110 vs 220
Being born and raised in Canada, when I think of AC (alternating current) electricity, the normal plugs that North Americans have in their houses, I typically only think of 110 Volts (or 115, or 120). I understand that in many other parts of the world, the norm is actually 220 V (230 – 240).
As we travelled down the eastern coast of the United States, if we ever found ourselves in a position to stay on a dock, we had no trouble plugging in to shore power as they were all wired for 110 V. As boats get farther and farther south though, this changes.
In Grenada for example, the biggest and nicest marina on the island, Port Louis Marina, has only one dock with 110 V electricity, the rest being 220 V. Conveniently, the house we’re staying in right now has both 110 V and 220 V receptacles on the walls.
110 V and 220 V outlets
Working on ZTC in the yard, we’ve found ourselves having to purchase a couple of new tools. The first, a heat gun, could only be found in 110 V. Yesterday’s purchase, a shop vac, was only available in 220 V! Fortunately, the yard at Grenada Marine has both 110 and 220 outlets too. The problem we ran into yesterday was that the plug on our new vacuum was a different shape than the outlets available. And we didn’t determine that until we got to the boatyard. I guess that’s why they sell those little adapter plugs for travelers. Nothing is ever easy!
Another trip to the hardware store was required to buy one of these!
This voltage thing is something we have been thinking about lately because many of the boats that we’ve been looking at, Amels in particular, are European boats that are wired for 220. I used to think that that would be a disadvantage but outside of North America, I’m now of the opinion that it’s actually an advantage. Electrical people, feel free to voice your thoughts on the subject.
Note: The real electrical challenge is not actually the voltage itself as it can be changed pretty easily via a transformer. The problem is the frequency of the AC electricity, 60 cycle (typical with 110 V) vs. 50 cycle (220 V), and that can not be easily changed. While some items are pretty forgiving, many appliances (motors, compressors, etc.) do not react well to being run at the improper frequency.