- - Well the DC system is another matter . . . European boats sold "worldwide" are normally 12VDC for two reasons, USA DC systems are based on 12VDC so they conform to the automobile systems and the alternators, radios, lights, etc. which are all based on 12VDC. And the availability of 12VDC equipment
is huge and as a result more reasonably priced.
- - The old European boats and "European only" boats have as standard 24VDC which is easier on the wiring
- you can use a smaller sized cable and the 24VDC appliances
work easier as the "umph" of voltage is higher. But alternators, lighting
, radios, etc. have a smaller worldwide market and are correspondingly more expensive and if you are not located in that market area you have to import
- - The big danger
is the smaller wiring size - that needs to carefully checked if you intend to convert from 24V down to 12VDC. You can use small 24V to 12V converters for local loads such as radios. But heavy amperage equipment
or large motors cannot economically use a voltage converter.
- - AC system conversions present several problems. The biggest I mentioned before is the European 2-wire use of 220VAC along with different AC receptacle pattern. If the boat is fairly new, you might find the 3rd wire is installed but not in use. Manufacturers hate have to make 2 kinds of the same boats. Since the boat is already built, access to behind-the-wall wiring conduits or wire "runs" can make the conversion of the whole boat impractical if you want to do it legally (i.e., you are going to insure the boat for use in USA waters). I have worked on several "up-scale" European boats and they have metal tubing as conduits for wiring. That made "snaking" new wires a bit easier than USA style boats that have wire-tied electrical cabling every few feet. If the wiring is "wire-tied" with the plastic tie-wraps then you are looking major problems getting access to the wire-ways. Those boats are in the too-complicated category.
- - The 50 Hz versus 60 Hz (cycles) is a major consideration. Naturally all the AC equipment must be removed (if it is not dual voltage/freq) and 110-120VAC 60 Hz equipment installed. You can examine the label on each piece of equipment to see what the allowable voltage/frequency is for that particular item. AC Lighting
receptacles are different so must also be replaced. You cannot use USA 220-240VAC equipment on European 220VAC power as the "phasing" is different and vice-versa. But most USA boats do not have 220VAC equipment. This means you need a new USA standards Battery Charger
(if you convert from 24VDC to 12VDC and the existing charger is not a multi-voltage/freq unit) and if you have an inverter
the output needs to be 110-120VAC 60 Hz. New kitchen(galley) appliances
, (microwaves, in particular will self destruct in 5 seconds or less if operated on the wrong Hz (cycle)). Any AC equipment with a "motor" like air conditioning
, AC fans, clocks, etc. will operate at a different motor
speed and most likely self-destruct unless the label says they can be used on dual voltage/freq. So check all the labels/placards carefully before replacing anything - you may find that the unit will work on either voltage/freq or has a volt/freq selector switch.
- - I mentioned the quick and dirty conversion by removing all downstream AC circuits where it would be difficult to route
the "3rd" wire. Also a very often overlooked item is that the USA electrical standards require a GFCI on all bathroom (head) AC electrical outlets. This is easily accomplished by installing a GFCI outlet/receptacle purchased from a USA store that sells electrical equipment.
- - If the boat is uniquely great for your intended charter activity then the conversions can be made even though their are labor intensive. You can do most of the work yourself or if you have a good friend who is an electrician, they can assist. The only thing a "land-based electrician" doesn't know is that "Marine (boat) wiring" requires the use of "Marine grade wire." You cannot use household electrical wire. Marine grade wiring has many more "strands" inside and is more flexible. This is necessary as everything inside a boat flexes as the boat crashes and bashes its way through the oceans and bays. The best marine wiring has "tin-coated" strands. The cheap
marine wire is just un-coated copper. Also all wire ends must be have "ring terminals" installed. These are the little metal fittings with a hole in the end so that a machine screw can pass through the hole to attach the wire to the equipment or terminal board/bar. For that same "flexing rule" - ring terminals keep the wire from wiggling out of its attachment point (terminal bar or equipment). An electrician can purchase
the marine wire from distributors or wholesalers at very significant savings over retail marine store prices.
- - For more detailed questions - if you intend to do the conversion yourelf - please just PM me.