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Old 10-10-2014, 12:23   #1
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Location: Toronto
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Shore power rewiring - ABYC 10' rule for ELCI?

Hello all -

I am preparing the boat for our second winter in the water in Toronto, and expecting serious cold. We need to run heat plus agitators and thus I will be adding a second 30A shore supply inlet (SmartPlug I think). I have one socket in the aft cockpit and would like to place the second socket towards the bow to give me additional options for routing the shore supply cable when only one cable is in use. However, a bow location would be about 40' of cable away from my AC panel, which I plan to retrofit with ELCIs at this time. I was considering BlueSea ELCIs that will also provide a polarity indicator and main 30A breaker.

According to ABYC however, the distance between socket and ELCI is not to exceed 10'. After some searching, I believe I have five options:
  1. Forget about it, just put the socket into the aft cockpit. (+) Building to ABYC rules. (-)Less flexibility and more cables to trip over, step on and otherwise abuse.
  2. Install the ELCI within 10' of the socket. (+) This is according to ABYC rules. (-) This means a break in the cable in an inconvenient location and more importantly the polarity indicator out of view. I consider this a potential problem.
  3. Install the socket inside the boat, close to the ELCI in the panel - as suggested somewhere else on this forum. Then run a longer standard shore power cable through a gland in the bow. (+) This is according to ABYC rules (I think). (-) It's a bit of a hack, and moreover - since it's awkward to swap out cords that run through the entire boat on the inside, it will be hard to use the proper cable for the dock outlet and this will mean using extension cords all the time. Also - while shore cable takes a lot of abuse, it is actually lower quality than my interior installation cable, e.g. it's not tinned.
  4. Add only an ELCI close to the socket, and have polarity and breaker in the AC panel. (+) Again, according to the rule. (-) I would need to piece things together from single components and I would still be stuck with a break in the cable with its problem potential.
  5. Ignore the rule, lead a properly dimensioned #10 marine grade 3-strand to the AC distribution panel in a single run and install polarity, ELCI and main breaker there. (+) No additional breaks, all the controls in one place. (-) More than 10' distance between socket and ELCI.

All of the solutions have some trade off, but in terms of safety I believe ignoring the rule for this situation looks like the best option.

But I might be missing a really good reason for the 10' rule.

Insight much appreciated.

S/V Two Crows - Toronto, Canada
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Old 10-10-2014, 14:00   #2
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Re: Shore power rewiring - ABYC 10' rule for ELCI?

It's not just ELCI's that need to be with in 10' of the inlet. Technically the rule reads that if a shorepower inlet is more than 10' from a main shore power breaker additional fuses or circuit breakers for the feed must be provided with in 10' of the inlet. The ELCI rule than reads that the ELCI must be installed at the main shore power disconnect or at the additional circuit protection required if the main disconnect is not within 10' of the inlet (which ever is closer)

To translate that ABYC does not want a large length of unprotected cable permanently installed in the boat (technically the shore power cable will have a breaker at the power pedestal but given a number of possible Issues you shouldn't rely on that). So they recommend that an appropriate form of circuit protection be installed within 10' of the shore power inlet. Than the ELCI rule adds that the ELCI should be placed at the closest point of protection to the inlet.

Personally I think I would just run the cable to an inlet at the back of the boat unless I docked bow too a lot.

If I were going to install the inlet at the bow I would place an ELCI somewhere that is easily accessible in the forward cabin and look at it to check polarity when ever I plugged in.

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Old 10-10-2014, 23:46   #3
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Re: Shore power rewiring - ABYC 10' rule for ELCI?

I would put a normal 30a double pole breaker at the bow and put both Elci's at panel...

This meets old standard for sure. Plus you get the protection of the Elci still on every load on the boat. Just not the section of incoming cable

I'd have to reread the Elci rule though. Nobody uses them yet so I haven't bothered to read.
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Old 12-10-2014, 08:01   #4
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Re: Shore power rewiring - ABYC 10' rule for ELCI?

Thanks Colin A and smac999 -

Good point: it really has nothing to do with 10' and more or less - the rule is meant to ensure that you have no significant length of unsecured cable on board, especially in spaces that may be hard to inspect. And 10' is just an arbitrary cutoff for what would be considered significant - rather than specifying where the cable goes, how easy it is to inspect, the bend radius, chafing opportunities, possibility of it being damaged through repairs etc. etc.

That considered, I think Colin is right: put the inlets as close to the distribution panel as reasonable. (And give the space in between some attention.) There will be more cable on deck, but it's visible and can be managed in other ways so it won't be stepped on and tripped over.

S/V Two Crows - Toronto, Canada
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