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Old 01-29-2016, 06:07 PM   #1
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Auto bilge pumps

Reading through a survey it mentioned that the auto bilge pumps should be wired back and switched from the helm ? The auto bilge pumps on this boat and my present one are wired directly off the battery bank .If they were switchable from the helm and someone switched them off they would be useless and not be auto bilge pumps.???


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Old 01-29-2016, 06:27 PM   #2
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Wire them both ways. Switched on from helm (manual) and switched on from water level switch (automatic)
This way they are automatic and also manually can be turned on. This is the normal way bilge pumps are wired up.
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Old 01-29-2016, 06:28 PM   #3
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Reading through a survey it mentioned that the auto bilge pumps should be wired back and switched from the helm ? The auto bilge pumps on this boat and my present one are wired directly off the battery bank .If they were switchable from the helm and someone switched them off they would be useless and not be auto bilge pumps.???


That is true. But it can be nice to have a true off position in the circuit. You can use a switch with a safety cover on it to prevent someone from accidentally turning it off.

People also make an argument that the auto wire should not be fused.
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Old 01-29-2016, 06:30 PM   #4
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Our float-switch operated pump is wired to the master battery switches in the engine room. So unless these are turned off--- which they never are--- the pump always has power available. As an alternative, it could have been connected directly to a battery bank like yours.

However.... our pump wiring is routed through a little contol panel mounted low on the side of the helm control pedestal. It has an ON, OFF, spring-loaded MOMENTARY RUN switch on it with a light that comes on when the pump is running and a fuse holder. I put a guard over the switch to make sure it can't get bumped into the OFF position, and I check the RUN function and then put it back to ON every time we leave the boat to go home, or at night before going to bed when we're out on the boat.

Perhaps this kind of control panel is what your survey is talking about? Ours is an off-the-shelf Rule unit.
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Old 01-29-2016, 06:35 PM   #5
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I have all bilge pumps on breakers. Manual switch is a built in Carlin switch-breaker and the auto switch is a pop out breaker. One time the bilge water froze and the pump was locked in ice, somehow when it started to melt, the float switch energized the pump and since it was rotor locked eventually the current opened the 20 amp breaker. When it all thawed it still worked fine.

Worst situation would be say your bilge water freezes to ice, then none of your pumps work, and you get a major hull leak. See it is a good idea to have another pump always out of the water just in case that happens.

I have three bilge pump circuits which bypass the rotary battery switch. That way turning to off the auto pump circuits will always have power, unless of course there is a short circuit blowing open the breaker.
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Old 01-29-2016, 06:47 PM   #6
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My 2 bilge pumps with their companion auto switches are wired through the 12v switchboard via a breaker, and have the typical auto/on/off 3 position switches as part of the switchboard.
When turning the main battery switch to "Off" I always check the bilge pump switch is on. It would make sense to have some kind of transparent cover over the bilge pump breaker switch so a very deliberate act is required to turn it off.
The 3 position switch for each bilge pump proved useful when a defect developed in one pump and was throwing the breaker. I could turn the offending pump off so the breaker remained on and the remaining pump was still operational.
While the simplicity of running the pumps straight off the battery has its attractions, I prefer they come through the switchboard, it seems to work, I will defer to the designer and builder.
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Old 01-29-2016, 07:10 PM   #7
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The auto function of my 3 pumps are wired direct to the house batteries through appropriate sized fuses (one pump on one bank, 2 pumps on the other). As an EE, I just have to have fuses on anything with so much power available as a battery bank. They can easily be fully powered down (as they are during the winter months on the hard) by pulling the fuses. The manual functions are controlled by the typical breakers. I really don't like those on-off-auto switches because it is so easy for the automatic function to be turned off without anything really obvious.(I wonder how many boats have sunk because of those being inadvertently off?) Marin's solution of putting a cover over the "off" position is a definite improvement.

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Old 01-30-2016, 06:27 AM   #8
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The standard Bertram setup was manual/auto switch on flybridge with a tell-tale light and fuses (not breakers) in the engine room. No possibility of inadvertently turning them off. Perfect!
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Old 01-30-2016, 08:38 AM   #9
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"The standard Bertram setup was manual/auto switch on flybridge with a tell-tale light and fuses (not breakers) in the engine room. No possibility of inadvertently turning them off. Perfect!"

Fuses are far easier to match to the pump load than CB.

Probably why they were chosen over CB.
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Old 01-30-2016, 09:27 AM   #10
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That is true. But it can be nice to have a true off position in the circuit. You can use a switch with a safety cover on it to prevent someone from accidentally turning it off.

People also make an argument that the auto wire should not be fused.
I agree with you on being able to turn the pump(s) off (for bilge cleaning, etc.) but I do not agree with not having a proper fuse in the circuit.

Every electrical circuit on a boat should have overcurrent protection except the engine starter circuit.

If the pump jams, not having a fuse to blow isn't going to make it start working but it will allow the motor or the wiring to melt and possibly cause a fire.
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Old 01-30-2016, 11:13 AM   #11
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The auto (float switch) wire should be fused but not switched, you can also always pull the fuse to cut the power for maintenance. Additionally my high level pump, the one that sounds the horn too b/c the water has gone over the low pumps, is wired through a pair of diodes so it can draw on both battery banks as a last resort. The horn can be killed only by pulling it's fuse. These, no touch, fuses are behind a drawer near the battery switch to which they are wired.
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Old 01-30-2016, 02:22 PM   #12
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Fuses are far easier to match to the pump load than CB.
Probably why they were chosen over CB.
Fuses may well be easier to match, but, according to Bertram (RIP), that was not why they chose fuses over breakers for the bilge pumps - and located them in the engine room not on the panel in the saloon. It was to prevent people from turning off the bilge pumps unless they really intended to do so. The shaft seals in several older Bertrams of my acquaintance leaked a lot making it really important that the pump circuits stayed live when the boat was left unattended.
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Old 01-30-2016, 03:40 PM   #13
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If you want a fuse but don't want a blown fuse, use a polyfuse or resetting PTC fuse. It will open on an overload and once it cools will reconnect, cycling over and over. I have seen BUSS fuses and ATC fuses with PTC / polyfuse functions but don't recall the source.

Robot Check
This one has a bi-metal contact strip and on an overload, it opens, and cools in 2-3 minutes and clicks closed again.

15 amps is way too much but there are 2-3 amp resetting fuses available.
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Old 01-30-2016, 04:59 PM   #14
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If you want a fuse but don't want a blown fuse, use a polyfuse or resetting PTC fuse. It will open on an overload and once it cools will reconnect, cycling over and over. I have seen BUSS fuses and ATC fuses with PTC / polyfuse functions but don't recall the source.

Robot Check
This one has a bi-metal contact strip and on an overload, it opens, and cools in 2-3 minutes and clicks closed again.

15 amps is way too much but there are 2-3 amp resetting fuses available.
That's an interesting thought. PTC's are great, but I'm thinking if a properly sized bilge pump fuse needs to blow, something is actually wrong. They certainly need to be sized right and some bilge pumps DO need 15 amp fuses! (the Rule 2000gph pumps for example)

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Old 01-30-2016, 06:49 PM   #15
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You can't get a PTC over about 2-3 amps, since that's the arc distance of the poly beads in the PTC. When they heat up they open the contact, cool off, contract and make contact again...

I know 15 amps is too much for most bilge pumps, but that's why I said in the last line that there are 2-3 amp resetting fuses available. I didn't link them in the post.

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Old 01-31-2016, 06:25 AM   #16
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That Rule 1500 that froze, I had a 20 amp breaker on the wire. When I got to boat I noticed the breaker had opened and the aft bilge was frozen. I had to wait a week for it to thaw. I pushed in the breaker and the pump pumped out the water. Pump seems ok to me. A few years later I upgraded with a Rule 2000 pump pulled out from forward bilges. I upgraded forward bilges with two Rule 3700 pumps just in case something happens. They were a great deal on Ebay. The seller was selling a bunch of them. I bought one, it arrived smashed? Looking at it, the steel motor is so heavy, if it is dropped it will crack the inner plastic ABS and outer PVC housing.

So he ships another one , it was good. I did not think I could fix that smashed pump, but I did, so now have two 3700 pumps. For both 3700, I have a single 40 amp breaker with a 10 gauge wire. I also designed the circuit so each pump switch turns on its associated pump, yet with one manual switch, I can simultaneously turn both on together. For that I used 2 relays.

The FS is float switch. Diagram shows relay as one, but I used 2 40 amp cube relays.



Instead of a relay, you can use a diode schottky which has a lower voltage drop.
Or a standard diode. Diodes do have a slight forward volt drop.


So anyway, I now have 6 bilge pumps in the boat, two rule 3700, a rule 2000, a rule 300 in the forward bilge. And rule 500, and rule 2000 in the aft bilge. Each bilge is separated from the other water tight by a sealed bulkhead.
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Old 01-31-2016, 09:05 AM   #17
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Ideally, the auto float switch power should be wired to a 24-7 bus, bypassing the main battery switch (or connected to the line or input side of the switch). You should be able to de-energize a vessel's DC system without also de-energizing auto bilge pumps.

If this is wired through a breaker, the breaker should be covered or protected so it can't be turned off inadvertently, Blue Sea sells a proprietary circuit breaker cover. I routinely go aboard vessels only to find the bilge pump OFF-ON-AUTO switch in the OFF position, the flat paddle type switches are especially prone to this, and it's virtually unnoticeable. If there is a switch, it should be covered or protected. A protected breaker alone would be ideal. The only time you'd want to turn off a bilge pump is in the event is malfunctions, or stay son, or in the event of a fuel or oil spill in the bilge

Spring loaded momentary on manual switches are a holdover from run about days, when it couldn't take more than a minute to pump out a bilge. On larger, more complex vessels they make little sense. In a flooding scenario, if the float switch fails, you don't want to be stuck at the panel holding the switch on. The manual switch should be a conventional on-off switch.

All circuits, bilge pumps and otherwise, save starters, must be over-current protected, i.e. they must be equipped with a fuse or circuit breaker. Failing to do so presents a fire risk. For bilge pumps circuit breakers are preferred, however, fuses are acceptable provided they are the correct size for both the pump and the wiring (and the same is true of a circuit breaker, however, once it's installed there's little danger of it being changed to an incorrect size).
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Old 01-31-2016, 09:46 AM   #18
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All my DC push button breakers are in their own separate panel, on the side of the helm covered with a door. They are all push type, except for the fresh water pump is a switch.
I can not turn off the power to individual circuits except by rotating the DC battery switch, and the bilge pump positive wire comes off the battery side of the rotary switch, runs to a DC breaker, so it is always on, can not be turned off unless you disconnect the battery lug.

The control switches to turn DC things on manually are those white handled Carlin switch breakers combos and they are up on the helm, about 14 of them, all in a row next to the wheel. It is very easy to quickly discover if they are on or off.
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