Bilge Pump Nirvana

20 Jun

One of my most common electrical installations is Aqualarm's bilge pump monitoring and control system. Most recently I installed three each on all three of our family ferries in Newport Beach, so nine in total. Aqualarm made us the custom consoles (pictured above). Our ferries are double-ended, so we refer to the ends as Penninsula and Island, rather than bow and stern.

The system will work with any pump, but for full functionality you need to use the console in conjunction with their Smart Switch (float switch):

With the monitor and Smart Switch working together, you get four features that are a big step up from a standard On-Off-Auto system:

1. It sets off an alarm when the pump has been running for more than two minutes, alerting you to flooding while aboard.

2. Each time the float switch gets triggered, the system runs the pump for thirty seconds. This prevents repetitive, momentary triggering of the float switch/pump that never moves any water, as happens when water sloshes in the bilge, or backflows from the bilge pump hose.

3. The console has a resettable pump cycle counter. This is the most useful function for those of us who leave our boats unattended. If you check on your boat after a week and the counter says 2, then you know you've got some standard packing gland drips, weeping, and minor leaks. If it says 1752, you might want to poke around a bit under the floorboards. Bilge pump activity over time is valuable data. 

4. The alarm has a mute button. A flooding boat is a big enough problem without some alarm giving you a headache.

Their off-the-shelf model, for just one pump, is usually all the average boat needs:

At less than $200 for the monitor and float switch, it's a slick system that gives much peace of mind.  


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