5 Best Bilge Pumps – In-depth Guide & Reviews For 2017
The bilge on your boat is the lowest compartment that generally sits below the waterline. What you don’t want is to have water there. They’re not just a nuisance. They’re also often a precursor to disasters such as the sinking of your boat.
Since a bucket simply just won’t do, you need a bilge pump that takes the water out of the bilge. This works by creating low and high pressure areas to move the water through an intake valve and then through the outlet barge where it is discharged.
Of course, if you’ve just bought a boat then it already has one. But if you have a boat in the open sea, you don’t want to risk your life or your boat because you relied on your stock bilge pump. So you may want a larger one, or have another one as backup.
Also, a bilge pump can be quite handy for other uses around the house. You can use to transfer water from one container to another, to drain your pools and aquariums, or to get rid of the water in the flooded areas of your home.
But which one should you get? That depends a lot on the kind of boat you have (or the kind of use you have in mind. If you do have a small boat, here are some of the most popular and best bilge pump models available today:
Table of Contents
- Recommended Best Bilge Pump
- 1. Shoreline Marine Bilge Pump 600 GPH
- 2. Seaflo Automatic Boat Bilge Water Pump
- 3. Rule 25D Submersible Bilge Pump
- 4. SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump Hose
- 5. Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump
- Buying Guide - Best Bilge Pump
Recommended Best Bilge Pump
1. Shoreline Marine Bilge Pump 600 GPH
Shoreline Marine Bilge is a manual electric bilge pump that you have to turn on first before it works.
However, if you have some DIY experience in these things you can install a float switch between the pump and the battery so it can turn itself on when the water gets too high.
This is quite powerful for a small bilge pump, even if the 600 gph rating may seem a bit meager. It works well enough that if you’re new to these things, you’ll probably be impressed at how it can take away the water and pump it out like a garden hose at full blast.
This unit is easy to install, and you don’t need to modify it further to get it to run as a manual electric bilge pump. You don’t need even to install it at all if you don’t want to, if you have a way to connect it to your boat battery and you have ¾-inch hose to connect to it.
This can take a lot of abuse, although truthfully it’s not designed to be that tough. You’re supposed to buy one of these cheap things once a year or so. It’s a submersible pump that can suck in all the detritus in the water as if they’re nothing.
- This is very powerful for such a small pump.
- It’s very easy to install.
- This can last a long while, although it’s obviously not designed to work for years.
- There’s a small chance that you may receive a bad or malfunctioning unit at the outset.
- You need to buy one of these every year, just to be on the safe side.
2. Seaflo Automatic Boat Bilge Water Pump
This pumps water very well too, as it has a 750 gph rating. It will really shoot the water out like a garden hose at maximum.
If you have a small boat and you back the boat on the water with the drain plug out (it happens to the best of us), then you have a problem.
With the Seaflo Automatic Boat Bilge Water Pump, you can take out the water much faster than it gets in, so at the very least you can put the drain plug back in. But you don’t have to manually turn it on yourself if you don’t have to. This is automatic submersible bilge pump that already comes with a built-in float switch.
You won’t need to buy one as a separate purchase, as is the case with some other similar bilge pumps. This then doesn’t power on until the electronic sensors detect the water level is at a certain depth. When that happens, the built-in float switch activates the motor and the pump starts to work.
There’s even a test button at the rear of the pump to test out the float switch. Again, there’s also manual override just in case. This comes with lots of convenient features. It uses 12V power and there’s ignition protection to protect it from high current.
The tight seals protect against water and moisture, and it also features anti-airlock protection. The strainer is quick to release for more convenient maintenance. It doesn’t vibrate or make noise. This has several features that are designed to make it last longer than your usual cheap bilge pump.
The water-cooled motor is rated for a long life, it’s encased in durable plastic housing designed for high impact, and it uses a stainless steel shaft. It’s rustproof. It won’t even burn out even when it runs dry.
- The installation is straightforward enough.
- It’s can really pump out the water.
- It can work manually or automatically.
- The float switch is already integrated, and you can test it out first.
- It’s designed to work well for a longer time.
- It’s very quiet.
- It’s easy to maintain.
- This has the same flaw that’s found in many inexpensive bilge pumps—sometimes you can get a bad unit.
- It may not drain the bilge to a level that you like, as it may work only when the water is 1.5 inches high.
3. Rule 25D Submersible Bilge Pump
As the name says, this can be a 500-gph bilge pump but there’s an 1100-gph variant. Rule 25D Submersible Bilge Pump is a submersible, but you have to turn it on yourself since it’s not an automatic.
Since this is a submersible, it uses a stainless steel shaft and it’s rustproof. It’s compact, quiet, and doesn’t vibrate.
It’s tough enough that you can also expect it to work for several years before you have to replace it. The water flow from the pump is good enough even with the 500 gph rating. It’s strong enough that you may even want to try to use it the water pressure to wash the deck!
It boasts in its advertisements that it can run dry for short periods, and that’s true enough. However, that “short” period is really short, since running dry for just 15 minutes is enough to burn out your motor.
You may also want to keep your bilge clean of any debris. The Rule 25D works well enough for just pumping out water, but for detritus it’s not really as effective. In fact, getting debris stuck in the impeller isn’t really recommended at all.
- This is a very compact bilge pump, so much so that you may even doubt its ability to pump a significant amount of water. But this size makes it very portable for even smaller boats.
- It’s easy enough to install as you basically just have to hook up a couple of wires.
- It can really pump out water very efficiently.
- It’s very reliable.
- It’s durable too.
- This works best if the water isn’t too dirty and full of detritus. With debris, it doesn’t react all that well.
- If you do get stuff in the impeller, there’s no easy way to clean that area of the bilge pump.
- You have to manually turn this on and you need to make sure you don’t let it run dry for very long. That means you need to practice “constant vigilance”.
4. SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump Hose
Let’s now move on to the hand bilge pump variants. It comes in variety of sizes ranging from 18 to 36 inches tall, along with a removable hose with sizes ranging from 20 to 72 inches.
So you will have to pump this manually to pump out the water you don’t want. It’s not as if it’s hard to pump at all.
The pump handle is large enough for most hands, and it has a curved and easy grip to make more ergonomic. The handle can also withstand high impact so you can pump hard without being concerned that the pump handle can’t take the force.
It’s very efficient, and in about 3 minutes of moderate pumping you can get rid of about 40 gallons of water. This is great for kayaks, canoes, runabouts, and other small boats.
It can access tight areas with puddles of water easily. This thing is even self-priming too. The hose is also removable so it’s not all that hard to store away either.
You may notice, however, that the horizontal connection site for the outflow hose may tend to leak a little bit when you’re pumping. You can fix this with a very good type of tape, such as the self-fusing F4 tape. However, the hose it comes with isn’t really durable, so you may have to upgrade it.
- This can really pump out the water even with moderate pumping effort.
- It’s easy and comfortable to use.
- It can access tight areas that traditional bilge pumps can’t reach.
- It primes itself.
- The leak in the hose connection is annoying.
- The hose itself doesn’t last long, as it can develop cracks.
5. Seattle Sports Paddlers Bilge Pump
The Seattle Sports Paddlers Pump is a kayaker’s bilge pump, and so it doesn’t really need a hose at all.
You pull on the handle to suck the water out of the kayak, and when you push the handle down it shoots out the water out of the kayak and into the ocean.
The rubber handle is very easy to grip. This is an essential piece of kayaking equipment that you should perhaps always bring along with you.
If you want, you can attach a hose to the output valve so you can extend the range of the output. The manual says that it needs a 1-inch internal diameter hose, but that’s not entirely accurate. You’ll find that a 1⅛-inch hose is a better fit.
Still, out on the water you won’t really need a hose, and it’ll just make it less portable. It’s easy enough to bring with you, since it’s basically a pipe that’s 21 inches long with a 1.75-inch diameter. It’s not that heavy either as it weighs just 12 ounces. It’s portable and easy to store away.
If you somehow clumsily drop it in the water, you can always get back to it. It floats on the water, and it’ll be there floating when you get back to it even after a few minutes. You’ll also find it quickly enough with its high visibility neon coloring.
- It works well enough to give you some time before your kayak sinks. If you ever get drenched by waves, you’re going to need this.
- It’s very slender, so it’s easy to stow on your kayak.
- It’s easy and comfy to use.
- It floats in the water and you can find it easily enough.
- There’s really no absolute need for a hose at all.
- If you follow the manual and get a 1-inch hose, you’re going to be frustrated.
- This is for kayaks, and not for larger boats. It can only pump out about 5 gallons in a minute.
Buying Guide - Best Bilge Pump
What factors do you focus on when you’re buying a bilge pump? This is actually a complicated question, because a bilge pump can be used on so many types of jobs. Even if you’re using it for a boat, the type of boat you have will factor in your choice.
Let’s take a look at several factors and features that can help you make your decision:
Type of Bilge Pump
There are several ways you can categorize bilge pumps:
Electrical or Manual: Some bilge pumps run on electricity, and on a boat they may run on batteries. However, others are manual bilge pumps that don’t need electricity at all. However, for these manual hand bilge pumps you have to pump the water out by hand, like how you also pump air into an inflatable item with a manual air pump.
Automatic or Manual Electrical: The electrical pumps can be further categorized as either automatic or manual. The automatic pumps can turn itself on automatically when its sensors detect the water in the bilge at a certain level. With the manual, you have to turn it on first before the electric bilge pump starts to work.
Priming: Priming a pump basically means clearing the pump of air so it can work properly. You can do this manually but some pumps such as the submersible bilge pumps are self-priming.
Installed or Portable: Some bilge pumps are installed in the bilge, and they just get rid of the water there. But others are portable, so you can just bring it along with you on your kayak or for jobs around the house.
This is one of the most basic features of an electric bilge pump, and it refers to number of gallons it can remove in an hour (gph). Obviously you don’t see this on a hand bilge pump, since its capacity is all about how fast you are in pumping the pump.
Now for small bilge pumps, you get ratings ranging from 500 gph to 750 gph. However, this is not really accurate for real world conditions. Just because a bilge pump has a 500 gph rating doesn't meant that it will empty a 500-gallon tank in just an hour.
Most of the time, a 500-gph pump won’t even move 250 gallons in an hour. The pumping capacity is reduced with real world voltage conditions, the height of the vertical distance the water has to travel, and the condition of the hose.
The pumping capacity you need will depend on the size of your boat. For boats up to 18 feet long, a 500 gph bilge pump will do. For up to 22 feet, you need 700 gph. For up to 26 feet, you may need to go up to 1,200 gph.
However, the basic rule of bilge pumps is that the greater capacity is often the wiser choice. That’s why lots of boat captains have at least 2 bilge pumps.
Other Considerations for Installed Bilge Pumps
- Is it easy to install and mount?
- Does it work well with no leaks?
- Can it work without breaking down right away?
Other Considerations for Manual Hand Bilge Pumps
- Is it light?
- Is it resistant to corrosion?
- Is it easy to pump?
- Does it leak?
- Is it easy to store away?
When you have a boat, it’s very easy to overlook the importance of a bilge pump. But a bilge pump may be able to keep up with a small leak so your boat doesn’t sink before you can put in repairs. These bilge pumps are so inexpensive that you should consider getting a large capacity bilge pump, and perhaps you can get 2 of them to be sure.
Even if you have a small boat like a runabout or kayak, a small hand bilge pump can come in handy. So get one for a small boat or even as a manual backup for your other pumps. You just never know—that’s the real reason why you need the best bilge pump in the first place!
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