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Old 09-25-2015, 11:59 AM   #1
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Water pump question - dead batteries?

Hi All,

Hoping to get some sage wisdom from the experienced boaters on here. I have a whale water pump system on my boat with an accumulator tank. I don't know much about it, but I know that the pump kicks on when it senses the water is low to top up the accumulator tank.

Recently, we have been having issues with our house batteries not being able to maintain 12v very well. They're only 2.5 years old, but they've seen some heavy use since we live aboard and have had a handful of instances where we drew them down fully (which I understand decreases their shelf life quite a bit). Also one of the batteries needed fluids, which I didn't realize for quite a while. I'm planning on replacing them this weekend, just need to wrap my head around the finances of it.

The question is, when doing things like washing dishes which involves repeated on/off of the water system, the water pump will occasionally stop working for something like 30 seconds at a time before kicking back in to build the pressure back up. If we have to do a lot of dishes, it will happen regularly. We don't have the same issue with the shower, which will maintain pressure without interruption the whole time. My assumption here is that this is tied to battery issue - that the pump needs a burst of 12v to kick on, but can maintain pressure once its running with less power. With the batteries low, it has a hard time kicking on with the repeated on/off of doing dishes.

Does this seem like a reasonable assessment? I'm hoping that the battery replacement will fix our water issue and that there isn't something larger (and more expensive) wrong with our water system. Also, we have fixed the issue of regularly drawing down the batteries so hopefully this won't repeat itself in the future.

Thanks for the help!
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Old 09-25-2015, 12:24 PM   #2
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I don't think that your water pump has anything to do with your batteries failing. Discharging them a couple of times to zero and letting cells dry out is enough reason.

Your water flow while showering is enough to keep your pump running 100%. On my boat it cycles. While washing dishes, either you are turning the faucet off and on as you need water or the fixture doesn't demand as much flow as the shower, so the pump cycles on and off.

Replace the batteries and you will be fine, at least with the water pump. I would look into solar panels to keep the batteries more fully charged. Prices have dropped a lot and you can add 300 watts for less than the cost of your new batteries.

David
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Old 09-25-2015, 12:53 PM   #3
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The water pump will turn on at a pressure approx. 30psi and off at approx. 50psi.. The accumulator you mentioned holds some water so the pump does not need to run each and every time you open a tap.
If the pump has more capacity to pump water then the tap is bleeding off then after some running it can reach the shutoff pressure and will do so. It will remain off until the pressure falls again from the open tap OR youshut off the tap.
What you describe is normal operation.

As for the batteries using them to the point you describe, you have wrecked them. Typically for good life the discharge should be no more than 50% discharge or ~ 12.2v and then recharge.
For FLUIDS. Use only DISTILLED water . the levels should be checked monthly until you
Figure out the interval or you will wreck the new ones.

D.M. suggestion of solar ,if the sun is available, may be good but also a GOOD 3stage batt. Charger would help.
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Old 09-25-2015, 11:21 PM   #4
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Thanks guys, appreciate the quick response. Sounds like what I had assumed, that the batteries (and better battery maintenance) should fix most of the issue with the water pump. Just to clarify, the pump will stop working even with the tap fully open - the tap will be fully open with no water coming out for about 30 seconds until the pump kicks back on and puts pressure into the system. I'm assuming this is the time needed for the battery charger to build the depleted battery back up to have enough charge to start the pump again.

I'm new to boats so figuring out how to live in a 12v system has been a learning process. I don't think the PO took great care of the batteries either though, so they might have taken abuse from the both of us. Either way I'm going to buy new batteries tomorrow.

We do have a 5/5/5 amp charger and are always on shore power, and after these problems started popping up we replaced a lot of the house lights with LEDs, which has drastically reduced our draw on the batteries. Before the LEDs I think we were pulling ~ 10amps from the house lights alone. Hopefully these fixes should keep the issue from popping up again.

Thanks again!
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Old 09-25-2015, 11:27 PM   #5
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If you are living aboard and depending upon the charger to keep the batteries up then I think that charger is way too small. That may be part of the problem.
If left entirely alone the charger would recharge the batteries but with you using the 12V system it cannot keep up.
Consider a larger capacity charger, hopefully soon, before you cost yourself another battery set.

Yes, reducing loads is good as that eases the battery and thus the charger load but still I suspect the charger is simply too small.
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Old 09-25-2015, 11:50 PM   #6
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Agreed, I think a larger charger would make a world of difference. Unfortunately its not in the budget right now though, my girlfriend and I are both grad students and live aboard to (theoretically) save some money. We might be moving out of state in 6 months or so though and would have to sell the boat if that happens. For now, just trying to keep everything up and running in the meantime.
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Old 09-26-2015, 06:54 AM   #7
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"I'm new to boats so figuring out how to live in a 12v system has been a learning process."

I doubt very much that you need a larger battery charger , just better not dead batteries.

I would think as a liveaboard that does not require batts to operate,, one OK batt and a small charger would be fine.

Most boats only have minor DC loads . bilge pump , FW pump mnd a couple of lights.

Dockside the reefer (the huge draw) will be on the power hose.

Even a 10A tiny charger is 240Ah a day , far more DC than you will draw dockside in 24 hours .

Find a OK used 12v batt. or purchase 2 6v golf cart batts and wire them in series.

IF you go cruising a SOC meter would come before adding or restoring a batt bank.

Enjoy!
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Old 09-26-2015, 01:07 PM   #8
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Thanks FF. The lights, FW pump, and electric head all run off the 12v system. The galley has 4 light fixtures with two 12 watt bulbs in each, so I think the galley lights alone pull around 8amps, which is more than my 3 channel 5A battery charger can keep up with. Switching to LEDs has helped, but in general we're just trying to be smarter about our power use on the 12v system.
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Old 09-26-2015, 01:39 PM   #9
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Cam dunning: The description of the pump 'hesitating' to run sounds like a plugged up pressure switch not sensing the drop in pressure as it should. The battery issue sounds like a second usage 'getting used to' issue.
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Old 09-26-2015, 02:16 PM   #10
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OK you have given us difficult conditions, no money, bad batteries, short time frame.
First many boats have dockside water hose connections does yours??


In the interest of cheapest solutions first use less water and less electricity.


For problems to investigate after you fill and charge the batteries look for a filter of some sort between the tank and the pump. Make sure it is clean.


Failure of the pump to turn on may be caused by the pressure switch. Usually located on or near the pump it has a small screw a 1/4 turn may help readjust dirty contacts. web search the pump maker for details.


If the dish washing is using more water than showering you can always run a hose from the dock water for dishwashing.


Since you plan to move in six months how do you expect to sell the boat?
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Old 09-27-2015, 07:16 AM   #11
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Most 5A three batt chargers will operate at 15A if there is only one batt, or if the other 2 are satisfied .

Get rid of the dead batts , but don't just throw them out , they will be recycled when you finally purchase new batts.

Probably $20 to $35 "core charge" of savings .
Cosco has fairly good batt prices.
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