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Old 01-10-2011, 23:35   #1
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Spectra Watermaker

Hi just wondering what the problems if any you would have with Spectra Newport 400 With electronic control 3000. The unit is a about 5 years old but in perfect condition. Any advice on this model would be appreciated
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Old 02-10-2011, 05:40   #2
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

We have that Spectra, but without the electronic control. I use the simple manual control system, since I would rather be the "brain" myself, and since the more complex something is,......well, you know the rest.

We use our watermaker more than most. As a charter boat, when on charter we make 150 - 220 gallons per day. So, bear in mind that we rack up hours more quickly than most.

I clean or change filters every week of charter. Our pump head needs to be rebuilt each year; Spectra has a good procedure for this, and for a reasonable price. The big Leeson pump motor is a horse....no worries, there. The Clark pump has had to be repaired/rebuilt maybe every three years, which is probably reasonable but more frequently than I would have thought. Again, there is a good procedure. I change the membrane about every four years.

With regard to these replacement intervals, bear in mind that we use our Spectra for many times more hours per year than would cruisers. About the only thing that would not be affected by this would be the membrane, which likes to be used.

Spectra has always been extremely helpful with technical support and has a very imformative website. I get parts overnight from Spectra in California to the BVI, via FedEx. Interestingly, FedEx firmly insists that delivery time is three days. But, in reality, it has taken two days twice, and one day every other time.

Since I have maintained various watermakers, often in remote spots, for over twenty years, I do my own work. For a number of years, there was no Spectra rep in the BVI, anyway, but there is now a good one, Lincoln Ramsarram of Aqua Doc Marine at Nanny Cay.

It is always a good thing to become a good friend of any watermaker. The technology is not complex, and it is easy to learn. A watermaker will definitely need maintenance, but, IMHO it is more than worth it.

As a final note, sizing your watermaker is a blend of decisions. Too big, and you won't use it often or long enough. Too small, and production may take too long, particularly if you are in clean water only intermittently. A/C power allows bigger units to be used (but see caveat above). On the other hand, if the generator goes out you are stuck. DC power limits the size of the unit according to your charging capabilities and battery capacity. On the other hand, you can charge your batteries from a whole range of sources, which is valuable redundancy. My vote, in my application, was to get the largest DC watermaker that could be handled by our electrical system, i.e. 400 GPD, and I have never regretted that decision. If you can get by on less, the smaller Bodine ( I think that was what it was called, but I am not completely sure) pump motor is very quiet and a bit more efficient, but much less durable. Still, if your use is much less intense, it is a decent choice, although I, personally, would separate it from the module it is mounted on. Otherwise, changing brushes - and you will change the brushes - is a bitch.

Our watermaker does, in fact, make 400 gallons per day, and I can run it overnight off our battery bank of 900 AH flooded golf car batteries. It makes more than that at charging voltages, and when various components (primarily the pump head) are new. Eventually, production does drop below the 400 GPD mark as things age. I would say that our average power consumption has been around 1.4 - 1.5 gallons of product water per amp hour used. The smaller units, driven by the Bodine (?) pump motor, are even more efficient, approaching 1.3 or even 1 gallon per amp hour, but the pump is less durable and robust.

You can divide watermakers into two groups. There are those which have no "energy recovery" system, and are generally driven by Cat pumps. These pumps are in use all over the world for many different things, and are relatively inexpensive and very reliable. Then, there are watermakers which do have some sort of "energy recovery" system. These tend to use proprietary pumps and pressure intensifiers, which are more complex, expensive, and (somewhat) less durable. However, the pay off can be efficiencies that are as much as ten times greater than the systems without energy recovery. And, my observations aboard our sailing charter boat, working among a group of maybe 70 other charter boats, is that the Spectra may not need much more attention than the simpler systems. And, it is way more efficient. So, again for our particular application, buying a Spectra watermaker with its proprietary energy recovery system was a no-brainer. I do think that the electronic controls introduce another potential trouble spot, however. Most things like that attempt to make things fool-proof, but are optimized for the masses and not an individual use situation. I always prefer to learn the issues, be responsible for the operation, and be "the fool", but not be foolish. That way, I can minimize complexity and optimize things for my application. Others may prefer to be more out of the loop, but generally pay for it in the end.

My final comment would be to re-emphasize that you become fully acquainted with how watermakers, in general, and yours, in particular, work.
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Old 02-10-2011, 06:59   #3
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

A very good post Tim with excellant advice and observations.
RodCat, there are some other things I'd like to suggest on an older NP400 that you want to understand and keep in mind. First, the MPC 3000 controls ar
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Old 02-10-2011, 09:11   #4
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

Opps, sorry, my puters been acting up lately so Ill try again.
The MPC 3000 controls on a Spectra are no longer used. Finding a replacement board is getting harder all the time. Usually when any one item on this board fails it has to be replaced. It is replaced with the MPC 5000 control. When updating to the MPC 5000 you will also have to update the salinity probe to the lastest SP-4 version along with a small micro board.
Five years old is certainly not new but I've seen plenty of older models that just keep on going as far as the electronoics are concerned. A five year old membrane should be considered to be on it's last leg. I've seen them last longer and have "heard" them lasting more than ten years. But take my word for it, more than on average, five years is getting to the end of it's useful life. You don't mention if you are buying this older unit individually or if it comes with a boat you are buying. The difference can be in how it was stored and for how long or if it has been stored at all and has just been fresh water flushed all the time. Tim makes some excellant points above. Chances are if the unit is only five years old that your feed pump motor is a Lession not a Bodine. But it is very very rare that Spectras feed pump motors fail. The feed pump head itself is another story. Depending on use or lack of can determine it's life expectancy. The only way to know is to perform both pressure and flow tests. Make sure you get the manual for this unit, it should give you the procedure for this test. Also test the Clark pump for pressures and flow and test the PPMs. The NP400 is a both a very good unit and an expensive one. Having it properly checked out by a "qualified" Spectra tech is worth the little extra because they can get expensive to fix and fast. Never judge any watermaker on it's outward appearance or trust the opinion of any boat surveyor on the condition of a watermaker. They just don't have the skills. The real condition of a watermaker, especially a Spectra with MPC controls, needs to be determined by a qualified tech before you'll really know the value of this unit. As per board rules I'll let you know I am a dealer for Spectra but I gladly give my advice here for free.
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Old 02-10-2011, 23:03   #5
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

Thanks for that so what would one expect o pay for say the pump to be over hauled? New Membrane and say Electronic controler

Also what would one pay for a second hand unit of this age as it is not on my boat yet but considering buy it. What would be a good price ????
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:42   #6
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

rodcat, determining the value of this unit without going through it and testing it completely I wouldn't even dare tell you what it's worth. I can tell you that a new NP400 is around 10K. In the best world if the one you are looking at is in perfect condition I'd say 5-6K would be a good price. If the previous owner has it in a box and just tells you it works perfectly, you can't really test it to know what condition it's in and the offer should reflect that. If it's still installed on the boat, at the least take it out and run the unit for at least two hours. First have the manual handy. Check the control panel and scroll through the readings. When you first give power to the unit it should give you the program it uses, it will start with either a "B" or "A" followed by a number. That should match the number in the manual. If not it's very likely the unit has seen some electronics work. Check next for the "hours" this will tell how much the unit has been used. Check the "salinity" number this will give a fair estimate of the condition of the membrane. Again run the system for two hours. This will give you the time to make sure the system is not shutting itself down on an alarm.
A rebuilt pump head for this unit in the states is $340. A new MPC5000 control board with a SP-5 salinity probe upgrade is around $800 Spectras membranes are $595, but you can try to get away with the seconds sold on the Internet that are a lot less.
There are other things that need checking before they pass. The Clark pump can be re-built for around $450-500. Pressure transducers need to be checked and cleaned They can be $200 each X2. So as I stated yesterday be careful these watermakers can get expensive fast and the costs above don't include labor. Now that I have probably scared you with some bad news let me temper that with a bit of good. Spectras especially NP400s are extremly rare to find second hand. Check E-bay and you'll always find plenty of other brands of watermakers second hand. It is a rare find to see a Spectra up for sale. Usually once installed they never leave the boat. Spectras have the best re-sale value bar none to any other watermaker and there are good reasons for that. Spectras are not for the occasional sailor. The are designed for real cruising where owners really need a watermaker and have considered all the contributing factors that go along with deciding which watermaker best suits their needs. If you bought this unit for 4K and spent 2K in making it perfect you'd still have made a good investment and have the best unit made. But if you don't have it checked out by a Spectra tech you could be throwing away a lot of good money. Even Spectras can be abused and neglected. Did I forget to mention to have it checked out by a Spectra trained tech?
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Old 03-10-2011, 09:46   #7
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

+1 what Tellie said.
I've owned 3 different watermakers on 2 boats.
The Spectra is by far the best.
If it was a sewing machine, it would be a Bernina.
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:05   #8
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

Does anyone have any experience with the CRUISE R.O. brand of watermaker?
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Old 03-10-2011, 10:39   #9
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

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Originally Posted by Kelsea View Post
Does anyone have any experience with the CRUISE R.O. brand of watermaker?
I'm starting to see a few around. They are basically a commercially sold home built styled watermaker. The least expensive one I believe is around 4K. They run on 115V not 12V. That can be a very limiting factor on a small to medium sized sailboat. You could add another 1K for the Honda EU2000 if you don't already have a generator on board. But at that point it would be a lot cheaper to build your own just like it, because now you're well within the price range of the well known brands. Understand I'm not knocking them, they work. But many times people make the mistake of shopping price when it comes to watermakers. There is no one size fits all watermaker like there's no one watermaker that fits everybody's need or boat. Be cautious of those who tell you differently. Watermakers are expensive and the price ranges are all over the place. If it were just a matter of building the cheapest watermaker possible the big guys would have cornered that no brainer market long ago. There are very good reasons prices are all over the place and it's not all about ridiculous profits others would have you believe that are the driving motivation. Make sure you know the differences, what your needs are, and your boats capabilities before you drop thousands on any watermaker.
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Old 15-10-2012, 17:55   #10
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

Any thoughts on flow rate or psi for the fresh water flush cycle. When I was at 40 psi, I could blast 4 gallons through my 200T in under a minute and that seems a bit much. My new pump is 55 psi.
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Old 15-10-2012, 18:58   #11
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Re: Spectra Watermaker

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Any thoughts on flow rate or psi for the fresh water flush cycle. When I was at 40 psi, I could blast 4 gallons through my 200T in under a minute and that seems a bit much. My new pump is 55 psi.

Hi eldridc,

Wow join date 2010 and your first post. A bit shy are we?

Anyway, if you're flowing 4gpm through your 200T anytime, much less the fresh water flush, somethings wrong. I suspect you might be calculating something wrong somewhere. The 200Ts flow is rated at 1.6 gpm But it's not unusual for a house pump to over pressurize the feed pump and a 55psi house pump could do that but 4gpm would be extreme. Depending on the age of your 200T there should be a small black 1/4" water pressure regulator just at the input of your charcoal filter housing. If not I would highly suggest one be installed especially with a 55psi house pump. This will slow down the input flow to the 1.6 gpm needed to properly flush your system.
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