One of your top priorities as a boat owner should be to frequently check for malfunctions in your electrical system on board. Problems with the electrical circuit can even lead to a potentially life threatening situation, such as an on board fire.
While we do not suggest doing any work you’re not comfortable with, it’s good to inspect and be aware of any problems that may need professional attention.
Here are some common problems that you should look out for:
An easy way to tell if your system is hazardous is to look at the circuit boards; more specifically, the wiring. Although there may not be any problems now, messy wiring and connections is something that’s bound to cause you trouble in the future.
Some common signs of poor quality workmanship when it comes to electrical circuits on boats are unsupported cables, and messy connections. Another common mistake is the usage of wire nuts. The reason that wire nuts should not be used on a circuit on board is that multi stranded wires are used in marine wiring, and wire nuts are made for securing two single stranded wires that have been screwed together.
Marine wiring is a lot more complex than your simple circuits at home, so if you notice any signs of poor quality wiring as mentioned above, contact a professional marine electrician in order to avoid an encounter with any related problems in the long term.
Faulty Battery and Battery Charger Installations
Your batteries are a crucial part of your electrical system on board, and can create extremely unfavorable conditions if not cared for properly. While inspecting the batteries, check for the connection between them.
Ideally, you’d want copper cables to be used instead of something like copper bars as cables can handle the movement and flexing that may occur while the boat moves.
It is also essential that all your cables and terminals are thoroughly covered with insulating material, as exposed metal can make the system vulnerable and hazardous.
Another thing to be careful with is connecting the battery charger units. With proper calibration and care, your batteries will last a lot longer.
Without precise calibration however, the batteries can deplete very quickly, but that’s not the only concern. A charger that is not precisely calibrated with the battery can lead to overcharging of the battery, which will cause the vents to open, even in sealed batteries, in order to release excess pressure that builds up.
The result is the expulsion of explosive hydrogen gas, which may cause your batteries to explode and start a fire. Of course, this isn’t something that happens in an extremely short period of time; however, it is best not to allow this process to occur in the first place.
To prevent or mitigate overcharging, carefully follow the manufacturer’s manual for calibration at the time of the initial calibration of the specific battery you intend to charge.
Improper Inverter Installations
Inverters are a great thing to have on your boat as they allow you to convert DC power from the battery into AC power, which lets you use household devices such as TVs and Microwaves. Setting up an inverter seems easy enough, but it’s not as simple as it seems.
If you do plan to install an inverter on your own, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and to meet safety standards. One important thing to remember is to have a ground connection attached to the metal case of the inverter.
Without this ground connection, if a DC short circuit occurs on the metal case, all of the burden will fall on the small AC grounding connection when the connected batteries discharge. The small AC ground connection will simply burn up because it won’t be able to handle the load, and will potentially create a fire throughout the boat depending on which way your wiring is done.
These are just some of the more common problems that may occur in a boat’s electrical system; however, there may be other problems depending on the specific conditions of the system on your boat.
To prevent annoyances or dangerous situations, we’d advise that you consult with a marine electrician, and ask them to inspect your boat for any electrical hazards. After all, you can never be too careful when it comes to safety. Happy Boating!