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Old 01-13-2019, 09:51 AM   #1
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Bilge pump changes - seeking recommendations

Hey all, really enjoy all your discussion and thanks to all for making this a great place to learn!

I'm currently a river boater up on the St. Croix/ Mississippi rivers in Minnesota. Right now I have a 2006 Monterey 302 cruiser. It's a sport cruiser type of boat. Someday I hope to make a trawler-type purchase, but this works well for us right now.

So, Bilge Pumps!

My boat has the stock bilge pump setup, I think they are "Rule" or other major brands. I have 2 pumps in the ER. Both are pumps with an external float switch. One is further aft and runs via the float switch only, and the other is a little more forward in the ER, and can be manually run from a switch at the helm.

Everything is working fine today, but the one switched pump was left on overnight once. It still runs, but I can't imagine that did it any good. Also, I'm not generally a fan of things I can't maintain. Both pump/switch setups really aren't serviceable except for the regular debris clean out type of thing.

At a minimum, I'll probably replace both pump/switch setups with the same gear as today. But I feel like there may be better options. I've done a little reading here and other places. The concept of remote mounted bilge pumps is appealing to me.

Electric diaphragm or electric impeller pumps, with a pickup down in the bilge, sometimes a filter, and of course float or air switch kind of thing. I really like this idea because I can reach it (the pump can be mounted in a more open spot), maintain it. The stuff down there today is largely "oh I see it, can't reach it, it seems to pump water" kind of maintenance.

I'm willing to spend extra to do something better. I'm a preventative maintenance type of fella. But, I've also been accused of over engineering things. Last season I replaced the flimsy marlon/plastic through hulls for the genny and A/C with really hefty bronze, serviceable seacocks, complete with heavy duty flanges and epoxied in backing plates. My boating buddies joke that the through hulls will outlast the boat, and they are right, heh. But never again do I have to worry when I'm down there doing something and leaning, stepping on something that may sink my boat if it cracks!

Anyway, what have you all done, what would you recommend?



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Old 01-13-2019, 10:01 AM   #2
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Do you have a dry bilge, or does at least one of the pumps run periodically? Imo, what you have for pumps and switches should be based on number of cycles per year.


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Old 01-13-2019, 10:12 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by O C Diver View Post
Do you have a dry bilge, or does at least one of the pumps run periodically? Imo, what you have for pumps and switches should be based on number of cycles per year.

I've got a dry bilge. The only time it is wet is after a heavy washdown above, or regular bilge cleaning and bilge pump testing.

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Old 01-13-2019, 10:13 AM   #4
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Keep in mind that if you replace the submersible pumps with self priming remote pumps you will probable lose a lot of capacity. Itís hard to beat those Rule submersibles when it comes to moving water. In an emergency itís comforting to see a good solid stream of water going out of the boat.

I think of bilge pumps as time machines. The more pumping capacity you have, the more time you have to fix the leak.

Iíd stay away from rubber impeller pumps. They are subject to damage from debris and they are very LOUD. A big diaphragm Pump would be a better choice in my opinion.
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Old 01-13-2019, 12:05 PM   #5
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Hi Mncruiser,

The choice of bilge pumping options is at best huge, and sometimes overwhelming. In my opinion, capacity and reliability are king. And again, in my opinion, this leads one to submersible centrifugal pumps for bilge applications. While it's essential to be able to reach your pump(s) for clearage of blockages, there is little other service necessary (or possible) for most centrifugal submersible pumps. Check 'em often-if they don't pump, jerk 'em out and replace. And they can run dry almost indefinitely.

Conversely, remotely-mounted pumps, either of the diaphragm or impeller variety, are serviceable, but have relatively low flow rates as compared to submersible centrifugals. And being serviceable, I've found that they do require routine and constant service to remain reliable. And some of the impeller pumps in this class cannot tolerate running dry for more than a few minutes. Bad berries if your float switch fails or you dumb-thumb your manual switch.

The next part of your conundrum is the choice of float switch. Again, the choices are huge. And again, in my opinion, the switches are the weak point in the entire bilge pumping system. "Lever-type" switches, while easily checked for function, seldom have a long life span. But they're cheap enough to check and chuck as required to ensure they're working properly, IF you can reach them easily. But you end up doing that A LOT. Solid-state electronic switches have pluses and minuses as well, but seem to offer better reliability, IF they are kept oil-free. Any oily waste in the bilge water seems to set them into paroxysm.

So, what to do? Your money, your choice, of course. For what it's worth, an Ultra Safety Switch ( hooked to a quality submersible centrifugal pump ( is a pretty good bet.


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Old 01-13-2019, 12:26 PM   #6
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I found the Rule 1500 and 2000 to be quite reliable. The Rule float switches though, SUCK. So I go Rule pumps and the caged switches, can't remember the brand but could go to the boat and look.
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Old 01-13-2019, 03:56 PM   #7
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I agree with Ski. Pump failure is rare. It is almost always the with that gives up.

I'd suggest that all bilge pumps be set up with a auto/manual switch at the helm. If/When the switch fails, the pump can still be switched on.

Generally, the lowest bilge pump/switch will have a much shorter life in comparison to the pumps/switches located in an area that is usually dry. The lower one deals with all the crap that migrates down to the bottom of the bilge.
It is the one that needs to be regularly maintained but often is the most difficult to access.

I plan on replacing mine with a smaller more accessible diaphragm pump. The switch will still be at the bottom of the bilge, but can be set up to be easily retrieved for checking and cleaning. I have a Rule 2000 to do any more serious work, but stays high, dry and clean until the little one fails or can't keep up.
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Old 01-13-2019, 05:50 PM   #8
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Mount your existing pumps and level switches on brackets that you can use to lift them out for periodic testing maintenance. Some like a Water Witch type level switch because it will not run if oil and fuel are present. Might not want that type on your back-up. Probably better if it runs no matter what and signals audibly when it is activated to alert you the first pump does not work or cannot keep up with the inflow.

If you do not like the residual water you could add a diaphragm type with a manual switch using the auto circuit of the primary pump for power. They would never run at the same time so should not overload the circuit. If primary fails and back-up is running you could then run the diaphragm pump too as long as it is not a locked up rotor causing the problem.

As commented previously hard to improve on the centrifugal pumps. Level switches are another story...

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