Panel Switches

Boat panel switches are typically used to control various systems and components on a boat, such as navigation lights, bilge pumps, and other electrical equipment. » Read More


Rocker Switches

Rocker switches are a popular choice for boats because they are easy to operate and provide a clear indication of whether a system is on or off. They are also designed to withstand the harsh marine environment, with features such as waterproof seals and corrosion-resistant materials.

One of the benefits of using these on a boat is that they can be easily customized to fit a specific application. Switch covers can be labeled with text or symbols to indicate what system the switch controls, and switch bases can be wired in a variety of ways to achieve different switching functions. They can also feature LED lighting to provide a stylish touch and clear indication of devices in operation.

Some of the more popular manufacturers of these are Contura, Carling, Cole Hersee, BEP, and Blue Sea Systems. In general, most marine-grade rocker switches are interchangeable, meaning that switch covers from one manufacturer can be used with switch bases from another manufacturer. This is because most marine rocker switches and switch covers follow a standard design that is widely recognized and used throughout the industry.

However, not all are created equal and there may be differences in quality and construction between the different manufacturers. It is always a good idea to consult the manufacturer's specifications and installation instructions. This will help you to select the appropriate switch for your needs and ensure that it is installed and wired correctly.

Push Button Switches

Push button switches are another popular choice for the dashboard of boats. These serve the same purpose as a rocker switch but are preferred by some boaters for their appearance and functionality. 

Keep in mind that while push buttons are generally more expensive, they can provide a clean, modern look to the boat's dashboard. They can facilitate a “cleaner” installation with the ability to be mounted flush into the dashboard or acrylic panels used on boats. As with a rocker switch, push buttons typically feature colored LED lighting rings, which provide a clear indication of whether the switch is on or off.

Boat Switch Functions

Boat switches on the dashboard can be confusing due to their various functions. Some of the most used switch functions include:

On/Off Switch

A simple switch that functions like a light switch. These On/Off switches are typically used for accessories such as blowers or livewell pumps.

On/Off/On Switch

This type of switch has three positions instead of two, with the center position being completely off. The top position powers one circuit, while the bottom position powers a separate circuit. On/off/on switches are frequently used for navigation lights, where one on position turns on both the bow lights and all-around light, while the other on position turns on just the all-around light.

Bilge pumps are also often wired with an on/off/on switch, with one on position manually turning on the pump and the other on position connecting it to the battery through the float switch for automatic operation.

Momentary On/Off Switch

A momentary switch only remains on while you're pressing it. These are commonly used for items such as horns.

Momentary On/Off/On Switch

Similar to the momentary on/off switch, this switch also connects only while you're pressing it, but has two different on positions. Rocker switches for controlling trim tabs are a good example of this, and a windlass switch is usually momentary on/off/on with one on position for up and the other on position for down.

Switch Lighting

Push button dash switches have been gaining popularity due to their LED lighting. The LED switch ring not only looks attractive but also conveniently indicates whether the switch is on. It is important to note that a rocker switch can also be lit. Rocker switch bodies are available with indicator lamps that turn on only when the switch is on, as well as with backlight lamps that are independent of the switch.

Backlight lamps are usually connected to the navigation light circuit so that when the navigation lights are switched on, the backlighting behind the switch panels also turns on. It should be noted that an illuminated boat rocker switch requires both a switch body with integrated lamps and a cover with an engraved label or plastic lens that allows the light through the cover.

Boat Switch Installation Considerations

  1. Choose the location: Determine where on the boat you want to install the switch. The location should be easily accessible and visible.
  2. Cut the hole: Use the appropriate size hole saw to cut the boat panel for the switch. Be sure to measure carefully to ensure a proper fit. Most manufacturers provide the hole sizing in the installation instructions.

Note: Installing a boat switch, whether it's a push button or rocker switch, can be a relatively simple task for someone with electrical experience. However, it's important to note that working with electrical systems can be dangerous, and mistakes can have serious consequences. If you're uncomfortable or inexperienced with electrical work, it's best to hire a professional to do the installation. A professional electrician or marine technician can ensure that the job is done safely and correctly, which can help prevent electrical problems and keep you and your boat safe.

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Commonly Asked Questions about Panel Switches

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