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Old 05-13-2019, 07:38 AM   #1
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City: Kilmarnock VA
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Ebay Inverter- not my best decision!

In 2017 we were in the market for an inverter since we were totally rebuilding our 34 classic Mainship and outfitting it for our future cruising needs. I researched & studied every inverter related post I could find on here and decided what the heck, most seem happy with their cheap inverter so I'll give it a go! I was already sure about wanting a true sinewave one and bought a 3500W model which was overkill for our needs but it was only a few $$ more ($325) than the 2000w plus it came with a remote on/off and was hard-wire capable, both features that I wanted.
When we received it I took it down to the boat to wire it into its respective AC & DC systems. For the 12v DC I added a Blue Seas remote battery switch for the inverter with the battery on/off to be controlled next to the inverter controls & breaker panel. While I was at it, I added a remote battery switch for the engine battery disconnect and a Blue Seas ACR to charge/combine the house bank too. But I digress.
I added a selector switch to switch between incoming shore 110v & the inverter. Simple enough. Shore hot & neutral on one side of the selector & inverter on the other with the bonding tied together at the breaker panel & the output of the selector switch running to the breaker panel 110v hot & neutral (I wanted the capilibility to have all of the boats recepticals powered by the inverter, knowing the ProMariner 1250 battery charger, water heater & air conditioner breakers would need to be manually turned off during inverter use). I had already rewired/replaced any questionable wiring & breakers on the 110v system & I'm confident everything is up to snuff regarding the AC.
So we went out & I fired up the inverter to show my wife how cool it would be to heat stuff in the microwave, watch TV, etc off of inverter power. All of that worked fine and she was happy but I noticed that while on invert power, the battery charger was pulsing on & off. Weird. The breaker was off and disconnecting the charger 110v input from the breaker made no difference either! More weird. OK then, I wasn't going to let a dumb Chinese inverter foil my dreams! I moved the charger neutral to the shore side of the source selector switch & the problem was solved! When the selector was on the inverter side and the charger breaker was off, the charger was completely isolated and no more pulsating! Problem solved! Until I came down to the boat at night and noticed the indicator light beside the charger breaker always had a faint glow in the off position. Oh well. Not a big deal.
Fast-forward a few months and while microwaving some hot chocolate underway, the microwave started pulsating along with the inverter. I thought I might have a bad battery in the bank & would check it when we returned. Well the batteries were good & I shelved the diagnostics until the 2019 season.
So here it is, the 2019 season has started and I fire up the inverter to check things out. Now, without ANY breakers on and the 110v selector on the inverter side, the microwave started pulsating on/off like the charger did. As a last ditch effort/guess, I disconnected the case bonding from the inverter case but that didn't make any dif regarding the microwave pulsing or dim charger breaker indicator light.
I officially threw in the towel and disconnected the inverter from the ships system and ran it to a designated GFCI receptacle in the galley. Yeah, I know, no breaker to protect the line but I'm thinking this inverter is going to belong to Neptune very shortly & the system will be replaced with a Samlex system.
The point of this long post is to convey the message that I've wasted a little bit of money and a lot of time on a cheap inverter and while I never have figured out what the hell was going on with all of the electrical backfeeding, I'm pretty sure the cause is internal to the inverter and more importantly, could have poised a potential danger to those onboard while the inverter was in use. Another boating-related lesson learned!
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:19 AM   #2
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Boom
Did they advertise it as pure sine wave? If so, sounds like a frequency glitch. After reading in a different thread about the travails of Magnum inverters, even the presumed better marine inverters can prove troublesome at best, dangerous at worst.

With a Victron similar sized unit going for about $1200, maybe worth considering to go that way. You've got some meaningful work already behind you. Did your wiring work include an inverter bypass switch?
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Old 05-13-2019, 08:21 AM   #3
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Thank you for sharing and that is tough luck. Making the cost/benefit decisions along the way for every project is nerve racking, "if money were no concern I'd use brand x" sounds nice but at some point money has to be a concern. I have really enjoyed seeing Yellowbird being fixed up and used. I saw it for quite a while on craigslist waiting for the right owner and it certainly seems to have landed in the right hands. Good luck your season.
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Old 05-13-2019, 03:35 PM   #4
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City: Kilmarnock VA
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Vessel Model: 1978 Mainship m1 #149
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@ Sunchaser, yes ,it was advertised as a true sinewave but I've not looked at the output with a scope to verify. I'm sure the Chinese interpretation of true sinewave...or anything else they manufacture to be sold in the states, shouldn't be taken literally. What they (China) state is a Racor filter on ebay is a rough knockoff at best! Not sure what an inverter bypass is or where it comes into play with my system. I have a direct line to the panel where I manually turn on the breakers I want fed by the power generated by the inverter so I don't think I want to bypass anything.

@ Gdavid, I thought I'd share my woes with fellow boaters like ourselves on a budget. The $$ I spent on the inverter wasn't completely wasted because it does what we wanted it to do just fine... make coffee ,microwave food & run small appliances. It just doesn't do it through the breaker panel like I wanted!
The YellowBird got lucky when she found us! We bought it because the basic hull was sound and it had already had some mechanical upgrades done to it but boy have we put a lot of labor (and quite a bit of money!) into it! Oh well, it's about done now & has turned out to be a pretty nice 34!
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Old 05-13-2019, 04:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boomerang View Post
@ Not sure what an inverter bypass is or where it comes into play with my system. I have a direct line to the panel where I manually turn on the breakers I want fed by the power generated by the inverter so I don't think I want to bypass anything.
BR
One reason for a bypass switch is in the event your inverter (and or charger portion) malfunctions or starts smoking you can bypass the 110 feed around it and still power up your panel from genset or shore power. The second reason is in the event you inverter is creating issues with the newer GFCI dock power setups you can shut if down.

Some larger vessels have multiple inverters to provide redundancy since inverters are not a 100.00% reliable unit. The inverters are equipped with bypass switches to isolate a potentially bad inverter.

Possibly you already have it wired so it can be bypassed thus being totally shut down. Something to keep in mind.
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