Join Date: Apr 2006
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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.