Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please - SailNet Community

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Old 02-01-2013
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Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

I liveaboard. It's a 1985 Catalina 30. I was up at 4:45am ironing my work clothes, running the small space heater, and had the speakers on listening to NPR. All of these were plugged into a power-strip, which was plugged into an outlet.
Anyways, a couple minutes into waking up and getting ready for work, I heard "zzz-zzzz-zzzzzzzz-zZZZZZzzz" and thought "This is a weird sound-bite for them to use-" until I realized there was a little spark at the wall outlet and everything stopped working. (process of about 2 seconds)

So. What now? Neither outlet works. I think - with zero electrical knowledge - that I could just replace the outlet for a few dollars at home depot, plug the wires back in, and be on my way. Is this correct, or should I look deeper down for the source of the problem?

I was advised by the surveyor to replace them with GFCI outlets, but the actual wall-boxes are not large enough to fit the GFCI's. Maybe because of the ease of access I can cut out this one and install a GFCI. This is the outlet I use primarily for things because it's easiest to reach.

Here are views of the outlet(burn). Front, side (access), and back (wire)

WP_000277

WP_000278

WP_000280

Hopefully the collective sailnet wisdom will have had experience and solutions with a problem like this. - Thanks ahead for your input
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Last edited by Philzy3985; 02-01-2013 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

That's a good example of why to use GFCI outlets.

You need to find the source, or install a smoke detector. If you are really lucky it's just a short in the outlet - but then you are still better off replacing all the wires and checking the 110v in all the way to the plug.

Frankly, this could have killed you, treat it as a life threatening issue.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Iron and space heater? All plugged into the same outlet?
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

No, you should not simply buy new units, plug them in, and be on your way.
You have no idea what caused the failure, and could cause a fire and lose your boat next time.

Either you overloaded the circuit, or you suffered a short circuit.
If you have suffered a ground fault, and had GFCI outlets installed as the surveyor recommended, the outlet would have tripped, saving you from damage.

It's impossible to know for sure what went wrong based on the limited information you've provided. Find an electrician and get it fixed right. Not only will you save your own boat from burning, but perhaps your neighbors' boats as well.

*Edit:
I just noticed that you were running the space heater and the iron. Most likely (but not definitely), you have overloaded the outlet and melted down the guts of the outlet, or perhaps the wire in the run somewhere.

I suspect this was a 15 amp circuit, and the iron and space heater took you up to 14.9 amps. Not enough to trip the breaker for an overload, but enough to "boil the frog", and melt down the wiring.

For future reference, do not continuously load a 15 amp circuit more than 80% of it's rating.

15 * .8= 12 amps. Don't continuously draw more than 12 amps on any single 15 amp circuit. That's for the whole string of outlets on that 15 amp breaker, not 15 amps per outlet.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

No Circuit breaker? You've pretty clearly overloaded your circuit, too much current. Question now is did your outlet burn open, have you tripped a breaker, do you even have any circuit protection, what's the state of your shore power connector?

Dangerous situation and you do need to properly address it. If you're 'electrically challenged' get a professional... this is not something to mess around with.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Yeah this is what I suspected. And I'm glad I got the serious responses from you guys - Going to get some contacts for marine electricians this weekend.

I understand the risk of this stuff going bad - so, I'm eager to get it done professionally and put my mind at ease for the safety of my neighbors and my boat and myself.

I honestly tried to replace the outlets and it was very frustrating spending the whole day from one outlet to the next and to find out none of the GFCI units fit (by 1-2mm also, barely anything). But this is why I save money for boat things - hire a professional, replace anything that isn't right.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

There is a circuit breaker - it did not trip. The shore power leading to the dockbox has a breaker also and that did not trip.

There was one time that the breaker inside the boat at the panel did go off, so I know that it's operable.

There are two brand new smoke and CO2 detectors I put in when I bought the boat.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

While your at it (replacing outlets) you should also have the conductors looked at. The stuff shown in the photo does not look kosher. Proper boat cable is normally white, should be marked "600volts" and should be stranded wire.
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Personally i would replace the whole system from the shore outlet to the new gfci plugs and a few extras put in as well
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Old 02-01-2013
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Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Just a reminder.. before you replace that box.. kill the power. it may be "dead" right now.. but that does not mean there is not live power to it
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