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How do I add an electrical breaker?

2010 September 7
Dear Boat Doctor,
I recently had a survey done on my Stevens 47. Things looked pretty good, but the surveyor noted that my electrical panel is not within 10 feet of my shore power inlet. He claims I must add a breaker to the system closer to the power inlet. Why is this and what's the best way to add a breaker?
Bill Brady
Annapolis, Maryland

Dear Bill,
Your surveyor is quoting from the ABYC standards, E-11 to be exact. In the old days, builders relied on marinas to supply an adequate breaker to protect the shore-power system on the boat. ABYC made these standards a bit more stringent a few years back. Adding a breaker close to the inlet is good practice; I have seen enough questionable wiring in power pedestals and dock wiring to keep me up at night.

Assuming that you don't have a spot below, within 10 feet of conductor length, to add an enclosure and breaker you'll likely need to add a breaker adjacent to the power inlet on deck. Marinco (www.marinco.com, 262-293-1700) offers a shore circuit breaker in a power inlet housing-the AirPax line has 125-volt models in 30 and 50 amp, as well a 250-volt 30/50 amp model. From the outside it looks just like a power inlet. The entire unit is weatherproof and attractive on deck.

The ABYC has also recently updated the electrical standard to recommend an Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupter (ELCI) in the shore power circuit. This device is analogous to the GFCI outlets in your house. It detects if any current has leaked to ground in a circuit (indicating a safety problem) and quickly opens the circuit. Your boat should already have GFCI protection on its outlets, but this device will protect all the rest of the hard-wired devices. Marinco has recently introduced a series of devices, including on-deck options, to handle this requirement as well.