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Old 19-01-2020, 09:44   #1
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ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

Hi folks,

I'm adding a Victron MultiPlus inverter between shore power and the main breaker of my 120VAC panel. My current AC panel has a single throw main breaker, and there's no ELCI on the boat.

I want to add an ELCI with double pole breaker in the circuit, and I'd want it to be effective when the boat is powered with the inverter only. Basically, I consider the inverter as the main AC source. Which makes me think that I should put the ELCI after the inverter, replacing the main panel's AC single pole breaker. Then I'd add a regular double pole breaker to the shore -> inverter cabling.

Is this okay? Or must I put the ELCI breaker on the shore input line, before the inverter?
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Old 19-01-2020, 10:18   #2
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

How much unfused AC cable are you comfortable having in your boat? General rule is put the breaker as soon as possible, because any unfused (or unknown unfused somewhere at the marina) wire can give you a nasty and dangerous AC fire. As in, run like hell.
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Old 19-01-2020, 10:29   #3
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

There's going to be a breaker before and after the inverter, so nothing unfused, but I'd like to buy only 1 ELCI one if possible. I feel that putting it after the inverter will actually provide more effective protection given that the inverter is the primary source of AC.
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Old 19-01-2020, 10:39   #4
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

An ELCI on the output of the inverter will protect in both invert and shore modes, so provides the most protection for the money. However, it will do nothing to protect for faults in the wiring between the shore power inlet and the inverter or inside the inverter itself. Whether to put a second ELCI on the shore side is a risk tolerance question. Personally, we have a similar setup and have a second ELCI mounted on the back side of the shore power connector on the boat. There’s about 150mm of unprotected wire between the shore power terminals and the shore side ELCI. That was our decision, YMMV.
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Old 19-01-2020, 10:46   #5
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

Hmmm. GFCIs are cheap to install in every outlet, saving your going back to the panel, and supplying better protection because they respond to a smaller imbalance in current than do ELCIs. You have some reason to prefer ELCIs, so at their cost you probably want a central unit at the panel. I went with GFCis, and my only complaint is very occasionally needing to reset one of the on-deck outlets before I use it. They are in gasketed boxes, so it doesn't happen often. I've never felt a shock from a GFCI circuit.
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Old 19-01-2020, 21:37   #6
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

I use an ELCI before my victron inverter/charger and also GFCI on individual AC circuits in the boat.

It should be noted that the ELCI has a 30 mA leakage current trip and the GFCI have 5 mA trips.

Thus the ELCI is there primarily to protect people in the water near your boat should there be a fault in your boats wiring causing leakage current intot he water. (30 mA)

And GFCI are there to protect the people in your boat in the event they coming in contact with a hot conductor. (5 mA)

You need both.
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Old 19-01-2020, 22:21   #7
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

@evm1024 post#6: +1
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Old 20-01-2020, 18:07   #8
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

FWIW as of 2010 the ABYC standards require an ELCI on the power inlet, with the over-current protection on both conductors (which is usually integral with the ELCI). This protects against any problems with the wiring to the inverter/charger, as well as the inverter/charger itself, and all downstream AC devices when on shore power. Just do it that way. It is the right thing to do.

The AC output of the invert/charger will also need a 2-pole circuit breaker for disconnect/overcurrent protection. Considering that you will have installed weather-resistant GFCI outlets, a second ELCI at the inverter output will only add leakage protection for the downstream AC devices that are hard-wired and for inverter output only - a much smaller set of potential problems. If you currently have a 2-pole breaker then it may not be worth buying a second ELCI; if you need to buy a new 2-pole breaker then it might be worth paying for the second ELCI instead.

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Old 21-01-2020, 07:49   #9
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

Ideally, you will have a shore power inlet, and within 10ft an AC source panel equipped with ELCI main breaker, source control switch if you have a generator, shore power only load breakers , such as water heater, A/C, and any chargers (including one for the multiplus) etc.

From the multiplus AC out, you connect your load panel, equipped with a main breaker, and all “inverter load” branch circuit breakers. From these any receptacle in a head, galley, machinery space (no gasoline engine compartment or battery compartment) and space possibly exposed to weather, needs to be GFCI protected.

(ABYC Electrical and Marine Systems certified technician).

Make sure the water heater is protected by the ELCI.
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Old 21-01-2020, 08:05   #10
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

Have had to put an ELCI in swimming pool equipment breaker boxes for a while now as well.

People keep thinking im making stuff up when I say the replacement breaker is 100 dollars.
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Old 21-01-2020, 10:18   #11
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Re: ELCI breaker before or after inverter?

In researching my issue with my marine air and an ELCI, I read that inverters and ELCI breakers do NOT play well together. The AYBC rules require the neutral and safety ground to be bonded when the inverter is the power source, but not when the shore power is the source. The switch over takes enough time that the ELCI will see the current 'leak' to the safety ground and trip. You will need to research how to deal with this issue.
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