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Thread: Bilge Pump recommendations?

  1. #1
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    Default Bilge Pump recommendations?

    I'm slowly building a 26' boat and I'm trying to pick up some of the parts and pieces as I go along if I can find them on sale, etc. What does everyone recommend for a brand or style of bilge pump?

    At the moment I'm thinking that I'll install at least 2 of them. One main pump would go low in the bilge (aft) and a second backup installed just a little higher. I may also put a third further forward or perhaps install a manual pump.

    This may be like asking what make of car do you like, but I figure it's still worth the ask.
    Dave B

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    With respect, Dave, I think you've got it backwards.

    Fit two manual bilge pumps, one of which can be operated from the cockpit and one from below decks, then consider whether you would like to have an electric pump as well.

  4. #4
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    The more the better. You should have at least three pumps. I agree with Andrew that two should be manual. The electric one should be wired with a float switch and should be the high-output impeller type.

    Make sure the hose is large enough in diameter, or the pump won't get anwhere near its maximum capacity.

  5. #5
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    As far as electric pumps go, I recently read a review on pumps. To my surprise the pumps that got the best review was the Atwood tsunami either 800 or 900, I forget. It faired better than the rule 1500 in use of power and in actual discharge. Of course I'm not about to throw out my rules yet. But next time around... Also the Atwood was significantly less expensive. Go figure.

  6. #6
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    For the past 22 years I've gotten along fine with two Henderson Mark V manual diaphragm bilge pumps, on a 37 footer. One of them (the one below decks) doubles, with the aid of a Whale diverter valve, as the galley sink waste pump. Inch and half hose from two strum boxes in bilge to each pump which discharge, via a Y piece, after loops to the overhead, to a common seacock in the topsides.

    The reason for two the same was so that one set of spares would do for both - but so far I have not had to touch either!

    Have never wanted an electic pump - volts in bilge = bad.

  7. #7
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    The best bilge pump is a scared woman with a bucket :-)

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    You did not say WHAT boat...or WHERE it will be, or IF it will stay in the water. or HOW FAR AWAY from YOU it will be....

    Manual pumps.... SUCK... and ONLY work when YOU are there...and not involved in doing something else....

    If your boat stays in the water... get 2 electric pumps... one set for mormal use, the other set to go on a little higher...

    I have used Lovett and Rule... they both work well.
    Last edited by Gary E; 02-21-2007 at 11:34 AM.

  9. #9
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    Transport Canada regs require a bailer or a manual water pump as a minimum. I would reccommend an electric pump with non-mechanical switch and a back-up manual pump. The manual pump can be a portable or fixed. As far as capacity goes, most pump makers have a little chart showing what size pump is best for a given boat length. Locate your "best fit" on the chart and buy the next biggest or even the one above that.

    In my last design, the Stevens 26 Cape Islander, I spec'd an 800 gph Rule in the engine compartment and a 1200 gph rule in the skeg. A collapsable bucket is stowed under one of the seats.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

  10. #10
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    My boat is sitting on her mooring right now, in February, a mile down the river, with the bilges as dry as a bone apart from the sump, where an occasional drip from the stern gland goes - she needs one stroke of the pump every couple of weeks.

    Anyone whose boat has an electic pump should ask themselves two questions:

    1. Am I happy leaving the battery in circuit when I am not on the boat, bearing in mind the risk of stray current electrolysis?

    2. Why am I so worried about the bilge water that I want an electric pump? What maintenance should I have done?

  11. #11
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    I tend to favor the electric pump, mainly as a safety item in the event a serious leak develops. We have a 2,000 gph Rule with a 1.5 ins. outlet, plumbed through the cockpit drain lines, as a primary bilge pump. this is sufficient to keep up with about a 1 ins. diameter hole, or to put it another way, any single thru-hull seacock can be open and the pump will about keep up with it for several hours. That said, the robustness of a manual pump is a point in its favor, and we have a large diaphragm pump as a backup. Still, I picture the situation when the time to deal with a serious hole is expanded by the high-capacity electric pump. Fresh water does reduce the impact of electrolysis, although the only time I encountered it, the wiring went quickly, basically eliminating the issue by itself.

  12. #12
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    Dan, when I bought the boat the single bilge pump was routed through a cockpit drain.

    The surveyor said, "What happens when the cockpit drain seacock fails?", and I changed things around.

  13. #13
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    I've never had an electrolysis problems with my electric pumps.

    Both are on float switches and the switches are ABOVE the standing water, which is the whole idea.

    The high volume electrics can push a lot of water very fast. The impellers rarely clog--mine's never clogged.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    Dan, when I bought the boat the single bilge pump was routed through a cockpit drain.

    The surveyor said, "What happens when the cockpit drain seacock fails?", and I changed things around.
    I once had a hose failure on a cockpit drain. That's when I really appreciated my electric pump with its own seacock with the float switch. I wasn't around, but the guys at the yard noticed the water discharge and, thankfully, checked it.

  15. #15
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    I'm at the other end of a similar question. Got a 30' cutter with one electric bilge pump and looking where to put a manual. One person mentioned the portable shown with a STRONG bracket to hold it.
    Now that you guys are talking about two electrics it's got me wondering, is that recommended?

    ...ok.ok,,

    http://www.yachtsurvey.com/bilge_pumps.htm
    Last edited by LeeG; 02-21-2007 at 02:50 PM.

  16. #16
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    The manuals have it....but.....what do I know...my bilge was always dry...I forbid it to get wet in there......
    My boat was larger....but I had installed two rule pumps as you indicated, one a little higher than the other, with electronic hall effect switches...it sense the water rising around the tube and doesn't jam or get otherwise blocked with debris....I also had a big edson manual pump installed in (below) the cockpit where I could steer or otherwise be in the cockpit and pump......but I also installed a "Y" valve on the cooling water intake so that I could start the engine and suck the water out of the boat and dump it overboard......but I'm also the world's biggest chikkin....
    Wakan Tanka Kici Un
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Ledger View Post
    http://www.edsonpumps.com/pumps_dia/diaphragm.html
    http://www.whalepumps.com/marine/product_list/7/48/


    These are some serious manual pumps that can move a lot of water.

    In case your battery's flat.

    And the water's coming in.

    Yes. Both excellent, both been made for many years and used in their thousands, both very resistant to choking. The big Whale is slightly harder work due to two diaphragms; on the other hand it will run on one side if the other side chokes or the diaphragm fails.

  18. #18
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    and you can pump a pair of levi's thru them....
    Wakan Tanka Kici Un
    ..a bad day sailing is a heckuva lot better than the best day at work.....
    Fighting Illegal immigration since 1492....
    Live your life so that whenever you lose, you're ahead."
    "If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned."

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Craig-Bennett View Post
    Dan, when I bought the boat the single bilge pump was routed through a cockpit drain.

    The surveyor said, "What happens when the cockpit drain seacock fails?", and I changed things around.

    Not sure what a failure of the cockpit drain seacock would consist of.

    It's a 1 1/2 inch bronze seacock, and a failure would be relatively catastrophic on its own. There were a number of issues for this choice. The pump runs through a check valve just under the cockpit floor--the pump pressure routing the output of the pump through the cockpit drain plumbing, and seacock. When it runs, the valve shuts off the cockpit drain, and the drain reopens when the pump shuts off. The drain in the cockpit acts as an anti-siphon device, with the actual pump outlet well above the waterline. A second through-hull of this diameter would be yet another point of concern. Another issue unique to this area is that we store in the water in the winter, and routing the pump outlet this way makes it relatively simple to keep it from freezing.
    The original manual pump in fact discharged onto the cockpit floor, then through the cockpit drains. A bit sloppy by modern standards. The manual pump now exits through an outlet under the counter. We also carry extra inlet and outlet hoses to mount the manual pump on a temporary board if needed.

  20. #20
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    I have my four pumps wired directly through their own switch panel, so they are on all the time unless I throw the breakers to turn them off. The boat doesn't require the main DC panel to be switched on, and as far as I know, this is the correct sequence for electric pumps.
    In any case, there's no DC draw on the system unless the pumps run. The philosophy I have used is:
    1. A diaphragm drying pump forward (my forefootis the lowest point in the boat) set as low in the boat as possible.
    2. One main pump (Rule 1200) set just above the level of standing water in the ER (of which there is non when the boat is at her house) on a float switch
    3. An emergency pump, Rule 3000 set above the main pump in the ER on a float switch
    4. An emergency pump, Rule 3000, under the forward cabin sole on a float switch.

    I suppose I could put a unit further aft, but at a certain point, how many pumps do you need on a small craft? We do have a small manual pump on board as well, but if we're down to that, we should be launching the life boat.

    All pumps are wired to leds in the panel that glow if the pump cycles, and the emergency pumps also are wired to piezo element that emits a 1Khz tone if they cycle.

    I like Paladin's switches which I believe you can now buy as a package, but I put the Rule switches in years ago and they haven't given me any reason to replace them to the moment.
    Last edited by Lew Barrett; 02-21-2007 at 06:18 PM.

  21. #21
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    The rule floats seem to work alright, but be sure to put a debris cage over them to keep junk from blocking the lever..
    Wakan Tanka Kici Un
    ..a bad day sailing is a heckuva lot better than the best day at work.....
    Fighting Illegal immigration since 1492....
    Live your life so that whenever you lose, you're ahead."
    "If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned."

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by paladin View Post
    The rule floats seem to work alright, but be sure to put a debris cage over them to keep junk from blocking the lever..
    After about 15 years I do have to replace one that got funky. It's on the drying pump so it's not one of the three critical switches. It's stuck on so I've thrown the breaker on it and could just turn it on at the panel if I wanted to use it. But, I really oughta.......

  23. #23
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    We have two electric rule pumps, mostly because we live quite a ways away from the boat. We like the peace of mind that redundancy brings. Instead of one a little higher than the other ours are placed about the same highth only port and starboard. Even if they look level to each other, one will go off before the other. Before we re-caulked, we would take in a fair amount of water under sail. That is where a port and starboard placement came in handy. Other wise the boat could really fill up on a long tack, with the opposite pump high and dry.
    "My insanity is hard enough without participating in everybody elses."

  24. #24
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    We use the "Ultimate Float Switch" - never had a problem with it. It's not cheap, but highly recommended by Practical Sailor.


  25. #25
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    I suspect that the ultimate switch is a commercial version of the Hall sensor..
    Wakan Tanka Kici Un
    ..a bad day sailing is a heckuva lot better than the best day at work.....
    Fighting Illegal immigration since 1492....
    Live your life so that whenever you lose, you're ahead."
    "If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned."

  26. #26
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    I've always been curious about how it works. I've used one for about 15 years. It's a float inside a plastic tube, which protects it from debris. The float moves by a coil. Only problem has been eventually it gets gooey inside, and has to be cleaned.

  27. #27
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    Unless you are plugged into mains, an electric pump isn't going to keep you afloat on the mooring for long. Your batteries will go flat. In reality anyway it will only mask a problem. Do you know how often the pump cycles on and off while you are away from the boat? And what if 3 or 4 things go wrong (maybe a couple that you know about, and really should get around to fixing, eventually) and together all those things cause some stray current, or a short. Eat away all your fastenings, or maybe just a good old fashoined fire on board? If everythings working, say a seacock fails soon after you pack up after the weekend and leave the boat, are you really sure the pump will keep on pumping for 2 weeks until you get back down to the boat? I say its false security. The idea of 2 electrics, and maybe, just maybe, a manual, is crazy. As is the idea of any serious manual pump being portable. You need at least one, preferably 2 good manual pumps, well mounted, accessible and reliable. My2c.

  28. #28
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    Quoting Lew Barrett:

    "I like Paladin's switches which I believe you can now buy as a package, but I put the Rule switches in years ago and they haven't given me any reason to replace them to the moment."

    My Rule switches on the three electrical bilge pumps have not lasted more than a couple of years.

    In fact, two have clapped out mysteriously over the last two-and-a-half years with the boat sitting in its cradle, undergoing a major restoration.

    This topic is being discussed as I am winding up the restoration with a complete refitting of all the electrical wiring, while simultaneously holding on to as much hardware as is still in good running condition (panels, electrical bilge pumps, bus-bars etc).

    What could be the cause for the Rule bilge-water-level switches on my boat to burn out prematurely ?

    Keep it coming - great topic !
    Last edited by carioca1232001; 02-25-2007 at 07:44 PM. Reason: Question added

  29. #29
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    In reading Dan McCosh entry...I don't think they are Hall switches.. Hall effect switches would have no moving parts. It is a thin tube with a "transistor" sensor inside that senses a change of capacitance on the outside of the tube, said fluid could be water, fuel or waste for whatever purpose.....and a little goo on the outside shouldn't affect them. I used them also for reading water levels in the tanks, and fuel levels....
    Wakan Tanka Kici Un
    ..a bad day sailing is a heckuva lot better than the best day at work.....
    Fighting Illegal immigration since 1492....
    Live your life so that whenever you lose, you're ahead."
    "If you live life right, death is a joke as far as fear is concerned."

  30. #30
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    Hall effect would be best - or nearly so - for lack of moving parts.

    Similarly, a sonar-type sensor that bounces a wave off the fluid surface and relates signal transit time to depth.

    But I suspect Hall effect would be cheaper, less complexity etc.

  31. #31
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    PY, I speak from experience .....a 12 volt pump can buy you some very, very valuable time.
    And don't forget a very loud high water alarm.

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