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The Essential Guide to Bilge Pumps: Keep Your Boat Afloat

The Essential Guide to Bilge Pumps: Keep Your Boat Afloat

13th May 2024

Bilge pumps aren’t the most exciting of marine accessories — but out on the water, you’ll never regret investing in a good one.

A bilge pump is vital for removing excess water from the lowest compartment in the boat, inside the bottom of the hull. This is where water inevitably collects from sea spray, washdown water or built-in coolers— and when heavier waves and rain make their appearance.

Keeping this water removed efficiently is key. Savvy boaters often double up and use a smaller, automatic pump, mounted low, in conjunction with a higher-capacity pump mounted higher.

Proper pump operation keeps the bilge larger water-free under normal conditions. It can also help boaters handle serious situations more safely, potentially saving the day— or buying valuable time for repairs—in the event of a smaller hole in the hull.

Of course, selecting the right bilge pump for your boat is critical.

How Marine Bilge Pumps work

Simply put, the bilge pump removes water and oil from the lowest point of the bilge compartment. It moves liquids upward through a hose and out through a discharge outlet in the hull — which should be located at least 8 inches above the waterline.

Manual versus automatic operation is an important factor to consider. For a small boat with a simple setup, you may prefer to operate the bilge pump with a switch, only as needed.

However, if you leave your boat in the water, you’ll want to have water pumping out automatically just to keep rain water from accumulating. Many automatic bilge pumps for boats have the option of manual control.

Marine bilge pumps usually work in conjunction with a float switch. This is mounted where it will trip when water reaches a certain level, activating the pump system for automatic pumping. Talk about peace of mind!

Choices to Consider

The size of your boat determines your bilge pump needs — especially your minimum capacity, which is usually measured in GPH (gallons per hour).The GPH rating is only relative because performance depends on the type of discharge hose and the distance and height that the pump must move the water. In general, you can expect to achieve about 60% of the pump’s stated rating.

You’ll want to choose a well-designed pump, made to last from corrosion-resistant materials that resist the effects of nature. This is especially true if you’re boating in salt water.

Power sources matter, too. You’ll find that 12V DC is standard for most boats, but larger vessels may require 24V operation.

Cost-effective Efficiency

SeaFlo products are an excellent choice for your bilge pump and float switch needs, whether you own a medium or midsize boat (25 to 90 feet).

SeaFlo is a trusted brand that’s been in business for 16 years. They’re a member of both the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the American Boat & Yacht Council. We are proud to offer SeaFlo bilge pump products:

  • For 24-volt pump applications, we offer a 2000 GPH model, a 3700 GPH model, and a 4700 GPH model.
  • You can choose between SeaFlo 15-amp and 25-amp float switches.
  • We also offer a 12V dry bilge system to keep your bilge especially dry. (This works in conjunction with your regular bilge pump — not as a replacement.)

Any of SeaFlo’s no-frills, reliable options might be the best bilge pump for your money. They’re comparable to equivalent pumps from Rule, Attwood, Johnson and Shurflo. They are also compatible with Rule and Johnson strainer bases.

Whichever model you choose, you’ll also enjoy peace of mind. All have a 4-year warranty.

Our customers say they’re happy with the quality of SeaFlo products, especially considering the reasonable price.

Quick Marine Bilge Pump Maintenance tips

Bilge pump effectiveness depends on regular cleaning. Debris can build up around the bilge strainer and decrease efficiency. Depending on where the pump is mounted, these debris should be relatively easy to see and remove.

Frequent testing can help avoid problems at sea. The last thing you want is a problem while enjoying a day on the water, so regularly check the function of your float switch. You can even run a little water into the bilge to make sure the pump is moving water.

The harsh, moist conditions of the bilge are no problem for a well-designed pump, but all wires should be checked regularly for fraying or looseness. When installed properly, they will usually be routed up and away from the damp bilge floor, with watertight connections.

Shop SeaFlo Bilge Pumps at Environmental Marine

As you can see, choosing the correct bilge pump is crucial for a safe, carefree day of boating.

We encourage you to explore our full selection of quality SeaFlo products and shop with confidence.

As always, feel free to contact Environmental Marine at 1-800-522-2656 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. We’ll be happy to answer questions about SeaFlo bilge pumps and discuss our products’ compatibility with your boating needs.