igital switching systems—DSS—are not new. They’ve been around for more
than 10 years, but they’re caught the fancy of the marine community in a big
way only in the past few years or so. As one of the newer hot trends in marine
electrical systems, DSS is commonplace on larger, high-end boats and is beginning to penetrate the smaller-boat market.
“We have been wiring new vessels with digital switching systems since 2009, some with as
many as 150 switched circuits,” says Rufus Van Gruisen, owner of Cay Electronics in Portsmouth,
RI. “We prefer systems that use an NMEA 2000® communication bus and that can be pro-
grammed, or at least modified, by our own technicians. The ease of use, reliability and added fea-
tures provided by these systems have proven to be popular with our customers.” He says with
other systems making small changes to settings may mean “referring back to the manufacturer to
have them make the required change to the software.”
Peter Braffitt, General Manager of Gemeco Marine Accessories, agrees. “I feel that one of the
most advantageous reasons to add digital switching over NMEA 2000 is that it can be serviced by
any NMEA-trained tech, compared to a proprietary OEM system that is purpose-built for that
boat and very difficult to be serviced in the field. Expanding that system is also costly since the
programming is proprietary, but adding on to an NMEA 2000-based system can be generally han-
dled by any NMEA-trained tech.”
Packing a boatload of benefits
By Ev CoLLiER
Every so often a technology comes
along that seems to have only
upsides. Digital switching is one of
them. Not only does it simplify and
centralize much of the onboard electrical circuitry, digital switching is
also robust and easily expandable.
What’s more, it eliminates the maze
of traditional wiring connections,
switches, fuses and other components that are potential trouble
spots, which can lead to failures.
Digital switching is coming on quickly, and for good reasons. One is the convenience of controlling many functions from the MFD. You can also set up sidebars with
priority buttons to access popular circuits like lighting.
Many boat builders are now controlling some circuits
over digital switching.