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Old 04-02-2019, 11:15 AM   #1
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ELCI Article

Don't know what ELCI is? Read the article. I didn't know there is a pigtail you can buy instead of tearing your electrical system apart.

https://waggonerguide.com/shore-powe...elci-problems/
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:21 AM   #2
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Installing an ELCI can be easy. Pull the wires from behind the inlet and install in the ELCI. Add new wires between the ELCI and the shore power inlet.


Took me 15-30 minutes.


No issues with numerous marinas fitted with new dock wiring
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:34 AM   #3
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Installing a isolation transformer will isolate your boat from the shore power system. This will solve ELCI issues, which often occure due to legacy inverter installations where the inverter grounds the neutral causing the ELCI to trip upon power up.

Here’s a discussion from my very recent installation.

https://www.liveaboard-boats.com/for...on-transformer
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:37 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alaskan Sea-Duction View Post
Don't know what ELCI is? Read the article. I didn't know there is a pigtail you can buy instead of tearing your electrical system apart.

https://waggonerguide.com/shore-powe...elci-problems/
ASD
How has your vessel done when plugged into newer dock electrical in AK? I had two issues, now resolved:
-- sub par inverter bypass switch.
-- some improper onboard 110 volt grounding, ok for old dock electrical but not acceptable for new GFIC code setups now appearing in WA, OR and AK.

If you want any pictures of what we did, I'll be on vessel next week. My expert did not feel a new ELCI was going to solve our issues. So far he's correct.
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:41 AM   #5
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Hopefully no one thought I was suggesting installing an ELCI will solve old problems easily...


I was just saying that installing one is not necessarily complicated or requires tearing apart a system.

If you have issues, tearing things apart maybe inevitable.
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Old 04-02-2019, 01:19 PM   #6
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What is the difference between a RCD & an ELCI?
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Old 04-02-2019, 03:08 PM   #7
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ASD
How has your vessel done when plugged into newer dock electrical in AK? I had two issues, now resolved:
-- sub par inverter bypass switch.
-- some improper onboard 110 volt grounding, ok for old dock electrical but not acceptable for new GFIC code setups now appearing in WA, OR and AK.

If you want any pictures of what we did, I'll be on vessel next week. My expert did not feel a new ELCI was going to solve our issues. So far he's correct.
So far no issues in AK and BC. This may change. I did have issues last year in Hood River on the Columbia River. I solved the issue by slowly turning on the different AC systems.
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Old 04-02-2019, 07:46 PM   #8
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All,

Of course an ELCI will not resolve leakage issues but also installing a isolation transformer may not also. The ELCI is simply a two pole breaker installed on the AC input side that will trip if the current difference between the power and neutral leads is greater than a set amount (typically 30 - 100 ma ). An isolation transformer isolates the whole of the boats AC electrical system from the AC shore power by introducing a null transformer. If there is "leakage" the ELCI will detect it and open the breaker. With the isolation transformer by definition there will be no detectable leakage since the power and neutral lines to the transformer are in equilibrium. However depending on the installation there may still be significant leakage current on the boat and danger to those who might be swimming in close proximity. It resolves the issues of the boat plugging into the updated power pedastals of marinas but doesn't necessarily resolve issues of stray current being introduced into the water surrounding the vessel.

For vessels having issues with leakage current, I always recommend resolving the leakage current issues first then making a decision to install an isolation transformer. By the way there are many advantages to having the isolation transformer installed.
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Old 04-02-2019, 11:57 PM   #9
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I was able to correct the elci issue on my boat by adding a separate buss for the inverter powered 120v (refrigerator, outlets and microwave) and another for the shore power, powered circuits (battery charger, range, hot water tank, heaters, etc). I tested the system with a $20 contractors gfi that goes between an extension cord and an outlet and blows at 2mA. In my case I replaced the connectors with 30 amp twisters, but could just as well used adapters.
From what I understand, the inverters are ground faulted when not energized with 120v. When they become energized there is a very short period of time while the unit thinks about the change and opens the ground fault. Under the old rules the time for that action was less than the time the shore power system allowed. Under the new rules, there isn’t enough time if the neutral wires for the inverter aren’t separate from the other neutrals.
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Old 05-28-2019, 02:47 PM   #10
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We were at an ELCI equipped marina for the Memorial Day weekend with a Yacht Club. There were approximately 25 boats total and there were about 8 boats unable to plug in without tripping the ELCI breaker on the dock. The boats unable to plug in ran generators most of the weekend.

Most of the newer boats (35 to 40 feet) with minimal owner added equipment was able to plug in without issues. All the less than 25 foot boats had no issues.

There were three boats that plugged in without tripping the breaker that should not have been able to get electricity. These three boats were over 30 years old, in poor shape with lots of owner installed accessories and the three owners are the most unhandy people I know. These three boats did not trip the ELCI all weekend.

There were two newer boats 46' Meridian and 54' Sunship unable to plug in without tripping the breaker. The owners of those two boats are knowledgeable boaters, are skilled and do their own work.

My boat and one other had an isolation transformer installed and had no issues.

Make sure your boat will not trip a breaker before heading towards a marina this summer. You can install an ELCI breaker on your boat so you can see if you will have issues before leaving.
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Old 05-28-2019, 05:05 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Pcpete View Post
I was able to correct the elci issue on my boat by adding a separate buss for the inverter powered 120v (refrigerator, outlets and microwave) and another for the shore power, powered circuits (battery charger, range, hot water tank, heaters, etc). I tested the system with a $20 contractors gfi that goes between an extension cord and an outlet and blows at 2mA. In my case I replaced the connectors with 30 amp twisters, but could just as well used adapters.
From what I understand, the inverters are ground faulted when not energized with 120v. When they become energized there is a very short period of time while the unit thinks about the change and opens the ground fault. Under the old rules the time for that action was less than the time the shore power system allowed. Under the new rules, there isn’t enough time if the neutral wires for the inverter aren’t separate from the other neutrals.
I did same idea, tested with a 5ma GFI extension cord which will open both hot and neutrals when tripped. It passed. I also designed in 2 power relays, they are 4 pole 35 amp relays for my twin 30 amp AC system. Using 2 relays interlinked, I can switch between shore, gen, inverter and keep all neutrals and hots isolated from each other at all times and select any one of those 3 power sources to run the ac distribution panel. Most of my AC circuits also have GFCI-AFCI breaker protection except for the fridge, stove and a forward AC heater. When a gen is deselected back to shore power, there is not supposed to be a ground to neutral bond remaining, most system designs can do that easily even with old manual switching technology, simply by breaking open the neutral in the generator control box with a contactor.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:14 PM   #12
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When we brought our new to us President home and tried to plug it into the GFI breaker (5mA) on our home dock, it would trip the GFI breaker just by plugging the boat in even with the main A/C breaker off. We have 2 30 amp inlets. President in their electrical wisdom only put in 1 30 main A/C breaker in the boat. The second 30 amp inlet had no breaker and was just wired directly into the main A/C bus. There is another President that stores in our barn, his boat also only had 1 30 amp main breaker so that must be how they originally wired the boats. In looking at the whole panel, I decided to completely replace the panel with a new Blue Seas panel that was actually designed for 2 30 amp inlets. I had to build a new cabinet for the Blue Seas panel since it is horizontal and the old panel was vertical. Built the cabinet and then started to rewire the boats main panel. All the neutrals were tied to one bus. We rang out all the neutrals over a couple of days since they were not labeled and were all individual wires so we didn’t know which neutral went with which hot. When we were done there were 4 neutrals that we could not determine where they went. Over time I have found all but one and everything works so that neutral was taped off and left for future discovery. I used a 5 mA GFI extension cord to plug the boat in for testing. After we were done the GFI extension cord would not trip. After we launched the boat the GFIs on our home dock held also. Since then we have plugged in at several docks that have been rewired to the new standard without any problems. It was a pain but it is done now. If I was buying a used boat today one of the things I would require on the survey is testing the boat on a GFI dock to make sure it would work.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:33 PM   #13
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This weekend we plugged in on the newly-renovated G-dock at Friday Harbor. We tripped the new ELCI on the dock, and had to move to F-dock where the “dirty” power is. This happened to boats all weekend and the marina staff were run-ragged.

I am thankful this has been brought to our attention. I should have been more focused on this before. Our favored ABYC Master is coming out this Thursday to begin (and hopefully finish) troubleshooting.

Will post results here.
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:00 PM   #14
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All,

Of course an ELCI will not resolve leakage issues but also installing a isolation transformer may not also. The ELCI is simply a two pole breaker installed on the AC input side that will trip if the current difference between the power and neutral leads is greater than a set amount (typically 30 - 100 ma ). An isolation transformer isolates the whole of the boats AC electrical system from the AC shore power by introducing a null transformer. If there is "leakage" the ELCI will detect it and open the breaker. With the isolation transformer by definition there will be no detectable leakage since the power and neutral lines to the transformer are in equilibrium. However depending on the installation there may still be significant leakage current on the boat and danger to those who might be swimming in close proximity. It resolves the issues of the boat plugging into the updated power pedastals of marinas but doesn't necessarily resolve issues of stray current being introduced into the water surrounding the vessel.

For vessels having issues with leakage current, I always recommend resolving the leakage current issues first then making a decision to install an isolation transformer. By the way there are many advantages to having the isolation transformer installed.
Once an isolation transformer is installed, your boats AC no longer uses earth for ground. Any grounded short in the boat will return to the boat side of the transformer instead of earth.

The ground wire from shore power grounds the case of the isolation transformer.

The two are separate.

Since the boat is not using earth (and water) for ground, any electrical leaks will not harm swimmers nearby.

To illustrate to non believers, I have plugged in an extension cord to the boat with bare wires on the outlet side, held the bare wire in my hand and stuck my foot into the salt water next to the boat.

I'm not totally stupid, I did test with a multimeter first.
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:13 PM   #15
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This weekend we plugged in on the newly-renovated G-dock at Friday Harbor. We tripped the new ELCI on the dock, and had to move to F-dock where the “dirty” power is. This happened to boats all weekend and the marina staff were run-ragged.

I am thankful this has been brought to our attention. I should have been more focused on this before. Our favored ABYC Master is coming out this Thursday to begin (and hopefully finish) troubleshooting.

Will post results here.
The state docks here say they will reset the breaker 3 times and then you don’t get power until you fix your boat. They implied that they have a data base of broken boats, although I am not sure they really do or not.
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:26 PM   #16
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An isolation transformer will solve other issues besides ELCI:

Since your boat no longer uses earth for ground, you will not be connected to the other boats near you via shore power ground. Underwater metal hardware corrosion will be minimized. My zincs last 10 plus years.

Reverse polarity will not be a concern. Reverse polarity is not as prevalent as it was 20 years ago but I occasionally see reversed wiring in small owner maintained marinas.

Substandard electricity in remote marinas will not have an effect. In northern British Columbia, many, many marinas rely on generators to provide guest shore power, and they sometimes have transients and spikes occur.

If the shore power ground is faulty at a dock, there is a possibility for shock on board. An isolation transformer provides it's own ground - back to the transformer. Only possible place for shock is the transformers housing when the shore ground is faulty.

And no matter what electrical wiring or appliance short occurs, it flows back to the transformer. Since earth is not the ground, swimmers around the boat will not be shocked
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Old 05-28-2019, 07:44 PM   #17
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The isolation transformer will not fix incorrect wiring on your boat.

It will eliminate the effects of incorrect wiring.

Such as ELCI incompatability and hazards to swimmers caused by inverter neutral issues, faulty wiring and defective appliances.

I've been using isolation transformers for over 35 years on two boats and I don't concern myself with shore power and corrosion issues.

The prices are down to the $600 to $700 range for 30 amps. 50 amp transformers are still over $2,000. The 50 amp inlet could be converted to two 30 amp inlets with two transformers on two separated panels.
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Old 05-29-2019, 05:05 PM   #18
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So far no issues in AK and BC. This may change. I did have issues last year in Hood River on the Columbia River. I solved the issue by slowly turning on the different AC systems.
In K-Town with no issues so far....
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:31 PM   #19
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Once an isolation transformer is installed, your boats AC no longer uses earth for ground. Any grounded short in the boat will return to the boat side of the transformer instead of earth.

The ground wire from shore power grounds the case of the isolation transformer.

The two are separate.

Since the boat is not using earth (and water) for ground, any electrical leaks will not harm swimmers nearby.

To illustrate to non believers, I have plugged in an extension cord to the boat with bare wires on the outlet side, held the bare wire in my hand and stuck my foot into the salt water next to the boat.

I'm not totally stupid, I did test with a multimeter first.
You are 100% correct, and the post you quoted is incorrect.

Great explanation for the layperson.

Thanks for sharing what I was unwilling to jump into.
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Old 05-29-2019, 07:04 PM   #20
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You are 100% correct, and the post you quoted is incorrect.

Great explanation for the layperson.

Thanks for sharing what I was unwilling to jump into.
Thanks for the encouragement.

After spending Memorial Weekend explaining to non believers and low knowledge boaters about their ELCI issues at an ELCI equipped marina, I realized that there is a lot of boaters that have difficulty understanding the cause. And isolation transformers to them is voodoo science.

And after reading the misinformation here and elsewhere on the web, ELCI issues needed a simple explanation.
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