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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest > General Discussion (sailing related) > Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please
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Thread: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
02-13-2013 11:55 PM
JimMcGee
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Philzy, the thread has drifted a bit. Your problem is you need to bring in a competent professional.

Not all marine professionals are created equally. Drop an email to your surveyor. Ask about marine electricians he respects based on their work. Ask around the dock if anyone has used a local marine electrician.

Find someone good and trust their advice. As a live aboard this is your home. Boat fires, while rare are a very scary thing. If you see a boat burn you'll never forget how hot and how fast they burn. While they electrician is there ask questions about what you need to know about the system.

You also mentioned having smoke and CO2 dectors on board. Some, not all smoke detectors will last in a marine environment. You want to look for something labeled "for marine and RV use". A Home Depot CO2 dector is worthless on a boat. Marine dectors are calibrated differently. See this BoatUS arcticle.

When in doubt kill the main breaker, then kill the breaker on the dock. Do you have the correct fire extinguisher on board?

When you own a boat you're always learning something new. Best of luck, and please post an update to this thread to let everyone know how you made out.
02-13-2013 10:00 PM
Philzy3985
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

A quick update, for reference sake.

A pro came out from a highly reputable marine service company. He determined that the outlet just got too hot and fried one wire. He cut the wire off and shortened it to the length that was still good, plugged them all back in, and it all works again. He tested the main breaker switch, and pretty much everything else behind the control panel. After talking more, I asked that they come back to replace the shore-power receptacle on the boat-side, and put fuses on the wires for my 'battery select' switch, as recommended previously by the surveyor. He said I should replace my shore power cord, so that's on my list too.

So, nothing apparently massively serious, so that was a relief. I asked all about tracing it and what else could go wrong but the basic answer is "Catalina did the bare minimum throughout the 80s and this is it."

Since then, though, they misplaced my paperwork or something because they haven't called me back to reschedule finishing the other stuff. four 5-star reviews on yelp, so, we'll see how it all goes.

Thanks everyone here
02-05-2013 08:11 PM
Navigator Wannabe
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Are you being obscene here???





Quote:
Originally Posted by pdqaltair View Post
There is no mystery.

... female part lost their tension with age and perhaps chronic overheating, the connection became worse, ...

This is not at all uncommon in older homes, where replacement of lose plugs is a good idea.

This also happens to plugs that are not overheated, only worn due to age ...

... most likely over the long term practical limit, which is perhaps only 70%, depending on the age and quality of the fittings.
02-04-2013 10:30 PM
pdqaltair
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philzy3985 View Post
Anyways. I'd love for the electrician to test a few things and tell me exactly what went wrong so I can put the mystery to rest.
There is no mystery. The prongs in the female part lost their tension with age and perhaps chronic overheating, the connection became worse, eventually to the point of arcing. This is not at all uncommon in older homes, where replacement of lose plugs is a good idea. This also happens to plugs that are not overheated, only worn due to age or poor construction. However, you supplied the clue about overloading. In this sense, overload does not mean you were over the rated capacity of the circuit, depending on where the heater and iron were set, but you were most likely over the long term practical limit, which is perhaps only 70%, depending on the age and quality of the fittings.
02-04-2013 08:01 PM
Philzy3985
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

I'm learning a good amount from your input and doing some research.

A professional electrician is coming out the day after tomorrow and I'll get my answers and basically fix/replace everything I can afford, highest priority items immediately.

The plugs from my heater, iron, and stereo that morning were all plugged into the power strip. They are all normal and look unaffected The power strip's prongs going into the outlet that sparked are not burnt and they look as usual, the wire appears okay and the power strip still fully works. Of course, the wire (from the outlet to the power strip) was warm, not extremely hot, to the touch when I pulled it out a moment after the sizzle.

Anyways. I'd love for the electrician to test a few things and tell me exactly what went wrong so I can put the mystery to rest.

Thanks again, the wealth of knowledge here is greatly appreciated, as always.
02-04-2013 07:28 PM
Maine Sail
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navigator Wannabe View Post
Two legs?

I have never sen a shore power cord with 4 prongs.
Only phase, neutral, and ground.
Plenty of them out there in a 50A 125/250V cord except the fourth "prong" is the metal ring which is Earth ground on a 50A 125V/150V shore cord.. There are also 50A 125V cord sets that are single phase...
02-04-2013 07:28 PM
Dougtiff
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Install the GFI outlet up stream of all the other outlets, if you read the instructions it will state that it protects 3 or 4 outlets, i forget how many.
02-04-2013 06:25 PM
mad_machine
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by Navigator Wannabe View Post
Two legs?

I have never sen a shore power cord with 4 prongs.
Only phase, neutral, and ground.
if you read beyond that post.. I mentioned that I was wrong. I was thinking of work... we use 6 panels of 400amp service at the theatre I work at.. so using 30amp service to mean means a gang of three 30amp circuts
02-04-2013 06:00 PM
Navigator Wannabe
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

Two legs?

I have never sen a shore power cord with 4 prongs.
Only phase, neutral, and ground.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mad_machine View Post
Yes and No.. 30amps should be two legs.. so he was drawing all that power through ONE leg. It should have definatly tripped the breaker before smoking the outlet
02-04-2013 05:37 PM
Navigator Wannabe
Re: Power Outlet Sizzle - Help Please

So then we agree that there likely was a high resistance, or intermittent contact. At one spot, i.e. in the outlet box, right?

In that case, running everything at at 80% of rated power is not a solution.
Such a sizzle-spot will start a fire at 15 amps, as it did.
Run it at 80%, let it corrode a bit further, and it will start the same fire at 12 amps.
And so on, you can't reduce the load until there is not enough power to start a fire.
The only remedy is getting rid of the (well, all) defective, high resistance, parts and connections. (I think we agree that the wires will corrode at the connection points, right?)
If you notice a problem like this, and just reduce the load on the wiring, you basically are ASKING the fire hazard to come back another time when you are not looking.

Btw, I think sizzle is arcing, not boiling insulation.


Quote:
Originally Posted by BubbleheadMd View Post
I disagree. It isn't always that simple.

The boat is an '85 Catalina. The boat is nearly 30 years old, which offers plenty of time for age and corrosion to introduce extra resistance into an electrical circuit.

My assumption is that the OP is running over 80% of the rating for the circuit, at the end of a long wire run, the wiring or the contacts in the outlet begin to heat up, it melts down, causing the "sizzle" and now the outlet is out of commission.

As I said in my post where you quoted me, running at close to 100% of the circuit's rating continuously, on 30 year old wiring and equipment, is likely to induce extra heat, which would eventually cause a failure.

You make it sound as if electrical components don't at all to break down with age, especially in a marine environment, and that it's safe to run at 100% of a circuit's rating indefinitely. I disagree with that.

The "80% rule" not only applies to vessels, it applies to shore-side installations that aren't even subject to the constant motion and corrosion of the marine environment.

That's cool though. You be you, and I'll be me.
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