JUST HOW MUCH PUMPING CAPACITY DOES YOUR BOAT NEED? Will a single bilge pump do the trick, or should your boat have a pair of pumps — or even more? Ideally you should have the highest-volume pump possible for the space available. Whenever possible it’s advisable to have a
double-pump arrangement, with the smaller pump mounted low to handle rain and spray, and a larger
pump mounted a little higher in the bilge (along with a high-water alarm) to kick in when serious leaks
need to be handled. Here are some specs from ABYC for installing electric bilge pumps:
n Discharge location should be above your maximum heeled waterline; or below your maximum
heeled waterline if your discharge line is provided with both a seacock and a vented loop or
other means to prevent siphoning into the boat. Don’t use a check valve for this purpose.
n On boats with enclosed accommodations, an alarm should be installed, indicating that bilge
water is approaching the maximum bilge-water level.
n Pumps with automatic controls need to have a visual indication that power is being supplied to
Get more info on bilge pump capacity and flow ratings on the
BoatU.S. website: www.BoatUS.com/boattech/bilgp.htm
to live in the moist and dank environment
of your bilge, so make sure it’s a good one.
Run the wire along a bulkhead or a pre-existing wiring harness, and secure it every
couple of feet with cushioned clamps.
Note: Always use the manufacturer’s recommended minimum (or larger) gauge
Next, run a pair of wires (one for the “on,”
one for the “auto” setting) to a three-way
switch, located at the helm. It’s best to use
a switch made specifically for this purpose,
which has a power-on indicator light so
you know when the pump is activated.
Connect these to the pump’s power wires
(or the separate float switch, if applicable;
refer to the manufacturer’s wiring diagram
included with the pump to identify which
power wire is which) with more crimped
butt-connectors protected by adhesive-lined heat-shrink tubing, and secure them
every couple of feet.
Then connect the wires to the switch’s
“on” and “automatic” positions, using
either ring terminals or by soldering, as is
appropriate for the type of switch. Note
that this switch should be wired to a
fused or breaker power connection at the
helm, with the appropriate amperage as
recommended by the manufacturer, unless
it incorporates a fuse of its own. And
remember that if you want the bilge pump
to work when the battery switch is turned
off, you need to make a live connection,
not one that goes dead when the switch
is turned off. When wiring directly to the
battery, such as in the case of very small
tiller-steered boats that may not have fuse
or breaker panels, install the fuse directly
in-line as close to the battery as possible.
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