protection as long as the breakers are not in an environment where gas, hydrogen, LPG, or other explosive fumes can accumulate. But it is far better to be safe than sorry.

The major problem with home panels and marine panels is the environment they are in. Marine panels are specifically built to resist the corrosive marine environment. Also house panels often have a cross connect between the green grounding wire and the white neutral wire. This should never be done on a boat because it introduces shock hazards, and contributes to current being introduced into the water surrounding the boat, which can cause stray current corrosion, and electro-shock drowning.

I would recommend an isolation or polarization transformer. They essentially do the same thing but some people think one is better than the other. But the main thing is to isolate the boat from the shore. This pretty much eliminates problems with stray current corrosion and shock hazards, as long as the boat is wired correctly on board.

Yeah, you do seem to have a lot of circuit breakers in that panel. Do your really have that many circuits, or are you planning ahead for future expansion?

PS: Sorry, Brain fart: Circuit breakers can meet either UL 489 or 1077 but both must meet SAE standard 1171, or UL 1500 to be Listed by UL as "Marine" SAE 1171 and UL 1500 are both standards for Ignition Protection and are also identical to the USCG standard for Ignition Protection in 33 CFR 183.410.

boatlover
02-22-2013, 08:46 PM
HI Ike


The major problem with home panels and marine panels is the environment they are in. Marine panels are specifically built to resist the corrosive marine environment.


What exactly is the Marine environment? My brother in law lives in Cocoa Beach FL one block from the ocean. His electric panel is mounted on the outside of his house. How is this environment really any different from a boat setting 1 block away in the marina. Same salt air and moisture. Should he not have a marine panel also? You have to see the hypocrisy in this.

Also this is a Houseboat forum and we are talking about houseboats. What percentage of houseboats ever get near the so called corrosive marine environment? Maybe 1/2 of 1 percent. Houseboats are mostly used on the Inland Lakes and Rivers far from the corrosive salt air and if the houseboat is maintained properly there should be very little moisture inside the boat near the panel. If the moisture inside the boat was bad enough to corrode the panel everything else would be green with mold.

As to ignition protected breakers I have never seen a panel mounted in the ER of a gasoline houseboat. Always in the living area. If we are concerned with IP with it mounted in the living space then should we not have IP light switches, light fixtures, appliances(large and small), Etc. Maybe even a IP laptop so to not blow up the boat while posting. LOL All these things are more prone to give off a spark than a breaker. It is possible to go overboard with the need for all the Marine/IP stuff.

It is possible to isolate the neutral and ground bars in most panels. IIRC every sub panel is required to be.

We are in agreement on the isolation transformers. Every metal boat should have them. I have two of them.


Yeah, you do seem to have a lot of circuit breakers in that panel. Do your really have that many circuits, or are you planning ahead for future expansion?

Ya lots of circuits. LOL All circuits are active. The boat has very little DC loads. Running lights, bilge pumps and electronics are about all there is. Everything else is AC.

Ike
02-22-2013, 09:26 PM
HI Ike

As to ignition protected breakers I have never seen a panel mounted in the ER of a gasoline houseboat. Always in the living area. If we are concerned with IP with it mounted in the living space then should we not have IP light switches, light fixtures, appliances(large and small), Etc. Maybe even a IP laptop so to not blow up the boat while posting. LOL All these things are more prone to give off a spark than a breaker. It is possible to go overboard with the need for all the Marine/IP stuff.

We are in agreement on the isolation transformers. Every metal boat should have them. I have two of them.


Yes there are ignition protected lights, switches, light fixtures etc. These things should be ignition protected too. Sure you can go overboard (bad pun) LOL. But I have been in safety biz a long time and seen a lot of strange things. A recall of a whole line of houseboats back in 1995 not only cost the manufacturer his company but also took the lives of three people on the one houseboat, out of over 2000, that he missed. He used household panels, just like yours. As I said it's better to be safe than sorry. What's a life worth? I am not saying you have to change that panel, just that you need to be sure it's all wired right. I have also seen boats go boom because of some simple little thing the boat owner thought wasn't important, and figured they could save some bucks on. Electrcial systems are not the system to go cheap on.

And as far as the "marine environment" goes, if you have water, you have a marine environment, salt or fresh. In fact in some respects fresh is more dangerous than salt, because of the danger of electric currents in the water. Also stray current corrosion is worse in fresh than salt.

Engine rooms are not the only place explosive gases can accumulate. Engine rooms are notoriously leaky (air, not water). A leak in a fuel fitting can result in a boat full of fumes. And a weak lean mixture is more dangerous than a rich mixture. That's why carbs work better when lean than when rich.

Fuel fittings are the number one cause of fuel leaks. Back in 78 I investigated a case where a guy was fueling his boat. He did everything by the book. After he finished fueling, and ventilating the boat, he was closing things up and checking the boat. He opened a small locker for rain gear that had a light switch that came on as the door was opened. It blew everything off the boat from the deck up, except him. He was still holding the door handle. Fortunately he was not seriously injured. He had a leak in the fuel fill fitting. The locker was no where near the engine room. An ignition protected switch would have prevented that. But it probably would have blown when he tried to start the engine.

captrsimon
02-23-2013, 09:49 AM
Also you might want to consider you insurance. If you upgrade and don't use "marine grade" and some thing bad happens will they cover it? It comes down to CYA for me. When I did some rewiring on our new to us HB I went with "marine" stuff just to cover this. Just because you can, doesn't always make it right.

Our original box was a 2 slot sub-panel with no main breaker. Did it work yes, was it right for the time when it was built, maybe. Is it right for the newer standards, no. So what I put in was this http://www.bluesea.com/products/8467/AC%202%20Sources%20%2B%204%20Positions. I used the 4 circuits for the new runs I was making. 2 for air, 1 for the aft battery charger and 1 for the inverter/charger. The run for the inverter, runs out of new panel to the inverter. Than from the inverter to the old box, out to lights and outlets and frig. I also made sure no neutral (white) and grounds (green) were connected any where.

Frantically Relaxing
02-26-2013, 02:46 PM
Just to add more irony to the "ignition rated" hubbub-- My entire rear deck consists of 3 steel engine room doors, which rest on steel U-channel supports. I assume it's likely I could create a nice spark just accidentally dropping one of those heavy buggers...

Stmbtwle
02-26-2013, 06:28 PM
yep.......

Endurance
02-27-2013, 11:34 AM
So you guys are saying that in addition to being ferrous, steel boats can be ferocious?

Frantically Relaxing
02-28-2013, 02:54 PM
Damn, you just gave me an idea for a new boat name:

Ferrous Bueller

;)

captrsimon
03-01-2013, 09:06 AM
Well gentlemen it wasn't about "ignition protected" for me as much as insurance protected. If you are upgrading your breaker panel and don't use marine grade will your insurance cover your boat and all the other damage it causes. Why give them a reason to deny a claim over 100-300 difference in cost?

boatlover
03-01-2013, 10:22 AM
Call your Insurance and ask. My boat went through 2 SAMS certified surveys and a inspection by a Ins co. rep when I made a claim and absolutely nothing was said about any thing electrical.

Ike
03-04-2013, 05:07 PM
Boatlover is right. It all depends on the insurance company and the surveyor. Check with them. Some surveyors go strictly by the ABYC standards. Some don't.