Author Topic: 220v to 110v Converter  (Read 1765 times)

deLight

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220v to 110v Converter
« on: April 21, 2016, 01:39:20 PM »
As many tales begin, once upon a time.... I decided to take deLight to Europe. One of the issues to deal with was the difference in electrical power. Europe is 220v 50 cycle while the US is 110v 60 cycle.

Since all of the deLight's continuously used item were 12v, my idea was to buy a 80A battery charger that ran on both 110v and 220v, install a minimal 220v system (battery charger and a few outlets) and use my 1200w inverter to power my intermittent 110v electrical requirements (power tools and kitchen appliances).

I purchased a conversion kit with electrical adapters, plugs, etc. designed for travelers. In this kit was a 1500w 220v to 110v converter. It was a small square adapter so I took it apart to see what it was. It was a simple TRIAC circuit exactly like a lamp dimmer set to 1/2 brightness. Hmm... I could use this for my water heater instead of replacing the element.

I set all of this up and tested using a 240v outlet at the marina before I left. Everything worked fine. The little TRIAC converter nicely provided power for the water heater, the 80A battery charger and 1200w inverter provided 110v whenever it was needed. I was ready to go!

Well, I decided to cross the North Atlantic, Halifax to Horta, in October -- 28 days - 27 of which were storm rigged. I arrived in the Azores wet and exhausted. I plugged the boat into shore power and discovered that neither the battery charger nor the 1200w inverter had survived the trip. No power for my tools to repair them either.

After a few days in a B&B to recuperate, I purchased a 1500w transformer to replace the 1200w inverter and returned to a normal life. The little TRIAC converter was working fine so I had 110v power AND hot water.

Trouble -- The subject of this post -- started not long after. The little TRIAC converter was made for intermittent use on things like hair dryers. Powering a 1200w water heater for an hour or more was not what it was designed to do. It would overheat and blow its fuse. So, I whacked out a big chunk of aluminum heat sink from my dead 1200w inverter and mounted the little circuit board and TRIAC to it. By this time, I had added a small 220v electrical panel to the boat and I replaced the circuit breaker I had used for the water heater with a switch and fuse.  I figured that the circuit breaker was too slow to protect the TRIAC by itself. A fast blow fuse would work.

Success -- for a while -- occasionally (every few months) the fuse would blow for no apparent reason. I decided that the problem was probably the TRIAC. It was rated for 15A and I thought 10A continuously in hot weather was maybe too much for it. So, I bought a 25A TRIAC and the next time the fuse blew, I replaced the TRIAC. The more powerful TRIAC had a higher gate current so I had to replace the resistor and capacitor with different values. I had a good stock of resistors and used a couple of capacitors from my junk box.

It worked fine -- for a while -- The next time the water heater quit (a couple of years later), I went to check the fuse, it was blown and and the fuse holder crumbled when I took it out. I purchased a couple of 0.1uf ceramic disk capacitors to replace the ones from my junk box which I considered questionable. I put them in and modified the circuit slightly to improve its stability.

A couple of years ago, the fuse and fuse holder were again blown and crumbled. I replaced them and changed the resistors so that the voltage output which read on my meter as 100v was reduced to 70v. As I thought that the problem might be related to the capacitors not being temperature compensated, I ordered some 1% film capacitors to replace them.

Last October shortly after I returned to the boat from a summer away, the fuse blew and the fuse holder fried. I went to replace the capacitors and discovered a cold solder joint on one of the capacitors. I decided that was the problem and just fixed the solder joint.

This morning, I awoke to the smell of burning electronics. Guess what -- my nose lead me to the fuse holder on the 220v electrical panel. I burnt my finger when I touched it. The fuse holder was cooking but the fuse was not blown -- badly warped but not blown. Again I replaced the fuse holder. I replaced the ceramic disk capacitors with the 1% film capacitors. I reduced the measured output voltage to 50v and replaced the 15A fuse with a 10A one.

I am going to order a diac as it is the only component (of the 6) that has not been replaced in the 10 years I have been dealing with it.

What I do not understand is:

Why does the fuse holder get hot and burn up without blowing the fuse? When the water heater is running, the fuse holder is slightly warm to the touch. I would expect it to be. There is contact resistance in the fuse holder and the fuse itself has a little resistance.

If it is a temperature issue, It should happen whenever it gets hot. It seems to happen when it warms up although having a year or more between incidents makes it difficult to remember the exact conditions in which it happened previously.

A mystery!

OK, In my previous posts I wrote about things that have worked and stood the test of time. The TRIAC converter sort of worked but definitely did not stand the test of time. I only continue to deal with it because I purchased and installed a 1500w transformer. In hindsight I should have installed a 2500w transformer. There is not physical room where I mounted the 1500w transformer to replace it with a 2500w one without major rework.

Besides, life would be boring without a few mysteries to solve.

Max

 

Una Mas

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Re: 220v to 110v Converter
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2016, 03:20:03 PM »
You're still not accounting for one important factor, frequency. Transformers up/down, down/up only change voltage and current.
Unless you really just want to keep your soldering skills sharp, try different approach.
Why not on demand propane water heater? Had one on last boat..LOVED IT, though in full disclosure, they're illegal as all hell as per US insurance eyes.

The world voltage chargers from Sterling Power, Victron and others will have charging situated, then use your 110 inverter for your shore based loads. Easy peasy. K.I.S.S.

So...you cross the Altantic going the wrong direction in almost the worst time of the year....were you running from the law? Haha...

Retired Navy here brother, more time in NORLANT (north Atlantic) than I care to think about. 3 different ships. One ship was in "The Perfect Storm". Ya...THAT book/movie.

These boats are built like tanks but you're way braver than I am!

deLight

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Re: 220v to 110v Converter
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2016, 11:35:01 AM »
The main problem was the K.I.S.S. method failed. Both the inverter and dual voltage battery charger failed on the crossing. I purchased a transformer to replace the inverter. 110v inverters were not readily available. 220v to 110v transformers were. There is a US military base on Terceria and many of the rental apartment have 110v systems to attract military personnel.

My cruising problem has always been that I like the northern latitudes during the summer and the southern latitudes during the winter. That leaves me making passages north in the spring storms and south in the fall storms. Summer in Halifax was delightful. I stayed as long as I could. Thus, the North Atlantic in October. On the bright side, becalmed is seldom one of my sailing problems. I have become quite experienced in reducing sail in bad weather. Although going on the fore deck to take down the staysail (my storm) in 40-50 knot winds to run under bare poles strikes terror in my heart.

I regularly keep my soldering skills up. Recently I built custom trim with LEDs every 3cm for around the salon. There were over 300 LEDs which I powered off of 12v with an adjustable DC-DC converter. At 12w maximum, you can read anywhere in the salon. At 1/2w minimum there is plenty of visibility to move around.

The CSY is a tank. The main reason I decided on the CSY. The only plastic boat that matches CSY is the Westsail 32 which survived the "perfect storm" although the captain was forced to abandon it. I spend too much time navigating by braille. One day I will write up the story of when I ran into the Rock of Gibraltar.

Max

Una Mas

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Re: 220v to 110v Converter
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2016, 02:59:01 PM »
The skipper of that W32, found it beached a few weeks later
On Jersey coast, I believe, dragged it off and sailed it home!

I was stationed in Sicily and we used those 230v step down xformers everywhere. Cooked lots of equipment with them too.

You're still braver then I am! Ha

Fair winds
Darrin

deLight

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Re: 220v to 110v Converter
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2016, 01:04:59 AM »
I thought that I would have some trouble due to the difference between 60 cycle and 50 cycle. I have had no problems.

All modern electronics accept 100v -250v 50-60 cycle power. Manufacturers of tools and appliances cater to a world market. There are several places where 120v 50 cycle is the standard. Brazil being one. Britain has mandated use of 120v on construction sites. All construction power tools must run on 120v 50 cycle. The days of American made equipment strictly for the American market are gone.

Max

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Re: 220v to 110v Converter
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2017, 11:46:31 PM »
Hi Max, I know this is an old post, but I thought I'd add a few notes we've discovered while cruising in a 220v world.

1.  With our CSY (just sold last year), this was not too much of a problem, because we had a big 12v bank and a huge solar array.  Plus a 2000w inverter.  We pretty much just ran the boat off the batteries.  We ended up with the 220v shore power cord running only the window a/c (bought in country), and one strip inside the boat that we used for locally-purchased fans and a few electronics.

2.  Our new boat, a catamaran made in South Africa, is wired for 220v, and doesn't have a big 110v inverter. (we eventually installed a 1500 watt one).  We have an even bigger solar array (but more loads), and are still only using the shore power for the a/c and our personal electronics chargers.  It's confusing in the Philippines, because they are 220v 60Hz and use US-style plugs.  It's easy to fry 110v-only appliances by mistakenly plugging them into the 220v outlets!

3.  We also bought a 220v-110v converter that can be used to power (mainly) our 110v vacuum cleaner when the batteries are low.  They are cheap here in the Philippines, because everyone has imported 110v stuff from the U.S.

4.  Our Malaysian window air conditioner (designed to run on 220v 50Hz) didn't like the 60Hz power here.  It would run for about 5 minutes, overheat, and shut itself down.  But we hear that a/c's designed for 220v/60Hz work ok on the 50Hz.

5.  Since we'll be in 220-land for a few more years, we recently bought a shore charger from Cruise RO Water that charges on 220 or 110v and 50 or 60 Hz (but haven't commissioned it yet).  http://www.cruiserowaterandpower.com/Battery_Chargers.html

We like this idea because we can charge with it from any marina, and also with our Honda 2000 generator.

Anyway, sorry no one could anything to your original question, but thought I'd drop a few crumbs about the general topic while I was on the forum.

Sherry
Soggy Paws the CSY has been sold but not forgotten!
http://svsoggypaws.com/CSY/

deLight

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Re: 220v to 110v Converter
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2017, 12:32:19 PM »
Brazil has the opposite problem of the Philippines. They have 110v appliances with 220v style plugs. I bought a toaster there and unwittingly plugged it in to 220v. It lit up like a Christmas tree.

Power supply for world wide cruising is always interesting. I have a drawer full of plugs, sockets and adapters. I finally set up dual systems on deLight. I have several European style 220v outlets and numerous US style 110v outlets and a transformer which can go either way. Couple that with a bunch of US plugs and Schuko plugs, I can strip off whatever odd plug is on the appliance and install a common one.

Big motors, unlike small appliances,  will be designed for a specific frequency. Very bad efficiency ratings otherwise. A 50hz air conditioner will try to run faster on 60hz and overheat. Running a 60hz air conditioner on 50hz will run slower with less efficiency. Either way always try to run big motors at the proper frequency.

I have a Newmar PT-70 Battery Charger which runs on 100-240v. It quit on the trip across the North Atlantic. Way too much salt laden air. I sent it back to them and they slapped another coating on the electronics. It has worked fine for 10 years since. With 2 exceptions. It has a 12v fan to keep it cool. I have replaced the fan once and will need to again soon. As most of my systems run on 12v, the charger and fan run 24/7. The charger also did not like it when the people in Morocco accidentally wired the dock to 440v. I had to replace a fuse and an MOV varistor.

No problem with my custom converter for the water heater for the past year. A fitting on the water heater sprung a leak a couple of months ago and I made use of my machinist to make a new aluminum one.

I just purchased 220 6"X6" solar cells and am planning on making a custom hard cover for over the entire cockpit with an integral 800W solar array. I will post the results here but do not hold your breath. It will probably be an all winter project next year.

Max
« Last Edit: March 17, 2017, 01:32:42 PM by deLight »