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Old 06-22-2012
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question regarding electric head vs manual

Just purchased a 1980 ericson 38' which needs a little attention before we can start spending much time on her. One of the first things is to get the head working. The manual head probably works, but it's not connected to the holding tank (never been connected) and hasn't been operated in maybe eleven years. Before spending time and money messing with it, I thought I'd check to see if anyone might recommend installing an electric head ? If I have to go through the system and purchase parts to get it all properly connected, I thought I'd check to see if electric is the way to go. By the way, I'm very new to all this, but couldn't resist the temptation to spend time sailing.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

IMHO, just replace the manual head/holding tank/etc... as necessary. I'm kind of in the 'keep it simple and stupid' camp. Fancy heads are nice until they aren't. Again your mileage may vary.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

After 30 years of pumping and cleaning manual heads I put in an electric unit. Just push button #1 or #2 .That simple and every one loves it.(I carry passengers) I flush with fresh, with salt optional. but that requires a designated pump. Unit stays clean and no build up or smell. So it's easy to fill the holding tank fast and the need for more fresh more often is noticeable.I hold 300 gal and its available everywhere so no prob for me. One method is a bucket in the cockpit, other is electric.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

If you have the power and holding tank capacity, electric is very nice. They typically macerate the bowl contents, which helps avoid clogging. I assume the macerated contents will break down better in the tank as well. Still, must be careful. For some reason, they say to flush much more clear water behind the waste to flush lines clear than with manual heads. This "chaser" is a very important concept to avoid odors with both manual and electric.

If you really want to live, get a vacuflush system. That's on my upgrade list one day, but not cheap.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

We have both and feel they are the best of both worlds. Our Master cabin head has a Jabsco electric flush model plumbed to the fresh water tanks via solenoid to avoid any contamination. We have been living aboard and using this head for nearly 2 years and it has not had one issue. I have a spare macerator and control panel for when we go cruising. The head is much simpler than most manual units. There is no combination pump/valve assembly which is where most manual toilets fail. It simply fills the bowl with water from the pressurized supply and then the macerator pumps it out. We use it often enough that having to use a lot of water to flush the lines is not necessary unless we leave the boat for a few weeks. 2 main components could fail. The macerator or the control panel. Solenoid failure is no problem as we could always fill the bowl from the faucet or with a bucket. I will likely plumb in a manual salt water pump for using off-shore to conserve fresh water.

Our other head is a Lavac which is simply a bowl and a whale pump. This is also a very simple, maintenance free setup. The bowl lid has a seal that when closed allows the downstream whale pump to pull water in from the thru hull, into the bowl and out to the pump to the holding tank. This head is at the base of the companionway so is used more when in rough weather or for guest as it is connected to the aft cabin.

BTW, congrats on the E38. Great boat. Our previous boat was an '85 E35. Check out my website in my sig to see photos and projects that may also be relevant for your 38.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

We have two heads. Initially two old jabsco manuals, leak like sieves. Replaced with two manual PHIIs. Great head, bullet proof, easy to replace jocker valves ect. Replaced aft head with Raritan Seaera electric which goes to a Electroscan MSD and the to a Y which goes overboard unless we are in a NDZ, then to the holding tank.
We chose the Seaera because
-Simple design, easy to unclog and macerates.
-Easy to replace jocker and macerator blades.
-Have had very good support and Raritan has a good reputation.
If I only had one head, and cruised a lot away from US then would probably stick with a manual head.
If you want electric would recommend a head that was designed as an electric, manuals with an electric drive installed do not last long. problem is that when you hand pump you can feel if there is a problem/jam, you cant if you are pressing a button.
I might be biased but I believe that Raritan is the top company when it comes to Black water marine systems. Their designs and support are excellent and they have probably the best good quality marine heads without being excessively expensive.

Last edited by bvander66; 06-22-2012 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 06-22-2012
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question regarding electric head vs manual

In my mind it's not today that matters its 5 10 or 20 years from now, or in some random port when something breaks, will you be able to find parts or will you have to replace it? Many pump heads have been manufactured for decades and will be for decades more. I'd stick with them and keep it simple.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

I just removed an old electric w/o a macerator that failed and replaced it with manual head. The manual is quieter when someone is sleeping and draws no current. I would not install a cheap electric. Repair kits for manual heads are readily available and cheap enough. FWIW
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

I installed an electric head in my boat 6 years ago. It is very female friendly and with the built in macerator and 1 1/2" discharge, I have not had any problems of clogging or blockages. I puchased an overhaul kit at the same time I purchased the electric head and have not had to break it open yet. The only drawback, if any, would be how loud it is, but for the ease of use and no real maintenence problems, the noise level can be overlooked.
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Old 06-22-2012
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Re: question regarding electric head vs manual

I like my electric head, but live in fear of having a pump failure. Need to get a spare stowed on board and learn how to install it if needs be. Would like to have my electric system with a backup manual pump for times when conserving electricity (the electric head draws nearly 20 amps) and when trying not to make too much noise; and for a back-up when the electric pump will inevitably fail.
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