Electrical Fun: Vol. 2

As an update, and it’s a long one so grab a snack, on how the electrical systems on Redemption are going, I thought I would use this post to talk about what all has and is going into the boat. In the last iteration, I talked about primarily how the system came when I purchased the boat and the 12v lithium battery bank setup that will go back inside. Here’s the story of a major wiring overhaul that started when I decided to tackle removing a couple wires…  1006151545

A few hours later, and there I was ankle deep in old wires that were once used to keep a flicker inside Redemption. I don’t know what came over me, maybe it was the old Taiwanese copper wire that has since turned black inside, or maybe it was the looming worry of ‘what if’s’ from the lightning strike earlier this year, or possibly the fact that nothing was color coded or labeled that made me do it. It was without a doubt, definitely all of those, but either way I didn’t plan to completely gut everything, at least not that day.

Am I glad I did it? You bet. It gives me the opportunity to start fresh. To do it the correct way, and my way(to which I strive for the former). The way that when I get another survey when I finish this refit I won’t get berated for having a completely redone boat with 30 year old wiring. It just made sense, and honestly it felt good doing it. Most of my family knows I used to still am very fond of taking things apart or destroying them as they may say. It didn’t matter, a RC car, walkie-talkie, radio, it would be in pieces before it broke. As I got older, I was the go to demo guy, shower stalls, an old shed, kitchen cabinets, I was good and with a big hammer or crow bar, I was unstoppable. What has changed since my slightly younger years is that I learned to be able to take things apart with grace and patience and then to actually be able to put them back together, which I learned was just as rewarding if not more.

Pages on pages of notes, diagrams, and drawings leading up to and during this project

So I removed all the wiring (12v & 120v) which had its downside, as some wires were ran behind wood pan and in bulkheads. Most though was ran very easily thanks to Mike Kaufman’s clever design of the interior. Overhead comes down very easily, there is a space on the outer shell where the deck meets the hull that allows wires to be easily ran for and aft, and running wires under the sole is a breeze as well. With five or six rolls of various sizes of marine grade tinned wire I had the boat wired for everything I could think: LED lights, fans, accessories, pumps, reefer compressor, speakers, outlets, water heater. You name it, I probably have a wire for it!

Once the dust settled, I had two boxes of old wire weighing in a close to 50 lbs. Now I know I probably put that back in and more but it’s incredible to have it collected like that to really see what is in a boat.1006150955

I moved to the next stage, hooking up the panel cabinet with new bus bars, terminal strip blocks, and connecting the wires to their respective places. From here wires will be ran to the panel for each item’s respective breaker. This will allow me to add/remove or change something without having to mess with the panel itself. The layout keeps the high and low voltages separate as much as possible, 120v on the left and 12v on the right. There are 30 terminal strips and 29 DC breakers so each strip will be for one column on the panel. The giant blue thing came with the boat, it is a Newmar 80A alternator noise filter. It is “supposed” to be installed between the alternator and battery, but it was in this cabinet before and it’s going back the same. I don’t see the difference, but then again I’m not electrician. I had a spare LED red/white dome light, so I screwed that to the top of the cabinet, this will be powered directly to the battery posts so it will always be powered when the battery is on.1010151847

The panel wasn’t exactly just plug and play. I had to slightly modify the cabinet door to fit the bigger panel. I cut the hole out of the door doing my best to measure 3 times because there was no way I could make a door like that fit as well as it did. Then I to fill the old finger holes with plugs and glue, which was all covered up by gluing down a piece of white formica.

Then it was painted with some “hammered” black paint we had laying around. We figured the black would look better not only with the panel but also the black top that covers the navigation table. The breaker panel was 1/16th too tall so I had to shave it down on one side with a file to fit. I put the template from cutting the hole on the back side of the door as a backing plate because instead of the wood screws provided to hold the panel I used little flat head machine screws with washers and nuts. From there the panel came together and the only thing left to do is move the latches from the inside and put the new finger holes in the door. 1006151758

Now that the panel was wired to the back of the cabinet and all of the wires were ran throughout the boat, it was time to start hooking the components wires to their respective terminal inside the cabinet. This was a fairly easy task as we had already labeled each wire when we ran it with a permanent marker. We will use flag labels later on when everything else is complete and nothing needs to be moved or altered. Really the “toughest” thing for me was to figure out how I wanted my breakers grouped. Should I just start hooking up as it goes in an anarchistic fashion or should I group navigation related items together and living quarters items together, etc? Of course I chose the later of the two because I am quite particular when it comes to the little things like that!

While I was refreshing the 12v I also attended to the 120v side as well. Every outlet was removed as was its wiring as their age was showing. Lucky for us, these old outlets are actually great quality and you can take them completely apart. Michelle disassembled them, we ran the white plastic parts through the dishwasher and they came out almost like new. The brass internal parts that were a little corroded we put through a Harbor Freight vibrator/tumbler to clean and polish them back up. After the tumbler they went into the dishwasher to get most of the polish goop off, and then into a cheap ultrasonic jewelry cleaner we had at the house to remove the remaining gunk off. They came out like they were just made yesterday! She put them all back together and installed them on the boat with fresh heat shrink eye terminals. She scratched that project off. Yes!

The boat never had a main breaker installed so I made a box and put in a Blue Seas ELCI 50amp breaker in the back lazarette. I had already installed a SmartPlug 50amp plug and had a DEI galvanic isolator on hand. These were wired up in accordance to ABYC standards: shore plug > galvanic isolator > main ELCI breaker > circuit panel. When that was all said and done I plugged in my new shore power cord (I got it at discount because it had “scratches” on it… Pffft, GIMMMEE!), flipped the main breaker.  The light came on, no smoke appeared or pops heard thus far. Went to the panel and did the same sight, smell, hear test – all good. I took my trusty multimeter and everything checked out, I had 120v inside the cabinet! All off and disconnected, I proceeded to connect all of the new wires from the 120v users to the terminal strips and then to the panel.

With all the wires ran throughout the boat, hooked up in the cabinet and connected to the circuit panel, the only thing left to do is to bring on the new lithium batteries and the large cables that go with them, put the overhead panels up and hang all of the lights and fans. Wire loom will be added to all wire bundles when everything is finally installed as well. Stay tuned for the last part of this series as its going to be quite electrifying! (did you see what I did there?)


3 thoughts on “Electrical Fun: Vol. 2

  1. +1 to using a SmartPlug for your service inlet. We have two, one dedicated Air Conditioner circuit and another General circuit. Much easier to connect & disconnect.

    +1 to using an ELCI main breaker.

    I’ve never seen an outlet that was meant to be disassembled. What brand are they? Is something missing from the picture of the disassembled outlet because I don’t see how the safety ground connects to the plug. You used Black for Hot, not Red for the 110v circuits as implied by the photo, right? Certainly would not want to confuse 110v Hot with 12v Positive! Did you use the new color standard of Yellow instead of Black for DC negative to avoid confusion with Black for DC Hot?


    1. Hey Chris!
      Yea the Smartplugs are just that smart! Such a nicer and more secure connection.

      Those outlets were original to the boat so I just cleaned up all the terminals and put them back together. Correct, we used the new wiring standard for AC wiring. So the red wire was from the old wiring from when I cut the outlets out. We did use both black and yellow for DC ground but that acceptable by ABYC standards.



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