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Eyes Everywhere Page 3

Electronics — October 2005
By Ben Ellison

Eyes Everywhere
Electronics Q&A
   
 
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Eyes Everywhere
• Part 2: Eyes Everywhere
• Electronics Q&A
• Simon C
• SeaMoon
• Scubar
• Garmin 192C

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Once my Sea Ray Sundancer 380 is shipped to Europe, what will I need so that I can use the 230-volt A.C. shore power there? G. S., via Electronics forum
The 230 volts—actually the 220- to 250-volt range you might find around the continent—not only has to be stepped down to 110 volts, but the frequency has to be transformed from 50 Hz to 60 Hz. Some equipment can handle either frequency, but regular American A.C. motors, like the ones likely driving the pumps in your air conditioning system, won’t run properly or last a normal lifetime on 50 Hz. At any rate, the solution is an isolation transformer. Some boats use portable units that are actually built for construction sites and are apparently commonly available over there, particularly in the UK, where safety codes mandate isolated 110-volt power. They’re relatively weatherproof and come with a standard European 230-volt-style power plug and U.S. 110-volt outlets, but note that they’re not designed to provide their maximum rated amperage on a continuous basis. In other words, one rated for typical European 16-amp dock service—roughly equivalent to U.S. 30-amp service because of the voltage difference—may not handle all the appliances you’re used to running on your 30-amp cable here.

A better solution is to do as large, far-voyaging yachts do: permanently install a real marine isolation transformer designed to handle continuous loads. Companies like Mastervolt (www.mastervolt.com) and Charles Industries (www.charlesindustries.com) offer models appropriate for your size boat. These units can typically be set up for whatever voltage and frequency is available, and it’s worth noting that an isolation transformer, even when it’s not actually changing voltages or frequencies, reduces shock risk (hence the British construction regulations) and also the chances of galvanic damage. Some careful boaters consider one a necessary piece of equipment, regardless of their travel plans. Note also that simply converting your existing A.C. system to work with European power standards may not do the whole trick. You may want to use European appliances onboard—a regular TV, for instance, if you don’t have satellite, since broadcast standards are different, too. That means you’ll either have to install a 230-volt circuit in the boat or use a small portable transformer to turn the 110 back into 230! Certainly it would be simpler if we could all go to global standards, but which countries are going to give up their own?

Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: PMYElectronics@primedia.com. For fastest response, visit the Electronics forum at www.powerandmotoryacht.com. No phone calls, please.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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