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

Electric Appliances in the Galley

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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52 Comments
  • tami
    Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

    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 🙂

  • Chris
    Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

    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.

    • Capt Jerry Robbins,usmm(ret)
      Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

      Thanks Chris for the great but simple advice! I am amazed at the crazy things that (Normal) people do to kill themselves on a boat things they would not even consider while at home or work!

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

      All great points, Chris! Thanks for adding.

      • Chris
        Posted at 17 April 2014 Reply

        I need to emphasize, household GFIs are not ignition protected and should not be used on gas powered vessels. My comment about outdoor kitchens and pool houses may have mislead.

  • Darlene Burnett Price
    Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

    No appliances!

  • Claudita Carito
    Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

    Thanks, we have some but not to many!

  • Ron Newton
    Posted at 14 April 2014 Reply

    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.

  • Melinda Taylor
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

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

    • B.Goodrum
      Posted at 17 April 2014 Reply

      XD LOL I Second that Melinda 😉

  • D and Don svsoutherncross
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    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.

  • Helen Bell
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Helen Bell
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Ann Capehart
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    microwave, coffee pot

  • Rita M. Riley
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • David Wright
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    NONE. Thats kinda the point for us

  • Desserine Williams
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Lynn Kaak
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    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.

    • Pamela Dakin Harwood
      Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

      Can you post a pic of your waffle iron. Sunday mornings just wouldn”t be the same without waffles . . . .

  • Tim Sheahan
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Barb
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    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.

  • Dave Tew
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Bonnie Gibson-Cunningham
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    Espresso machine :-0

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    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.

  • Gale Golden Schulke
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Gale Golden Schulke
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Peter Robertson
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    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)

  • Kimber Jo Strasser
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Tammy Swart
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    Toaster

  • Nikki
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Deb Akey
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    Magic Bullet

  • Jennifer Dean Neumann
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    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.

  • Ted Reshetiloff
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Nancy Orloski
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Gary Thornburgh
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Ann Chase
    Posted at 25 April 2015 Reply

    Crockpot, coffeemaker and Nutribullet.

  • Skylar Walker
    Posted at 26 April 2015 Reply

    Toaster, stick blender

  • Jan Drury
    Posted at 26 April 2015 Reply

    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.

  • Eva Oldfield
    Posted at 26 April 2015 Reply

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

  • Paul Daniela Herlihy
    Posted at 05 August 2016 Reply

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

  • Sherry Matas
    Posted at 05 August 2016 Reply

    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.

  • Laine Common
    Posted at 06 August 2016 Reply

    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.

  • Todd Hoevel
    Posted at 07 August 2016 Reply

    Stephen Strasshofer

  • Donna Lynn Tourt Cantwell
    Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

    Rich Cantwell

  • Amy Domaratzki
    Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

    We had big plans to go without but we now have an electric kettle, a small Toaster, and an induction cooktop for when we have power or are underway with engines.

    • Darlene Luxton
      Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

      We have a diesel hob!! Which also a fan heater!!

  • Susan Spiller
    Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

    Jim, things to think about when we buy our next boat.

    • Jim Spiller
      Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

      I was just going to tag you LOL 😊❤️

  • Darlene Luxton
    Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

    We have microwave, kettle and an electric all in one cooker! Why do without if you don’t need to!

  • Ron Newton
    Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

    I have a 3 burner electric stove with oven, microwave, A/C-D/C refrigerator, coffee maker and electric grill. Air conditioning-2 units, electric built in heaters-3, tv and lamps. Also a Westerbeke 8 kw diesel generator for power while on the hook.

  • John Keller
    Posted at 09 October 2017 Reply

    They are wonderful. We have a Nespresso for great coffeee. A Vitamix for smoothies and shakes. Microwave and a full size refrigerator. Oh and a tv and a Mac Mini with over 300 movies to watch! Just make sure your inverter is a pure sine wave. Most coffee makers will not like square wave ac.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 11 October 2017 Reply

      Yes, I’ve written about the differences in inverters. The Vitamix also requires pure sine wave.

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