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post #21 of 29 Old 10-11-2015
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

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Originally Posted by FloridaBoy View Post
Hello All, Need advice on how to start straightening this mess out. Here's my panel and here's the mess behind it. Not sure where to begin. Thanks for you endlessly valuable advice and direction. Kevin
Not the worst I've seen but a lot of messy, sloppy work... When tackling any electrical project on an older boat it is usually most time and cost effective to rip it all out and start fresh.

For example this spring the owner wanted me to "fix" his awful battery and charging system wiring. Electric winches, thruster, inverter/charger, isolator, four battery banks, a genset and FIVE battery switches...

I tried to talk him out of "fixing" the birds nest but he insisted. I spent an entire day mapping out the chronically undersized wiring, wiring, calculating the correct wire sizes, tracing it all and finding sooo many faults that it really was not economically "fixable". When he got home at 5:30 and I was still there, and he looked at the diagram, and I began explaining it, he then relented and said "rip it all out and let's do it right".

It took me 4 hours to rip it all out and about 38 hours to completely rebuild the entire high current distribution & charging system with a MUCH simpler and properly wired system. It would have taken me perhaps 70+ hours to Band-Aid together a crappy system and even then it still would have been only marginal.

First have a plan:

Charging, Batteries Switching & High Amperage Wiring
How Many DC Circuits
How Many AC Circuits

Now Design, Pick Components & Map It out:

Draw a hull diagram and insert your devices on the drawing to determine number of DC & AC breakers necessary.

Now decide how you will do circuits such as lightning, electronics, refrigeration, heat, pumps etc. and insert busbars, over-current protection and components etc. into your drawing.

Now go to the boat with your drawing and measure for each run and calculate for voltage drop, wire gauge and wire lengths needed. I aim for all wiring to be under 3% voltage drop except for charging circuits where I aim for the bare minimum that is reasonable which is always well below 3%. Duplex DC and triplex AC wire is always preferred to single conductor wire as it adds another layer of chafe protection. In this stage you waill also lay out what you will need for crimp tools, wire support, chafe protection etc...


Now break the installation into three groups:

High Amperage DC - Batteries, battery switching, alternator, inverter/charger, starter motor, main DC bus supply etc... I always start here and complete the high current stuff first. This is your foundation for the entire system.

Low Amperage DC - These are your individual circuits. Run all wire first then connect & terminate to the components eg: lights, electronics, pumps etc. then connect everything to the DC panel location last. Back-planes are preferred but most builders cut this corner except for high end or semi-custom... A back plane is a home run board where all circuit wires lead to. The AC/DC or DC only panel is then wired to the back plane. A hinged door is a very smart and nice feature for the panel...

AC Wiring - The AC wiring needs to be kept well isolated from DC behind the panel via dividers, polycarbonate works, and the same installation practices apply as you just went through for DC. Start with the "foundation" which is your shore power supply then create a ground, neutral and hot bus for the circuits. Now terminate at the outlets, hot water heater, charger etc. and finally connect the circuits to the AC panel.

You will want to assign a number to each wire or label them for what they are. Before termination (just a lot of wires run to the panel area) I find a fine point Sharpie works well for labeling each wire then once in the termination stage professional high temp labels with clear heat shrink over that.

If you go in with a plan and break it into groups the job goes smoothly and will be much faster. If you willy-nilly, and work on this or that without a plan, it can be come a tedious nightmare...

Most DIY's will be well off to draw an actual wiring diagram.

______
-Maine Sail / CS-36T


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post #22 of 29 Old 10-11-2015
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

The pitted knobs and switches and falling-off labelmaker labels DO look dated and I could see wanting to replace it all for aesthetic reasons alone. One nice panel with all new switches of all the same type, in neat rows, with LED indicators, and all the labels engraved in the panel could be worth the aesthetics. After all, some people do repaint their homes and buy new sheets and towels every five or ten years, just for the hell of it.

But what I'd suggest is to start by buying a couple of the recommended books on 12-volt wiring for boats (Wing, Sherman, 12-volt doctor/bible, etc.) at your leisure and reading them over. See what is "proper" for each circuit, see what you might want to improve in the entire SYSTEM while you're working on the panel. Take your time, scratch some notes in pencil.

Then if you still want to modernize things...take a look at what a proper crimping tool, proper crimps, get a good scare at what proper wiring in all the right colors will cost (genuinedealz.com always comes out a leading contender) and when you're done, leave a note for Santa. Or, a long winter project.

Aesthetics *are* a valid consideration.
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post #23 of 29 Old 10-11-2015
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

(I'm sorry, an Advertiser ate my homework. Let's try again.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by scratchee View Post
Thanks for all the great tips!

I was most of the way through your post before I remembered that the preferred method on a boat is crimping. Do you do that too?
Like the paranoid man who wears suspenders because he doesn't quite trust his belt, I crimp _and_ solder whenever possible. That's why I like those little Butane Torches; they can get into the oddest places, and there is no cord to worry about.

There are three factors to consider here- Mechanically Solid, Electrically Conductive, and Relieved from Strain. I'm quoting myself here:
"But one should have the best Wire-Strippers and Crimpers that one can find."
My Toolbox has a mix of the Cheap, (Screwdrivers, Hammers), and the Quality, (Wrenches, Sockets, Test Equipment. And Wire Strippers and Crimpers). The right tool for the job.

Straight Crimping works great on solid wire. Stranded wire... not so much. Especially if Saltwater gets in. (Electrolysis.) Solder not only makes the Electrical connection better, it keeps Saltwater out. (A certain Manufacturer of Marine AC Plugs and Sockets, based on ancient Hubbell Patents, depends on a strictly mechanical connection for stranded wire. Oh, how the Green Death blossoms in dark, tight, warm, and damp places!)

Crimps come in two varieties- Insulated and Bare. I prefer Bare. Slide a Shrinkwrap off to one side, Crimp, Solder, slide Shrinkwrap into place, and hit with the torch. It's much more difficult to Solder with Insulated Crimps, but still possible.

Let's now discuss Strain Relief, an oft-neglected subject:

An old technique was called "Lacing". Once the wires are cut to the right size, and run out, Lace the bundles tightly together with waxed twine. (Keep Power and Signal separate!) Tugging on any individual wire pulls on the bundle, and distributes the guilt. Wire Ties achieve the same thing these days.
For individual connections, Shrinkwrap is good for Strain relief as well. Keep the Shrinkwrap tubules on the long side, and layer and torch them. (BTW, Apple doesn't have a clue when it comes to Strain Relief. That mucky vinyl that they specify just disintegrates.)

Any tight holes that the wires go through should have rubber grommets. They are quite cheap. Unless there is good reason, keep wire bends loose, not tight. Use Wire Clamps on long runs.
Wires can be a pain around Whirly Bits. Keep them well away from Engine Whirlies, Propeller Shafts, and Propellers.

Wire:
I like Colors. Six spools of Colored wire costs just the same as six spools of Basic Black.
Oh, I may get grief over this... Don't depend on Labeled Wires! The Labels _will_ smudge or fall off. Ring out each Colored wire, and then Label your _Wiring Diagram_. (There are gummy-cloth, numbered roll, Labels that are OK. But make sure "_1_ _9_ " at each end has some basis in Reality.)

Stranded wire has a convenience factor over Solid. It's more flexible. Yet, for long runs that are going to be there for a while, stick with Solid. Crimping works better with Solid, and it is far less susceptible to Corrosion and Electrolysis.
Where Stranded shines, is in connections that move around a lot. Extension Cords, Shiphold Appliances, Microphone Cables, and such. Don't forget the Strain Relief!
Strain Relief particularly applies to Daisy-Chained Extension Cords. Tie ends up in a Figure 8 so that the strain actually tries to keep the ends together. For Outlets, try to knot the Cord around something before plugging the end in.

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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

"Lacing" was actually properly and traditionally done with plain white cotton lacing, that looks just like shoe lacing but comes on industrial-sized spools. I have one friend who tossed me an extra roll courtesy of Ma Bell, and another who has a souvenir roll (Don't touch that!) that her father worked with at Grumman, on military aircraft or lunar landers.

I can't remember the name of the "knot", but the lace is run in one continuous line that snugs around the bundle and secures it every xx many inches. Same concept makes it easy to use an extra line to snug up a mainsail on the boom, if it has to be dropped and tied down tightly and fast in high winds.

Very useful stuff to work with, even if it isn't "the style" for wiring harnesses anymore.
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post #25 of 29 Old 10-12-2015
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

Ma bell's waxed nylon is still the best stuff for wiring harness binding,pulling wire thru,sewing shoes and backpacks and just about anything else. Comes in black or tan. Been known to fall off the back of service trucks .AS for wiring, I have always soldered my crimps and sealed with self vulcanizing high voltage tape,(before shrink wrap) Always happy with the little extra time.

Last edited by Capt Len; 10-12-2015 at 02:48 PM.
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

Wikipedia actually has a good article on Lacing, including Lacing Twines and Knots:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cable_lacing

Read the Talk section as well; there one shall find a direct NASA "Cable And Harness General Requirements" link, with this caveat: "Waxed lacing shall not be used for spaceflight applications." This was due, if I'm not mistaken, to Apollo 1...
http://workmanship.nasa.gov/lib/insp...uirements.html

Since I'm not planning on going much above Sea Level, and no faster than I can sprint in bare feet, and not while inhaling pure Oxygen, I'm pretty sure that warning doesn't apply to me...

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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

waxed stuff also occasionally flakes off wax. Which in zero-g could end up causing spontaneous insulation in switched mechanisms. (Similar to why pencils aren't used for space flight -- graphite causes spontaneous connections.)
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Erindipity View Post

Straight Crimping works great on solid wire. Stranded wire... not so much.

Oh, I may get grief over this... Don't depend on Labeled Wires! The Labels _will_ smudge or fall off. Ring out each Colored wire, and then Label your _Wiring Diagram_. (There are gummy-cloth, numbered roll, Labels that are OK. But make sure "_1_ _9_ " at each end has some basis in Reality.)

Stranded wire has a convenience factor over Solid. It's more flexible. Yet, for long runs that are going to be there for a while, stick with Solid. Crimping works better with Solid, and it is far less susceptible to Corrosion and Electrolysis.
Any crimp on solid wire I have found falls apart in my hands. Hard to compress solid wire. Solid wire doesn't belong on a boat - per ABYC and common sense.

If a wire is labeled properly it will never smudge or come off. Clear heat shrink over a printed label works well. Much easier to trouble shoot when you don't have to either read an old diagram or find the book it is written in.

Brian
Living aboard in Victoria Harbour
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Re: Wiring... how to start, my goals?

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Originally Posted by Tanski View Post
I'm not an electrician and have never done a full re-wire. When I have done some circuits I find it easier to do one circuit, finish it completely then move on to the next. I've also never replaced a panel, just pulled new wire, done the terminals etc.
Speaking for myself I think I would get confused if I yanked everything existing out and tried to start from scratch, be different if I was building a new boat without an interior.
I am going to add a small pony panel, more electronics onboard than the boat was intended for in 1976. Think I'll leave all the original stuff on the original panel. Gps, tiller pilot and all the other new stuff will go on the new panel. All of it is currently properly fused but the PO wired it off terminal strips. Have to use the house battery switch to turn that stuff off. Technically is is safe but I don't like it that way.
Oh ya forgot I found this and have been reading it.
New Boatbuilders Home Page - Basic Electricity Page 13 - Wiring Your Boat
Looks like my O'Day when I bought it but nothing worked so I pulled it all out, drew a wiring diagram and away I went. All new marine tinned wire with marine connections and 2 new gang panels. If mine all worked when I bought it I would have just labeled each circuit (I also use a label maker) and just clean up the squirrel mess a tad. I hate messy wiring.

1985 O'Day 26'

I spent all my money on booze, boats and broads. And the rest of it, I wasted. - Elmore Leonard
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