Electric Appliances in the Galley

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2014 • all rights reserved

Some use lots of electrical appliances on their boat, others can't imagine it. What's the real story?

Should you or shouldn’t you have any electric appliances in the galley?  Almost every time that I write a post about using an electric appliance, I get some comments about “I never have anything that requires electricity.”  And then when I write about a manual option, I get other comments suggesting an electric option.

The truth is that different options work on different boats and for different lifestyles. And, to be honest, my own thoughts on using electricity have changed over time as charging options have changed.

If you’re primarily a liveaboard at a marina or dock where you are hooked up to shore power, you can use pretty much anything you want, even air conditioning.  But if you spend considerable time at anchor or on a mooring, you need to consider your boat’s electrical setup.

If your boat is set up with a large battery bank, good charging capability and a suitable inverter, why use not use electric appliances if you want to?  Of course, you should always have a manual backup just in case!

On Que Tal, we had a 450 amp-hour house battery bank, 450 watts of solar power for charging (in a very sunny climate with almost no clouds), a 100 amp alternator and a 2500 watt inverter/charger.  While we couldn’t go wild with electric appliances, we did have a microwave that Dave used frequently to make a bag of popcorn and I used an electric coffee grinder every day.

The Geminis that we are looking at (update: now have) have a very different electrical set up, starting with a propane refrigerator instead of a 12 volt one.  That means that there is a far smaller battery bank — typically about 150 amp-hours — and less charging and only a 1000 watt inverter.  Even if we had a larger inverter, the battery bank and charging system won’t support any large electrical loads without substantial upgrades. So while we might still have an electric coffee grinder, the microwave is out of the question.  Most coffee makers take a larger inverter, too. An immersion blender — probably okay.

You need to consider three factors if you’re going to run an appliance from an inverter:

  • Inverter:  will your inverter supply the power needed?  Most appliances need a little extra power right when they start up, called the “start up load” (imaginative, huh?) or sometimes the “peak load” or “surge load.”  The inverter has to be sized for this or its internal circuit breaker will trip.  Few appliances state their start up load, but a general rule of thumb is double the operating load — which is usually stated.  Items with a compressor or pump often take even more on start up — as much as 3 to 7 times the running load.
  • Batteries: can your batteries supply the power needed? Even if your inverter can handle the load, the batteries may not be able to discharge the amps as fast as the inverter is calling for them.  You may be able to find the maximum discharge current in the specs for your batteries (some manufacturers provide this; others don’t).
  • Charging: will you be able to replace the power that you use before you need it for something else?  Further, insufficient charging will damage your batteries and considerably shorten their life.

Okay, and maybe a fourth item — is there an outlet near where you want to use the appliance?  Whether you have a whole boat inverter or just have to use the plug on the inverter, this can be an important consideration.

Further, for any appliance that has sophisticated electronics in it or a variable speed motor, you need a pure sine wave inverter or you can ruin the appliance.  Read more about inverters.

As battery and charging technology is improving, solar panels are becoming more efficient and also costing less, and larger pure sine wave inverters are coming down in price (not to say they’re cheap now, but a lot less expensive than 10 years ago), it’s becoming more and more common for boats to have the capability to run electrical appliances that were once considered impossibilities.

Another option is to have a generator and run electrical appliances directly from it.  But before jumping on this bandwagon, think about whether you really want to fire up the generator every morning to make a cup of coffee (the quiet of the morning is one of the thing we treasure most about being at anchor) or to make a bag of popcorn.  And if you do plan to use a generator to supply the power, make sure it’s large enough for the start up load.

Bottom line: you’re not totally crazy to want or have electrical appliances on board, but you need to think out the entire power system.  Most boats opt for a few things that are important to them, but don’t have all the electrical gadgets that they might have ashore.

The good news:  there are manual ways to do just about anything that you can do with electricity.  And most of them work pretty well; some will even provide some fitness benefits as a side benefit 🙂

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  1. of course, now that you’re contemplating a catamaran, one of your biggest considerations will be weight. That is to say, if you’re interested in keeping her performance somewhat lively. More gadgets, more things to run the gadgets, more weight.

    and of course, the complexity involved 🙂

  2. Three more things. If you are using electric (120-240 AC) aboard, each branch circuit should be wired with a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) outlet. The opportunity to electrocute one’s self is significantly greater aboard a boat. GFI’s tripping can be a nuisance, but you live to complain about them. Second. Outlets mounted in galleys and heads, or anywhere water can spray/splash, should have spring loaded, gasket snap covers. Third, outlet boxes should have an environmental enclosure on the back side. to prevent anyone/anything inadvertently shorting the contacts. These requirements are similar to what one would face if wiring a pool house or outdoor kitchen.

  3. No appliances!

  4. Thanks, we have some but not to many!

  5. I have a 3870 Bayliner cruiser with a 8.0 diesel gen. I use the electric range and toaster oven everyday, I have a electric grill, coffee maker, microwave and crockpot that get used on occasion. The micro is used for storage more than cooking but is handy for warming leftovers or popcorn.

  6. What, give up my blender? No more frozen mango margaritas? Never.

  7. D and Don svsoutherncross says:

    For us a small grinder for coffee beans and a very small microwave (800 watts) work for us with a 500 amp hour battery bank (the battery bank is 2 -8D Concord Lifeline AGM batteries) , 2 – 130 watt Kyocera solar panels, a Air X wind generator at the top of the mizzen mast, a 1500 watt inverter/charger and 100 amp alternator (normal output about 75 watts). We call the microwave the solar cooker, as the solar panels seem to take care of it in most instances. For those gray and windless times we have a Honda 2000 generator. This set up has worked well for us so far.

  8. Tiaster, microwave, electric skillet, coffeemaker, magic bullet, bread machine, hmmm i think thats it lol

  9. P.s. Huge battery bank, no generator and we live mostly at anchor

  10. microwave, coffee pot

  11. All those in the picture! Keurig, toaster, and built-in microwave. Docked at marina; shore power.

  12. NONE. Thats kinda the point for us

  13. With shore power, Nuwave oven and cook top, coffee maker, tiny fridge, blender.

  14. We live on the hook. No electric appliances, unless you count the fridge. Although a hand blender might be nice to have once in a while. But we also don’t need a generator (complete with the noise, maintenance and diesel expenses) and happily do well with our solar panels. We have a stove top toaster and waffle iron, and a hand coffee grinder, and insulated French press coffee maker.

  15. None, been on the hook for a year n lovn it.

  16. When we moved aboard La Luna had a toaster oven and a second fridge — a small electric one. Both are gone. We use an old fashioned coffee percolator, the second fridge itself is still on board with the guts gone. EW uses it for dry storage of filters and other parts. I have a hand mixer, and a vacuum bagger that I have to run the generator to use, and a stick blender that works on the inverter, Don’t miss a thing.

  17. We have a jump start battery pack and small inverter to power our few electrical appliances.

  18. Espresso machine :-0

  19. Stick blender, and hand beater. Love em both and they take next to no power. Have a microwave but use it as a bread cupboard coz we dont have enuf power for that.

  20. The only electric appliances I have are my Kitchenaid mixer and the handheld mixer. Everything else is manual.

  21. Lynn: stove top toaster. WHERE did you get it and what does it look like. I so want one.

  22. Peter Robertson says:

    1. 10 cup coffee maker with a stainless insulated carafe. It uses power to perk, about 1200 watts for 6 minutes, then turns off. 2. Oster blender for the occasional Margarita. 3. Microwave oven that spends 99.999% of it’s life as the perfect breadbox! (We honestly can’t remember the last time it was fired up)

  23. Docked at a marina with shore power so I love my electric appliances.

  24. Toaster

  25. coffee maker, toaster, stick blender, food chopper, hand electric whisk, fridge, freezer, microwave, three tier steamer, fans…… All essential of course!!

  26. Magic Bullet

  27. Everything! No propane 🙁 it’s a powerboat. We have an electric cooktop, convection microwave and a dishwasher. Have to run the genny to cook. We have a toaster and a Keurig also.

  28. Vitamix, coffee grinder, coffee maker. 400 watts solar and 1200ah battery bank. 3kw inverter is our friend!

  29. Washer and a Dryer! Along with so many. I feel guilty somewhat by ready others!

  30. Just added this in the shower of our boat to save counter space.

  31. Crockpot, coffeemaker and Nutribullet.

  32. Toaster, stick blender

  33. I’m not going to feel guilty about my appliances. After all, we no longer live in the dark ages now do we. If my Thermomix makes life easier, thats a good thing, isnt it? To the diehards with nothing onboard: good onya, but to each their own. Having appliances doesnt make one less or more of a sailor, its all about having more time to enjoy the fabulous places we anchor in.

  34. Thermomix and kettle but only when on shore power. Does the 12v vacuum cleaner count as a galley item?

  35. Actually, we are removing our microwave to gain more storage. Microwave is nothing more than a popcorn popper…

  36. Kent Takacs

  37. Popcorn is much easier stove top than microwave with out all of the harmful chemicals (popcorn lung).

    We have lots of small kitchen gadgets on board, but are very selective on when they are used… electric fondue pot, ice cream maker, Waring commercial stainless steel blender, bullet blender, microwave. Other than they microwave, they all run off the house bank. We also have alternatives for shortening the small appliance run time.

  38. Oh man.. I don’t think I could live without my gadgets… Kitchen aid mixer, vitamix blender, food processor, immersion blender, crockpot, induction stovetop, toaster, oven/range, apartment size fridge/freezer.. We have a microwave but I stay away from it. In fact, I think hubs disconnected it to work on some wiring and never hooked it back up lol.

  39. Stephen Strasshofer

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