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Old 12-28-2007
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Shore Power Question

This is my first post on this forum so hello everyone. I am currently on the market for a sailboat and will be trying to move aboard this spring if I find the right boat. I have been trying to sort out my criteria for what makes a boat "right" for me. One thing that I have stumbled on is that many boats don't have any inherent shore power system and many of those that do aren't anything I would want. What is invlolved in fitting out a boat with a proper AC system? I am planning on living pretty minimally so don't anticipate needing more than 2 or 3 15A outlets. Is this an instalation I can do myself with a fairly basic understanding of electrical systems? How much will it cost? Is this such a huge undertaking that I should change my boat searching criterea to include only boats with AC already installed? Any help would be appreciated.
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Old 12-28-2007
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Aside from houseboats and luxury yachts, very few boats waste a lot of time with fancy AC systems. They're just no use when you are out sailing.

A "proper" light duty AC system would mean a shore power cable, a ground fault interrupt (GFI) safety device, adding an AC breaker to the panel, and running some AC wiring and receptacles on the boat. Couple of hundred bucks and one long day or casual weekend to install it all if you are familiar with it. More expensive if you are hiring labor.

If you check out suppliers (west marine, boatUS, articles here on Sailnet) and manufacturers (blue seas systems, etc.) you'll find drawings and descriptions of what a system needs and why.

You may or may not also need a galvanic isolator or isolation transformer, either one is a good idea but not always necessary.

Minimally? You can buy a shore power cord with the GFI device built into it, run it in through a hatch, plug in an extension cord with three sockets and you're finished for around $100. Minimally, but it will get you going while you're doing the rest of the work.
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Old 12-28-2007
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I just happened to be reading the chapter in Nigel Calder's book on the subject. A galvanic isolator, or an isolation transformer (better), should be used in order to protect you, and swimmers around your boat, from shock. In addition, to protect your boat, and other boats from galvanic corrosion, you should have either of these devices. The isolation transformer will do a better job of protecting your boat from corrosion.

If you are eager to study and learn how to wire a boat, then by all means have at it. However, there are nuances of wiring that you will need to learn.(like the connection into a circuit box should come from the bottom only) Otherwise I would strongly suggest that you pay the price, and hire a professional. Remember elecrticity and water DO mix - usually with catastrophic results.

FWIW - Nigel Calder's book is the Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual. It is well worth the $50 investment, IF you take the time to read it.

Ed

Last edited by eherlihy; 12-28-2007 at 04:33 PM. Reason: corrected price of the book
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Old 12-28-2007
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Another consideration is using a window unit while you are at dock. My marina flooded this summer and had no electricity. Consequently, I had to use a generator to run my ACs for a couple of months. Being the frugal person I am, I bought a cheap Big Lots generator which put out sus-standard power that managed to slowly ruin BOTH ACs! One was on it's way out anyway and the other was fair, but it still cost quite a bit(about $2500) to replace the two.

Anyways...the moral of the story is I bought a cheap($75) window unit and rigged it to fit the companionway while I waited for a deal on ACs to pop up and to install mine. It's not a very eye-pleasing option, but it worked!
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All of which (above) begs the question, by AC, you you mean 110VAC power to air conditioning? Either is simple to do but not so simple to do correctly.

Last edited by k1vsk; 12-28-2007 at 07:20 PM.
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Hey,
John,
you simply have to post your pics of Fort Awesome. (cuz it is.... awesome)
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Old 12-28-2007
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AC usually refers to Alternating Current... or 120 VAC electricity. A/C usually refers to Air Conditioning.

A basic shorepower system consists of a shore power cord, a shore power inlet plug, a double 30 Amp circuit breaker—to break the hot and neutral lines, a GFCI-protected outlet or two.
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Old 12-29-2007
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Thank you for all of your responses, and yes I do mean 110VAC not air conditioning. I will probably pay to have the labor done by a proffesional but it is good to know that it's not a deal breaker when searching for the "right boat". Thanks again.
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