June 15, 2015

Bilge Pump thoughts and feedback

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost here for reference.

The following may be one of those... [Link to original forum post]

Originally Posted by Utahsailor View Post
Planning to install a second float switch a few inches above the present one for a second bilge pump.

1. Is there a problem sharing the present outflow line between the two pumps

2. recommendations for bilge pumps
3. An alarm will be added to the second switch, recommendations?
4. Does anyone have experience with a simple cell based alerting system for this and othersecurity needs?

Sorry for the blizzard of questions but last few weeks have been heavy work weeks.
Hi Utah Sailor,

Some quick responses sharing what we chose to do based on past experience in several cruising sailboat:

1- Sharing discharge line: Don't. You are inviting problems and reduced flow. Run separate, appropriately sized discharge lines for each pump.

2- Pumps: We use the Whale SuperSub automatic pumps for our maintenance pumps [i.e., keep the bilge dry..] They have proved to be very dependable, leave only a 1/4" of water remaining, and don't generate any noticeable IR on the radios...

We also put a simple counter on our primary bilge pump and that count gets recorded in the daily log...

If you don't use an automatic bilge pump as your primary, you may want to consider installing a delay circuit so the pump doesn't cycle on and off in a lumpy anchorage... [i.e., a simple 15 second delay works wonders on the float style pumps. The CruzPro EFS20 has this capability and more built in to their bilge pump monitoring device...]

Secondary pump(s)- use the biggest you can afford, or two... or three...

If going offshore, consider a crash pump: you only need it once...

3- Alarm; something that is too loud. We have our high-water alarm on a deafening piezo unit inside the boat, and it is also connected to the airhorn to alert fellow cruisers and us on shore... [if anyone is within earshot...] ALWAYS make sure you can mute alarms. Once you are alerted they have served their purpose and from then on only interfere with communications during a time you can least afford it.

Side note: We can activate the high-water alarm from within our cabin as part of our personal security plan... [e.g., in case of uninvited, unwanted guests, an emergency, etc.]

4- Security System: Last year I installed the cell based system from Siren Marine because we had to unexpectedly leave the boat over winter to tend to land based responsibilities elsewhere... It saved the day a couple of times [blog references below...] Great unit, lots of features, remotely programmable, and excellent customer service... The provided SIM card works in 180 countries... Details about the choice and installation are in this blog post. If you are interested, you can read about how it already paid for itself...

Have fun with your projects. They are all worthwhile...
SV Denali Rose

Follow-up posts in the same thread:

Re: Adding second bilge pump

Originally Posted by HopCar View Post
"We also put a simple counter on our primary bilge pump and that count gets recorded in the daily log..."

I think a counter is a great idea but I'm also thinking an hour meter might give you more useful information. What do you guys think?
Good thinking: recording the time [pump run durations] is the other half of the equation... I tried in years past to find a timer that would record short durations and ended up with a simple 12VDC analog clock that was only on for the time the pump ran.

The analog clock would advance a few seconds/minutes each time the pump ran and turn off again. Start it at noon and you have our total run time since your last reset to noon.

[Hour meters usually record in 10th's of hours so aren't as useful for this purpose... It would take many months before my primary bilge pump would reach the 6 minute mark for total run time and advance the hour meter by a 10th. There may be other meters out there that record shorter durations (minute meters?) but I haven't looked because we have an alternate method for gathering that info, below...]

On our current boat, the remote vessel monitoring system I mentioned in my earlier response on this thread] takes care of that for us [it still records whether we have cell connectivity or not and updates when within cell coverage. [It sends a text alert when the primary bilge pump starts and again when stops running, among many other things...]

We love useful data too!

SV Denali Rose

Following is a related post regarding Whale IC bilge pumps. [1-Jan 2016]

Re: Pumps, pumps and more pumps.

Originally Posted by Winf View Post
Ok, tired of dodgy impeller bilge pumps and want to upgrade to something robust and reliable.

Looking at the Whale range. Anyone with experience with the Whale IC range of pumps? Like the simplicity of the system, just not sure about the reliability of the electronic wizardry.

In the bilge, looking at the Bilge IC unit. Alternative to this would be a Whale Gulper 220 rigged up to a standard float switch arrangement.

In the shower/sink sump, looking at installing a Whale Grey IC to eliminate the wet sump and having to clean up gross soapy scum. Not sure what the alternative to the auto switching manifold is but it needs to eliminate the wet sump arrangement.

Cost of the IC is high but prepared to pay for quality, reliable equipment.

Thanks for any comments.

Hi Winf,

I've used the Whale Bilge IC pumps on two different boats, and in a friend's house basement sump [to protect him during power outages...] with 100% success.

Perhaps the basement sump is the best test case of the IC as he reports it running ~80% of the time for days on end during heavy rains on the US east coast [subjective]. It is pumping against a 10ft head of 1 1/2in pipe- the maximum allowed in the Whale specs for that pump- and keeps up with his needs. [Like a boat, I backed it up with a 4k gal/hr high water pump.]

I have one in my current boat as the 'nuisance' water pump in the main bilge. It is there to remove as much water as possible [usually down to the last ~3/8" or 1cm..] and help keep the bilge dry. I rely on 3 other bilge pumps mounted at increasing heights to handle water flow and depths that the Whale IC can't handle. [i.e., Emergency pumps.] I've yet to record one of those other 3 pumps activating [each pump has a cycle counter] during routine operations- even when I flush the bilge with a shore water hose.

I like the IC model with the built-in check valve. It seems to work well. The one in my friend's basement is the best test with 10ft of head and silty water. I just inspected it in Nov-2014 and it [the pump and the built-in check valve] was holding up well after 14 months active duty.

The solid state water sensor works well, you just have to make sure the pump is level so the intake is never above the sensor or the pump will not shut off... Also, you can test the sensor of a dry pump by placing your hand on it for ~10 seconds; that makes the pump cycle on.

I also intend to replace the Rule pump and float switch in my shower sumps with Whale IC pumps when the time comes...

In case this helps with your decision.




Below is another related post, this one regarding bilge pump switches. 

[20-Jan 2016]

Re: Bilge Switch Shopping (it's overwhelming)

Originally Posted by allanbranch View Post
There seems to be large variety of bilge float switches. For reference I have a 30' Morgan project boat.

Just a few

When I search amazon for bilge switch, so many kinds of switches and price ranges come up.

Has anyone wrote a "beginners guide to float switches"? What do you recommend? Your wisdom is appreciated.
Hi Allan,

After having 5 boats over the years, I have given up on mechanical float switches and gone to solid state- which continue to remain reliable.

Several solid state offerings have already been suggested in this thread.

Another to be aware of is from CruzPro. They offer a solid state [probe style] switch, but the main part is their controller. They also make many other gauges and devices worth knowing about. Great company to do business with.

One thing I find useful in my current [last?] boat is a brief time delay [currently 15 seconds...] before the bilge pump activates. This is because my lowest bilge is a wide, flat and level bottomed well just forward of the engine... [e.g., ~2 ft x 2 ft with no smaller sump for a pump] so a small amount of water can slosh around for a while, activating the bilge pump unnecessarily- and often- without the time delay in place...

To my knowledge, both the CruzPro and Water Witch offer a time delay. There may be others offering this capability as well, and many bilge designs may not benefit from a time delay...

In case this is useful.




  1. Thanks for the tip about the security system. We've been talking about what we want to do in terms of boat security, from putting a safe on board to making sure unauthorized people don't come aboard (as much as one can do). We'll check out this system!

    1. I'm glad you found our experiences useful. Security is a mixed bag. The unit we describe is dependent upon cell signals, but that suits our needs at present considering we can set of a ballyhoo (airhorns and deafening piezo alarm inside the boat) manually from our cabin. [The opposite of a welcome aboard...]

      I am working on ways to connect the motion detectors to a local alarm system too. e.g., the motion detectors cause our Siren Marine unit to send us a text, but sound no alarm if we are on the boat... I'm going to connect them in parallel to an on-board security system as well...


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