A bilge pump can be the secret hero of every boat, quietly pumping out the water that everyone forgets about. Sometimes they can do this automatically but sometimes you might have to do this by hand. Getting a bilge pump though can literally be a lifesaver.

Getting the best bilge pump on the market for your boat can be hard work as there are many different types and options available. There are also other circumstances such as the size of your boat and how quickly bilge water will accumulate.

Thankfully we’ve looked through the bilge pump reviews to bring you the top rated automatic bilge pump together with a buying guide, so that you can make an informed decision on finding the best automatic bilge pump for you and your boat.

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How To Choose The Best Bilge Pump – Buying Guide

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Boat Type

A lot of consideration needs to be given to not only the type of boat that you are going to be in, but also what type of water that boat is going to be on. If you’re in a small boat that has an outboard motor then it’s unlikely that you’ll need an electric bilge pump as any water collected could easily be taken out via a hand pump.

For slightly large boats, such as ski boats, then that’s where you’ll likely want to invest in an electric pump which is able to be submerged in water as it’s likely that these types of boats could take on a lot more water than others. There are other considerations too, such as offshore racing sailboats which are required by the ISAF to house two bilge pumps with one that will be operated on the cockpit and another that will be operated below the deck.

When you get to boats such as a coastal or offshore boat, that’s where you will need to have a lot more capability to clear excess water and the best thing in these situations is probably to have one bilge pump for each department that could fill with water.

If you’re on a powerboat that you only ever use on calm waters then it’s unlikely that you’d need to amount of bilge pump capacity of a smaller boat that will be on much rougher waters. When deciding on where and how many bilge pumps you need, consideration needs to be given as much to what you’ll be doing as much as anything else.

Bilge water can come from a variety of places, but if you’re on rougher water then there is obviously going to be more of it. So look at your boat, think of where it’s going to be before you analyze your own needs as you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’re short on bilge pumps, and you also don’t want to waste money on buying too many.

Boat Size

Boat size is naturally a critical part of the decision-making process when it comes to buying a bilge pump. As a general rule, the bigger the boat, the larger the requirement for a bilge pump but as we talked about in our last segment, consideration also needs to be made to the type of boat that you have and where you’ll be traveling.

When you go to buy an electric bilge pump, you should see a figure on there of GPH which stands for gallons per hour. This is the rate of water that the pump will clear in an hour of perfect conditions. These figures can vary by quite a lot, and if you have a larger boat then you’ll be looking for a pump which has a larger GPH number.

It could be though that you have a small boat which sits very high in the water, or a large boat that sits lower in the water. The amount of freeboard that you have is an important factor as if you have a low hull volume when the issue of bilge water could become a big problem a lot more quickly than if you had a large amount of freeboard where you could get rid of bilge water more consistently.

Sometimes if you have a smaller boat, then it might be the best idea to get a powerful pump anyway just so that you can clear that dangerous bilge water as soon as you possibly can.

Manual vs. Electric Power

Of course if you have the capacity to do so then it’s always the best idea to install an electrical bilge onto your boat. When it comes to manual vs electric then there really is no contest in terms of which is better. An electric pump will be able to clear a lot more water in a much shorter time, so it’s vital to have one on board if you are in a boat of any decent size.

If you’re looking for a bilge pump for something like a kayak, then a manual pump is all you’ll need to look for as you’ll simply be trying to clear any excess water that has crept into your vessel. In order to use an electronic pump, then you’ll obviously need to have an electricity supply so any boats without this would have to go down the manual option.

We are also walking here though about boats and electronics which can often be a source of trouble. If you want to clear bilge water when it might be a case of wanting to clear a build-up over time or it could be that you’ve taken on a lot of water very quickly.

If that water goes beyond the bilge then it could affect your electrical system and therefore your electronic bilge would fail. For this season, it’s always a  good reason to carry an automatic bilge pump so you can clear that water even if you’re having trouble with your electronic bilge.

Bilge Compartments

If you’re on a boat which has separate bilge compartments then you need to make considerations as to what solutions you’re going to come up with in regards to how you are going to clear any bilge water. If you have segmented bilges then it could mean that you can get water trapped in different sections of your boat so just having one pump in once section could be pointless.

One solution would be to have a diaphragm pump that would have numerous intake hoses that would be relocated to different parts of the boat. Another option though would be to have an electronic pump linked up to each separate bilge section which will ensure that the water is constantly cleared out of every bilge.

While that may seem like an expensive solution, if you have a boat with numerous bilge compartments then that shouldn’t be a problem. Clearly all commercial ships will have a pump for each bilge, with is the easiest way to make sure that you’re clearing that unwanted water quickly and efficiently.

Pump Switches

When it comes to switches, there are three main types which will turn on your pump automatically. The first one is called an integral automatic switch and this is the one that you will find on most devices. This sits inside the pump and will act as a switch once it comes into contact with the water, there is an alternative system where to pump will spin intermittently to see if there is the presence of any water.

If you don’t have a float switch, then there is an option to add one with a separate float switch which will add on to your current device and transform it into an automatic electric pump. These switched used to contain mercury, but thankfully they are now more environmentally friendly and will switch on as soon as it senses water.

There has been another switched developed as well which is the ability to sense the presence of water through its plastic housing. These are more intelligent switches which will only turn on when there is water, and not any other substance. Whatever switch you have, being able to have your pump turn on automatically can be a great feature.

Centrifugal vs. Diaphragm Pumps

Centrifugal pumps are the one you’re most likely to see here as they are the ones that will sit in the water and work once they are surrounded by it. These pumps are non-self-priming which means that they won’t work unless they are sitting in the water and they work by drawing the water into the pump through their vanes and then pushing it outwards. They have a built-in strainer which can easily be cleaned to stop it from getting clogged up with debris.

There is another type of pump available though and that is a diaphragm pump which works in a completely different way. This is a self-priming pump which can lifter the water up through an intake hose and then expel it from the outside. They need a strainer on the end of the intake hose to prevent the pump from clogging up.

If you’re on a boat you don’t really want to worry about having to pump out your water too much. The centrifugal pump is much more popular as it can just sit in the bilge and get to work once it is required to do so. It doesn’t matter that it will only work when in the presence of water as that’s what it was designed for.

Access And Installation

It’s important to install the bilge pump in an easy to access part of your boat so that you are able to clean the strainer and check on its maintenance every so often. You do though want it to be at the part of the boat where there will be the most water otherwise it won’t be able to clear everything that is in the bilge.

Installation of a bilge pump is relatively easy but it does require a small amount of electrical knowhow as you need to attach this to your battery and potentially a switch as well if you’re not buying a manual pump. This can be done either by a trained professional or it can quite easily be self-taught.

Having a manual pump obviously negates the need for any wiring but does take away from the high level of water clearance you get with an electric pump and also means that there will be extra effort involved. If the installation is preventing you from buying an electric pump, then it really shouldn’t as the process is simple and inexpensive.

Capacity

Pumps can differ a lot on just how much water they can pump out at any one time. This though is a figure that is measured and you will see this on all electronic pumps. A gallon per hour (GPH) is the figure that you will see and it’s a measure of how much water can be pumped out per hour during perfect circumstances.

If you’re looking for a bilge pump for your boat, then you want to be looking for a pump that has a GPH of around 1000 at the least, unless you have a small boat. If you have a bigger bilge compartment or a bigger boat then you may want to increase that figure, or increase the number of bilge pumps that you have.

You won’t see a GPH figure on a manual pump as that is dependent on the user as much as anything else. Capacity is a very important figure, but you need to make consideration to the size of your boat, it’s type and the dimensions are taken into account too so that you’re not wasting any money.

Material

You only have to think of the environment that it’s going to be left in to know that a bilge pump needs to be made out of resistant materials. Sea water and lake water contain a whole manner of different things that could damage a device which means that the highest degree of components are used.

Due to this, the casing that the pump will come in will generally be made from ABS plastic which is renowned as a very durable and resistant material which will keep the water at bay. You want the device to protect the ignition and also protect the wires that are coming from it.

You want to look for plenty of corrosion protection and the best shafts are made from stainless steel. If you’re looking for a bilge pump that doesn’t have these types of materials then it’s a lot more likely to fail. Materials are possibly the most underrated part of a bilge pump but due to the conditions they’ll be working in, make sure to check your pump is well-made.

FAQs

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Q: How A Bilge Pump Can Fail?

A: A bilge pump, like any pump can fail in a number of ways. There can be flow restrictions is something is restricting the pump, which can either cause it to overwork or stop. There is also the problem of siphoning too as there can be a problem if water comes back into the pump. This can happen if the hose is below the waterline as it will constantly bring water back into the pump so that it never stops working. It’s always important that any hose is well clear of the waterline.

Another area in which they can fail is being clogged up with dirt and debris over time. It’s very hard for any pump to defend against everything that might be in the water, so if they are not maintained then they could stop working. With the electric pumps reviewed here, you are able to easily get into the strainer to clean it effectively.

Electronic pumps also contain wiring in a boat which is always prone to failure. Salt, fuel and other irritants can be a nightmare for wiring and if this fails then your pump will fail. Also, if your boat takes on too much water and your electric system fails then your bilge pump also won’t be able to work any longer.

Q: What Size Wire Do You Need?

A: The sizing of the wire that you need will depend on the capacity of the pump that you are using, if it is 800 GPH or below, then you need to be looking for a wire gauge of 16. Between this figure and 2000 GPH then you will require a wire gauge of 14, this is naturally the capacity that the vast majority of electronic bilge pumps have so it’s more than likely that you’ll need 14 gauge wire.

If you’re going for anything bigger than that then for anything from 2000 to 3500 GPH you’ll need 12 gauge wire and for anything above that you’ll need 10. This is vital to ensure the correct working of your bilge pump. If you have any doubts about what size wire you need to get, then make sure you ask for help.

Q: What Are Bilge Pump System Components?

A: When you’re creating a bilge pump system you need a lot more than just the pump if you want to clear water out of your boat, unless you have a manual pump of course. With an electronic pump then of course you will need to start with getting a great pump.

Once you have that then you’ll need to connect the pump to the boat battery via the wire connectors in order to give it life. This is also the point where you would attach the bilge pump to a switch, however, if you have an automatic pump then this might not be required as the pump will automatically switch on when it encounters water.

This will allow your pump to get going, but it will have no way to remove the water, so with centrifugal pumps you will need discharge hose that will take the water out of the boat. With a diaphragm house you will also need an intake hose that will be able to take in the water. The final thing you need for your bilge system is a way for the water to get out, so a fitting above the waterline is required so you can clear the bilge.

Q: How Does A Bilge Pump Work?

A: A bilge pump is the unsung hero of the boat, quietly saving your ship from sinking by removing water that could otherwise take it down. Different pumps work in different ways, with the electronic pumps here they work by spinning a motor which will draw in the water around it, for it then to be pushed out into the hose to be removed.

Manual pumps work through air pressure to suck the water in before pushing it out. Simply though, a pump is there to take water from one place and put it in another. A bilge pump is so called because it takes water from the bilge and out it into whatever body of water that you’re floating on.

Without a bilge pump, the water would never go anywhere and at the least it can slow down your boat and affect its maneuverability. At worst it can affect your electronics and of course it has been the reason that many boats have sunk over the years. A bilge pump works to solve this problem so that you can always be safe while out at sea.

Q: Do I Need More Than One?

A: Bilge pumps have a certain level of capacity and need to be able to have enough power to clear all the water required in a short space of time. Hopefully, all you’ll ever need a bilge pump for is to clear an accumulation of water over time and never for emergencies. If that was what’s required then you wouldn’t need much capacity, but there may be moments, such as torrential rain or rough seas when the bilge pump needs to act quickly.

In these circumstances when you will either want a pump with a large capacity or numerous bilge pumps that can all work together to clear the water. Some people might also prefer to have the peace of mind of knowing that if one bilge pump fails, then they will have another which can still continue to work. If you’re on a larger boat, then it’s sensible to look into have more than just one bilge pump. A common solution is to have a smaller capacity bilge pump right at the bottom of the boat to clear accumulation of water and a larger one sitting slightly higher in case of emergencies.

If you are on a smaller boat an want a backup bilge pump then it’s also an idea to have a manual one which you can use if your electronic one fails. Aside from this, of course, there is also the matter of whether your boat has multiple bilge compartments. If it does, then there needs to be a solution for each one and the easiest way to do this would be to have a centrifugal bilge pump for each

Q: Are They Submersible?

A: Aside from the manual bilge pumps that we have reviewed here today, the electronic ones are all centrifugal bilge pumps as these are a lot cleaner and easier than any other type of pump and by far the most common. These pumps by definition are able to be submerged as that’s how they work. They rely on water in order to be in full operation

Due to this, you don’t have to worry about the motor of any of the components getting wet and an automatic pump actually relies on the water to switch it on. These pumps are designed to sit in your bilge in damp conditions that are usually terrible for most types of systems.

These pumps though can sit in dirty water and function time and time again. The wiring and the ignition should be protected and a good installation will sure that your bilge pump will last for a long time. Your bilge pump obviously won’t be sitting in water for too long, however, as once it feels its presence it can turn on and clear it to leave your bilge as dry as possible.

Q: If My Boat Doesn’t Have A Motor Do I Still Need One?

A: Probably the simplest way of explaining this answer would be that if your boat can sink, then it probably needs a bilge pump. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a little kayak or a mega cruise ship, every vessel that floats will get some accumulating of water at the bottom of this, which needs to be removed.

If you’re on a very small boat that has taken on a little bit of water, then this could simply be tipped out when you’re back on dry land but even then you don’t want to be out there with too much water in your bilge otherwise you have the risk of sinking. If you’re on a boat that doesn’t have a motor and/or a battery then it’d still be a good idea to get a manual bilge pump so you are able to clean out any water that comes in.

This will ensure that you have something which can help you to get rid of that troublesome bilge water. It would be reckless for a boat of any decent size to head out without a bilge pump and you’d soon regret it if you didn’t if your boat started taking on too much water. As said though, if it can sink, then get a bilge pump.

Q: How Do I Clean A Bilge Pump?

A: Bilge pumps are designed to work in an uncomfortable environment where they will be dealing with water that is very unclean which can contain all kinds of dirt and junk as well as possibly containing fuel and other substances that can seep into the bilge. Due to that, your bilge pump will need to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to maintain its full operation.

This is much less of an issue if you have a manual bilge pump as the debris won’t sit in the system, but for the electronic bilges we have reviewed here they will need to be cleaned. Thankfully they are all designed in a similar way which makes it very easy to be able to quickly clean then without too much fuss involved.

The motor will sit on top of a plastic casing which will the screwed into the boat, removing the motor is easy as you are able to unclip it and remove it. Once you have the motor, then all you need to do is rinse it in water and this will remove all the excess material that is sitting on there. Once clean, then you can place it back into the plastic casing knowing that your bilge will be able to work at full power.

Checking the bilge pump regularly is a good idea as numerous types of debris can find its way into the bilge and you don’t want that to be sitting there and affecting the operation of the pump when you need it the most.

Q: Are Bilge Pumps Noisy?

A: if you’re on a boat then it’s likely that there will be plenty of other noises around you already such as the cutting of the waves, maybe the sound of our speakers or general chatter between everyone on board. Even if it makes a sound, it’s very unlikely that the noise of a bilge pump will be a nuisance.

That being said though, there are plenty of pumps out there which market themselves as silent and ones that don’t cause any vibration so you won’t even notice these while they are in operation. Even the bilge pumps that don’t offer this aren’t too loud, so noise is never a problem when it comes to bilge pumps.

There is also the matter as well that they will only ever be working when there is water in the bilge, so if it’s on then you know it’s doing the vital job that it was bought for. The vast majority of the time the bilge pump won’t even be in operation so it’s nothing to worry about and even when it’s time for it to kick into action, it shouldn’t be a disturbance.

If you are worried about noise though you can always opt for a manual pump which would require a lot more effort or you could look out for those bilge pumps that promise a silent and vibration-free running so that you’re never bothered by the sound.

Globo Surf Overview

Bilge pumps are the secret hero of the boating world as they are there to protect you from water that you otherwise might forget about. Bilge water can be dangerous for a number of reasons with the most obvious one being its ability to contribute to the sinking of your boat. Therefore it’s essential to get a bilge pump whether that is a hand bilge pump or a more sophisticated electric bilge pump.

Getting a manual bilge pump has its advantages, such as if you’re looking for a portable bilge pump that you can take between smaller vessels. Using a small bilge pump like this means that you always have that safety option if you don’t have the capability to add an electric bilge pump, the disadvantages though are naturally in the amount of water they can clear and the effort that it takes. If you’re on a very small boat like a kayak, then having a manual bilge pump can be very useful.

If you’re sailing on a bigger craft like a sailboat, however, that’s where you want to be looking into a marine bilge pump that can work electrically when you need it to in order to clear that water away. If you’re learning how to sail then clearing water out of the bottom isn’t something you want to think out, but it’s another essential part of being safe out there on the water.

As much as you might be thinking about what you’re wearing while you’re on there on the water, you also need to master the equipment around you and this includes all aspects of the boat including the bilge. Picking the right solution for you isn’t simple, as there can be many aspects to consider such as the type of your boat, the type of water that you’re going to be on and also the size of the boat as well.

Once you have considered all that, then you have to think about whether you are going to opt for a manual or an electronic bilge pump and if you opt for an electronic option then you have to assess if you want one with a manual switch or an automatic bilge pump. Even when you’ve decided that, you need to work out where the bilge pump will go in your boat, how many you need and what capacity the pump should be.

That’s why we have developed this buying guide to explain all these choices, so if you need a refresher, just read back through the buying guide before you make a decision. It might even be a good idea to write down all the key titles we have gone through and make a note of the requirements that your boat needs for each section.

Once you have made that choice, then you can head out on the water safe in the knowledge that if any of that water gets into your boat, then you’ll have a pump that can take it right back out and keep you safe.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!