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GFCI & Cruisair

Discussion in 'HVAC' started by RichV, May 24, 2021.

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  1. RichV

    RichV Member

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    My marina has a GFCI breaker on my pedestal at the dock and the only thing that trips it is the main salon Cruisair A/C. On the Ocean Yachts the sea water pump and the main salon A/C are on the same breaker. I checked the connections at the pump and even disconnected the pump but the pedestal breaker trips immediately every time the salon A/C & Pump breaker on my panel is turned on.

    I spoke with a ABYC certified technician who is "too busy to spend 2 days troubleshooting GFCI problems" because it could be a myriad of issues on a 30 year old boat. He did mention that once those breakers trip a couple times they are more sensitive to not only ground faults but also amperage, meaning that the startup amperage draw on the A/C could be enough to cause the problem.

    I looked at the Micro-Air Smart-Start soft start that lowers the start up draw but I would need one for each of my 3 units, but am considering one just to see if it eliminates the issue. My problem could be something totally unrelated to the A/C.

    I've read that bad A/C control boards or pump relays can cause GFCI issues.
  2. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Good tech. He could have soaked you good. On Valhalla our a/c's popped breakers in a lot of marinas and that was before they started putting GFCI's on the pedestals. Other than upgrading your system $$$$ your only alternative that I can think of is energy management and making sure your system is clean and maintained. Look for what can be turned off when your a/c is on. When we did need everything on we went on the gen. On our boat we used (2) 50 amp lines. So we also did some rearranging at the panel to better split the load. Breakers do weaken when they trip. So a new breaker may be a good idea.
  3. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    At least you have it isolated to one circuit...

    just to make sure i got this right, you are saying that the GFCI ONLY trips when the salon AC / pump breaker is turned on and as soon as it is turned on (before the air con even starts) With that breaker off, everything else works fine.

    first I would make sure that no other appliances or circuits are tapped into that breaker. At some point some genius may have tapped into that circuit to power an outlet, light or something.

    when you said you unplugged the water pump. Did you physically disconnect all three wires? If so the problem has to be with air con unit itself.

    Find the wires feeding the control box and disconnect all three (hot neutral and ground) and check if the breaker can be turned on without tripping the GFCI

    if it still trips the issue is in the wiring between the breaker and the air con unit

    if it doesnt trip then you know that somewhere on the air con unit the ground and neutral have been tied together. Could be on the blower motor, if it has been replaced or in the wiring. What king of control do you have? Digital or the old rotary knobs?

    the only way to solve this is by elimination

    and I don’t buy the theory about the breaker being sensitive to start up load after tripping a few times... to be sure try turning the air on with every other load off to keep amp low.
  4. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Trips when running or not (breaker on)?
    Without the compressor running, can you make just the fan run?
    115 or 230Vac equipment?
    Model of display and controller?
    Model of pump controller?

    Would you have the ships schematic?

    Don't mess with the soft start till your issue is fixed.
    Don't worry about a sensitive breaker for now. The newer mag breakers are not an issue. If it becomes an issue, the dock master will have it swapped out.
    Got to fix your issue before you worry about these items.

    Thru my years working on this stuff;
    ACv leaking from caps or wires in the controller box.
    ACv leaking from the compressor.
    Green & White wires crossed.
    Green & White wires tied.
    Green & White wires strapped on the Generator and not switched open (shore power mode) at transfer panel.
    Wet raw water pump. Even dry, the carbon/salt trail inside the motor made a power to ground path.
    Once a PassPort controller shorted out, tripped the dock breaker. In de-humidify mode while owners were away. Spoiled all in the fridge/freezer.

    I do understand the wants of GFI breakers on the dock.
    But that last example did tick off the owner.

    Why a real ABYC tech.
    An electronic / electric kid with a volt meter can follow green and white wires.
    Your up north, call up a trade school and get a eager student. Make a nice donation to that school.

    Crawl in there your self;
    Get a cup of coffee and reduce all items on that breaker one at a time.
  5. mapism

    mapism Senior Member

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    Neither do I.
    GFCI devices, by design, do not trip due to an overload, but due to a current leak/imbalance.
    Which should never exist, no matter how high the absorption in Amps.
    Not sure of what the standard leakage limit is in the US (its 30mA in Europe), but that's a matter of just mA (thousandth of Amps), anyway.

    On top of the good suggestions already given, there's another recommendation I can think of:
    If there is no GFCI on the onboard circuit (and I don't think there is, if it's the pedestal one that trips), I would install one, just downstream of the onboard dock connection and upstream of all thermal breakers.
    This way, the onboard GFCI should always trip before the pedestal one, whenever appropriate.
    And on top of granting a better/faster protection to the whole onboard AC circuit, this is very convenient in any marina where the pedestal GFCIs and breakers are not openly accessible, hence needing to ask the marina personnel.
    Again, not sure about the US, but this is common practice in the EU - and also required by law, I believe.
  6. alvareza

    alvareza Member

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    It’s likely you already tried running the shore cord to another pedestal. If not, try it. I have had a faulty pedestal breaker before.
  7. RichV

    RichV Member

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    Thanks for all the troubleshooting tips, I will try them all this weekend. Meanwhile just to clarify what is happening. I have every ACv breaker off when I try the A/C & pump breaker and it trips immediately before any A/C unit or pump starts. I did physically disconnect the (2) wires but not the ground from the 220v pump with no change in the results. I can plug into the next pedestal that does not have GFCI and everything works including the A/C.

    I have 3 Cruisair split units; (1) 16k btu and (2) 12k btu with SMX II controllers.

    We were able to plug in everywhere on the trip up from Fort Lauderdale except for the one place that had GFCI (Harbor Town/Hilton Head Island). The power tripped immediately there and they said sorry your out of luck and would not reset it. I can't be sure now because it was a while ago, but I assume all the breakers were off.

    The ABCY tech said to also try turning off all the DC breakers which I haven't done yet.

    I did go down to the boat after work today and looked at the pump relay board. All 3 of the triggers have the same resister connection broken. See the attached photo. It's not like the resister burnt out, but like they were all cut. Is that how they were set for 110v or 220v? The schematic is from inside the PR8X pump relay board box.

    You can see the bottom of the fuse holder for the 230v pump motor on the top of the box. I do have the Cruisair schematics and installation manuals which say the pump should be on it's own breaker but Ocean Yachts just used a fuse.

    Attached Files:

  8. RichV

    RichV Member

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    The A/C are all 220v.
  9. RichV

    RichV Member

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    The white wire looped on the left side is not connected to anywhere, just the red & clack wires from the main breaker panel.
    Dave Steffen likes this.
  10. mapism

    mapism Senior Member

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    Precisely what I meant in my post #5. :)
  11. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Something to remember here. In this design, the fuse only protects the L1 line, in 230Vac mode, L2 is always hot.
    I hope the (double pole?) breaker was off when you pulled the pump wires.
    With that in mind, there is always a connect to the other A/C units so they really have not been isolated yet, even with their breaker off.
    Some lead is leaking to ground.
    Pull that fuse and test. That may help eliminate the Triac.

    Two paths to take,
    #1, All breakers off, Ohm out all leads to ground.
    #2, Start disconnecting power and signal leads till issue goes away, further trouble shoot the device that causes the failure.

    Are you and boat in Mass now?
  12. RichV

    RichV Member

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    Regarding #5, I am considering installing an ELCI breaker on the boat after I find all the ground faults. My last boat had one and all boats made in the last 5 years have them. They trip at 30 ma and protect the whole boat.

    Yes the boat is in Quincy, MA now. We did (4) 20-22 hour legs from Charleston SC and arrived on April 24th. When I get the A/C working we'll be able to stay on the boat for the summer.

    Attached is the breaker panel. Above the double pull breaker for the salon A/C & pump are (2) 110v single breakers. One goes to an outlet for microwave with the lead from the black wire on the rotary switch and one goes to the 110v stove with a red lead from the rotary switch.

    Attached Files:

  13. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    If all the ACs are 240v then why are some of them on a 120v leg with single breakers? That’s odd

    the stove breaker is missing the tie bar, only one leg is on.. the other one off. Another odd thing

    now if the pump and the salon AC is indeed 240v, neutral should not be used at all. I wonder if someone didn’t mistakenly connect the unneeded neutral wire to ground either at the pump or on the AC unit itself. See how many wires are at the pump and the ac unit. There should only be two hots and a ground. No neutral on 240v units
  14. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    The state room A/Cs are on a double breaker. Just a different style of breaker were used to looking at.

    It is common for the same 10/2 or 12/2 (with ground) with black and white leads to be used for 115Vac or 230Vac.
    What seems not common, the white wire should have a red taps wrap where it is connected when used for 230Vac.
    It is interesting that the 14/2 signal wire in the pump control box is red & white.
    As long as we understand or the next guy that pokes his finger in there understands this (both wires are hot), no new curly hair events should happen.

    If I was there, I'd start disconnecting items from the controller box one option at a time. Starting with the power leads to the box to confirm box or AC on the same breaker.



    I loved the Quincy area. Worked out of Braintree for a while many years ago.
    That tunnel project was in high gear in Boston. Detour signs seemed to change daily.
    That was a mess. Understand the big dig & tunnels turned out pretty good after all.
  15. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Looking at the attached PDF (post #12), the labeling for the stove is not correct.
    The breakers are separate for the microwave and stove.
    Must be a lil Princess 115Vac stove.
  16. RichV

    RichV Member

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    Another Ocean Yachts thing, a 110v stove and oven which work great but small.
    I have since labeled those 2 single breakers as stove and microwave. Believe me, this boat has been a steep learning curve. Neither the seller or broker showed me anything.
    The left center row are all 220v breakers but on the center right row only the A/C is a 220v breaker. I have not found any of the white wires connected in any of the A/C 220v connecions. The curled white wire in the pump relay box is not connected.
  17. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    That panel is a mess. Can’t be original with two types of 220v breakers and voltage not being labeled.

    Did you check for a neutral wire in the air con control box? I afraid you re going to have to trace the wires. Normally they should have run separate wires from the panel to the pump control and the salon ac.

    If they only ran one set of wire, there must be a splice where it splits between the air con and the pump / triggers. Either inside the air con control box or somewhere along the way.
  18. RichV

    RichV Member

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    Yes it's a mess but original.
    The bottom breaker with 2 red wires coming out is the A/C & pump breaker.

    Attached Files:

  19. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    Looks like there are two blacks and two reds coming out of the breaker. One set for the air con and one for the pump. So on the pump and air con you should find the same pair carrying the hots

    you need to make sure you don’t have a white neutral wire on either units
  20. chesapeake46

    chesapeake46 Senior Member

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    How old is the AC unit ?