New electrical system

Had an exhausting long weekend — four days straight of nonstop electrical work, most of it on my back, half crammed into the tight space under the companionway and behind the electrical cabinet.

Thursday morning I took a trip up to Best Marine’s shop to pick up some extra parts from Neo: new battery switches (with separate house/start bank switches and a third emergency parallel switch, which makes it pretty hard to screw things up); a large (100A) breaker for the anchor winch; and a couple other random little things.  In the afternoon I mounted the new battery charger and the cabinet door with the new panels, then cut some holes in the bulkhead and routed all the panel wiring to the battery crawlspace.  I spent the rest of the day sorting through wires, cutting and crimping, and getting the negative bus bar on the starboard side of the boat all wired.  I was surprised how long it took and was worried I wouldn’t get much done even in four days.

In reality it just took some practice and now after making a hundred or so connections I can measure, cut, strip, crimp, and mount a wire, on my back and upside down, in about a minute.  The real time consuming aspect of the whole thing was sorting all the wires, routing them neatly, and supporting them with cable supports and zip ties.

On Friday I worked through the morning then headed to Sim Lim Tower for a while in the afternoon to pick up a bunch of parts, mainly terminals.  I found a pretty good shop there (Suntronics at #03-30) that actually knew what an insulated DC terminal post was and sold me a couple.  (The previous 4 shops I asked at either had no idea what it was or laughed at me and said there was no way I’d find such a thing in Singapore.)  Then I worked well into the evening (something like 10pm) to finish all the starboard side DC wiring and mount the bus bar and terminal strip for the port side so I could get started quickly Saturday.

Saturday was another all-day affair and I finished wiring up all the DC loads by the end of the day, and was able to test out the DC panel.  Everything worked on the first try except the spreader lights, which I have yet to debug.  I also noticed, just by listening to the fans on the cabin circuits, a pretty large voltage drop when I switched on a few of the other circuits; I have yet to measure that or diagnose it.

Sunday I rewired the entire AC system, which worked perfectly on the first try.  The AC outlet breakers are only 10A, which may be a little undersized since my big old air conditioner apparently sometimes spikes past that when it’s starting up, tripping the breaker.  But that only happened once or twice.  If it becomes a problem I’ll swap the breaker out for the currently unused one reserved for a future air conditioner installation, which is 15A.

As I ran out of time yesterday I scrambled and managed to wrap up a few more tasks:

  • Installed a new insulated post for the starter bank positive terminal
  • Removed the ancient battery isolator (with some effort; it had fused to the paint inside the crawlspace), and installed the echo~charge
  • Cleaned the rubber mats the house batteries rest on, and the fiberglassed mount below them
  • Installed all four of the new house batteries, wired them up, and hooked them up to the solar panels and the echo~charge
  • Broke out the jigsaw to cut a slightly bigger hole where the old starboard-side breaker panel was, under the companionway steps, to install the new switches
  • Hooked up some temporary cables between the negative bus bar and the house bank, the house bank and the positive house post, and the positive post and  the DC panel, so everything works.  I couldn’t wire the switches because the posts on them are too large for the terminals on my existing cables.

Here are a few pictures.  Inside the crawlspace, this is what I spent almost all of the weekend doing: wiring new bus bars and terminal strips like these:

That’s on the starboard side of the boat, just behind the electrical cabinet.  It’s not all that pretty but it’s dramatically better than how things were before — not bad given the constraint that I was reusing all the wiring that actually goes out to all the loads.  At the very least, everything is well labeled and well supported now, whereas before it was mysterious spaghetti and dangling randomly.

Here’s the port side, which is a bit simpler:

And finally, here’s the new panel mounted in the electrical cabinet, and also the new battery charger, which I haven’t gotten wired up yet:

I still have quite a bit left to do, most of it involving larger cables, because I haven’t yet gotten my hands on a large crimping tool or big lugs for working with cables to the battery charger, switches, anchor winch, and the like.  Some remaining tasks:

  • Wire up the new battery switches, battery charger, windlass breaker, and a few shunts
  • Re-hook up all the alternator stuff
  • Re-hook up the bilge pump panel (leaving it in its original place for now)
  • Install the new “DC systems monitor” (basically a fancy digital voltmeter with some nice stuff like bilge pump cycle monitoring and display for tank gauges)
  • Add a switch somewhere for the panel backlighting.  Right now it’s on the always-on bus but that’s kind of unnecessary
  • Rewire a couple circuits for loads I think are poorly placed (e.g., the GPS is on the 12V outlet circuit for some bizarre reason)
  • Test everything and debug stuff that’s not working (spreader lights seems to be all for now)

1 Comment

Filed under electrical, maintenance, photos

One Response to New electrical system

  1. Charlene

    Well done robot

    *CLAP CLAP*

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