10/30/2013

Basic Considerations for Marine Wire

What's the deal with Marine Wire?

Marine wire is a generic term used to describe electrical wire suitable for use in the marine environment. So why would we need a "special wire" to use in marine electrical installations...I mean copper is copper right?

Well there are some considerations when finding a suitable wire for any installation. For this particular case of boats and their wiring needs we have to consider the immediate environment surrounding these installations. First, obviously is that there's water around so it would be handy to have a wire that is rated water resistant just to be safe. Another issue is
the vibration of the boat while it's moving. This is true in other "motive" installations as well and those type of installs call for a stranded wire so the strands can absorb the vibration and provide "strain relief", avoiding breakage. The other environmental issue surrounding marine wiring is temperature as the engine area of the boat can be very hot so the wire must be rated to operate in higher temperatures. 

Those are some of the main environmental considerations surrounding marine wire however there are some simple construction elements of the wire itself that would be useful. The first and foremost is the conductor material of the wire. Copper is an excellent conductor and is ideal for marine use. Copper can handle higher amperage ratings per gauge size than aluminum and is less brittle. Aside from using copper alone, there's a handy tin plating that comes on many of the high quality marine wires. The tinned copper stranding is not a requirement, however it's ideal as it resists the corrosion common with bare copper which of course is accelerated in the salt water environments. 

There are some governing codes over what's suitable for use on boats as laid out by the United States Coast Guard. They provide a basic minimum standard of what you should be using for boat wiring. Of course there are specialty manufacturer's and distributors who have gone far above and beyond these basic codes to provide you high quality choices when it comes to boat wiring. 

So a little research and a little common sense will go a long way in determining the correct wire to use for any situation, especially out on the open water where you definitely don't want to end up stranded.