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Old 03-03-2014, 19:58   #1
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Understanding 220v

Considering foreign boats...

I don't understand 220v AC systems, but I understand enough to know that a boat wired to 220v that is going to be used in the US will have to be converted to 110v.

As long as the boat is wired for 12v DC, converting the AC system doesn't seem like a huge deal to me... Wouldn't it just be the battery charger, the AC wiring, and replacing any 220v AC appliances?

What am I missing?
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Old 03-03-2014, 20:17   #2
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Re: Understanding 220v

Wiring standards are different between Euro-220VAC and US 110/120VAC. This complication comes into play when trying to get the boat insured in the USA.

So it can be expensive to retrofit a Euro 220VAC boat to US Standards if done professionally. Some Euro boat manufacturers include extra features to meet US Standards even though they are not needed for Euro 220VAC operation. This would make the conversion quick and easy. But others don't - so the simplest path is to remove all Euro 220VAC wiring/controls and have a 12VDC only boat so it can be surveyed and insured.

And then either use an external generator and extension cords to bring 110/120VAC power into the boat if you have any equipment needing it like a battery charger, microwave, etc. Or if in a marina extension cables from the shore power box to the equipment in the boat.

Then you can at your leisure rewire the boat according to US standards for 110/220VAC.
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Old 03-03-2014, 20:33   #3
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Re: Understanding 220v

i am not an electrical expert but when we sailed from the usa to the med on our jeanneau which has a 110 system -- we simply bought a transformer to convert 220 to 110 -- you can also buy a transformer to convert 110 to 220 -- they are small, inexpensive and fairly efficient

of course that only works in marinas as when we are undersail we have solar panels
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Old 03-03-2014, 20:35   #4
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Re: Understanding 220v

First let me state I'm not an electrician, but I have some experience with wiring.

"As long as the boat is wired for 12v DC, converting the AC system doesn't seem like a huge deal to me... Wouldn't it just be the battery charger, the AC wiring, and replacing any 220v AC appliances?"

Well depending on the size of the boat and the amount of wiring it can be done fairly easily. A 220v system will have smaller gauge wire than a 110V system for a given load, so most likely all wiring will have to be replaced as well as outlets/connectors, breakers, chargers, inverters, transformers and any motors running on 220V/50 hertz. So it will basically need everything (that is not dual voltage/hertz). If the boat is larger and complex it may not be the best choice.

I believe there was a thread discussing this not long ago.
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Old 03-03-2014, 20:47   #5
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Re: Understanding 220v

There are 3 significant differences:

1) The frequency in the US is 60Hz and in Europe it is 50Hz.
2) The EU voltage is 220V and in the US it is 110 (1/2).
3) The current draw of US appliances is twice that of EU appliances.

Before rewiring the boat and changing all the appliances I would suggest investigating using a 110->220 isolation transformer. With that nothing much on the boat has to change. Most appliances designed for 50Hz will work on 60Hz. The transformer takes care of the voltage and current transformation. Look at the list of AC devices and then decide if they will work on 60Hz. If all of them will work then you don't have to redo all the appliances and wiring at least right away.

Most consumer electronics today work on either 110 or 220V. For small devices that only work on 110V an inexpensive 12VDC->110 inverter can be used.

Note that there are more problems going from 60Hz to 50Hz than what you are faced with (50Hz to 60Hz). The transformer may allow you to put off a major renovation until you have a chance to work out the best plan.
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Old 03-03-2014, 20:54   #6
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Re: Understanding 220v

You'll have to change the inverter too unless it's a combi charger/inverter unit which you did mention. I'm also wondering about the panel because when you cut the volts in half you double the amps. All your breakers will have to be switched out. Your outlets and switches will have to be changed as well. And some lights may be less bright.

So basically you are replacing everything. Replacing all the wiring could be a nightmare.
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Old 03-03-2014, 21:01   #7
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Re: Understanding 220v

I did convert my boat from 220 to 110V. I replaced charger, but only because the boat came with one for 220V - many newer chargers are multi-voltage/multi frequency, and I replaced all receptacles. I kept all AC wiring and even breakers. They were 10A. I could not just replace them with 15A (standard US) because AC wiring is sized for 10A. Not big deal for most appliances. I even kept a water heater unchanged - it is simple resistive load - the only drawback was that it heated water at slower rate. For microwave I added new AC circuit for larger loads (20A). You have to be careful about GFCI protection. European boats usually have only one, whole boat GFCI but that does not meet US requirement (they trip at 5mA - enough to kill an adult). I removed it and used individual GFCIs to protect all receptacles. I think ABYC now recommends/requires whole boat protection similar to European model, but I did not follow the details (I am not up-to-date in this area anymore). And sure, you will have to replace your appliances unless they are multivoltage/multi frequency. My 2c...
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Old 04-03-2014, 03:36   #8
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Understanding 220v

Conversion can be as simple or as complex as you want. Firstly most EU boats will be wired with 2.5mm2 which actually is rated for about 20 amps. Hence you can just downgrade the breaker to accommodate the cable size without the need to change wiring. I mean do you need 3kw to all outlets. Some boats use 3 mm2 or higher so you could be lucky.

You may need to upgrade the wiring in certain high load circuits of course.

The standard 30ma whole RCD is more then adequate to protect the outlets, despite what NEC might or might not say. Millions of Europeans are still alive it seems.

If you want belt and braces that add 110v 5ma GFCIs protected outlets as required.

You'll need to examine all the 220vac(sic) ( actually Europe is at 230vac by the way ) appliances to see if any are muti voltage, most modern electronics are. 50 60 hz generally inst a problem as this will typically be just the fridge.

The water heater will need changing

All in all . Not a major job.

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Old 04-03-2014, 04:21   #9
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Re: Understanding 220v

Quote:
Originally Posted by chad.lawie View Post
Considering foreign boats...

I don't understand 220v AC systems, but I understand enough to know that a boat wired to 220v that is going to be used in the US will have to be converted to 110v.

As long as the boat is wired for 12v DC, converting the AC system doesn't seem like a huge deal to me... Wouldn't it just be the battery charger, the AC wiring, and replacing any 220v AC appliances?

What am I missing?
You've got it exactly right.

As Dave above mentions, you might not even need to change the wiring.

Get rid of the battery charger and any other 230v equipment, change the sockets, breakers, shorepower inlet, and you should be good to go, as long as you are sure that the wiring is still rated for the amperage you will be using.

On a boat without much fixed installed 230v equipment, it's pretty simple.

Don't forget the immersion heater in the calorifier.
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Old 04-03-2014, 04:43   #10
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Re: Understanding 220v

I think it has already been mentioned, but why not leave the boat 220V, and convert the 120V shore power to 220V? That way your not changing anything, how much do you use AC power anyway?
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Old 04-03-2014, 05:54   #11
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Re: Understanding 220v

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I think it has already been mentioned, but why not leave the boat 220V, and convert the 120V shore power to 220V? That way your not changing anything, how much do you use AC power anyway?
Depending on what AC equipment he has on board, not all of it will work on 60 cycles versus 50.
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Old 04-03-2014, 06:32   #12
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Re: Understanding 220v

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We plug our boat into 220 US shore power. Our A/C and heat work, our battery chargers work, and, of course our inverter works. The things that will not work are: our dishwasher, clothes washer, microwave and 230 volt water maker. These will not work because of the 60htz frequency of US power.

I'd have thought you'd only get two separate legs of 110v from a US 250v pedestal?

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Old 04-03-2014, 06:38   #13
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Quote:
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I'd have thought you'd only get two separate legs of 110v from a US 250v pedestal? -Chris
Correct, US 220 is two hot legs of an inverse phase, EU 220 is one hot leg. Very different.
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Old 04-03-2014, 06:56   #14
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Re: Understanding 220v

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Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
Correct, US 220 is two hot legs of an inverse phase, EU 220 is one hot leg. Very different.

Bingo....

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Old 04-03-2014, 07:10   #15
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Re: Understanding 220v

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Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
Correct, US 220 is two hot legs of an inverse phase, EU 220 is one hot leg. Very different.

not much different to the devices receiving it.

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