A POWER-ful Adventure - the Electrical refit Part 2

This is likely to be a pretty long post, but it was a LOT of work as well.  so bear with me....

To start putting it all back together, I was going to need to run the wires from where they were, to their new location in the Navigation Station. In some cases I just ran new wire from the appliance or device, and in other cases I just spliced into the existing wiring to make it longer so it would reach (I was NOT going to run new wire up the mast! LOL... )  In all cases it required using MARINE GRADE connectors.  Why did I capitalize that, well, because it is important!  Marine grade connectors won't corrode and will, preferably, have Heat Shrink on them to completely seal the wire.  It is also important that you use MARINE GRADE wire, which is multi strand copper wire that has been tinned to repel corrosion.  Corrosion is the ENEMY of electricity, and will not only keep current flowing, which will increase your battery usage, but will also cause the wires to HEAT UP, causing a boat fire.  I am a little about fire on a boat, so I made sure I used the right stuff.

  Tip, I got my wire, Battery Connectors, and splicing connectors from BestBoatWire.com which had the best prices I could find.

I, interestingly enough, got all of my other marine grade wire connectors from Harbor Freight, who had great prices on their connectors!  It took several orders, as just like the hardware store, just when you think you have thought of everything, when you are in the middle of the project, you find out there is something else you need...  

I also went to the hardware store and bought about 8 feet of split conduit to run the majority of the wires through.  It is the black conduit in this picture.

 You may have noticed a string coming out of the conduit.  This is what is called a "Messenger Line".  It is used to pull wires through the conduit.  I just used a really long one, about twice the length of the conduit and secured both ends of the line. Then  I pulled it all the way to the side I was going to pull the wires from, attached the wires to the line, then pulled the opposite end of the line to pull the wires through.

In the picture below, I am using a technique I learned in my days as a Technical Consultant when I pulled Ethernet cabling through buildings and walls.... basically after  estimating the length  of the run, I pulled that amount off the spool, then bend the wire and tie off messenger line, then pull it through the conduit.... now I am pulling two runs with one pull!

pulling 2 wire runs at the same time

 I wrote all of the runs I had to make along with the gauge of wire it had to be so I didn't forget anything.  The last thing I wanted was to be finished, only to find out I needed to make another wire run.  Much of what I had ran with 16 guage wire, but I also had some runs with 14, 12 and 10 guage wire as well. 

Then it was a matter of getting the wire up into the Navigation station.  I cut a hole in the back corners around an inch in diameter, which turned out to be barely big enough. Then I ran the wires through it.

wires coming into the nav station.  I wrote what each wire set was for on the outer insulation so I wouldn't get confused later.   Isn't it amazing how cluttered a flat surface can become when you are in the middle of a project?

Fridge pulled and sitting in the middle of the galley, and yet more stuff collecting on horizontal surfaces! and wiring everywhere!

And of course, a project like this requires a lot of Boat Yoga.  This is not to be confused with the Boat POSE in real yoga. so what is boat yoga?  it is the art of cramming your body into impossible positions or into impossibly small spaces in order to accomplish some sort of task on a boat.

Here I am in the "cram your upper body in the 8 inch space between the lower flat surface that holds the galley counter, and the bottom of the line locker, while kneeling in the port Lazerette" position:

And here I am in the "cram your body into the port lazarette, and work under the line locker while holding a flashlight" position

Once the wires were connected to what ever electrical device they were supposed to provide power to, It was time to get to the REAL work.  Wiring the Navigation station.

The first thing I needed to do was to install a piece of plywood that I could attach the Bus Bars to.  I decided to use cleats on either side of the station to mount the plywood.  that way, if I ever needed to get behind it, it would be possible (but not easy). 

The next task was to install the bus bars that I would be using.  I did some research on line, and this was the design I came up with.  the smaller, segmented bus bars would be for the Positive terminals and the larger bars for the Negative and ground.

Next on the list was to create, what we in the computer business call Patch cables.  they would go from the left side of the segmented bus bars to the circuit breaker panel.  I had 2 8-switch panels, and coincidentally (well, not really) I had 2 8 position bus bars.  This was easy; top bus bar position to top circuit breaker, 2nd position to 2nd switch, and so on.  Here you can see that I have completed the patch cables for both panels, and I have started to connect the positive wires for various components to the right side of the left bus bar. The negative wires for these components are attached to the other, larger bus bar (I haven't connected this bar to the main battery negative yet).

I mentioned the "patch cables", but let me briefly show you the correct way to make these.  I used 12 gauge primary wire, even though I mostly had 16 or smaller gauge wire on the other side.  I did this for flexibility, as 12 guage was the larges wire I would have coming into these panels, I could put that in any circuit.  It is better your wires be too big than too small!  Smaller wire draws less current, so there was no way it would heat up the 12 guage patch cables.  Here are the steps:

Cut the wire to length.  Make them plenty long, in case changes to the connectors need to be made down the road, and in my case, so the door can open and close easily.  then strip about a quarter inch of the insulation off the end. wire strippers like the pair below are worth their weight in gold, and are inexpensive.  simply put the wire in the correct gauge hole, squeeze and pull!

here you see I have pulled off about 3/8 of an inch of the insulation off.

Now we are ready for the next step, mounting on the wire connector of choice.

A word about connectors.  Make sure you are using MARINE GRADE connectors.  Yes, it makes a difference.  These connectors are Tinned, just like the wire is and are less susceptible to corroding, which is a horrifically bad thing in electrical connections.  Corrosion causes heat, and heat starts fires... Also use heat shrink if the connectors don't already have it.  In this picture to the right, I have slipped on the connector all the way and it is ready for crimping.

Use good quality ratcheting crimpers.  I got this pair at Harbor Freight for a very reasonable price.  Notice there are 3 color coded positions.  Conveniently, the connectors are color coded as well.  Red is for small wires (18 to 24 Gauge), Blue for medium wires (16 to 14 gauge), and yellow for larger wires (12 to 10 gauge)
Lay the connector in the proper color space, and slowly close the crimpers till they are snug, the push on the wire to make sure it is completely seated, the crimp all the way, I usually did it a couple of times, slightly changing the position of the connector.  when it is crimped, pull on the wire.  it should not move or pull out.  Don't fool yourself here and barely pull the wire... you don't want to find out after everything is assembled that you didn't get a good enough connection. don't yank it or pull really hard, but it should hold up to a firm pull.

Now it is time to heat things up.... literally!
The connectors that I got from Harbor freight all already had heat shrink on them, so it was just a matter of applying some heat.  I used my heat gun, but you could use hair dryer as well.  Just heat it up and watch it shrink! DON'T get it too close or keep it still, as this can totally melt the heat shrink.... don't ask how I know that....

If you are going to use heat shrink separately, cut it to length and make sure you slide on the wire BEFORE you crimp on the connector, as it is likely that the heat shrink won't slide over the connector... again, don't ask how I know this.....  in the Pic to the right, the heat shrink is all shrunk up, making a nice seal around the wire.

Sliding up the clear heat shrink after applying the label
Applying the heat to the clear heat shrink
I was determined to make my wiring much more organized than the total rat's nest I had before, so this was going to involve labeling the wires, so I knew what was what later.  So I used my label maker and regular labels.  I didn't need special labels because of my special ingredient... CLEAR heat shrink!  Again you gotta remember to slide this onto the wire before you crimp on the connector, and before any separate heat shrink if your connectors don't have it  After crimping on the connector, and applying the regular heat shrink, Apply your label to the wire, then slide up the clear heat shrink over it, then apply heat as normal.

This is what it will look like when you are done, a nicely sealed label that will not fall off a few years from now.  It is also very legible, unlike a label that I might write out by hand....

Then it is just a matter of putting the wire into the proper place on the segmented bus bar, and putting the negative side of that wire pair on the negative bus bar.  Then it is on to the next wire pair.

The main panels are now completely wired.  Now I have to wire the negative bus bars to the main battery negative, and the positive wires to the Main battery switch

DC connections are complete!
After getting wiring in, take a few minutes to make the wire runs neat using some zip ties.

After getting the DC side done, it was time to tackle the AC side.  First things first, DISCONNECT the SHORE POWER!

Working on the AC side is much like working the DC side except the wires are heavier, and you have 3 wires (Hot, Neutral and Ground)  Black wire is hot (which provides the 120V current), White wire is neutral (which provides the return path for the current), and Green is ground the world around!

yeah... this was the mess I started with

I discovered a few things with the AC wiring along the way.  I found the Shore Power receptacle was installed incorrectly, so it leaked when it rained... (water plus electricity.... not a good combination).  I had to make a proper sized hole for the shore power receptacle to slide into, then I was able to make a good seal with the bulkhead.  I also found out that the AC was not correctly wired, and there was reverse Polarity that  I never noticed before.... I thought that light was supposed to be on!  So, i had to do a bit of research, and was able to successfully rewire the AC, adding in the second 3 switch panel.  I used one switch for the port side electric, another for the Starbord side, and the third switch was for the Refrigerator.  That leaves 1 switch that is unused, but I will later use for the Battery Charger.

I have added in the AC wiring (on the right) at this point.
One more feature that I added to this mix are Panel lights. That is what the small toggle switch in the middle of the picture below is for.  Now I can go into the dark salon, flip that switch and it will provide back lighting to the switch labels.  This now makes it easy to find the switch navigation lights, or what ever and not have to hunt down a flashlight!  Sweet!!!!

Now the Navigation station is neat and pretty, with lots of electric bling! 

This was a pretty big project that took me a few months to complete.  It was really intimidating at first, but when I focused on one element at a time, it was a snap!  If you are going to do something similar, be sure to take your time and think things through, several times, and you will find it is not as complicated as you think it is.

There is one more element of this project that I will save for another post, and that is the relocation and installation of the batteries.  I really like where they are now!

so, until next time!


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