One of the areas I get an occasional question on has to do with what you see in the photo above. You are looking at the backside of a fairly typical electrical panel. What you see is three rows of standard two pole circuit breakers and the master wire harness coming in from the top side with all of the DC positive conductors attached. On the opposite poles you see some neatly bent uninsulated single strand copper wire that connects all of the other poles on the circuit breakers. At each circuit breaker the installer has carefully made a solder joint attachment to the 5/16″ male spade terminal protruding from the breaker. All very neat and tidy. The question however is whether of not this complies with ABYC Standards. The answer is no. Not so much because of the single strand copper, I consider that as nothing more than a “custom” buss bar. Its probably better than the brass bars you often see used on cheaper panel arrangements, since copper is far more electrically conductive than brass.
The problem here is the beautifully hand-crafted solder joints on the terminals. The ABYC E-11 standard is quite clear that “solder shall not be the sole means of electrical connection”. Crimp and then solder yes. Straight solder. NO. Too bad, because this looks sort of elegant and my bet is it’ll last for years just as it is. But, that’s just my vote. The ABYC electical PTC (project technical committee) said no to this arrangement somewhere along the line. Not sure if they were really thinking of this sort of arrangement. I understand the reasoning behind the requirement, if the terminal were to overheat it could actually melt the solder and cause a disconnect. Also, the solder really doesn’t have the physical strength. I get that too. My thinking here is that if it got that hot behind the panel, the boat owner would have bigger worries. As for the strength properties, I just don’t see where its needed in this particular installation. I’d love to hear your comments on my thinking here! So, send them along. We’ll share them.