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Old 10-29-2018, 08:54 PM   #1
City: Greenville, NC
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Can one convert an EU power boat to US easily?

As I am researching boats that are for sale, it appears that there are quite a few that are interesting to me that are in Europe. Now, besides the obvious issue of getting them across the pond and the expense of that, the next issue is the difference in how the electrical systems are made for boats destined for parts of the world that use different current than the US.

I have researched it a bit, but it seems that there are a LOT of issues that could be problematic in bringing a boat over, even to the point of replacing generators or appliances. In looking into all of this, it made me wonder what cruisers do as they travel around the they just not use shore power? Do they rely upon their generators all the time, or solar if they have it?

I guess that is really two questions. Sorry about that, but I would like to know if it is crazy to look at boats that would need power conversions or does it depend on the price of the boat as to whether it would be worth it? Would the age of the boat be an important issue? I am guessing a survey would be very important to identify potential problems that would need $$ to resolve.

Thanks for any helpful comments, particularly from those who might have experience with this.


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Old 10-30-2018, 07:27 PM   #2
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A couple of solutions, some more expensive than others.
>> Install a shore power converter. Input anything reasonable and output the voltage and frequency required by the vessel. 12kVA cost about $15k plus installation.
>> Install one or more inverter/chargers and operate all AC loads off them. Good ones can be programmed to receive nearly universal input.
>> Convert all 230V/50Hz equipment to 120V/60Hz equipment and change the shore power inlet and breakers. Most modern gensets can be rewired to provide either 50Hz or 60Hx.

Charlie Johnson
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Old 10-30-2018, 07:43 PM   #3
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Well, I am a little surprised that there are good values in bringing European boats to the US. For the last few years the trend has been the other way. But ignoring that:

European boats use 50 hz power and are wired for 240V with no neutral. US boats use 60 hz power and are wired with 120V or 240V split into two 120V legs which requires a neutral.

50 hz power is really only an issue with motors but that means all of your A/C systems will have to be changed.

The lack of a neutral and the higher voltage of European systems means that at the very least you will have to change the main A/C panel and the incoming shore power wiring. You may also need to upgrade some or all of the sub circuits because the wiring may be too small for the 120V circuits which require more amperage than 240V.

It can be done, but it won't be cheap. Combine that with the higher European boat prices that I would expect, then why bother?

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Old 10-30-2018, 08:32 PM   #4
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Australian AC is basically the same as in Europe, although 240V is the norm rather than 230V. It is 50Hz, and DOES have a neutral. For boats, the latest version of the Standards here is that you need double-pole receptacles and breakers (ie both active and neutral) OR a double pole reverse polarity breaker (not merely an indicator) at the shore power inlet.

In converting a EU-wired boat to USA, if you use a step up transformer to provide 240V from USA 120 VAC input then you will have 240VAC at 60 Hz (instead of EU 50Hz). For resistive loads (eg toasters) this is not an issue at all, but for inductive loads (eg stuff with motors) it more than likely will be an issue, if not immediately then over the medium term. So keeping EU appliances with motors while using the step-up transformer is a short-term solution at best. But, the major concern would be that the EU wiring is under-sized: a similar wattage appliance in the USA has double the amperage as the Eu one. This is a serious problem. To be safe you would need to replace any EU wiring to any receptacle changed from EU to USA style pins.

I did the reverse: converted a USA wired boat to EU. I installed new 230VAC wiring and outlets alongside the existing USA ones, where I felt they would be useful. Sure, the USA wiring had the ampacity to be changed to 230VAC. But I installed a step-down transformer so that the USA receptacles still have 115VAC, but at 50Hz in my case. My toaster/toaster oven, and a couple of other appliances, are still fine after 5 years operation at the lower frequency.

The cheapest option would be to install a multi-voltage charger, and have it as the only thing connected to USA shore power. In this case you just run everything on-board as if it was still in EU, powered from the inverter (or EU spec genny). For example, Victron have chargers that will take either EU or USA voltage AND frequency and are auto sensing. It is their chargers only - their inverter chargers do not have that capacity. This is only a viable option if your shore power demands are modest. ie below one USA 30A shore power cable, no air-conditioning etc. The problem with this long term is that if you need a replacement appliance, sourcing a 230VAC/50Hz unit in North America will be quite difficult. You would have to import it from Asia/Europe.Australia.

So, I would not rule out taking an EU wired boat to the USA. But you should first check how difficult it will be to add USA wiring (and receptacles) to those places where they will be needed. This will likely be reefer, washer and dryer, and a couple in the galley. Then add a USA inverter sized to meet the loads, as well as one of the chargers I mentioned above. In this way you would run a dual voltage boat, and just switch appliances over to USA voltage as and when they need replacing.
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Old 10-30-2018, 10:25 PM   #5
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Thanks to all for the information. It sure would have been nice if everyone had agreed on the same electrical standard long ago world wide.
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Old 10-30-2018, 10:59 PM   #6
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For what it's worth, usually has a selection of 50hz EU panels, AC units,and appliances in stock from overstock from folks like Genmar etc.
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Old 10-31-2018, 12:53 AM   #7
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I own two Euro boats here in the USA. One was converted before I owned her and one I converted after bringing here over.
In the first boat the previous owner converted the boat to USA power so it now accepts only USA power from shore and there are 110 AC outlets alongside the old 230 AC outlets with new wire sized appropriately. USA voltage motors on everything. Works. Probably not a cheap conversion and definitely not versatile.

The boat I converted I went with a different route. I left the boat Euro in terms of its AC outlets and its AC motors. I have multiple receptacles and cords for different worldwide shore power connections, voltages and frequencies. They supply a Victron energy smart charger that senses incoming and converts it to DC for storage in a large house bank. The inverter then serves up the power to the boat. the only load I cannot run with the inverter is the three phase 380V windlass motor but either of the generators can serve that up when I need it.

In self defense, I tend to block out from my memory what I spend on boats but I don't think converting this boat to run electric loads in the USA having come from Europe was expensive. I am of the opinion that if you added what I paid for this boat in Europe, plus getting it over here, plus this conversion, the total would not buy you a boat of this nature in the USA.

But, to be clear, I have odd tastes in boats. You could buy a very nice boat in the USA for that total, just not one that tickles my fancy. If you like more mainstream(read: one is that might be re saleable) boats, I may be with one of the previous posts that says you will likely find better value here. Not likely in steel.
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Old 10-31-2018, 03:10 AM   #8
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Shipping a boat over is not a problem, for example ACL containers have a ro/ro facility as well as containers on their ships, your boat is loaded on what's called a MAFI trailer, driven on board and lashed down. Other shipping company's load them as deck cargo.
Most British builders use 110 volt tools (to stop workers 'borrowing' 220v tools) so units can be bought from building electrical suppliers to drop the voltage.
Everything can be done if you wish it.
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Old 10-31-2018, 06:28 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by klee wyck View Post
The inverter then serves up the power to the boat. the only load I cannot run with the inverter is the three phase 380V windlass motor but either of the generators can serve that up when I need it.

You should be able to run the windlass off a VFD which will take your single phase 230v input and then output the 380v three phase.
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Old 11-01-2018, 10:19 PM   #10
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Having boats in the US and in Europe and built both, I will throw in my 2 cents.

First of Euro Electric does have a Phase ( 240 V) ( brown) and a neutral (blue) and a ground ( yellow green), Each will have the correct collar, the line from the switch to the appliance will have another color ( Grey or black)

These should be all individual line,in a conduit, not Romex with 2 or 3 wires together
Most lines will be sized for 16 Amp.

the appliances should be replaced, but that would just mean newer

when cruiser travel around the world. one solution is look to James uses a system where makes sure his inverter is large enough to run all loads

and using Victron charges, which are frequency and take EU and US voltages.
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Old 11-02-2018, 06:13 PM   #11
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I have a friend with a "Euro Power" Oyster 66. It works either in the US or Europe power. The way they set up the boat is as follows:

All Mermaid AC units 220v US (but will run on 230v 50Hz, Euro)

Propane Stove (no issue)

DC refrigeration

All Battery Chargers 12v and 24v can run on US 220v 60Hz or Euro 230v 50hz

Microwave runs off 120v inverter

US type outlets 120v powered by inverter off the 24v DC system

Euro outlets powered off main power (If shore power is plugged into US, they are 220v 60Hz.)

The generator runs at 220v 60hz since the biggest load is the US AC units, but could be run at 230v 50hz

Shore power is set up as follows:
US 50amp cord with just the 220v and ground wired (no 120v or Neutral leg since only 120v power is from inverters)
EuroMarine cord 230v 50 hz.
The boat end plug is a Smartplug for each cord with warning labels on the boat and both cords.

Note: The shore power setup would not pass any ABYC or any other certification
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Old 11-02-2018, 06:35 PM   #12
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Neutral confusion; euro circuits typically DO include a grounded “neutral”, in a two wire plus earth ground scheme. Once in a while u will see a delta with one leg grounded. This results in two ground referenced 230v conductors. You will be hard pressed to find a non-ground referenced system other than from an isolation transformer.

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