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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Been a lurker here for quite a while, and only just got my own boat. One thing I found is that the PO had a good bilge pump, but it was only wired to an on/off switch on the circuit board. I procured a float switch and plan to install it. I could retrofit a new, 3-way switch, but I don't want to mess with my switch board too much. I found instructions for wiring to a 2-way switch here:

http://www.xylemflowcontrol.com/sup...a-pump-and-float-switch-to-a-panel-switch.htm

However, this doesn't give me the ability to manually turn on the bilge pump without activating the switch, opening the bilge, and reaching into the water to manually activate the float switch.

My switch board has plenty of empty positions, so I am thinking of setting up a dual 2-way switch, rather than a single 2-way or 3-way. One would power the pump on, as currently wired. The other would energize the float switch, and give me an automatic mode. I think I may have to be careful not to turn both on, but other than that, is there any problem to the way I am thinking on this?

Tankersteve
 

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On most circuits the power to the pump is from a breaker switch which is connected to the bilge pump switch. bilge switch is on/ off/ momentary. on for float switch and momentary for clearing the bilge and to test the pump. or just add a monentary switch to the circuit you have bypassing the float switch to run pump manually
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply!

I am not sure I can fit the typical 3-way switch you refer to without modifying my breaker board, or adding a separate switch from it (neither of which, I wish to do).

So I think what you were describing as the alternative is my dual 2-way switch option. The current breaker turns the pump on/off. A second breaker powers the float switch, allowing automatic mode for the pump.

My question is, do I run into interference issues with two powering lines to the pump? Do I just have to make sure only one is on at any time?

Tankersteve
 

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Hey,

I like to have my float switch powered directly from the battery. This way I can leave the panel off (main battery switch set to off) and the float switch will be powered. I can turn on the bilge pump with the switch on the panel. I like to turn the battery switch off when I'm not on the boat so I can't run down the batteries. If we get a lot of rain and my bilge fills (keel steeped mast) the float will turn the pump on and keep the water off my cabin sole :)

Barry
 

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You can do what you are thinking. You could use two circuit breakers. Make sure the 'Auto' breaker can't be flipped off by careless bumps.

One issue is that the breaker amperage doubles when both are ON. If you put the breakers in series then that can be eliminated. Connect the bilge switch between them. But it's goofy - non-typical.

But you should really use a setup like those little bilge pump panels provide. They have a fuse so that the whole panel and battery switch complexity can be safely bypassed. The indicator light is nice to see - I like to be able to see it from the watch standing position when things get nasty. The momentary MANUAL position is a good feature.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Aloof,

I hear you - it would be the cleanest solution, certainly. But keeping my electrical board looking neat is also appealing to me.

BarryL,

I think you hit it - that is the way I'll try to work this. I have to work out the schematic to make that work right.

Tankersteve
 

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I think you hit it
Except for the this electrical oddity it's a good idea: What do you think will happen if (1) the battery switch is off, and (2) the float switch is on and (3) then you switch on the manual switch. Yes, everything else on the panel becomes powered by the float switch. Perhaps a rare unlikely thing...but insane too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Aloof,

Great point. It will be a process to ensure me and my crew/family know that you only turn on the bilge pump switch when you want to hear the pump working...

I really need to get smarter on electrical stuff, as I am quite the hack at working all this out.

Tankersteve
 

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And that's not all ... with the little panel thing or using two breakers or switches on your existing panel you get a handy test feature. When you leave the boat you will flip the MAN switch for a moment to confirm everything is good. No bad wire or blown fuses, etc.

There's no reason you cannot power those two switches or breakers directly from the battery if all the usual good practices are followed (like protection the small wires the connect to the battery).
 

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I have a small pump connected to the electrical panel, and then a large one mounted further up the bilge that's connected to a float switch and wired direct to the battery.

Thinking going, I use the small one to get out the nuisance water, but if everything goes tits up then my big one will kick in automatically
 

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You really should listen to those above who have wired their bilge pumps directly to the battery. You should bite the bullet and purchase the correct 3 way switch panel for a bilge pump, complete with switch, light and fuse and mount it where it is easily accessible, yet where you can hear the pump run when operating on manual.
 
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You really should listen to those above who have wired their bilge pumps directly to the battery. You should bite the bullet and purchase the correct 3 way switch panel for a bilge pump, complete with switch, light and fuse and mount it where it is easily accessible, yet where you can hear the pump run when operating on manual.
And still the last thing I do before leaving the boat is to open the bilge and lift the float switch to make sure it all works.;)
 

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I don't know if I'm repeating what's been said, but I just dealt with this on my boat.
I wired the pump directly to the battery side of the battery switch with an in-line fuse holder--no circuit breaker, no big wiring or panel space problems. I did use a panel-mounted fuse holder, so I can access it easily if I need to .
This hot wire then goes to an 'On-Off-Momentary' toggle switch available from Blue Sea and I'm sure others.
From the switch, the 'On' terminal is wired to the float switch. With the toggle switched to On, the pump runs if the float switch is closed.
The 'Momentary' terminal is wired right to the pump, bypassing the float switch. Connect it right where you connect the float switch to pump. Now I can turn my pump on manually, regardless of the float switch position.
I chose a momentary so I couldn't forget, leave it running, and burn it out when the bilge was empty. So you could also use an On-Off-On switch the same way, or just use an "On-Momentary" without an "Off" position.
I actually have a larger high and a smaller low pump, each wired similarly, but I've kept this simple.
I don't want an automatic bilge pump that's ever disconnected from battery power, such as through the circuit breaker panel or the battery switch.
Any toggle switch you choose fits in the same hole, so no changes to my switch panel.
JV
 

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I found instructions for wiring to a 2-way switch here:

http://www.xylemflowcontrol.com/sup...a-pump-and-float-switch-to-a-panel-switch.htm

However, this doesn't give me the ability to manually turn on the bilge pump without activating the switch, opening the bilge, and reaching into the water to manually activate the float switch.
You are incorrect.

The wiring description you linked to for a 2 way switch allows for manual operation of the pump with the switch and automatic pumping when the main battery switch is turned off. It is often the factory wiring on many powerboats. The switch could be momentary and an indicator light could be wired in as well if desired.

Note where it says "The other grey wire should be connected directly to the Positive power supply (fuse protected)." That is the wire that powers the pump automatically when the float rises.

 

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Cobbling up an electrical scheme, particularly one that requires everyone aboard to know not to have both circuits live at once, is not a good idea. Not that I'm saying it's a fire hazard, but I'll point out that 12v electrical systems are the number one cause of fires aboard by multiples. Always do it right, with the right connectors, right crimpers, right guage wire, right fuses, etc, etc.

If you want On-Off-Momentary, then buy the proper switches and wire it exactly as the instructions suggest. A little electric knowledge is enough to get one in trouble, as they say.

I would also ask how often you feel you will need to run the pump momentarily? Some bilges carry a lot of water before the float switch activates, but not all. Ours doesn't. If yours does, I can see a frequent need. However, to just test the pump, the momentary switch only says the pump works. It does not tell you the float switch works and the float switch is by far the most common failure. In fact, keep a spare aboard. If testing is your real need, then the switch is worthless. You should reach in and pull the float up. Make a piece of wire to help, if the reach is tough.

Someone mentioned the risk of accidentally flipping a breaker switch off. A neat piece of electrical tape bridged over the switch does a nice job of preventing this. If you wire directly from the battery, because of the risk that you shut the main down, just keep easy access to the fuse or switch. It's nice to have an easy way to de-power the bilge pump when you need to do maintenance or clean the bilge.
 

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If you want On-Off-Momentary, then buy the proper switches and wire it exactly as the instructions suggest. A little electric knowledge is enough to get one in trouble, as they say.

I would also ask how often you feel you will need to run the pump momentarily? Some bilges carry a lot of water before the float switch activates, but not all. Ours doesn't. If yours does, I can see a frequent need. However, to just test the pump, the momentary switch only says the pump works. It does not tell you the float switch works and the float switch is by far the most common failure. In fact, keep a spare aboard. If testing is your real need, then the switch is worthless. You should reach in and pull the float up. Make a piece of wire to help, if the reach is tough.
I'm sure we've all read lots of magazine articles, M., but thanks for your concern over the advisability of having a system that's different than yours.
 

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I'm sure we've all read lots of magazine articles, M., but thanks for your concern over the advisability of having a system that's different than yours.
That's a head scratcher? What advice of mine would have come from a magazine? It seems no matter which choice the OP takes, their system will be different than mine. What system do you understand I have and what's that got to do with anything?

Or was your reply just an inarticulate stab of some kind?
 

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Being totally paranoid (cause they really are out to get you), here's what we do.

- the 3 way dedicated switch wired to bypass the main DC switch (always on), with a breaker or fuse (another words, connected to battery)
- a bilge pump counter so that you know if you've been leaking
- a high bilge audible alarm

We like the Ultra Safety float switches (no affiliation). They seem to be the only ones I haven't had to replace or fix over the crazy number of sailboats we've owned over too many years to admit.

If you've got a big hole in your boat, even a 2000 GPH pump ain't gonna do it, but if something fails, at least we're gonna know. We think the alarm and counter are pretty important (if you are equally paranoid).


As an example, on boat number 4 we had a Lasdrop shaft seal. The ring slipped forward allowing water to escape on each turn of the bellows. Yea, I know, put a zinc in front of it so if the set screws slip.....yes, we did this after this incident. The engine was running, I would have never heard the bilge pump without the alarm. Went below to figure out why, and found the Lasdrop acting as an indoor engine room lawn sprinkler system. Shut down, and fixed it. Without the alarm, I might have figured it out when the floor boards started to float as we were settling in for a long day of motoring in flat air.

Had a leaky rudder gland on another boat. Like lots of boats, it's not in an easy place to see. Noted the bilge pump cycle counter climbing after a few brisk sails. Just counting up to 2 or 3, but that was not normal for this particular boat. Investigated, and ended up repacking the gland.

I admit it, totally paranoid ;) But in boat bucks, bilge pumps, alarms, counters, and good float switches are pretty cheap.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Mitiempo,

Thanks for clarifying that. I think that schematic is exactly what I want to do.

On a side note, I have often noticed threads on Sailnet take some pretty hard courses, often by folks with '1000s of hours sailing', but with relatively limited experience sets. I could sail for 1000s of hours on my boat and even a few friends. However, how much of an experience base would I have? I may have seen how 6 different boats do things. For all my sailing experience, I have a very limited set of examples to work from when it comes to relating to someone not attempting to directly mimic what I have done in the past. And if all of those boats were of relatively recent construction, by the big manufacturers, again, my experience is not actually that broad.

I'll cross the Rubicon and say that this is what happens with guns a lot (something I have more experience with - the 'tanker' in my name has (almost:D) nothing to do with oil and everything to do with Fury). Too many folks with very big opinions and very limited experience sets. What makes Sailnet difficult to deal with is there is no real vetting. I don't know who works on lots of boats, has seen dozens, if not hundreds of examples, or if I am dealing with someone who only quotes what they do and see as the common solution (even if others are viable). Can they only quote what they have seen in ABYC and their boat, or are they experienced with electrical systems and can tell me that this is perhaps odd or different, but not unsafe. It is not to say they don't know how to do it right. They just only know THEIR way. The problem is that it is 'A WAY', and not the only (SAFE) way.

Now, I won't for a minute discard advice that may keep me safer. If I am doing something less than safe (different from less than ideal), I appreciate anyone relaying that info.

I really do wish that there was some specific background info on members available (post counts matter little, IME), but I also know that this is a free site and with lots of members. I am spoiled by my membership in a very articulate and well-vetted firearms website.

Tankersteve
 

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This is addressed in many places on the internet, but here is a schematic showing how the bilge pump should be wired according to Boat US (and others);

Image credit - Boat US

I suggest that the OP (and anyone else interested) read this article; Installing a Bilge Pump by Don Casey - BoatTECH - BoatUS
 
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