Bilge Pump Guide

Whether you own a Personal Water Craft, a Sailboat, a pleasure boat – small or large, or a commercial craft, the subject of choosing a bilge pump is an important one. Many feel that next to the condition of your hull, the condition (and capacity) of your bilge pump should be of primary concern.  After all, a sinking boat isn’t going to be much fun or very productive (depending on whether you own a pleasure boat or commercial craft) for anyone.

It isn’t just about your boat, but about safety. Just as there is required, and needed, safety equipment, there should also be a consideration for the correct bilge pump to assure that the vessel is going to stay afloat each time you take it out on the water.

What is a bilge pump’s function?  
A bilge pump is designed to exhaust standing water in the vessel’s bilge.

When is the bilge pump not a solution?
Bilge pumps are not designed to be used for rapidly accumulating water on-board due to rough weather, hull damage and/or other unsafe navigational conditions.  Do not expect them to be the hero of these events.

What is a bilge system?
Depending on the type of boat and size of boat you may need not only more GPH (gallons per hour) capacity, but also more than one bilge pump.  In fact, many experts recommend two on every vessel over the size of a dinghie.  That second pump (or more) consideration comes from the fact that bilge pumps can fail, rather the electrical system of the pump.

What is the rating of a bilge pump and what can that mean to my boat?
Remember that many of the ratings (i.e. GPH) are given for high output when operated with an open discharge.  Discharge piping that is added can alter that rating.  That means that you should always look to a bilge or multiple pumps that are going to work for the worst case scenario.  If you feel you need a 500 GPH pump, it wouldn’t hurt to consider a 750 to be on the safe side.

Where should I locate my pump(s)?
Your primary bilge pump should be installed at the lowest point when the vessel is afloat.  A second is usually recommended a little bit further up the hull.  Remember, bilge pumps must always be installed lower than the source of water.

Why is cleaning the bilge system important?
Debris from the bilge that can be found in the pump, float switch (if you have one) and switch and can literally render your system inoperable.  It is as important to make sure your bilge system is working as checking your safety equipment prior to taking up anchor.  Remember, that if your bilge has oil or oily water and you pump it on the water you could face stiff fines.

When should I use a manual pump?
A manual pump is never a good substitute for your primary bilge system. They are essential to have on hand for emergencies, however.

Learn More with our Manufacturer Bilge Evacuation System Guides:

•    Attwood Marine
•    Johnson –Mayfair
•    Rule (ITT)
•    SeaSense (Unified Marine)

For a complete listing of bilge pumps and related accessories visit our Pumps and Plumbing product page and the Bilge Pump & Accessories Page.

Attwood Bilge Pumps

Attwood Marine’s Tsunami series of Cartridge Style Non-Automatic Bilge Pumps feature superior engineering to assure high performance while giving the customer a product that is simple to service.  The cartridge style allows easy replacement without removing hoses or mounting bases.

For those whose boats are over 20 feet in length and sleeping accommodations, Attwood offers the usually recommended Automatic Bilge Pump.  Their Non-Automatic Bilge Pumps can be easily converted to an Automatic Bilge Pump with the addition of an Attwood Automatic Float Switch.  They also offer fully Automatic Bilge Pumps with their popular Sahara line.

The Attwood Heavy-Duty Bilge Pump brings the commercial market an industrial duty pump with essential features and benefits for this application with superior value.

All pumps carry a three year warranty from Attwood Marine when used on pleasure boats. 

Johnson Bilge Pumps

Johnson and Mayfair are long standing names in marine pumps and plumbing and now both are together offering the best of both names. 

The Johnson-Mayfair bilge pumps offer superior performance and dependability with features of including both straight and 90 degree smooth elbow Dura-Ports and removable check valves with each pump (unless indicated as not included).

Their Low Boy is requested by those with tight bilge areas and the rest of the offerings range from non-automatic cartridge series to heavy duty suited for the large boats and commercial vessels.

The SPX Johnson (Mayfair) Marine submersible pumps are manufactured with heavy duty motors with stainless steel (SS2343) shafts and tough thermoplastic bodies that provide for extended pump life. When adding an automatic switch to non-automatic pumps, the pump automatically comes on when there is water in the bilge and then will shut off when the bilge is dry. Submersible bilge pumps are not self-priming and need to be installed in the deepest part of the bilge.

Rule Bilge Pumps

Rule (part of the renowned ITT family of companies) has been able to claim their place in the submersible pump industry for decades.  They have led in both design and innovation in this essential product for both the pleasure boater and commercial boating applications.  They offer an extensive range of products for our customers’ needs.

The Rule pump line is extensive and includes their Gold Series of pumps that come with a 5 Year Warranty (all other Rule bilge pumps come with a 3 year warranty).

Seasense Bilge Pumps

Known for quality and value, the Unified Marine lines of pumps (marketed under the SeaSense name) include non-automatic versions including those with replaceable motor cartridges, non-automatic combos with float switches, fully automatic pumps and manual pumps.