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Old 11-14-2019, 05:08 PM   #1
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Boat Wiring and Onboard Heaters

So, on my last boat if I ran a heater over 1000 watts, the heater plug would seriously overheat and threaten to melt. The boat was French built and the wiring was to EU standards. I've put in an offer on a 1987 Marine Trader and my question is; have you guys and gals run electric space heaters on your boat? Shore power or generator. Was the wiring up to it? If all goes well, I'll have to move the boat from Maryland to South Carolina in December. I'd like to have some heat if possible. Any thoughts?
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Old 11-14-2019, 05:20 PM   #2
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We have a 1987 President 41í. The wiring will support a 1500 watt heater. A 15 amp 14 gauge circuit should work with a 1500 watt heater.
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Old 11-14-2019, 05:24 PM   #3
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On my last liveaboard, a Silverton (US made) no issues....

My Albin 40 didn't have anyi issues but I wound up rewiring the whole boat. I made sure a couple outlets were heavy duty wired, but remember the outlet itself may be the issue so replace it with a 20A outlet if still getting hot.
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Old 11-14-2019, 05:27 PM   #4
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Good catch. Heaters are one of the major sources of boat fires. I wonder whether your old boat's wiring was sized for European 220V vs US 120V. A 120V heater pulls about twice the amps at the same wattage. One cannot just reuse 220V wiring for 120V devices. The other way is OK.

I do use oil filled electric heaters but only on 600W when unattended. I would not want to use a fan-type electric heater unattended. You are betting on the over-temp protection to work when the fan bearing locks up.
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Old 11-14-2019, 05:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sidclark View Post
So, on my last boat if I ran a heater over 1000 watts, the heater plug would seriously overheat and threaten to melt. The boat was French built and the wiring was to EU standards. I've put in an offer on a 1987 Marine Trader and my question is; have you guys and gals run electric space heaters on your boat? Shore power or generator. Was the wiring up to it? If all goes well, I'll have to move the boat from Maryland to South Carolina in December. I'd like to have some heat if possible. Any thoughts?
Your questions opens up a Pandora's box:
  • Is the boat 30A, dual 30A, or 50A?
  • What else is on the circuit that the heater plugs into?
  • What else could come on when the heater is running and cause a potential overload?
  • Are there any alternative sources of heat?

You may want to consider a diesel furnace (air to air) as a viable option.
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Old 11-14-2019, 06:06 PM   #6
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Your Marine Trader although built in Taiwan was built to US wiring standards: 14 gauge wire for a 15A outlet. It should handle a 1,500 watt heater as well as one in your home.


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Old 11-14-2019, 08:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by gsholz View Post
Good catch. Heaters are one of the major sources of boat fires. I wonder whether your old boat's wiring was sized for European 220V vs US 120V. A 120V heater pulls about twice the amps at the same wattage. One cannot just reuse 220V wiring for 120V devices. The other way is OK.

I do use oil filled electric heaters but only on 600W when unattended. I would not want to use a fan-type electric heater unattended. You are betting on the over-temp protection to work when the fan bearing locks up.

Yep, it was 220v wiring with 110v type outlets.



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Your questions opens up a Pandora's box:
  • Is the boat 30A, dual 30A, or 50A?
  • What else is on the circuit that the heater plugs into?
  • What else could come on when the heater is running and cause a potential overload?
  • Are there any alternative sources of heat?

You may want to consider a diesel furnace (air to air) as a viable option.

It's a duel 30 amp shorepower. I would try to find a dedicated circuit to plug into if possible. The other heat source would be reverse cycle heat from a/c units, but have never had good success with those. I only need heat for the trip down, so no need for a furnace. Plan are to leave in November with the migration and return in March, so no need for heat in those months..



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Originally Posted by djmarchand View Post
Your Marine Trader although built in Taiwan was built to US wiring standards: 14 gauge wire for a 15A outlet. It should handle a 1,500 watt heater as well as one in your home.


David
That's what I was hoping!
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Old 11-14-2019, 08:26 PM   #8
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remember the outlet itself may be the issue so replace it with a 20A outlet if still getting hot.
You would need to upgrade to 12 gauge wiring and 20 A circuit breaker for a 20 amp outlet.

I have several 20 A circuit's on the boat for microwave and outlets dedicated to portable heaters.

I also use an oil filled heater at 1/2 power unattended. It warms the air around the dehumidifier to keep it from freezing during winter.
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Old 11-14-2019, 08:31 PM   #9
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You would need to upgrade to 12 gauge wiring and 20 A circuit breaker for a 20 amp outlet

It's not technically correct to put a 20A outlet on a 15A circuit, but it's also perfectly safe. You'd just have an outlet that can safely handle more power than the breaker (and wiring) will allow you to pull.
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Old 11-14-2019, 09:55 PM   #10
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I didn't make it clear that I was suggesting 20 A outlets on heavier duty circuits.... but I agree that if you keep a 15A CB in the circuit all should be well.


If the outlets are getting hot with 14 ga wire, 15 A CB and standard 15A outlets...something is wrong and dangerous anyhow.
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Old 11-14-2019, 10:04 PM   #11
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Was your boat wired originally fir 220volts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sidclark View Post
So, on my last boat if I ran a heater over 1000 watts, the heater plug would seriously overheat and threaten to melt. The boat was French built and the wiring was to EU standards. I've put in an offer on a 1987 Marine Trader and my question is; have you guys and gals run electric space heaters on your boat? Shore power or generator. Was the wiring up to it? If all goes well, I'll have to move the boat from Maryland to South Carolina in December. I'd like to have some heat if possible. Any thoughts?
You Say your boat was wired to EU standards. If it was also wired for 220 V, you may have smaller wires that may not be appropriate for 110 V. That may be the source of your problem. Because of the higher voltage, 220 wires are often smaller than 11o, depending on the expected load.
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Old 11-15-2019, 02:21 AM   #12
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I feel it’s unsafe to plug a 1500 watt heater into an outlet as a primary heat source. Most of my issues are with the unsecured heater. Installing a King Picawatt heater on a 20 amp breaker would be my recommendation. 1500w is 13.6 amps which is to close to the limit of a 15 amp circuit for continuous duty. on a boat corrosion is a real issue, adding this extra resistance to an already maxed out circuit is risky.
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Old 11-15-2019, 07:10 AM   #13
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"It's not technically correct to put a 20A outlet on a 15A circuit, but it's also perfectly safe. You'd just have an outlet that can safely handle more power than the breaker (and wiring) will allow you to pull."


Its safe and a very easy upgrade, as both 20A plugs and 20A sockets are at at any big box store.
They handle the 1500W heater well.

The genuine 240V plugs and sockets work great with 12V , far better than a cigar lighter socket. No 240V users should be on board.
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Old 11-15-2019, 08:21 AM   #14
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The American Tug has 2 resistance heaters. Turn them both on and that's it, no more..... but, I like them. I just have to remember to make sure I have hot coffee before I turn on the heaters.
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Old 11-15-2019, 08:27 AM   #15
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Replace the receptacles every 20 years. Don't use the backstab feature. And, if you don't have a good feel for torque, use an instrument. I just finished replacing all the 1988 recepts in my house, and saw a number of issues. A boat doesn't have that many recepts to be a $ issue, and the ones that do exist may get heavy use along with salted atmosphere.
I don't know if this is a rule, but I would not put any stranded wire directly under a screw head. Use devices that clamp the wire end. Also, use devices that are "marine" rated, or at least "WR" (weather resistant). The yokes will be made of a corrosion resistant material.
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Old 11-15-2019, 08:53 AM   #16
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Unless you're going to be in water colder than 35 degrees, it makes a lot more sense to run the air conditioning in reverse cycle for cabin heat. It will produce a lot more BTUs with a lot less amps.

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Old 11-15-2019, 09:55 AM   #17
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Unless you're going to be in water colder than 35 degrees, it makes a lot more sense to run the air conditioning in reverse cycle for cabin heat. It will produce a lot more BTUs with a lot less amps.

Ted
But, does one want a raw water pump running on an untended vessel?
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:01 AM   #18
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But, does one want a raw water pump running on an untended vessel?
I do it with one of my A/Cs during the hot, humid parts of the summer. The A/C pumps don't flow all that much, relatively speaking. So assuming it won't be unattended for long periods of time, the bilge pumps should be able to handle any A/C related issue for long enough to notice it and fix it.
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Old 11-15-2019, 10:14 AM   #19
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But, does one want a raw water pump running on an untended vessel?
Plumbed properly with a magnetic drive centerfusial pump, I would say the risk factor is far lower than either an electric heater or fuel burning heat stove. Millions of boats are left unattended with air conditioners running. From the below article, air conditioning systems failures doesn't even make the list for boats sinking at the dock. Now if we're talking about a Jack leg installation, well they're making more determined idiots all the time.

https://www.boatus.com/magazine/2014...boats-sink.asp

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Old 11-15-2019, 12:55 PM   #20
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But, does one want a raw water pump running on an untended vessel?

No plans to leave the heater on when no one is onboard. Just need the heat for the trip down from Maryland. There are 7000, 10000 and 16000BTU ac units onboard, so maybe reverse cycle will suffice, just not sure.
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