Diagnosing/solving electrical outlet issue - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 56 Old 05-20-2007 Thread Starter
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Diagnosing/solving electrical outlet issue

Greetings!

I'm trying to solve a tricky situation...

Our boat has a/c outlets available. However, they are non-functional at the moment.

The surveyor recommended changing the old standard outlets out with GFCI. So, we bought GFCI outlets at the local Home Depot and installed them (yes, I know, they aren't marine...).

OK, now, here's the tricky part. The feeds show power (meter shows good voltage). The green light on the outlet comes on. However, the outlet is dead. The outlets cannot be "reset." I suspect a faulty ground. Also, at this point I cannot check polarity. I do have an outlet tester, but, as the outlet isn't "reset," it won't function yet .

I found the ground block over by the panel and checked it with a known ground cable and got good continuity. Although not 100% certain, and as my meter leads don't reach, I am assuming the wiring has good connection there. I would like to check that however.

So, my question is, how do I go about solving this one?

What's the best way to check the ground connections at the outlets? Are the outlets we bought compatible with the marine environment (irrespective of the corrosion factor, I'm implying the electrical setup)?

Any good advice would be welcomed!

Thanks!

Sincerely,

/s/ Jon C. Munson II
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post #2 of 56 Old 05-20-2007
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Good Advise

Find a qualified marine electrician and let him do the work.
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post #3 of 56 Old 05-20-2007
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Are you sure you wired it right when changing out the outlets? Are all the outlets on the same line? Where is your AC power coming from to the outlets?

All things considered, you may want to rewire the outlets, back to the power source. This will insure that there are no bad wires in the line, and make sure they are all wired correctly.

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post #4 of 56 Old 05-20-2007
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Jon-

Do not use any "non-marine" parts on a boat's electrical system... the parts aren't going to handle the corrosion as well and may well be very dangerous to use in the long run.

Getting a qualified marine electrician would be a very good first step.

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Jon,

I'm not trying to be cute or to denegrate your skills, but from your post I have to agree with Deep and with Dog....

Seek the help of a qualified marine electrician. This is nothing to play with, nor is it something that can be "solved" by a couple of hints derived from Internet posts.

Please.......

Bill
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Is finding a good "qualified marine electrician" any easier than finding a good mechanic? Or even a competent and honest one?

I'd agree that with 110VAC you need to be careful, but it really isn't THAT difficult to run the wires from a couple of AC outlets, to a breaker and then to the shore panel inlet on a boat. (Well, unless you're my aunt, who thought the sharp end of a claw hammer had tiny points so you could hit those tiny nails that hold up picture hangers. Honest.)

Jon, this is your personal decision. If you look at some wiring diagrams for AC on boats, and it looks like something you can handle COMFORTABLY, and words like "test light" and "multimeter" don't phase you (electricians' pun intended)...then go for it. It isn't hard if you are careful and read up on it first. I've seen too many "alleged professionals" screw things up, I'd rather do that myself.
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While even the AC side of a boat's electrical system isn't rocket science... it would be a good idea to use the proper materials for any work done. For instance, using Romex solid cable is just asking for a fire to break out...

Same with using terrestrial GFCI outlets. The price difference isn't all that much between them, and it isn't like you need to replace all the outlets with them.. just one per circuit.

I'd also agree that finding a "qualified" marine electrician can be a bit of a problem. If you want to do the work yourself, Jon, please at least use the right materials.

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Greetings!

Well, we *would* have used the proper outlets if they had been available at the time we installed them (West Marine didn't seem to have them). I'll be happy to switch them out as these were only meant to be a temporary stop-gap anyway. I personally know they won't hold up as long and don't expect them to. However, these were our only option at the time. We definitely felt they were safer than the original outlets (which were a bit dubious according to the previous owner).

As for A/C stuff, I have run wiring and installed outlets/lights and fixed some of my own issues terrestrially speaking. Marine isn't that much different, with the exception of the type of ground and parts quality (and expense). We're not talking three-, four-, or multi-way gangs here.

As for a marine electrician, cost is an issue, not to mention personal desire to grow my own knowledge and abilities. If I/we wanted to hire a marine electrician, we would have done so. As I have the necessary basic knowledge, and just lack a little experience, tackling this doesn't phase me - just need a little pointer in the proper direction now and then. "Multimeter" doesn't phase me - I own one (OK, it isn't a Fluke, but it does work just as well). I also have a circuit tracer, outlet tester (with a GFCI button no less), and a few other electrician's tools (some leftovers from my alarm installation days). Lacking a toner though. Klein is a name with which I'm familiar.

I am also well aware that solid guage wire on a boat is not necessarily a good thing, nor is standard romex (for reasons previously stated). I stick with marine wire.

Btw, where DOES one get marine GFCI outlets & covers? Also, what are used for backing boxes these days (the boat builders, or post-construction installers, used wooden hand-made boxes, which aren't exactly water-tight)? I'd like to install those if such things exist.

My job on this boat is "Scottie." That should tell you something.

There are at least three circuits for the below-decks outlets (of which there are four). Once I diagnose the problem with the outlets not resetting (which will then power them), then I can verify that one. 'Twas easier to replace all the outlets rather than track down the ciruits. However, from my bit of work today I can say there are most likely three circuits below deck. There is one more outlet in the cockpit, but I'm not too concerned about that one at this point (pretty dumb place to put one in my mind, albeit convenient for other reasons).

Any further good advice would be well received.

Sincerely,

/s/ Jon C. Munson II
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post #9 of 56 Old 05-20-2007
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The boxes and covers can be standard terrestrial, since the plastics they use are pretty much the same all around... unless you're looking for water-tight boxes.... which generally aren't used or needed on a boat... since the wiring isn't designed or intended to be used submerged.

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Ahh. OK then. We used the "wet location" flip-down covers (not the plastic housing type as those take up too much space - stick out into space to be more exact).

We did look for the yellow stuff, but didn't find it (can't remember the name of the manufacturer, but it is all over the place).

One more bone-headed thing I can find is that the "outlets" breaker on the A/C side of the panel doesn't power the outlets. They are, instead, wired with the "lights." I'll have to see if I can separate them another day, or trace where the "outlets" actually goes. For now, I just want to get them usable at least.

The only reason I can think of for using the water-tight boxes is to keep moisture from creeping in and corroding the copper. Other than that, I suppose they really aren't necessary.
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