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Old 24-03-2009, 01:16   #1
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Grey Water Sumps, Pumps and Johnson Ultima Float Switches

Greetings all,

I have been looking for a solution to this problem for a while now and have procrastinated long enough.

I am currently (re?)building a boat and am up to the the part where I have to make some decisions on plumbing the shower, galley sink and washbasin in the head.

Unfortunately, the relationship between the WL and the bottom of the sinks will not allow me to have a simple system and just drain overboard.

As such, I have no other option but to drain to a sump. The good news is that I have a low enough spot that I can drain all three into the one sump.

I understand that grey water sumps are the most ghastly of all and will eventually be clogged with grease etc so I am wondering what is the best way of:

a. pumping it out
b. automatically turning on the pump

For (a) I am trying to standardize all the pumps on the boat - and am leaning towards the Flojets for most things, however for the grey water pump - I am leaning towards the Whale Gulper - for which the advertising material implies that it is "unblockable". So long hair from the shower, with bits of grease/food from the galley etc should theoretically not bother it.

Any thoughts on this? Choice of pump/blockable-ness/experiences?

For (b) - as the sump will be in a less-than-ideal place and is not easy to reach (service) - I am looking for an idiot-proof, hands-off solution (as much as possible..). The idea of float/mechanical switches in such a nasty environment isn't appealing, so I have found the "Johnson Ultima Float Switch":

Johnson Pump

"Detector cells are totally sealed, are never in contact with the water, will not corrode and are not affected by oil or foreign debris."

Does anybody have experience with this switch? Exactly how much is it "not affected by foreign debris" (quarter inch of grease build-up on the switch? 1/2"? 1"?) - is this going to work for me in my application? Are there any better ideas/switches?

Thank you all and I look forward to your thoughts!

//ak.
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Old 24-03-2009, 06:13   #2
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I worry about the ability of the Johnson switch to function with some of the stuff it will be exposed to from the sinks. I think the Gulper is perfect...check out Whale's Grey water tank that mates to the Gulper 220...
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Old 24-03-2009, 07:04   #3
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Is there any way that the sump can take the form of a grey water tank instead?
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Old 24-03-2009, 07:48   #4
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After dealing with float switches that all fail I went with the Water Witch 230 years ago and it's great. NO moving parts. http://www.waterwitch.info/products/bilgeswitch.html

For a pump I went with a diagraph Jabsco mounted high in a locker. The only thing in the bilge is the switch and the strum box with one way valve. when pump shuts off NO wtaer runs back down the hoses and into the bilge.

good luck. My head sink/shower and ice box drain into the bilge. I add a little bleach and cleaner once in awhile and the bilge is spotless.

good luck
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Old 24-03-2009, 07:57   #5
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I have Jabsco macerators in my shower sumps. Don't Do It!!!!!. They are a pain in the *(_ . As soon as they break for good I'm putting in gulpers. Your making the right choice.
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Old 24-03-2009, 08:17   #6
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Interesting that this topic - and the Ultima switch specifically came up. I wanted to add an auto switch to our shower sump, which is a stiff pushbutton. The way the shower tray is setup, it was easy enough to do, so I went with the Ultima so I wouldn't have anything mechanical that could clog. It worked great, for about 2 weeks. During one shower it cycled once, then that was it, no more. I exchanged it for an old style mechanical float valve which has been working great, though just not as nice as a completely solid state one.

The Ultima didn't seem to be particularly fouled - there was a small amount of soap scum - not very much, but maybe enough to interfere with the sensing field? I don't really know.
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Old 24-03-2009, 13:11   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by James S View Post
Is there any way that the sump can take the form of a grey water tank instead?
Unfortunately I don't have the space - having said that - what would be the difference in activation method? (Or are you suggesting that I have a larger tank and just empty manually?)
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Old 24-03-2009, 13:13   #8
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Originally Posted by rtbates View Post
After dealing with float switches that all fail I went with the Water Witch 230 years ago and it's great. NO moving parts. http://www.waterwitch.info/products/bilgeswitch.html

For a pump I went with a diagraph Jabsco mounted high in a locker. The only thing in the bilge is the switch and the strum box with one way valve. when pump shuts off NO wtaer runs back down the hoses and into the bilge.

good luck. My head sink/shower and ice box drain into the bilge. I add a little bleach and cleaner once in awhile and the bilge is spotless.

good luck
How do you think the Water Witch will fare in a dedicated grey sump? (I'm assuming that your bilge will not be as oily/dirty)
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Old 24-03-2009, 13:20   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain Bill View Post
I have Jabsco macerators in my shower sumps. Don't Do It!!!!!. They are a pain in the *(_ . As soon as they break for good I'm putting in gulpers. Your making the right choice.
Actually that was going to be my second option - thanks for the advice - I'll strike the macerator idea then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scotte View Post
Interesting that this topic - and the Ultima switch specifically came up. I wanted to add an auto switch to our shower sump, which is a stiff pushbutton. The way the shower tray is setup, it was easy enough to do, so I went with the Ultima so I wouldn't have anything mechanical that could clog. It worked great, for about 2 weeks. During one shower it cycled once, then that was it, no more. I exchanged it for an old style mechanical float valve which has been working great, though just not as nice as a completely solid state one.

The Ultima didn't seem to be particularly fouled - there was a small amount of soap scum - not very much, but maybe enough to interfere with the sensing field? I don't really know.
Thanks for that - I would never have guessed that outcome! But then again, the advertising always looks better than reality!

How often do you clean the mechanical switch?
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Old 24-03-2009, 13:22   #10
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I was just thinking that containing that nasty stuff in a tank may reduce smell and splash mess.
The tank may not have to be very big....look at it like a sump with a top on it (and vent of course)
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Old 24-03-2009, 13:27   #11
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I was just thinking that containing that nasty stuff in a tank may reduce smell and splash mess.
The tank may not have to be very big....look at it like a sump with a top on it (and vent of course)
Oh, in which case, yes, I should have made myself clearer - this sump will definitely have a lid on it - like a very small tank.

About 30x30x30cm dimensions.

I was also thinking about having a trap under the galley sink as well - as it is directly above the sump, so the smells don't go directly up..
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Old 24-03-2009, 13:51   #12
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What about the shower and head sink...they will stink w/o p-traps as well.
Its possible to have a single trap before the sump that takes all them if you have the room and access for maint.
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Old 24-03-2009, 14:36   #13
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What about the shower and head sink...they will stink w/o p-traps as well.
Its possible to have a single trap before the sump that takes all them if you have the room and access for maint.
Shower drain is about 2m away at an almost horizontal angle from the top of the sump - so no joy there, but I think I might be able to add a trap to the head sink - I didn't think of that at all, thanks.
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Old 24-03-2009, 14:38   #14
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We have a gray water tank and had so much trouble with everything about it. It took us years to come up with a solution that only needs simple maintenance once every 6 months (and believe me, that is very good!).

We have one central gray water tank, which is in the keel-sump. All gray water drains in there by gravity, like in a house, and that part is fantastic. This also means you only have one pump, one set of wiring, one floatswitch, one breaker/fuse etc. I would advise to do this if possible. Build a tank in the bilge with some plywood, glass and epoxy. We have a perspex lid with rubber gasket. We mounted a standard Beckson inspection lid in the perspex lid for quick access during maintenance. Choose the size so that your fist will pass it.

Now is where the trouble starts: pump, float-switch, discharge and pickup hoses, strainers etc. Macerating pumps are worthless as they quickly seize with hair around the shaft/knife/impeller. A big step forward was the Whale Gulper 220 pump. Get it and you solve half the headache. This pump will pass anything that can pass it's inlet.

But the float-switch is bad too. The previous owner started with a Waterwitch electronic switch which failed to trigger often as fatty residue covered it (that is soap residue!). He changed to one of those very expensive switches with a float inside a tube and that was what we got with the boat. I hated that so much because the float would quickly seize inside the tube and all the holes would clog etc. When the switch fails, you are in trouble because the tank will overflow. Not just through the drain in the heads but also through the lid because the gasket is never perfect after some period of use. We decided that this will not do and started experiments. I will skip all the failures and come straight to our solution:

Pick-up pipe: Buy a 3/4" PVC adapter from pipe to thread. Cut a hole in the lid that just fits this adapter and use sanding and JB weld to fit it into the lid, with threads facing up. Now put the lid on the tank and measure the distance to the bottom of the tank through the adapter (to the top of the adapter). Cut a piece of 3/4" PVC pipe (schedule 40) to that size and fit it to the adapter with PVC cement. It will be too long. Keep cutting off small pieces until it is about 1 cm (1/2") above the bottom of the tank. That's it, no strainers, just $1.- worth of PVC. Now mount a 90 degree PVC elbow thread to hose-barbs on the adapter using Permatex no. 1 as thread sealant. This part is never going to wear out and will never clog.

Float switch. Use the cheapest Rule switch you can get: the type with that hinged plastic float. Buy 3 of these (add 2 to your spares). The trick is to mount this switch at the bottom of the pick-up pipe. We made a mini-bracket out of King Starboard and attached that to the pipe with hoseclamps. We actually used monel wire with our spiff Clamptight tool but hoseclamps will do. You probably have to cut some slits in the bracket to pass the hoseclamp through, this is why you need a Dremel or (and) Rotozip tool aboard.
Drill a little hole for the wire through the lid, pull the wire through and fasten it to the pipe with plastic wire ties. Mount a small terminal-block on top of the lid, put the expensive heat-shrinked terminals on the two wires and connect them to the terminals. Put a little dot of silicone where the wire comes through the lid (both sides). Done.

Discharge pipe: we already had a 1.5" hose coming to the tank so we fit a 1.5" PVC coupler (female thread to female thread) in the lid just like for the pickup tube. We mounted a 90 degree PVC elbow (thread to barbs) on top to accept the incoming 1.5" hose. We mounted a straight 1.5" thread-to-barbs fitting on the underside of the lid plus a piece of hose. That piece of hose will not be straight, it will have a bend from being rolled up. Use that to your advantage and mount it so that anything entering the tank falls on top of the float-switch. I know that Nigel Calder writes to keep the float switch as far away from pick-up tube and discharge hose as possible. I also know I had a lot of failures before finding this solution... believe me, this is what works. The float-switch is auto-cleaned and everything will work great.
There's one more thing to this: if you ever need to take the lid off, you have that 1.5" hose attached to it's top making your life miserable. You can't put the lid aside. We solved this with a very smart coupling from Good Turns. It has right-hand-side thread on one end and left-hand-thread on the other. You turn it one way and it couples the hose, the other way and they come apart without using knifes, heat-guns, dremel etc. We had to hunt on-line stores to find one but it's worth it.

80% of trouble solved, 19% to go: you need to find a solenoid equipped with a timer. We used one off an old Raritan electric head (it times how long it flushes after pressing the flush-switch). I see it in the catalogs so it's there. Mount that solenoid between float-switch and pump so that the pump will continue pumping after the float-switch switches off again. This timer can be set using a mini screwdriver. This trick only works with the Whale Gulper pump because it can pump water-air mixture or even just air (like manual bilgepump, it's the same thing). Start filling the tank until float switch activates. As the pump evacuates the water, it will start drawing air but still pump liquid too. At this point, it will pump nasty stuff that floats in the tank. Adjust the timer so that the pump stops when it is only pumping air (clear hoses help a lot here). The gulping sounds go neatly with the Gulper pump and they also let you know all is okay in there.

1% trouble left.... can't get rid of it but this is what we do for maintenance: once every 6 months we open the Beckson-lid, shine a light in and yell Bah! Hose it down, close the lid and done. 5 minutes.

After two years the float-switch failed. Replaced in 30 minutes incl. changing mounting holes because Rule decided to upgrade and change the switch. That's why you need to buy 3 the exact same ones ;-)

We have this setup for over 4 years now and no more trouble. I think the upgraded float-switch is better because it still works but that might also be because I now have the exact same ones as spares lined up.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 24-03-2009, 14:47   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akio.kanemoto View Post
Shower drain is about 2m away at an almost horizontal angle from the top of the sump - so no joy there, but I think I might be able to add a trap to the head sink - I didn't think of that at all, thanks.
Aha! No need to worry, you can buy drains that do the job. They are made by ForeSpar and sold by Lewis Marine in Ft. Lauderdale (there will be others but not WM... maybe they can order them). They are even in their catalog somewhere, if you manage to decode their indexing system. They are for super-shallow installation height, you can't see from the outside that they have a trap but they do. When we empty the galley sink after doing the dishes, they make a nasty sound and even spit some water out because our gray water tank has no vent ;-)

cheers,
Nick.
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