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Old 09-10-2017, 02:34 PM   #1
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Best bilge pump float switch?

Time to replace a sometimes-working Sure Bail mechanical (mercury?) float switch, which happens to be controlling a Jabsco 1500 bilge pump in our engine room.

I've reviewed some older "float switch" threads here, but most are actually about the pumps instead... and anyway I didn't see much consensus on best switch products. Most of those mentioned were in older threads anyway, so maybe there's something better on the market now?

I've also reviewed the reviews for various pumps available from West Marine, Defender, Jamestown, etc. and mostly it seem like there's a lot of crap out there... especially the current Sure Bail version... but many of the others seem pretty sketchy, too.

What say you all? What works best, longest?

(Folks likely won't be surprised that it occurred to me now is a good time to do this replacement...)

-Chris
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Old 09-10-2017, 03:46 PM   #2
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UltraSafety Systems Pumpswitch. Pricey but the best. I ended up replacing all bilge and sump switches, Rules and SureBails, total of 8 on my Hatteras, some of which got heavy use, some of the best money I spent.
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Old 09-10-2017, 04:18 PM   #3
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I think any enclosed switch will work with the Ultra Safety holding the position of honor. I also think a water witch alarm installed a foot or so above the highest water level you dare to have is useful as an alert in case the pump switches fail. (And they do fail, as do pumps, wiring connectors, etc)
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Old 09-10-2017, 06:24 PM   #4
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Johnson Ultra. Avoid "flipper" switches.
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Old 09-10-2017, 06:32 PM   #5
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Johnson Ultra. Avoid "flipper" switches.


What are flipper switches? The floating ones?

L
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Old 09-10-2017, 06:39 PM   #6
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What are flipper switches? The floating ones?

L
My term for the Rules,Surebails,etc,with the little float arm with a ball bearing inside,where the water(hopefully) raises the arm,and in theory the pump gets energized.Never had much success with them, but the Johnson Ultra with no external parts has worked fine for about 4 years.
I do still have one in my grey water sump, a Rule, which kind of works.
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Old 09-10-2017, 08:39 PM   #7
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Ultra Safety is my sensor in the engine room bilge, which certainly gets a workout.

It's also the ONLY water sensor on the boat I have never had to replace.
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Old 09-10-2017, 09:07 PM   #8
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I've got 'flipper' switches on both bilge and shower sumps. Certainly a weak link! A little slime or debris will stop their flipping.

I've had a couple automatic Rule pumps; one would 'sniff' for water every several minutes (it would turn the pump on, if there was no water, turn off; if it sensed the drag of water on the impeller it would run until dry), the other will turn on and run dry for some great long time before deciding it was happy. Both were annoying on the sailboat since you could hear 'em when sleep was more to the point. OTOH...

I'm planning to reinstall the 'sniffer' Rule but with a flipper switch and mount it higher as a back up. It won't 'sniff' if the flipper doesn't rise and the flipper won't get dirty until the lower pump fails. In theory, anyway.

I've had endless experience, well, it ended when I sold that house, with Sears 'Best' electronic sump pump switches after suffering with their ordinary float switches. The electronic ones had a copper probe which would corrode away over time. It worked for quite a while when I replaced the copper probe with Monel!

Maybe those of us who leave our boats plugged into a dock should/could be content with a backup 110v sump pump.
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Old 09-10-2017, 09:11 PM   #9
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For my education, what differentiate ultra safety switches from others? How do they work? What are the special features that make them better?

L
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Old 09-10-2017, 09:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lou_tribal View Post
For my education, what differentiate ultra safety switches from others? How do they work? What are the special features that make them better?

L


Have a look at their site, either the Junior or Senior products. You'll see that as the water rises, it raises a piston inside a tube..... this ensures that no crap can get in the way, as can happen with a flipper. Also, it can't stick in the ON position.

I swapped my rules out two years back, and the Ultras haven't missed a beat.
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Old 09-11-2017, 12:40 AM   #11
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I have 3 x UltraSafety Systems pumpswitches. They are on the bilge pumps. No issues or replacements to date.

I also have 2 x Johnson Ultima float switches, for the shower sumps. I have replaced 1 in five years of use.
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Old 09-11-2017, 01:25 AM   #12
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Lou, the difference seems to be that they are a sealed box which senses the presence of water. No idea what is inside, but the Johnson has 2 fingertip size indentations on one side, touch both and it activates the pump,it`s how to test it.
I found the "flipper variety, whatever brand,would clog and not float and trip,and the idea of the thing having a metal ball inside it to weight the flipper seems pretty old design.
There have been past threads, I think Water Witch got a good rap, and one other.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:40 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BruceK View Post
Johnson Ultra. Avoid "flipper" switches.
There's an Ultra Safety systems switch (Sr., Jr., Mini), and there's a Johnson Ultima. I suspect from your subsequent posts you mean the Johnson Ultima?

-Chris
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:42 AM   #14
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For my education, what differentiate ultra safety switches from others? How do they work? What are the special features that make them better?
Quote:
Originally Posted by MV Content View Post
Have a look at their site, either the Junior or Senior products. You'll see that as the water rises, it raises a piston inside a tube..... this ensures that no crap can get in the way, as can happen with a flipper. Also, it can't stick in the ON position.
Lou, there's a youtube video that shows how the Ultras work...

-Chris
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Old 09-11-2017, 08:03 AM   #15
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Thank you for the info about this. I was surprise to see these switches, it is exactly what I wanted to craft using a piece of PVC tubing and a SS floating switch!

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Old 09-11-2017, 04:45 PM   #16
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I think any enclosed switch will work with the Ultra Safety holding the position of honor. I also think a water witch alarm installed a foot or so above the highest water level you dare to have is useful as an alert in case the pump switches fail. (And they do fail, as do pumps, wiring connectors, etc)
IMO a foot of water between switches is way too much!
Depending on the configuration of your bilge space, that could equate to tons of water.
I set my high water alarm just above the normal bilge pumps on level, so I will know immediately if there is a problem.
Most popular float switches work well, the failures usually occur due to repetitive cycling as water sloshes around in the bilge.
I built a kind of "breakwater" around my main pump about a foot away, it's a barrier drilled with many 3/8" holes that flow enough water to keep the pump running until the float switch turns it off.
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Old 09-11-2017, 06:35 PM   #17
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Most bilge pumps, whatever brand, are made in China in the same factory. They just change the printing on the side and the box. Even the wire colors are the same.
I have a wood boat with 5 wt bulkheads and 6 bilge areas. The only switches I buy are the type in the pic. Brand doesn't seem to matter. The flipper type worked well when they were mercury (still have a couple), but aren't long term reliable now. I have never had a pump with a built in sensor switch work for more than a year. The sensor either fails open or closed. If closed you can put another switch in line. If it fails open, you can bypass the sensor but are left with having to waterproof connections.
Also the best is Lovett, but expensive, and they don't appear to make the bigger sizes anymore. Never had one fail or clog. I got 32v one with a commercial boat that was old then. Years later when I sold the boat, the pump must have been 30 years old. Still working.
You couldn't give me a Johnson anything. Not worth the effort of installing. You'll just be at it again, soon.
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:37 PM   #18
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There's an Ultra Safety systems switch (Sr., Jr., Mini), and there's a Johnson Ultima. I suspect from your subsequent posts you mean the Johnson Ultima?

-Chris
Thanks Chris,seems the switch has been installed and working long enough to confuse its name.
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Old 09-11-2017, 07:41 PM   #19
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In my experience, the longest lasting float switch is one that stays out of the water. In my sailboat, I fastened the float switch to the top of the pump so it was out of the "remainder" of water and was never left soaking. I had a three way switch that I would hit to get out any water whenever I was at the boat. It never got high enough between visits to trip the switch.

In my Current boat, there is a little 500gph pump in the bottom of the bilge on a manual switch that I hit every morning. Then above that in the keel is a 1500gph pump with float switch. They stay high and dry until the water gets high enough.

just my 2 cents. These are all Rule products.
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Old 09-11-2017, 10:03 PM   #20
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Best bilge pump float switch?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kapnd View Post

I built a kind of "breakwater" around my main pump about a foot away, it's a barrier drilled with many 3/8" holes that flow enough water to keep the pump running until the float switch turns it off.


I think I like this....so, does the breakwater buffer the water as it comes through limber-holes or whatever, not allowing the pump to 'get ahead' of the flow?
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