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post #11 of 16 Old 09-11-2013
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Re: When to hire a pro...

The thinking I use to decide on the pro is this

1) How long will it take me
2) How much do I value my time
3) How much will it cost to hire a pro

I consider myself able, with enough time, to do anything on the boat. But I'm better at some things than others.

For electrical I'm probably 1.5-2x slower than a pro. A pro would cost about $100 an hour so while I'm doing electrical I'm "saving" about $50-$75 an hour. That's a decent rate, so I do the work myself.

However I have little fiberglass/hull work experience. So when faced with a through hull replacement it would perhaps take me 8 hours, with research and planning. A pro takes like 2. So at this I'm only good for about $15 bucks an hour - I paid the pro.

That's part of the thinking anyway. If I had infinite time I'd do everything, because I want to know everything, but since I don't, that's how I reason it out.

Bottom line, if you know electrical, want to know electrical or have a lot of time, do it yourself. Otherwise consider the pro, hope they do a good job, and go sailing.
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Last edited by asdf38; 09-11-2013 at 09:48 PM.
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post #12 of 16 Old 09-14-2013
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Re: When to hire a pro...

Electricity only becomes sensible when you draw a wiring diagram.

Charlie Wing's book is also very good.
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post #13 of 16 Old 09-14-2013
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Re: When to hire a pro...

I agree, Charlie Wing's book is the best I have seen - easy to understand and up to date. http://www.amazon.ca/Boatowners-Illustrated-Electrical-Handbook-Charlie/dp/0071446443/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379212057&sr=1-5&keywords=charlie+wing

Living aboard in Victoria Harbour
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post #14 of 16 Old 09-15-2013
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Re: When to hire a pro...

Fear is a good thing. Especially since AC mains power can kill you, and even DC battery power can literally amputate a finger. (The USN used to have some pages on an official web site about an accident one fellow had when his wedding ring arced to ground.)

OTOH the stuff can be perfectly safe to work with, if you read up a little beforehand and take simple precautions, like not working when you are sleepy or have the flu. (Don't ask me why I know this.)

If you want it fixed fast, by all means, hire the pro, sometimes they even get it right. But with a little patience, the same hundred dollars that a fast housecall would run you, will buy a decent multimeter ($25 at Target or WalMart) a non-contact AC test light (wonderful tool), and a couple of books on boat wiring.

Electrical systems are like garden hoses: If everything is connected and turned on, they work. It really is about that simple. What really helps is to take a big piece of paper and a pencil and draw the circuit, even crudely, and put labels on things themselves.

So you start with "here's the plug" where the power comes in, and there should be fuse(s) or breakers or a GFI right near that, then some wire to the breaker panel, the inverter, a charger, the batteries....Yes it will be strung in places you can't easily see, but that's why you make the pencil sketch, and don't be ashamed to use the eraser.

Comparing your sketch to what the books (and web sites) show you, is much easier than trying to compare mental pictures in your mind.

If you are unplugged from shore power, and you pull the main battery fuse, it is also really hard to get hurt unless you physically open up the inverter itself. (Some designs can store a jolt internally which is why they often say not to open them.)

Really not hard, or dangerous, as long as you do a little learning before you start. Odds are there is a blown use, tripped breaker, loose wire, or else the damned thing is dead. And a professional will charge you $100-200 to tell you that.
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post #15 of 16 Old 09-15-2013
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Re: When to hire a pro...

Just to add, if you have any work done, especially on your electrical system, you MUST design it first. YOU need to know what you want, and how it works in order for anyone to put it in. If you let anyone mess around, woops, work on, your boat, you need to be able to express what it is you want done. Otherwise, you'd never know what was done or how well it was accomplished.

Here are examples of how different folks can wire a boat's basic electrical system, and you should at least learn from these examples, compared both to themselves and to how most boat builders wired their boats.

OEM 1-2-B Switch Wiring History Alternator/Batteries & "The Basic" 1-2-B Switch BEST Wiring Diagrams

Basic Battery Wiring Diagrams This is a very good basic primer for boat system wiring: Basic Battery Wiring Diagrams

This is another very good basic primer for boat system wiring: The 1-2-B Switch by Maine Sail (brings together a lot of what this subject is all about)
1/BOTH/2/OFF Switches Thoughts & Musings - SailboatOwners.com

It doesn't take long to learn to draw wiring diagrams. One way is to place the things that need to be connected on a piece of paper in relation to where they are physically located and go from there. The other way is to draw it as an electrician would do, called a schematic, that doesn't relate to their locations. Downside of that is that wire lengths do not become obvious. Upside is they can be much clearer to visualize the relationships. Some folks do both.

Good luck.

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post #16 of 16 Old 09-15-2013
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Re: When to hire a pro...

The vast majority of issues I find on surveys are electrical. Most older boats have been modified by different people with different skill levels over the years. What started out as a simple 12VDC system in 1984 now has several hundred feet of unused conductors, many connections made with marettes (or electrical tape), automotive type butt connectos on bilge pumps, a large number of under sized conductors and 8 out of 10 inverters I see are improperly installed.

Yes, some of the books suggested are very good but your original post suggested that you would struggle to understand this stuff. My opinion ..... Hire a pro to assess your system and hang over his shoulder asking a lot of questions.

Be careful who you hire, there are many "marine" electricians out there who are self taught, some are good, some are bad. Since you don't know the difference it would be wise to hire and ABYC certified electrician.

Do not hire the land based electrician who wired your sisters basement. He may be a very competent residential technichian but there are a few fundamental differences when you combine AC, DC and water that he was never trained in.

By all means buy the books and educate yourself but I think you could learn more and faster by hanging over an old hands shoulder for a while.

The hysterical laughter you hear as you drive a way in your"new" boat ..... is the seller.
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