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Discussion Starter #1
okay i want/need a new float switch for my bilge pump. i dont want the built in ones due to cycling. i currently have the west marine float, which is giving me problems, it drops down the ball inside moves ( i hear it click ) but it does not shut off about 1 out of 10 times. now if i give it a tap it clicks again, it does not do this all the time, but it killed my battery ( as in need new battery it was cold out ). yes i know i need to fix my shaft seal, ordering that at the same time. the worse part is my hunter has a bilge about 4 inches deep so it fills pretty quick ( as in with no pump about a week )

what does anyone think about the sensor ones like this

Water Witch Bilge Pump Switch

or

Ultima Bilge Pump Switch

i am starting to wonder about the float type, i had rule that went bad, now this one is acting crazy. i want to know if anyone has had problems with the above type? also has anybody found it to draw too much juice when just sitting there? are there any better types out there ?
 

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I could make a list of switches that I have bought, installed and thrown away in the past year. And they're all bloody rubbish.:mad: The money I have spent on these godforsaken things would have easily paid for a labourer to sit on my boat 24/7 with a bucket!!!

I wait with bated breath to hear the answer to this question. Finding a decent auto bilge switch is as easy as reconciling North and South Korea.

Good luck and thanks for having the courage to ask this question
 

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okay i want/need a new float switch for my bilge pump. i dont want the built in ones due to cycling. i currently have the west marine float, which is giving me problems, it drops down the ball inside moves ( i hear it click ) but it does not shut off about 1 out of 10 times. now if i give it a tap it clicks again, it does not do this all the time, but it killed my battery ( as in need new battery it was cold out ). yes i know i need to fix my shaft seal, ordering that at the same time. the worse part is my hunter has a bilge about 4 inches deep so it fills pretty quick ( as in with no pump about a week )

what does anyone think about the sensor ones like this

Water Witch Bilge Pump Switch

or

Ultima Bilge Pump Switch

i am starting to wonder about the float type, i had rule that went bad, now this one is acting crazy. i want to know if anyone has had problems with the above type? also has anybody found it to draw too much juice when just sitting there? are there any better types out there ?
I personally use the Water Witch as it allows mounting high and low sensors. Coupled with a multi function bilge monitor and blue sea bilge switches (for auto, off, manual - although the manual you have to continuously press or stuff something on the other side of the switch to keep on - an annoyance)...The nice things about the water switch is you can use them for alarm only applications....and are small enough to place about anywhere and doesn't matter the orientation...
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
jody i have the auto off manual switch from bass pro shop, it does not have the manual return like yours does, stays in all 3 positions. also it has 2 leds, a green one for when its auto mode, a red for manual, and when its in auto and running both leds light. the green is really dim so it cant draw much at all. best part same 3 wire install, and 20 bucks iirc.

edit: the control switch also has a breaker built in. i cant find it on bass pro site but if you want one to avoid the manual reset part let me know i will get one and mail it to ya. and if you want pics i can get pics of mine installed
 

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I like the idea of the Water Witch over the usual float-type, but I haven't heard enough "field testing" to convince me of their durability.

Of course, I like the idea of the Tank Tender system for running on air pressure instead of volts, but I'm less keen on the price and the experimentation necessary to figure out each tank's calibration.
 

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I have tried nearly all the available auto switches for the bilge including the sonic ones and pressure sensing circuits. Nearly all of them failed sooner or later.

Now I use two bilge pumps: One is connected to the service battery and located deeper than the second one. This is the "always" working one. The other is located higher than the first and the source is the engine battery. If the first one fails, the second one works. There is small electronic circuitry that informs when the second one operates. This way I can keep the bilge dry (nearly).
 

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Discussion Starter #7
kind of a free bump for more opinions and with some info too

okay lots of reading. i thought the float switch i had just had a metal ball that hit 2 contacts shorting them out to get the pump to run. i found out it uses a ball to close a physical switch which can stick, and i guess mine has. the west marine one i have is rebranded, but what dont they rebrand.

i found 6 reviews on the water witch, one said it worked fine for 6 months then died, the other 5 all said it works great. i did find one review where the only failure was a guy had his RO pump line failed and could not sense ultra pure water but it worked fine on normal water. i guess i will give it a try.

i also found out some complaints about the sensor type some say oil will foul them but less in the inductive type like the water witch. it is more for the other electronic type. now i know how the induction type works, and even if it gets oil on it, it only needs a very small surface clean to work

normal disclaimer no connection to anything etc etc
 

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After six failures of various commercial units, I built my own. Then I built two more for friends. The oildest is now more than 3 years old and still working fine. PVC vertical tube. Internal connical foam float with small weight on the bottom to act as return and a magnetic switch (no contact neccassary, and no metal exposed to water). The float rises a couple of inches and the mag field activates a relay (the weak point as I see it, but one completely in the dry of the breaker box). Relay activates the pump.

I had an idea about adding a small mast to the float with a second mag-spot and a second mag sensorfurther up the tube. Float rises slightly, bottom pump comes on, float rises more, both secondary and primary pump activates as both mag sensors line up...Have not tried that one yet.

The nice thing about the mag switch is that there is nothing to corrode or leak away or for the pivot point to clog or corode...and all the other things that go wrong with standard units.

Alex.
 

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Andre and Alex,

I feel your pain, having also tried most of the switch types on the market and with mixed success over a 25 year period. Also, from seeing dozens of customer vessels with their bilge pump switch problems.

The most reliable switches are generally considered to be those in the Ultimate Switch family. Not suprisingly, they are quite expensive. They are warrantied for 5 years, and users report amazing success.

Over the past ten years or so I've been using a succession of sensor switches...those which essentially are activated whenever water comes in contact with the sensors on the small units. Generally, these work pretty well, but only if you keep them really clean. If oil builds up on the sensors, you get flaky results, including a switch which fails to turn off. I run two of these all the time on my boat, and clean them periodically. Happily, I have bilge pumps which are not harmed if they run dry, which has occasionally happened when the darned little switches fail to turn off.

When I get tired of fooling with these inadequate devices, I'll probably spring for a couple of Ultimate Switches.

Bill
 

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Sasha V--- can you post a drawing showing parts, circuits ,etc so i can build a switch like yours to test in my boat ? or email one or a picture to me [email protected]
 

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PVC vertical tube. Internal connical foam float with small weight on the bottom to act as return and a magnetic switch (no contact neccassary, and no metal exposed to water). The float rises a couple of inches and the mag field activates a relay (the weak point as I see it, but one completely in the dry of the breaker box). Relay activates the pump.
So the float goes up and activates the switch which switches a relay which powers the pump. That part I understand. But then the pump runs for a short while, removes an inch of water and the float drops. Does this not disengage the switch and deactivate the relay, stopping the pump? How do you keep the pump running until the bilge is empty? And if you have a way of keeping the pump running as the float goes down, how do you stop the pump running when the float gets to the bottom? :confused:

If I could figure that out I'd make my own as well but . . . . I'm probably a bit slow.:(
 

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A simple way would be to use a relay that has a time delay built into it. That way it would continue to run a bit after the switch "shuts" it off. Of course, you'd want pumps that can be run dry without harm.
So the float goes up and activates the switch which switches a relay which powers the pump. That part I understand. But then the pump runs for a short while, removes an inch of water and the float drops. Does this not disengage the switch and deactivate the relay, stopping the pump? How do you keep the pump running until the bilge is empty? And if you have a way of keeping the pump running as the float goes down, how do you stop the pump running when the float gets to the bottom? :confused:

If I could figure that out I'd make my own as well but . . . . I'm probably a bit slow.:(
 

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A simple way would be to use a relay that has a time delay built into it. That way it would continue to run a bit after the switch "shuts" it off. Of course, you'd want pumps that can be run dry without harm.
Yes I guess you could but that's really a compromise to a "proper" solution. That avenue could be used even easier by having a small micro processor start the pump every x hours and run it for y minutes. That's too easy :) and isn't really an automatic bilge pump switch.

I have thought about a pendulum float that has a sectored quadrant and a toggle switch. When the pendulum floats up the quadrant rotates around the pendulum axis and the one end of the sector gets to the switch and switches it on.

As the water level goes down and gets to the bottom the quadrant, having rotated the other way gets to it's end and flicks the switch off again. Something like this:


Of course, the effort involved in the float's ability to flick the switch one way and the weight of it going down to flick it other way would depend on the mechanical resistance in the switch. With a long enough arm, the moment of effort around the pivot should be enough without having an anvil hanging on the end. :)

And equally of course, the pivot assembly would be mounted well out of the water with the float arm at the correct length and bent at the appropriate angle to make everything happen on schedule.
 

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Andre—

With that long a lever arm for the switch, you're going to need the water to move quite a bit before it could throw the switch.

One solution would be to use a float in a tube, and have magnetic reed switches in the tube. One, say two inches above the top of the float would turn on the pump, and one at the normal position of the float with an empty bilge could be used to turn off the float. That would prevent the bilge pump from short cycling over and over again due to back flow.

Another way would be to mount a normally closed magnetic reed switch at the height of the float for a dry bilge, and then when the float rises, the switch closes... it wouldn't open until the float dropped back down to the normal, dry-bilge resting position. You could vary the sensitivity by making the magnet smaller or bigger.

I like magnetic reed switches, since they're normally potted in solid epoxy and basically waterproof and corrosion proof for that reason.
 

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After going through several external switches, I ended up getting a Rule pump, but not the kind that comes on every two minutes. Instead mine has an internal electronic water detecter that turns it on. Once on, it runs for about 20 seconds after the water level drops. This gets extra water out and as a result, the pump runs less frequently. The boat it's in takes on a lot of rain water and it's been working for two years now which is about 22 months better than I ever got with an external switch.
 

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I've used the water witch switches for years with total satisfaction. I really dislike the float type switches; one jam up and your batteries run down. The water witch has never caused me any issues.
DD
 

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Alex (Sasha),

Please post some pictures. Also, I'd think that a totally separate float switch would be better than a second higher-up switch on the one float. Better to have full redundency.

A delay can be bulit quite easily with a simple 555 timer built from parts at any Radio Shack. You might be able to make something out of a capacitor, resistor, diode and some nand gates, I think.

Anyone know if there's a vacuum-style pump that would suck up the water that comes back down the tubing after the bilge pump turns off?
 

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With that long a lever arm for the switch, you're going to need the water to move quite a bit before it could throw the switch.
The movement on the arm would be directly proportional to the size of the sector in which the switch is located. Small sector, small stroke. If necessary, the sector could be small enough to only accommodate the throw distance of the switch. But I do get your point.

One solution would be to use a float in a tube, and have magnetic reed switches in the tube.
Sounds like a decent solution but two things - first, what device would you use on the float that will trigger a magnetic reed switch that would not rust (perhaps a magnet :) ) and second, what is the required proximity of the trigger to the switch. If it needs to be neat, would you not have problems with the float getting oil or dirt on it and sticking in the tube?

Forgive my ignorance, I have little knowledge of the functionality of magnetic reed switches. So if the mag switch closes and the device that caused it to close goes away, does the switch stay closed? If so, how does the pump switch off if this circuit stays "made". If not then the pump will stop running as soon as the device that closed the switch moves back down the pipe. I'm obviously missing something here.
 

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Sounds like a decent solution but two things - first, what device would you use on the float that will trigger a magnetic reed switch that would not rust (perhaps a magnet :) ) and second, what is the required proximity of the trigger to the switch. If it needs to be neat, would you not have problems with the float getting oil or dirt on it and sticking in the tube?
A magnet, fully encapsulated in epoxy is not going to rust. If the float is large enough, and the magnet high enough in the tube, oil and dirt isn't an issue. For instance, the bottom most section of the shaft could be left open, provided there were good guides inside the PVC pipe, it wouldn't matter that the bottom section wasn't enclosed. A simple way to do this is to use slight smaller OD PVC pipe for the float, and to add a inverted reducer to the bottom and a small tank for the float.
Forgive my ignorance, I have little knowledge of the functionality of magnetic reed switches. So if the mag switch closes and the device that caused it to close goes away, does the switch stay closed? If so, how does the pump switch off if this circuit stays "made". If not then the pump will stop running as soon as the device that closed the switch moves back down the pipe. I'm obviously missing something here.
You missed my point. The reed switch is one that is "NORMALLY CLOSED" and the magnet keeps the switch open, preventing the pump from running. When the magnet rises out of position, the switch reverts to the "NORMALLY CLOSED" position and the pump kicks on. The switches are fairly low in the pipe, as is the magnet. Here is an ASCII diagram of it turn 90˚.


===================sw1=sw2====
-TOP-------------------------------MAGNET------------------------FLOAT
=============================

As the float rises (moves left in diagram) the maintenance pump (sw2) comes on. If the maintenance pump can't keep up with the water inflow, the float will continue to rise (move further to the left) and the high-capacity de-watering pump (sw1) will come on. As long as the magnet is above the two reed switches, they will remain closed and and the bilge pumps will continue to run. Got it??
 
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