In With the New…

We have a LOT of work going on right now, mostly electrical. Harmonie was ahead of her time when she was built, but electrical systems change quickly, and there has been a lot of water under that bridge in the last 25 years. As far as new boats go, our AC electrical system is pretty simple, but meets our needs well.

One of the tasks we took on was to bring our 220V AC electrical panel up to current standard. The Amel original was a bit dated in style, and the purposes of the many of the switches had changed over the years, so the original carved-in labels didn’t work any more. While the laber-maker stick-on labels are functional, they really aren’t “yacht quality.” Also, those odd ball Dirupter brand made-in-France circuit breakers are the very devil to find in the USA, and are insanely expensive when you do. Like $150 EACH.

But… the real issue with this panel was not apparent on the surface, but once opened up you can see…

Back behind the scenes is a total spaghetti bowl of wires. Dozens, and dozens of wires jammed in a space too small. None of them are labeled, except for the labels I have put on. Working on this mess is frustrating–at best.

Even if you can trace a wire, at its end you frequently end up with something that looks like this:

A large number of wires twisted together and soldered, then jammed under a compression terminal. It WORKS, but if something goes wrong, or heaven forbid!, needs to be changed, you are hosed.

In other places, you find multiple wires jammed into one terminal, and soldered. While this is marginally better than stacking four or five terminals on one screw, it makes any repairs or modifications extremely frustrating, and is totally unnecessary with a little advance planning.

Out With All That Mess!

I pulled all the wires out of the box, and off to the side. Removed the box, and mounted a pair of bus bars, and a terminal block. Now, with a proper back plane, we can reinstall the wires the right way.

Here we are, most of the way along. All the ground wires to one bus. All the neutral wires to the other, and the hot wires to the terminal block. No screw has more than two terminals under it, and no terminal holds more than one wire. EVERY wire is labeled. And not a drop of solder to be found.

After two days of fabricating, cutting, labeling and crimping, we have everything ready to go.

A pretty dramatic change on the inside. Neat, organized, with all connections visible and accessible for troubleshooting or modification. The change on the outside is less dramatic, but still a major upgrade in form and function from where we were.

There we go! That should keep Harmonie going strong for the next 25 years!

There are a bunch of other projects going on that we’ll post about as we assemble the information.

Safety Note!

There is an important issue here, especially for other Amel owners. Our boat was built with single pole circuit breakers, and we kept that here with this new panel.

This is important when it comes time to get 220V power from a USA shore power connection. With single pole breakers it is NOT safe to connect to a 50 Amp 120/240 Volt plug with two hot wires. We get our 220V power though our isolation transformer, which feeds our system with a single hot wire and a neutral, just like standard European power.

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2 Responses to In With the New…

  1. Looks great Bill. Now for the DC panel! I imagine you could get a small fortune for those switches on the owner’s forum or Facebook group. I had no idea those “Disrupter” switches were so dear. It’s almost worth a flight over there to pick them up and bring them back!

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    • Bill Kinney says:

      I think the DC panel is one for the future… There are a lot more wires in there, and it will be a nightmare figuring out which one does what. I do DREAD finding a ground fault that I have to trace down through that rat’s nest.

      The breakers are made by Diruptor in France, where Plastimo distributes them. Bainbridge gets them from Plastimo, and sells them to a retailer, who sells them to us. With that many hands in the distribution chain, the price gets pretty insane. You can probably buy them in Paris at a local hardware store for $25.

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