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Old 17-08-2018, 03:10   #1
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Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Hi
I have a leaky 50 year old folk boat with a bilge pump operated by a float switch. The pump and switch have failed on various occasions so I decided to have a back up system and installed a Rule automatic 500 pump sited above the main pump so that the secondary pump would take over if the main pump failed . This pump was installed January 2016. Although it was above the bilge water level and was never actually used it failed and was replaced under guarantee in January 2017. Now in August 2018 the Automatic switch seems to have failed because the pump still runs if you use the manual switch. I am hoping to get it replaced again but is it possible to maintain or clean the automatic switching device in some way? Are there any more reliable bilge pumps on the market?
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Old 17-08-2018, 03:38   #2
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

A while ago I did a market survey of sorts, to learn about best options for float switches. Landed on an Ultra Safety Switch, but there were two others that seemed to get reasonable approval ratings too... See if you can find that thread...

One thing that seemed to surface during that is that older pivoting float switches tha used mercury worked, even worked for a long time... and newer pivoting switches, no mercury... don't.

My guess from that would be that if your automatic pump incorporates a pivoting float switch... the switch will let you down early on.

Which would lead me to choose a non-automatic pump, and either an Ultra float switch, or one of the two others that seemed to bubble toward the top. The others might have been a Johnson something (Ultima?) and maybe a Water Witch, something like that.

-Chris
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Old 17-08-2018, 05:15   #3
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Unclear, did your primary or secondary fail???
And if you bought a Rule automatic did you read the instructions on how a Rule Automatic works without the need for a float switch?
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Old 19-08-2018, 02:20   #4
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Thanks Chris. I chose an automatic secondary pump to save me having to make a fitting for another float switch. Turns out that was an expensive mistake since if the automatic switch fails then you have to replace the whole bilge pump. You would have thought that a bilge pump that wasn't being used would last at least the length of the guarantee. Luckily the pump will be replaced under guarantee but I have enough maintenance work to do without constantly removing, sending back bilge pumps under guarantee and and then refitting bilge pumps! What makes it worse is that with the deep bilge on the folk boat the wires supplied are not long enough and you have to solder and shrink seal the joints. It would only be minimal expense to have longer wires. The Ultra bilge pump switch looks impressive but at that price it could turn out to be worth more than the boat! However after the next failure I will go for a separate float switch.
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Old 19-08-2018, 02:23   #5
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Sorry if my post was unclear. I chose an automatic pump to save me fitting another float switch and thought if it was just a backup pump it would last at least the the three year guarantee period.
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Old 19-08-2018, 02:59   #6
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

A common problem!!


The flapper type of bilge pump switch was fine until mercury was banned. I have one in my gray water tank (a Rule one) which is still working flawlessly after 17 years of hard work! But the later ones -- after the mid-2000's I think -- are carp.




Your approach of having a second bilge pump above the first one is great. You can make the lower one a small one -- a maintenance pump. Then put in the biggest one you can find for the upper one. Yet another advantage of this system is that the lower pump will deal with any backwash from the upper one, so you don't need a non-return valve. The upper one will deal with any failure of the lower one, so you CAN put a non-return valve in that one.



As to the switches -- ULTRA, as mentioned by someone else, all the way. These are clunky, ridiculously expensive, and utterly bomb-proof -- just what a device like this should be (at least the last thing). I am not aware of a similarly reliable bilge pump switch.



And don't forget the bilge alarm!!
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Old 19-08-2018, 03:07   #7
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by folk_boat View Post
Sorry if my post was unclear. I chose an automatic pump to save me fitting another float switch and thought if it was just a backup pump it would last at least the the three year guarantee period.

I think it's much better if you don't think of the second pump as a "backup". A normal size bilge pump won't move enough water to give you much help in case of a real leak. So there are two distinct functions for bilge pumps on board -- Maintenance -- to get out rain water which comes down the mast, and other miscellaneous water which find its way in; and Pumping -- to fight a leak.


The lower one is for Maintenance, and can be smaller, and can have a non-return valve.


The upper one is for Pumping -- not just for failure of the Maintenance pump, but in case a leak overwhelms the lower pump.


On my boat, I have a Whale Supersub as the Maintenance pump, and a pair of Rule 4000's for the upper pump. I don't necessarily recommend the Whale pump -- although the built-in water sensor is good, the pump itself is very cheaply made, and will need to be replaced every few years. Maybe one of the smaller Rule pumps would be better.


The big Rule 4000 is a good choice for the upper pump. It's a brawny beast which should hold up well.


There are other good pumps. Some people use diaphragm pumps for the maintenance pump, because they can get the last bit of water out -- you don't need to immerse them. If you want a really dry bilge, that's a good choice.
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Old 19-08-2018, 03:59   #8
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

These. Not expensive, great quality, very reliable. Smart features if you want - like to send you a txt if the pump activates... https://smartswitch.co.nz/downloads/...BSW%201000.pdf
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Old 24-08-2018, 20:21   #9
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

I replaced a faulty bilge pump switch with the same kind I was replacing. A Jabsco Hydro Air bilge pump switch. I figured Jabsco was a good name, and the builder used them, why reinvent the wheel? It would have been cheaper and less aggravating to simply light the $60 on fire.

Get the Ultra.
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Old 25-08-2018, 19:07   #10
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

When I worked at sea professionally we had a saying. "Do you want reliability or do you want to use electronics?"
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Old 25-08-2018, 19:29   #11
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
.



As to the switches -- ULTRA, as mentioned by someone else, all the way. These are clunky, ridiculously expensive, and utterly bomb-proof -- just what a device like this should be (at least the last thing). I am not aware of a similarly reliable bilge pump switch.



And don't forget the bilge alarm!!
Aqualarm do a same same version.


https://aqualarm.net/bilge-alarms-switches-c-6/

My pump switches are all flapper type but mounted well above water.
I have PVC with a float on the end in the bilge, this pushes vertically up through another tube and in turn lifts the float/flipper which activates the pump.
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Old 25-08-2018, 20:43   #12
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

Quote:
Originally Posted by folk_boat View Post
Hi
I have a leaky 50 year old folk boat with a bilge pump operated by a float switch. The pump and switch have failed on various occasions so I decided to have a back up system and installed a Rule automatic 500 pump sited above the main pump so that the secondary pump would take over if the main pump failed . This pump was installed January 2016. Although it was above the bilge water level and was never actually used it failed and was replaced under guarantee in January 2017. Now in August 2018 the Automatic switch seems to have failed because the pump still runs if you use the manual switch. I am hoping to get it replaced again but is it possible to maintain or clean the automatic switching device in some way? Are there any more reliable bilge pumps on the market?
Hi, possibly I am confused (yes it does happen) but you say that the auto switch seems to have failed because the pump still runs when you use the manual switch. It is my belief that the manual switch is an override to the auto so of course the pump will run when it is activated. That is how it is on my boat and other boats that I have owned and been connected with.
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Old 26-08-2018, 04:00   #13
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Re: Automatic Bilge Pump failure

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Originally Posted by Uncle Bob View Post
Hi, possibly I am confused (yes it does happen) but you say that the auto switch seems to have failed because the pump still runs when you use the manual switch. It is my belief that the manual switch is an override to the auto so of course the pump will run when it is activated. That is how it is on my boat and other boats that I have owned and been connected with.
He's simply saying that the pump motor still works, but it will no longer activate automatically.
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