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Old 31-01-2017, 16:03   #1
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110 volt vs 220 volt

I have been browsing sailboats for some time now.The ac electrical systems have some wired with US spec 110 volt and some Euro spec 220 volt. I'm curious how big of a deal the voltage is. Not concerned about the DC systems.

Do most marinas have one or the other?

All of my personal ( Currently owned) elec. devices are US voltage. Are converters for these items available and relatively inexpensive?

Probably going to spend time in the Carib, Bahamas, Florida etc. But could venture further.
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Old 02-02-2017, 00:07   #2
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

It is a pain the butt. And huge difference. If you are I.ln The USA you'll want 120 or 240v 60hz. Not 230v 50hz

Countries use one or the other.
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Old 02-02-2017, 04:08   #3
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

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Originally Posted by Cdreamin View Post
I have been browsing sailboats for some time now.The ac electrical systems have some wired with US spec 110 volt and some Euro spec 220 volt. I'm curious how big of a deal the voltage is. Not concerned about the DC systems.

Do most marinas have one or the other?

All of my personal ( Currently owned) elec. devices are US voltage. Are converters for these items available and relatively inexpensive?

Probably going to spend time in the Carib, Bahamas, Florida etc. But could venture further.

It's a big deal. Not insurmountable to convert, but very likely not worth your time and effort. Be aware that wire sizes differ, for the different current (and rewiring a boat, not fun).

Marinas have whatever the standard is in their country. For U.S. standard boats in U.S. marinas, you'll see 110 (or 115, or 120) and 240 (or sometimes called 250 or 220). 60 Hz cycle speed, vs 50 Hz for elsewhere; that affects motor speed, clock speed, etc..

Supply is often one or two 30-amp/125V power cables, or a single 50-amp/250V power cable, from a marina power pedestal. (There are some others, especially for much larger boats...)

Even when the main power supply is 50A/250V, it's not uncommon that all appliances on board are 110V, but sometimes larger appliances or systems (ACs, water heaters, bow thrusters, etc.) may need 220V.

I think our boat is the largest our builder made that uses a 50A/250V supply, but only has 110V systems on board. Larger boats from the same builder still use the 50A/250V supply but have several 220V systems instead.

And so forth.

Not sure about everywhere in the Caribbean. I think some use U.S. standard, some use "Euro" (and most everywhere else) 230V standard.

You'll just want to pay attention to boat specs as you shop, match boat to where you're most likely to be.

And if you travel to other places... run mostly on DC, use your own genset, maybe use a converter for a few systems, etc.

-Chris
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Old 02-02-2017, 05:08   #4
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

We have a US 110v 24v boat in Europe and need to bring everything that needs to be plugged in with us, it's a PITA. Adapters are not the solution despite what some will claim.

Having a 220v boat in the US would be an even bigger PITA. Just remember that you won't e able to go down to a local store and purchase anything that plugs in, and buying through Amazon doesn't solve things. Everything shipped to you will also be the wrong voltage.
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Old 02-02-2017, 05:17   #5
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

Thank all of you for your input. I do appreciate the information.
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Old 02-02-2017, 05:25   #6
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

I believe it is easier to convert a US spec boat to European spec than the other way around, reason is of course the lower voltage requires larger wire, so if you go to higher voltage your wire is a little oversized. Airconditioners, and battery chargers would I think be the big ticket items if they needed to be changed, water heater should be easy. emphasis on should be, so long as the other voltage element is available, but a 220V water heater will work off of 110V, just will take longer to heat the water.
My generator can be either a 220V or 110V, I think that is not uncommon.
Remember US 220V and European 220V is different US 220V is two 110V wires, European is 1 220V wire.
I've heard claimed that you can run a boat off of the other voltage system by changing the way the plug is wired, I admit that I cannot see how that can be done, but I am no electrician, I think you need a transformer.
When I lived in Germany, we ran everything off of transformers, microwaves, TV's etc. They take up room and are heavy though, but do work, some things won't work quite as well due to the frequency difference though, mechanical clocks won't keep time etc.
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:09   #7
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

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When I lived in Germany, we ran everything off of transformers, microwaves, TV's etc. They take up room and are heavy though, but do work, some things won't work quite as well due to the frequency difference though, mechanical clocks won't keep time etc.

And the transformers we used then... buzzzzzzzzzzzzzed all the time. Or rmaybe it was hummmmmmmmmm....

Gak!

-Chris
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:20   #8
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

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It's a big deal. Not insurmountable to convert, but very likely not worth your time and effort. . . .
It depends on the boat. Most cruising boat AC systems are not that complex. Rewiring a dozen outlets and a couple of AC appliances is not a big job (even if it's unpleasant).

As A64 said, converting an EU boat to piddly U.S. 110v requires changing all the AC wiring (unless it was a boat built with the same wiring for U.S. and European versions), changing shore power input, changing breakers and possibly distribution panel, changing RCD, and changing all built in appliances. Battery chargers, inverters, and isolation transformers will usually work on either type of power, maybe changing over a jumper.

Converting U.S. to EU is the same except you don't need to touch the wiring.

Alternatively, you can run everything off an inverter and leave it the way it was, but then you have the problem of obtaining any new appliances you might need, in the correct voltage.

Most isolation transformers (like the Victron) can also convert all the voltage coming into the boat, either up or down, but this doesn't change the frequency, which will be no good for some kinds of appliances.
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Old 02-02-2017, 08:58   #9
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

Wow I'm shocked at the responses...

Our boat was 220V when we purchased her and the entire time we had her in the USA. It was absolutely NOT a big deal. Although most marinas only had 120V, it wasn't a problem as our battery charger could take both. We simply installed a second power cord that went directly to the battery charger and plugged that in when only 120v was available. On board we had a 220V generator and it turned out that very few of our items had problems with 220V. We simply bought plug adapters and plugged in most items (laptops, usb chargers, battery chargers, ect) directly to the 220v. Only a few items had issues (blender, hair clippers, toaster) which we ran off a 120V inverter. No big deal at all..

As to converting.. We ended up converting the boat to 120V as we could only source a 120V Honda generator (our backup charging source). Since the diesel generator could be switched, we opted to switch everything to 120V. It was a piece of cake. Our builder had ensured the wires and breakers could be used for either (made building the boats easier). I switched the plugs, automatic transfer switch, generator and cord ends. The boat was switched to 120V in less than a day.

I would never let the voltage of a boat affect my descision on purchase. Its simply not a big problem. Just some small minor inconviences.

P.S. Down in the Carribean its a mixture of voltages. 220v on some islands, 110v on others. Some islands even have a mixture (like Antigua).
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:15   #10
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

You posted this in the Marine Electronics section. It is really Electrical.

There have been tons of questions asked about this topic.

A recent one is this:

Convert from 240 VAC to 120 VAC

See reply #11 in that topic for yet another link to another comprehensive discussion of the subject.

Good luck.
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Old 02-02-2017, 09:44   #11
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

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As to converting.. We ended up converting the boat to 120V as we could only source a 120V Honda generator (our backup charging source). Since the diesel generator could be switched, we opted to switch everything to 120V. It was a piece of cake. Our builder had ensured the wires and breakers could be used for either (made building the boats easier). I switched the plugs, automatic transfer switch, generator and cord ends. The boat was switched to 120V in less than a day.

You didn't change the wiring?

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Old 02-02-2017, 09:50   #12
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

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You didn't change the wiring?

-Chris
No the wiring was even overspeced for 110V 15A (1.8mm). I spoke with the manufacturer (actually the old owner of the company as they no longer exist). He confirmed they used that wiring as it was easier (and cheaper) to build the boats that way. Depending on how the boats were ordered, they just had to put the right plugs and devices in.

No change was required on the wiring.. I did however switch the input breakers on the shore power cord (dropped to 30A). I also left the breakers at 6.5a. We never draw anything close to that on our AC devices.
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Old 02-02-2017, 18:22   #13
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

I have a US boat that is 110V. Down in the WIndwards there are quite a few places that only have 230V shore power. So we just installed a 230V charger so we can charge our batteries and run everything off the inverter. Not a big deal though the charger cost a few hundred bucks. Now we can plug in wherever we go.
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Old 03-02-2017, 03:56   #14
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

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No the wiring was even overspeced for 110V 15A (1.8mm). I spoke with the manufacturer (actually the old owner of the company as they no longer exist). He confirmed they used that wiring as it was easier (and cheaper) to build the boats that way. Depending on how the boats were ordered, they just had to put the right plugs and devices in.

No change was required on the wiring.. I did however switch the input breakers on the shore power cord (dropped to 30A). I also left the breakers at 6.5a. We never draw anything close to that on our AC devices.

I've read some makers used the heavier wire... so they could build for both markets. OTOH, I've also read some makers use wire sizes strictly spec'd to the current a given build is expected to use... because of the cost of the heavier wire, I guess.

Sounds like you got one of the former...

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Old 03-02-2017, 07:26   #15
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Re: 110 volt vs 220 volt

Quote:
Originally Posted by travellerw View Post
Wow I'm shocked at the responses...

Our boat was 220V when we purchased her and the entire time we had her in the USA. It was absolutely NOT a big deal. Although most marinas only had 120V, it wasn't a problem as our battery charger could take both. We simply installed a second power cord that went directly to the battery charger and plugged that in when only 120v was available. On board we had a 220V generator and it turned out that very few of our items had problems with 220V. We simply bought plug adapters and plugged in most items (laptops, usb chargers, battery chargers, ect) directly to the 220v. Only a few items had issues (blender, hair clippers, toaster) which we ran off a 120V inverter. No big deal at all..

As to converting.. We ended up converting the boat to 120V as we could only source a 120V Honda generator (our backup charging source). Since the diesel generator could be switched, we opted to switch everything to 120V. It was a piece of cake. Our builder had ensured the wires and breakers could be used for either (made building the boats easier). I switched the plugs, automatic transfer switch, generator and cord ends. The boat was switched to 120V in less than a day.

I would never let the voltage of a boat affect my descision on purchase. Its simply not a big problem. Just some small minor inconviences.

P.S. Down in the Carribean its a mixture of voltages. 220v on some islands, 110v on others. Some islands even have a mixture (like Antigua).
Most of the world uses 220v or 230v power. If I were doing a circumnav or spending a lot of time in Caribbean or U.S. waters, I would do something similar to what you did.

I would add an additional, separate shore power inlet for 110v and a separate battery charger. I would add a couple of sockets, wired separately, for 110v devices. The existing 230v equipment and appliances I would simply run off the inverter and/or generator. This would not be a big deal to anyone who lives off shore power most of the time anyway.

I might recommend something like this to Kenomac, actually. The he could use European appliances instead of bringing everything from the States.
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