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Why Are All These Superyachts Catching on Fire?

Discussion in 'General Yachting Discussion' started by OrthoKevin, Apr 11, 2016.

  1. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    A transformer is designed to change voltage and regulate the voltage coming in. The newer transformers do that, they just have advanced from 1960s technology and now also protect the circuit from spikes and voltage drops and other things with modern technology. Just about any transformer that is made for yachts over the past 10 years is now an isolation transformer which protects the yachts electric from stray currents, voltage spikes and whatnot and not the typical extinct transformers that you're talking about with just copper windings and a magnetic field. Mastervolt, charles, and all other well manufactured yacht transformers are isolation transformers which help prevent yacht electrical fires. Any modern marine isolation transformer will do what Orthokevin asked.

    The transformer I referenced is also a boosting transformer and will boost the current, so yes it is not a typical transformer in the sense of the word as it boosts the voltage when needed as well. But it is still a transformer none the less, although technically called a boosting transformer.

    Just like battery chargers. The new ones are ignition protected, have electronics with much better charging profiles for the various battery types, they also have several charging modes to help the batteries last longer. But, they are still a battery charger.
  2. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    The transformer I referenced is also a boosting transformer and will boost the current,

    There is no free ride.

    It takes amperes to make voltage. Those IsoBoost transformers do step up voltage from <210 to 220Vac but the dock supply must supply the extra required current to make it happen.

    To many customers are using ACv service (dock power) delivered by the newer Y transformers dockside. 115Vac each leg but 208Vac causing the IsoBoost (Charles crap) to kick in. Now your 50A dockside breaker keeps tripping. Been chasing this for years. The step up transformers is a money maker for all but the boat owner tied up in the sales crap (no relation to me) that took the owners money and the tech that has to politely explain where his money went, of course that polite conservation is not free, neither is the next couple of different conversations (at more cost with different tech's) till the boat owner understands VxA=W.

    The only way to get more current from a set dockside service is to reduce voltage. Then strange, nothing would work.

    The newer Dometic equipment has adjustable low ACv parameters that will turn them selves off to avoid any possible damage also.

    Isolation transformers keep stray DC currents (Galvanic currents?) from passing . The ACv wave form that is input-ed, is matched by the output, maybe SOME less ACv noise or spikes *. The Secondary winding (output) may be varied (taped) to supply more or less ACV OR less or more current (Amperes). It is impossible to increase both at the same time.



    * MOVs, Mosfets and/or Zener diodes do better shunting spikes and noise. None of which are in the Charles shore power crap (no relation to me) .
  3. Chasm

    Chasm Senior Member

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    Almost every transformer isolates. Every transformer *but* the autotransformer. (Actual isolation transformers have to meet higher standards.)

    Why would you use one?
    They have only one winding, use half the copper - which happens to be costly. They are not as heavy, easier to lug around on the pier.
    They can also be slightly more efficient, which is interesting in applications like power transmission. Not so much for boat use though, just diagnosing an electrolysis repair eats such savings in no time.

    IOW they are the cheapest way to build a transformer. The yacht industry sells them with marine item surcharge. And you can't even blame the Chinese for substituting this particular inappropriate product. :D


    The real issue are substandard electrical installations. Both dockside and on the boats.
    Breakers, fuses, wiring and all the other parts of the system are supposed to be in good condition and dimensioned in such a way that the safety mechanisms trip way BEFORE fire happens.
    I don't know about the US but over here there is a quite effective if somewhat unknown way to solve the dockside problem: Punting it up to the electrical company.
    Part of the supply contract is the requirement that the electrical system is up to standard. If it is not they'll give a short time to repair, if that doesn't happen or if the situation is deemed to dangerous to wait they will turn the site/customer off until the system has been repaired and reinspected. Simple as that.
    Yes that is indeed the equivalent of calling the Fire Marshal or OSHA with a complaint and unlikely to make you popular. - But it will solve problems in a hurry. Especially if someone is in the electrical resale business like marinas and camping grounds are.
  4. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    I have read of some docks with a GFI (GFCI) breaker on the dock. If it trips, the (new) marina customer is not allowed to plug in again till problems are resolved. I like that idea.
    I have not witnessed that but have witnessed boats supposed to have light ACv loads continuously pop the shore breaker and the marina will ask them to fix their problem or leave. I have no problem there either.
    That lil liability insurance that is required will not begin to replace the boat in the next slip.

    In a perfect world.

    Sadly, most boat owners in my area feel like Scotty (StarTrek), they can fix anything and pat them selves on the back for saving pennies.
    Not saying that is what happened to these big boat fires that should of had all the electrics done correctly (we hope).
    Also, sometimes, just one loosened white wire (neutral or return) in a buss bar exposed to vibration. to create heat.
  5. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Speaking of heat and connects;
    I'm sure many have pulled apart old A/C 3-knob panels and found a black wire crimp melted or zapped open.
    Darn right scary.
  6. Yacht News

    Yacht News YF News Editor

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    Well here is another fire, thankfully not a yacht this time but easily could have been at the refit and repair facility MB92 in Barcelona. Not sure what yacht was under the tent there but we can also see the for-sale "Amadea" in the background there too. It appears no yachts were damaged.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=17&v=kp7bHW9SumM
  7. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

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    Just reread Ralph's old post and so much truth in both points. First, as to GFCI. I've seen so many transient boaters complain and whine but when you can't plug in it's a potential life saver for you because it's showing you have a problem and requiring you to get it fixed.

    Then part two. Professional marine electrician. Get things fixed correctly.

    Same cause of most land fires. So many houses with do it yourself or shade tree sloppy wiring done. If you paint rather than use a professional and it's a bit sloppy then just doesn't look perfect but you also saved money so might be great tradeoff. Well, your mom taught you not to play with matches and lighters but at some age should have taught you not to play with electricity. A bit sloppy there can be disastrous. I think of all the do it yourself plumbing and then there's a little leak and it's messy but no big deal. Same in electricity and same leaks and big deal.
  8. Oscarvan

    Oscarvan Senior Member

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    Boosting transformers, yes with all kinds of smart circuitry, are widely in use in the Motor Coach world as well. Just like marinas many RV resorts feature electrical systems that were designed when coaches had one or two AC's, not three or four. And, a lot of them are getting older too.
    Hughes Autoformer is a very popular unit, and I have one on my Diesel Pusher. And yes, you borrow from the amp side to make the extra volts so you may have to run less load than you normally could/would. The modern circuitry in everything from AC's to fridges needs healthy voltage or things start breaking, or worse.
  9. German Yachting

    German Yachting Senior Member

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    It is Azzam.
  10. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I think so many are catching fire simply because of age. The fleet of Megayachts is getting older and you have soooooo many electrical circuits and systems on them.
  11. Yacht News

    Yacht News YF News Editor

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    I actually didn't know she was out of the water, thanks!
  12. wdrzal

    wdrzal Senior Member

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    The NEC (National Electric Code) Allows 5% on single phase residential and commercial standard of 120 & 240 volts. So 120 v. should never be lower than 114 V. and 240 V. should stay above 228 V. Long runs of conductors that are under sized also add to the voltage drop equation.
  13. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

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    “Professional marine electrician”. Good luck on that one.... the messes I ve had to fix caused by $110 an hour “Professional marine electricians” would fill a dozen posts.

    The new GFI standards are not promoted by fires but by swimmers getting zapped in fresh water. I have NEVER seen a report of a diver or swimmer being electrocuted in salt water. If you know of one, please post a VERIFIED link. Not some “I hear from a friend of mine that a third cousin of his brother in law ex husband knew a diver who got electrocuted in what I think was a salt water marina in Michigan”

    A GFI failure will not cause a fire... almost all the GFI tripping are caused by appliances incorrectly binding G to N

    Capt J is right. The AMP used per Feet keep going up and marinas can’t keep up. Builders are also responsible for installing just the bare minimum shore power system, probably in part knowing that you won’t find a 40’ slip with 50amp or a 60’ slip with 100amp

    In my experience the problem is worst up north where AC isn’t a big demand year round.

    On every boat i ve run, breaker tripping has been an issue. Even my own 53 is a struggle with a single 50amp and I plan on adding a second cord.

    The problem is made worst by aging and corroded systems at marinas. Corrosion = resistance = voltage drop = higher amp = pop.

    Pop is only assuming the 20 year old corroded breaker that s been splashed or dunk in a couple of storms will trip. If you don’t get a pop... you get heat, then fire.