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evansprater 09-04-2012 09:24 PM

Adding AC outlets to my boat?

Buying my first boat next week: a 1978 Tartan 30'. Seems like a pretty decent boat for the price and for a beginner, from what I can tell. Anyways, I'll be using Navionics on my iPhone and need to keep it charged. However, the boat does not have a cigarette lighter or outlet set up. What would be the easiest, quickest, and cheapest way to install an outlet so I could keep phones, GPS and other small appliances charged and ready?

Thanks in advance!


CapnSantiago 09-04-2012 09:47 PM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
What kind of electrical power does it currently have?

evansprater 09-04-2012 09:52 PM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
"Electrical: 35-Amp alternator charges a heavy-duty 12-volt battery. 12 shipboard lights include 2 domes, 4 swivelbase reading lights, one receptacle/ shaded bulkhead light, running and compass lights. All loom wiring with fused circuits."

According to

Chadfunk48 09-04-2012 10:09 PM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
You just need to get an inverter to change the voltage from 12v to whatever voltage the phone charger you have takes (they make chargers that work off of different voltages). So if you want to use a 120v charger you need an inverter to change the voltage from 12v to 120v. You can find inverters at West Marine and online.

CapnSantiago 09-04-2012 10:49 PM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
sounds like you only have 12 volt battery power. You can convert to 110v as suggested but inverters are expensive and will use a lot of battery power. Do you have a house and a starter battery or just one battery? Most phones have 12v car chargers so the simple thing would seem to be to install a cigarette lighter run from the battery and charge your phone from there. Simple low voltage wiring will work for that vs tinned copper 110v wiring.

SeaQuinn 09-05-2012 03:02 AM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
With you wanting to keep several small appliances charged and ready you may want to look into adding another battery if your boat only has one. You could also consider a solar battery charger.
If you actually want to add AC or shore power, that you can plug into at the dock....that is a much bigger project and if you are not an electrician or experienced with it....get some professional help and estimates.

Mike Banks 09-05-2012 04:07 AM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
I wired my boat for AC but I have it rigged for shore power or generator as well as for an inverter. One only has to make sure that it is set up so that they do not all operate at the same time.

The shore power is connected through an isolating transformer, so that nothing on the boat is earthed to shore although the third pin connections are all made and connected to the point where the overload fuses/switches are situated. These are just inside the deck house on the inside of the deck house side, just below an all-weather inlet. The shore power also connects to the battery charging system for the twelve volt system which runs the lights and pumps as well as charges the batteries. This system is also connected to the solar array and the wind generators when they are on board. Blocking diodes are in series with the wind generator.

As for the actual AC wiring, I use ordinary heavy power wire and run it in a PVC tubular conduit. The 12 volt system is entirely separate from the AC and uses different cable and runs in different types of conduit--so there is no chance of a mix-up. They run in their separate ducts--the 12 volt system uses ducts which can be opened to admit more wires--and often contains other circuits. The AC mains power must always be separate and enclosed in a conduit. Never use clips to fasten the wiring unprotected by a conduit it to a bulkhead or stringer.

So--I have a lead which I plug in to the shore power ship's inlet when I use the AC generator and each of the power outlets inside the vessel is fused separately through a box of circuit breakers. When I use the inverter it is also connected through the same system--via a special cord. It may sound unnecessarily crude using cords to plug in to the shore power inlet--but is is pretty fool-proof.

So--marina power to isolating transformer to AC inlet in dog house.
Battery to inverter to AC inlet in wall of doghouse.
Generator to AC inlet in Doghouse. Everything in boat is double-insulated and isolated--the earth for5 the AC is NOT connected to the DC earth system. It is not connected to anything--since the isolation transformer separates it from the AC mains supply and it is no longer part of the shore power earth system.

sww914 09-05-2012 04:20 AM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
West Marine catalogs have pretty decent layouts of electrical and plumbing circuits. It sounds like you have little experience with a boat's systems. They're basic schematics but they explain a lot of what you need to know much more clearly that some dunderhead like me can do over an internet forum. You probably need a West Marine catalog anyway, if you don't already have one.
Before you go spend thousands on an inverter at West Marine, you should know that they will price match basically anyone with an actual store and a published price.

SimonV 09-05-2012 05:39 AM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
I think everyone is reading into this to much, all you need is a car 12v cigar lighter, two wires and costing less than 25 bucks. Go with 6 gauge wire you will have less voltage drop, an extra Battery would not hurt as you sound like you like gadgets.

Mike Banks 09-05-2012 06:29 AM

Re: Adding AC outlets to my boat?
If you try to charge your phone from a cigarette lighter outlet on 12 volts--just make sure you put a fuse in the circuit. I suggest 10 amps--and an enclosed fuse is safer in a boat.

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