Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Arlington, VA
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For a deep-bilge application (and mine is very deep), I've found over the years that the Flojet (NOT Shurflo) bilge pumps work very well and are quite reliable. They are now owned by ITT, which has raised their price, but so far they haven't tampered with the excellent design.
These pumps have a quad diaphram (four diaphrams) and can run dry if necessary without damage. Nice, compact design, with a unique locking arrangement for the assorted size and type inlet/outlet nipples which come with them. Price now is about $110 from Defender:
These pumps require an external bilge pump switch. This switch can be of any type and, as has been noted elsewhere on this Board and others, can be the weak point of any bilge pump setup. I've gone thru several designs, and have finally settled on the Ultimate Switch Junior and Ultimate Switch Senior with high water alarm. These are pricey, but about the best switches available. Guaranteed for 5 years, many have gone over a decade without failure. I've just installed one of each, after both of my electronic switches (5 and 7 years old, respectively) failed within one week of each other.
So, to answer your question re: are there reliable bilge pumps out there, the answer is YES. But you have to pay a little and work a little and sweat a little.
Also, my pilot friend, you really need to TEST the setup by filling your bilge with a hose to see how well the pumping setup works! Last thing on your pre-flight checklist :-)