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Old 18-07-2006, 09:08   #1
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240V to 120V Conversion While Cruising

Virtually every other country on the planet except the USA, Canada and maybe some in the Carib. use 240V 50HZ power. So at dockside what do you use to convert this to 120V 60HZ so you can use your AC outlets and assorted goodies when in other countries?

And are there plug adapters available to mate from the host country plug to your 30Amp shore power inlet plug??

I can't seem to find anything here that states that is it's intended purpose.

What does everyone use?

Alan Perry
S/V Oceanus
Seattle, WA.
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Old 18-07-2006, 09:27   #2
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Cool Stay 220V

Alan,We have found that almost every electronic device will accept a range from 110 – 240 volts and 50 to 60 Hz. I bought a 220-volt soldering iron, toaster and blender at the overseas equivalent of Wal-Mart. Every place we have been so far has provided 220 volts at the dock including EVERY marina in the USA where we have stayed - from Florida to Texas. IMHO there just isn’t any reason to fool with converting to 110 volts. Our solution to hook-ups has been to have a piece of cable with a female connecter on one end that plugs into your existing hook-up cable. On the other end you will need a local plug. 90% of the time you will find that the “foreign” marina will either rent you a converter to whatever you already have or will sell you a plug. Otherwise you find the nearest hardware store. Plugs are cheap.BTW, if you order a 220-volt extension cable in the USA the price is truly fabulous. They almost give away 110-volt extension cables. It is much cheaper to buy the 110-volt extension and two 220-volt connectors than it is to buy the 220-volt extension cable. Most countries outside of the USA use single phase 220 volt so the 110-volt cord has the correct number of wires and is of heavier construction than a 220-volt cord. Turn the power off before you fool with this!
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Old 18-07-2006, 09:37   #3
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My main system on the boat is a 110V, 2500 watt charger/inverter. I also have a 220V charger with it's own shore power plug. When we are in 220v countries we can plug in with the 220v charger and power our 110v items from the inverter.

The only thing this does not cover is our air conditioner which is 110v and has it's own shower power connection. We may be out of luck if we need to use it. I don't know if it would run off of 50hz power if we used a transformer.
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Old 18-07-2006, 09:46   #4
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Thanks for the input, I do have a few concerns however. If I understand what you are saying then, you now have 240V 50HZ and use 120V 60HZ for those 240V appliances. I would not be as concerned going down in voltage, however going UP in voltage would blow any internal fuse or fusable link in the appliance and maybe cause a fire. Simple rotating motors will just spin faster on 240 but other things like the chargers for my tools and computer are questionable.

I didn't realize you could get 240V at Marinas here ( as I use 120V this question has never come up) Can you get 120V at foreign marinas? Since the rest of the world uses 240V that would surprise me.

Does anyone know if other countries marinas provide 120V???
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Old 18-07-2006, 10:26   #5
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Alan,Sorry, I mis-communicated. Everything on our boat is 220 Volt (I do have a couple of 110 Volt items but nothing important). When you hook up to a marina in the USA you are usually using a Hubble twist-lok style connector. It has four wires and usually provides two phases of 110-volt power. If your boat was wired in the USA and needed 220 volts for clothes dryer or air-conditioner, the wiring to these appliances picks up both phases of the 110 volts and the appliance “sees” 220 volts. Otherwise the power outlets just pick up one phase and you “see” 110 volts. (Most of the “big” USA built motor cruisers are wired like this). I am simplifying but essentially almost all USA marinas provide both 110 volts and 220 volts at a single outlet (the plug is usually labeled 110 / 220V). If the marina only has 110-volt outlets, it is probable that the adjacent outlet is the “other” phase and West Marine sells an adapter that plugs into both outlets and “converts” to a 220-volt outlet. If you are planning on extensive cruising outside of the USA, it is most convenient to stay 220 Volts and avoid transformers and inverters. If you already have everything at 110Volts then you are probably stuck with the latter. The only items we have on board that have a problem with running at 60Hz are the watermaker, microwave and washing machine and I suspect it is the control timers that are sensitive.The only place where we stayed where 110 Volts was available outside of the USA was Grand Cayman. Even though the GC marina maintained they could not supply 220 volts, it was there as soon as we plugged in our Hubble connector.
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Old 18-07-2006, 11:09   #6
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"universal" power

Many modern devices accommodate universal power inputs between 100-240V 50-60 Hz (look on nameplate) and, therefore, are no problem. High quality devices actually operate without damage from 80V to 300V at dc to about 100 Hz, but don't count on that investigation.

The high quality devices do that by switch-mode power conversion which not only can accommodate the wide input voltage and frequency range but also so as to not present harmonics on the input line making it more efficient for the power generator.

Technology exists to convert any reasonable input voltage and frequency to any other reasonable voltage and frequency and such items are called cycloconverters. Such devices have been designed since the 60's yet it has only been fairly recently that modern switching devices and inductors enabled realization on an affordable scale.

One "technology of today" method some boats use is to have switch-mode (12 or 24V) chargers that accept the universal input voltage and frequency and deliver sufficient power to the battery bus so that a power inverter of the frequency of choice can deliver regulated power to all onboard devices that are voltage and frequency sensitive.

Some boats have hybrid systems where an isolation transformer is used that can function on either 50 or 60 Hz and can be strapped, either manually or automatically to be connected to universal input power and deliver a fixed output voltage of either 120, 110 or 220, 240 (see Charles, for example). That output gets delivered to heaters or devices that utilize universal ac motors (like hand-held drills, vacuums, and other motors that are ac frequency insensitive yet have brushes). Less power, therefore, would be required for a universal input charger to deliver current via the regulated battery bus to an inverter discussed as before.

Even today, I use an Allen-Bradley switch-mode controller that converts 220-240 50/60 Hz. to drive a three-phase motor at variable frequency to get variable speed for a drill press obviating the need to change belt gearing. Such a controller is only about 3"X4"X 3" delivering 1 HP and weighs only about a pound. Such technology can be used to accept 50/60 Hz and deliver a fixed frequency for inductive motors such as used by reefer units and air conditioners and watch for the Japanse and Chineese products to have this technology internally in the future.
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Old 18-07-2006, 11:19   #7
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Jack Tyler provides an informative article here.

(Scroll down to the Preparing a Boat for Europe section and click the article title "Using European Power on Board.")
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Old 18-07-2006, 13:37   #8
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Hi Y'all,
I took the advice of Jack Tyler mentioned in the above post and bought an isolation transformer from Olsun. The price was high and rising due to hugh Chinese demand for copper. However, it was about $700 and gives the ability to switch from 110 to 220 to 250. What comes out of the plugs inside the boat will always be 110. And the isolation transformer solves all kinds of marina related polarity and wiring problems.
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Old 18-07-2006, 20:22   #9
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50/60 cycles

Appliances that do not have motors can usually work on 50/60 cycles.

Many items that have motors can not accept both. in my case a european 50 cycle 220 volt boat most things will work on 60 cycles, such as the air conditioners and battery chargers.
however if i run the dish washer, washing machine, or microwave they will not last long. the watermaker is 220 only 50 cycles but who would make water at the dock.

i suggest you get a transformer to convert the 220-240 volts to 110.
check every appliance etc to see that they will work on 50 cycles.

incidentally i have 237 volts at my dock on long island this AM.
i added voltage, frequency, and amp meters to my incoming shore power line and a breaker before my main ac panel. one time i plugged into a 220 volt european socket in lisbon and measured 450 volts.
if i just plugged in without checking the voltage i would have been DOA.

fair winds,
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Old 18-07-2006, 22:28   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by exposure
The only thing this does not cover is our air conditioner which is 110v and has it's own shower power connection. We may be out of luck if we need to use it. I don't know if it would run off of 50hz power if we used a transformer.
I have Cruisair 120 v 60 hz air conditioners. The manual states that you can operate them on 120 v 50 hz if necessary, but at reduced capacity because there is less power available from the motors. I think the manual said 15% less at 50 hz, though I think they were rounding off from (1 - 50 / 60) = ~16.67%.

The manual also states that the 240 v 50 hz version of the air conditioner CANNOT safely operate on 240 v 60 hz. In this case, the motors will overheat (from operating 20% above their designed power) and be damaged. (I suspect this also explains why eric's dishwasher, washing machine and microwave died early.)

You can look to your owner's manual or the manufacturer to find out if your air conditioners have a similar capability.
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Old 19-07-2006, 02:28   #11
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my appliances never died

I stated that if i used them on 50 hz they would die.
everything on kimberlite has always been 100 %no failures as i am Very careful as to what i plug into.

my ac units work on 220 volts 50/60 cycles as well as the chargers.
fair winds
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Old 19-07-2006, 09:12   #12
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Thanks for all the replies, Jacks article is very good and his link to Olsun electric is, as the ad says...priceless. He lays everything out very clearly and logically. I have kept all AC on my boat to a minimum, preferring to run DC. Most of my AC requirements come from the need to recharge my DeWalt batt powered tools. There are no AC appliances on my boat. I do however want to keep open the option of buying a local appliance and being able to run it. Most of all is the need to recharge those Big 8D's when arriving in a foreign port.

Richard: I'd be interested in where you mounted the Olsun unit since we have the same size boat. Are there any distance requirements from the AC entry into the boat to be met in the installation? And how long did Olsun take to build and deliver the unit? Did you look at the Charles Isolation Transformer? Did you do any comparison?
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Old 16-08-2006, 13:53   #13
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Inverter/Charger

OK...when it comes to volts and amps, I defer to someone else. I read most all the posts and have a question about our older Freedom 25 inverter/charger, am I to understand that it will not work if I gets something different from the 90-130V as spec'd out as an AC input voltage?
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Old 16-08-2006, 18:50   #14
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Hi Allan,
Sorry it took me a while to respond. I mounted the Olsun transformer on the other side of the boat from the incoming Hubble plug, under a bunk in the quarter cabin. So the wire run was about 20 feet across the boat and back.

Olsun built the transformer in a few weeks with another week for shipping. The thing was really heavy since it had 3 sets of windings. If you won't be seeing 250V, you can get by with only 2 which save lots of weight and cost. Given the weight, the transformer arrived on a pallet and was delivered by truck. When we got all the wood off it, it still weighed more than 100lbs. So I guess I would feel pretty stupid cutting the handle off my toothbrushes.

For me, it is worth it to eliminate many of the marina-caused polarity problems. The conversion for European voltage is just a plus. I will be waiting to see how my A/C unit fares on a diet of 50Hz.

Richard Black
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Old 17-08-2006, 12:28   #15
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R2Boat

Sad to say "the management" would not allow the engineers to program the Freedom series to operate beyond a band of voltage and frequency. There is no hardware problem in operating the charging function at 50 Hz yet the processor will shut it down unless you have an "export" model for 50 Hz.

The rated charger current drops with decreasing line voltage for a given battery voltage so as long as the processor "allows" the unit to function there is no problem charging at low line voltages. Could be a problem above 135V, tho.
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