Electrical, AC Receptacle, Galley, Port Side: Part I: Analysis and Installation

The AC receptacle installed on the port side of the galley
The power provided by AC (Alternating Current) provides all sorts of comforts on a cruising sailboat. This is the type of current, after all, that is found in households across the world. Need to use a certain kitchen appliance or power tool? Just plug it in. Want to keep the cabin cool in the summer or warm in the chilly months? Just plug in that air conditioner or space heater. It all sounds so easy, right? Well, it is, provided you have created the infrastructure to support it. The first thing you need is a power source - a generator or a shore power connection; the second thing you need is an AC main breaker and distribution panel; and the third thing you need are AC receptacles - you know, the outlets into which you can plug your appliances, tools, and other things. Sure, you can use an inverter on your battery-based, DC (Direct Current) electrical system to produce AC power, but inverters are real power hogs. For me, I preferred to have the reliability and stamina of a true AC power infrastructure, and frankly I had little choice in the matter. Like most people, I relied primarily on a battery-based, DC electrical system, and the battery banks, for this system had to be charged by an AC powered charger. I have discussed my AC system elsewhere, namely in my article, "Electrical, AC Distribution Panel." Right now, in this two-part article, I will discuss my installation and wiring of the receptacle that I placed on the port side of the galley. This was just one part of the greater rewiring project on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.
The AC distribution panel that I selected for my boat was a Blue Sea Systems brand panel with a built-in AC main breaker. The large switch at the top of the panel is the breaker. Beneath this switch are the three switches for the three separate circuits. I had purchased this particular panel, because it had everything I needed - a meter, a breaker, and three separate circuits.
One of these circuits would be dedicated to the battery charger.
The Iota 45 charger
Another one of the circuits would be dedicated to miscellaneous items, and the third one would be dedicated to the air conditioner.
The air conditioner box
This Frigidaire brand air conditioner was a simple, inexpensive 5000 BTU window unit that I had purchased for $99 (with free shipping) from a nationwide discount store. The electrical cord for this window unit exited the housing on its right side. In the picture below, you see the white cord on the lower left. This cord was pretty short, but it was just long enough to reach to the port side of the galley. This, to me, seemed to be the best location for the dedicated AC receptacle. Putting this receptacle on the starboard side would not be an option, because this would be where I would install the Iota 45 battery charger, and I would need a dedicated AC receptacle on that side for that charger. Installing the AC receptacle (or receptacles) underneath the companionway was also not an option. The battery banks would be in the lazarette, just behind the companionway. AC receptacles are not ignition protected, so it would not be smart to have the backside of the AC receptacles projecting through the bulkhead into the lazarette.
After a great deal of thought, I decided that this spot, pictured below, was the one and only place that I could install the AC receptacle dedicated to the air conditioner. Installing the receptacle here would mean that its backside would project into the cockpit locker. Despite the fact that there would be equipment in this locker, this location for the receptacle was tolerable, especially since I could protect the back of the receptacle with a plastic electrical box.
To begin the installation, I marked the area using an AC receptacle faceplate as a guide. This faceplate, as seen above, is one that is made specifically for a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) receptacle. These are the types of receptacles that are normally now required by local and state building codes to be installed in the bathrooms and kitchens of new homes under construction. These receptacles, unlike the normal ones, will break the circuit in the presence of water or excessive moisture. This, of course, reduces the risk of electrocution. Are these GFCI receptacles, therefore, good to have on a boat? Certainly.
Please ignore the spots of mildew and other crud on the bulkhead. The boat was still pretty nasty at this time.
Over the outline of the faceplate I traced the outline of the GFCI.
Then I got to work, drilling one hole after another through the bulkhead.
I had to use this multi-hole technique, because the area was too tight for any of the electrically powered saws that I had.
Once I had drilled all of the large holes, I pulled out the Dremel with its special fiberglass-cutting bit and made my way through several of the holes.
The Dremel was somewhat helpful, but the keyhole saw was the tool that finally did just what I needed.
After I had cleaned up the rough edges of the hole, I installed the GFCI receptacle.
Then I installed the white plastic faceplate. When I had purchased the GFCI, I had thought that white would look good. As it turned out, it looked sort of cheap, and it didn't really tie in well with the mahogany trim for the other components of the electrical system. I contemplated creating a mahogany trim piece for the faceplate, but I thought that it would complicate things, and I thought that it would not look good to extend the mahogany trim beyond the mahogany fiddle rail on the front of the cabinet. As you see in the picture below, the fiddle creates a visual break between the countertop and that which is inboard of the countertop.
Therefore, I returned to the hardware store, and, in the process of purchasing an additional GFCI (for the receptacle dedicated to the battery charger), I found some stainless steel faceplates that were quite affordable.
The stainless steel made a big difference in terms of the appearance of the receptacle and the overall appearance of the layout of electrical components in this part of the boat.
This ends this first part of my two-part article on my installation of the AC receptacle on the port side of the galley in Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

1 comment:

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