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Old 11-16-2018, 12:33 PM   #1
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NEW Requirements for GFCI on Docks

Well not new (2011), but this explains GFP on newer docks. My boat has tripped some of these, but not all the time. This type of electrical circuit is called a "floating) ground.



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Old 11-16-2018, 01:17 PM   #2
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We have had this problem too. Our galvanic isolator has a self test for several problems, such as reverse polarity, short to ground, stray current, etc. With all breakers turned off, and the cord plugged into the pedestal and boat, I turn on the breaker at the pedestal. No problem. I then turn on the main breaker where the cord enters the boat. No problem for 20 seconds, then the pedestal breaker trips. When watching the isolator test panel you can see it going through the tests until the third or fourth test and that's when it trips. I contacted the manufacturer of the isolator and they told me the test circuit is the problem. The answer is to purchase a newer style isolator without the test circuit. I actually like the test circuit, as it has found ground fault problems at several marinas that otherwise wouldn't have been found. By the way, the isolation transformers noted in the article are very expensive.
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Old 11-16-2018, 01:44 PM   #3
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When I rewired my twin 30 amp AC system a few yrs ago, I made sure it had no current leaking out onto the ground wire, no ground 'faults'. And so far has been fine. I dont have the isolation transformer, and I know it will not trip a GFCI extension cord. I have tested that.

I have a bunch of AFCI GFCI combo breakers in my Square-D electrical panel. 5 AC circuits out of 8 in the panel are AFCI-GFCI protected. I have almost zero nuisance trips. If rain gets an outlet wet, it will trip off the power to that circuit. I have not noticed high humidity causing any tripping.

I also don't have a galvanic isolator. Of course that isolator is only useful if you have a current leak on your DC system.

That ELCI standard of 30 milliamps is a lot of current flowing before it shuts off the power. It will not prevent any electrocutions as will a GFCI 5 milliamp breaker.

yrs prior, with gen running out on the water, I had seawater splashing into the window, ran down the inside wall and into an outlet, and it was sizzling. That will never happen again.
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Old 11-16-2018, 09:09 PM   #4
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My marina has upgraded to the new standards and I have no problems with my boat at my marina.


After making a couple of trips up and down the Columbia River this summer I found several marinas where I had issues. Hood River marina I tried 3 different docks, none of which worked. At The Dalles Marina it didn't work until the maintenance guy came down and flipped a couple of breakers. Then it worked fine.


I suspect a lot of the problems at marinas is that they were not properly installed or tested when the new setups were installed.
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Old 11-16-2018, 09:35 PM   #5
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I added a blue seas ELCI to my boat.

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/blue-...SABEgI9J_D_BwE

Doesn’t matter if I am on an old dock or a new dock. I know I don’t have a leakage problem.
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Old 11-17-2018, 06:07 AM   #6
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If your not leaking current onto the ground wire, then your not going to trip these current leaking detection breakers at the docks.

Leaking AC current onto the ground circuit is a bad thing. Shock and equipment hazardous to people and who know but maybe can cause corrosion too with salt water boats. If AC is rectified by something with diode like qualities it turns into DC current and that can eat underwater metals and metal in the bilges just like DC current. Bad thing is the AC current is at 10 times the voltage so is going to be better if it has the opportunity at doing that destruction of property or people.

You could plug in and it seems ok, then you turn on something that leaks current and it will trip. Or you could have multiple problems that leak small amounts, and you turn on another leaker and it will trip, the current leakage detection ic cumulative for each leaking circuit. So you have to test everything that uses AC power for grounding faults.

Someday soon, I think they are going to start build boats that don't leak AC current, they will pay more attention to this as the standards are tightened for power supplies at marinas.
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Old 11-17-2018, 12:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GFC View Post
My marina has upgraded to the new standards and I have no problems with my boat at my marina.


After making a couple of trips up and down the Columbia River this summer I found several marinas where I had issues. Hood River marina I tried 3 different docks, none of which worked. At The Dalles Marina it didn't work until the maintenance guy came down and flipped a couple of breakers. Then it worked fine.


I suspect a lot of the problems at marinas is that they were not properly installed or tested when the new setups were installed.
Had the same issue at Hood River. Switched things on slowly and it finally worked.
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Old 11-17-2018, 07:29 PM   #8
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Had the same issue at Hood River. Switched things on slowly and it finally worked.
We were there in April and the guy said they had just installed it. None of the plugins on the guest dock worked. They were all flipped off when we got there and he couldn't get them to stay on even when we were not plugged in.

We moved to a regular slip and tried it and as soon as we hooked up our power cables they tripped.
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Old 11-17-2018, 07:51 PM   #9
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Someday soon, I think they are going to start build boats that don't leak AC current, they will pay more attention to this as the standards are tightened for power supplies at marinas.
They do it now. We've never had an issue on any of our boats.
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Old 11-18-2018, 11:18 AM   #10
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We were there in April and the guy said they had just installed it. None of the plugins on the guest dock worked. They were all flipped off when we got there and he couldn't get them to stay on even when we were not plugged in.

We moved to a regular slip and tried it and as soon as we hooked up our power cables they tripped.
Before we left (going down river) a lady from the port office came down and wanted to know how our stay was. She told us they were having issues with the new outlets and would have to bring in an electrician from Portland that specialized in marina installation.

I also suggested they run at least one hose bib to the dock.
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Old 11-18-2018, 05:15 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Well not new (2011), but this explains GFP on newer docks. My boat has tripped some of these, but not all the time. This type of electrical circuit is called a "floating) ground.



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Tom, when we pulled into Petersburg last summer, the first question from the harbormaster was, "Do you have an isolation transformer?", which we did. I think most all the other SE AK city docks have made the GFP upgrades.
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Old 11-18-2018, 05:40 PM   #12
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You could plug in and it seems ok, then you turn on something that leaks current and it will trip. Or you could have multiple problems that leak small amounts, and you turn on another leaker and it will trip, the current leakage detection ic cumulative for each leaking circuit. So you have to test everything that uses AC power for grounding faults.

Someday soon, I think they are going to start build boats that don't leak AC current, they will pay more attention to this as the standards are tightened for power supplies at marinas.
As a non-electrician, it's frustrating for everything to work fine at one dock, or even several docks, but then not work at the next one. I'm finding it hard to believe this is all on my boat because it works at the majority of docks we stay at, but not Hood River, for example.

When we stay at a dock we plug into 50A 240 and either 50A or 30A 120. At most of the docks, we can use everything and anything on the boat and not have any problems.

When we were at The Dalles marina we couldn't get anything to work. Some lady from the Port office came down and wasn't much help. She called some guy and when he got to the docks he flipped a breaker in a power box at the top of the ramp and BINGO, everything worked fine.

Go figure.
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Old 11-18-2018, 07:31 PM   #13
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I have had a couple of experiences with GFCIs tripping on newly rewired docks. It generally occurs with older boats and probably wet or bad wiring is the cause. There is a diagnostic procedure to go through tohelp find the cause, but I won't repeat it here. Do a search. There was a long thread on this topic earlier this year.

You will be increasingly locked out of the marinas' shore power systems until you do something about it. Get a good marine electrician. Ask him if has dealt with this issue before. If not find someone else. You don't want to be training someone on your boat.

Sooner or later all marinas will have GFCIs protecting their shore power system. You need to deal with it and get your boat fixed.

Are we safer as a result? I don't think so but the electrical code is the electrical code.

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Old 11-18-2018, 09:22 PM   #14
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Of course it is safer not to have electrical current flowing in the water around marinas especially in fresh water. Just google electrical shock drowning.
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Old 11-19-2018, 07:03 AM   #15
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As a non-electrician, it's frustrating for everything to work fine at one dock, or even several docks, but then not work at the next one. I'm finding it hard to believe this is all on my boat because it works at the majority of docks we stay at, but not Hood River, for example.
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I have had a couple of experiences with GFCIs tripping on newly rewired docks. It generally occurs with older boats and probably wet or bad wiring is the cause. There is a diagnostic procedure to go through tohelp find the cause, but I won't repeat it here. Do a search. There was a long thread on this topic earlier this year.

IIRC, one posit of that long thread was that if "your boat" trips the new GFCIs, there really is something wrong and it needs fixing... no matter whether "your boat" doesn't seem to have that problem at other older-style dock systems.

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Old 11-19-2018, 08:02 AM   #16
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IIRC, one posit of that long thread was that if "your boat" trips the new GFCIs, there really is something wrong and it needs fixing... no matter whether "your boat" doesn't seem to have that problem at other older-style dock systems.

-Chris

The only possible reason this may not be 100% true is for "cumulative" leakage where your boat may be leaking only 4mA but the other boats on the 30mA GF circuit are leaking a sum of 26mA. Your boat may be the one to push it over the top.

That said your boat should not be leaking anything, and if wired properly, would not be. You could write an entire book on this subject but still the average owner can do a few things to test for these issues.


As marinas update dock wiring they need to become in compliance with the new codes. Many marinas are pushing this off as long as they can to avoid the expense.

The current NFPA 70 / NEC requirements Article 555 Marinas & Boatyards, which rolled out in 2011, required a 100mA ground fault protection level for marina docks. In the 2017 NFPA 70 / NEC 555 this maximum level was dropped from 100mA to 30mA. What is so frustrating about the updated land based marina standards, is that it does not require GF interruption for each pedestal.

The Problem:

#1 NFPA 70 / NEC requirements do not specifically mandate protection at each dock pedestal, which would be the only prudent way to adopt or phase this into an entire industry where the safety standards are voluntary and the voluntary standards are arguably grossly ignored.

As a result of not installing ground fault protection at the pedestal level, for each boat, any vessel plugging into a dock pedestal that is protected by an upstream ground fault device can create nuisance trips for every boat on that circuit. Shore based ground fault devices, that cover multiple pedestals (boats), can result in a trip that depowers all the boats on that string and create a lost power situation to all of those vessels.

The NFPA / NEC roll out has already cost boaters significant $$ in destroyed battery banks etc.. Unfortunately the boaters who lost out may not have been the ones who actually caused /created the problem, just the recipient of what I often refer to as Darryl & Darryl wiring, for those old enough to get the Newhart reference.. No offense to any Darryl's out there....

The NFPA / NEC ground fault requirements are only serving to expose the horrendous wiring that has gone on in the marine industry for far too long. Even if your boat is properly wired, to ABYC standards, you can still suffer the consequences of Darryl & Darryl hack jobbing their own boat. The only way to get around this major issue is for a marina to install GF protection at each pedestal so that only the offending boat loses power..

For what it is worth, I have very infrequently come across an owner who believed it was their boat creating the leakage or corrosion issues. In almost all cases it starts out as "someone else's problem" until the fault is found on-board. Even when you can show them the problem, with physical measurements, they are still often in denial.

#2 Far too many boats out there are not wired to meet or exceed the ABYC safety standards. The NFPA / NEC could really care less about this, it's not their issue. When you plug an incorrectly wired vessel into the new NFPA /NEC shore standards, requiring ground fault protection, it can now becomes everyone's issue not just the problem vessel.

Boats that are not wired to current ABYC standards, as a group, have very, very high ground fault percentages. For example the number of boats I measure with AC grounding (GREEN) and AC Neutral (WHITE) bonded on-board the vessel is in the range of 35-40% +/-. This is absolutely insane......

Bottom Line? Improperly wired vessels, vessels not wired to ABYC standards, can cause nuisance tripping of shore ground fault interrupters.

The sheer age of many vessels also means some of them have equipment that is so antiquated that it too creates an inadvertent neutral to grounding bond.

#3 What's the Rx?

Marina Rx:
Marina's who want happy customers should ideally install a ground fault device at each pedestal so one boat can not take out an entire dock or entire group of vessels. This is in compliance with NFPA 70 / NEC and actually exceeds the minimum requirements. By installing a ground fault device at each pedestal this prevents Darryl & Darryl's stellar wiring job from taking out your boat when they create a nuisance trip.

Marina's also need to comprehend and understand that GF leakage is additive. If we have ten boats each leaking 4 mA, which is not even enough for each boat to trip an individual 110V 5mA GFCI, those ten boats together can trip a single 30 mA ground fault device.

Marina's should prohibit vessels that cause a nuisance trips, from plugging into their system, until the fault has been corrected. If a vessel is tripping a 100mA threshold device (and this is not due to additive leakage) this creates a very dangerous potential for electric shock drowning. If we thought this issue was bad at 100mA, the issue of nuisance trips is only going to get worse now that the NEC has dropped to 30mA.

Marina's need to fully understand the new requirements and be trained on how to conduct spot audits and to check for individual vessel issues that would otherwise create problems for the rest of their customers. Or do it right and install a 30mA device at each pedestal this way only the offending customer is left without power.

When a marina is re-wired they now need to become in compliance with the current shore based standards. Shore standards extend to the dock pedestal receptacle and ABYC standards begin at the shore power cordset.

This problem of nuisance tripping is only going to get worse, much worse as time goes on and more and more marinas become in compliance with the NFPA 70 / NEC requirements. Now that the code has dropped to 30mA, to protect multiple pedestals, it will become even worse.


Boat Owner Rx:
Wire your vessel to the current ABYC standards and you will no longer create dangerous situations, power loss or dead batteries for those around you who do have properly wired boats. Also if you have a self testing galvanic isolator get rid of it and replace it with a Fail Safe Galvanic Isolator. The automatic testing GI devices will trip a GFCI. There are many more tests than below but these two are pretty simple as a baseline..

Two Easy Tests for 120V 30A Service:

1- Use a high resolution AC clamp meter set to measure A or mA. Extech, Yokogowa and Fluke all make excellent AC leakage clamp testers. Ideally every marina should own one. Power up your on-board AC devices (hopefully all of them) & place the clamp around your shore power cord. The reading should be 0.0A. Any reading above this is indicating an amperage imbalance between the hot and neutral AC conductors and indicating that this missing current is leaking elsewhere eg: into the water..

2- One of the easiest tests or starting points is to physically unplug your vessel from the pedestal and be sure your inverter is decoupled from DC so it does not auto-invert. Make sure any manual transfer switches are set to SHORE. Now test for continuity between AC WHITE/Neutral and AC GREEN/Earth/Grounding pins at the shore end of the cord or at your on-board grounding bus and neutral bus.. There should be no continuity.

If you find issues you are unsure of I would suggest bringing in a professional.
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Old 11-19-2018, 08:58 AM   #17
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I help out at a small marina that does not have the new system installed. However, we check every transient boat with a hand held meter. If the meter shows leakage, the owner is asked to disconnect. If they elect to stay (without power), they are advised that they will be periodically checked for compliance.
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Old 11-19-2018, 10:46 AM   #18
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Two Easy Tests for 120V 30A Service:

1- Use a high resolution AC clamp meter set to measure A or mA. Extech, Yokogowa and Fluke all make excellent AC leakage clamp testers. Ideally every marina should own one. Power up your on-board AC devices (hopefully all of them) & place the clamp around your shore power cord. The reading should be 0.0A. Any reading above this is indicating an amperage imbalance between the hot and neutral AC conductors and indicating that this missing current is leaking elsewhere eg: into the water..

2- One of the easiest tests or starting points is to physically unplug your vessel from the pedestal and be sure your inverter is decoupled from DC so it does not auto-invert. Make sure any manual transfer switches are set to SHORE. Now test for continuity between AC WHITE/Neutral and AC GREEN/Earth/Grounding pins at the shore end of the cord or at your on-board grounding bus and neutral bus.. There should be no continuity.

Thanks very much; I was wondering how to test...

Is there an easy counterpart process for a 50A/240V boat? Clamp meters for the shorepower cord? How to check continuity?

-Chris
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Old 11-19-2018, 05:11 PM   #19
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The only time mine will trip a GFCI is if I plug it in with "stuff" powered on.

The boat is covered for the winter. I come by about once a month to top off all the batteries. The rechargeable hand-held radios, wireless mics, flashlights, etc are plugged in, and the battery charger is on.

If I plug in the shore power cord with all that stuff on, it'll trip. If I open all the breakers, plug in, and power everything up one at a time, no problem.

Obviously when it's snowy out, it would be great to just plug in and not have to trudge through the deep snow around the boats, set up a ladder in the snow, open the cover and crawl into the boat to play with the breakers.

Ideas?
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Old 11-20-2018, 07:07 AM   #20
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"Ideas?"


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