What To Know About Boat Electrical Systems

Posted on June 10, 2015 By

Here at Hard Systems, we get a lot of questions related to marine contracting work, and how to fix different types of systems that occur on boats of all sizes.

In general, we find that there are different types of boat electrical systems that depend a lot on the size and type of the boat.

For smaller sailboats, for example, boats that are under 40ft, the electrical systems are usually fairly straightforward, and involve a simple battery connection to the main engine and boat outlets, sockets, and lights.

For larger craft, things get a little more complicated. That’s because once you hit the 40ft mark (approximately) you start to have more involved needs for the boat.

For example, many smaller boats don’t have power-intensive appliances, like water-makers, and will often use separate, gas-powered generators to supply any extra power needs they have while under way or anchored remotely.

Larger boats are different. They have more extensive refrigeration units, more pump needs for water systems, and often a host of other appliances and devices, some more essential than others.

Add to that the fact that an increasing number of boatowners are looking at sustainable energy, like including solar panels on their boat, and the systems get a whole new level of complexity.

There’s a good overview video of these concepts here:

If You’re Building Your Own Boat

boat electrical systemIf you’re in the process of building your own boat, and have questions about the electrical system, the best advice we have to make sure you follow a strong set of boat plans.

Your boat building plans should include anything and everything you need to install a safe and secure electrical system, not just build the outer shell. Remember that in many cases, you’ll need to think about how that system will fit into place in the boat before you finish the hull and deck design. It’s much easier to plan ahead than to go back and try to MacGyver a solution after the fact.

BoaterSafety.org recommends that when in doubt, you should stick to the old rule: the simpler the better.

If you’re not particularly talented with electrical units, don’t try to install a huge system all by yourself. Either splurge to hire an expert marine electrician, or stick to the bare bones of what you need, and supply the rest of your power through external generators.

After all, boat life is supposed to be about a more simply way of life, right?

If You Have An Existing Boat In Need of Repair

If you already have a boat and are in need of electrical repair, make sure you hire a reputable marine electrician. Marine directory is good spot to go for certified boat electricians.

They will likely be more expensive per hour than a regular electrician, but in the end you’ll save a ton of money and headache, because they’ll be able to pinpoint your boat’s problems more easily, and find a good solution to fix them quickly.

I hope this post helps you understand a little bit more about the types of considerations you should make with regards to your boat’s electrical system. Best of luck and remember to stay safe!

Boat Systems


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