Installing a new bilge pump system
Installing a new bilge pump system

Keeping your boat safe and dry is crucial for any sailing adventure. Learn how to install a new bilge pump system to ensure the safety of your loved ones and your vessel.

Installing a New Bilge Pump System

As you embark on your sailing adventure with your family, ensuring the safety of your loved ones and your vessel is of utmost importance. One crucial aspect of boat safety is having a reliable bilge pump system in place. In this article, we will guide you through the process of installing a new bilge pump system, discussing the importance of bilge pumps, the different types available, and the steps to install one on your boat.

Table of Contents

Why is a Bilge Pump System Important?

A bilge pump is a crucial piece of equipment on any boat, as it helps remove water that accumulates in the bilge area. Water can enter the bilge from various sources, such as leaks, rain, or even condensation. If left unattended, this water can cause damage to the boat’s structure, electrical systems, and even lead to sinking. A bilge pump system ensures that water is efficiently removed from the bilge, keeping your boat safe and dry.

Types of Bilge Pumps

There are three main types of bilge pumps: manual, electric, and high-capacity. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, and the best choice for your boat will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Manual Bilge Pumps

Manual bilge pumps require physical effort to operate, usually through a hand lever or foot pedal. They are simple, reliable, and do not rely on electricity, making them a good backup option in case of electrical failure. However, they may not be suitable as the primary bilge pump on larger boats, as they can be slow and labor-intensive.

Electric Bilge Pumps

Electric bilge pumps are the most common type found on boats, as they offer convenience and efficiency. They are powered by the boat’s electrical system and can be controlled by a float switch, which automatically activates the pump when water reaches a certain level. Electric bilge pumps come in various sizes and capacities, making it easy to find one that suits your boat’s needs. However, they do rely on electricity, so it’s essential to have a backup manual pump in case of power failure.

High-Capacity Bilge Pumps

High-capacity bilge pumps are designed for boats with large bilge areas or those that may take on water quickly, such as in rough seas or during a storm. These pumps can move large volumes of water in a short amount of time, providing added protection against flooding. However, they can be more expensive and may require a more complex installation process.

Selecting the Right Bilge Pump for Your Boat

When choosing a bilge pump for your boat, consider the following factors:

  1. Boat size: Larger boats will require a bilge pump with a higher capacity to effectively remove water. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your boat’s size and bilge pump capacity.

  2. Power source: If you have a reliable electrical system on your boat, an electric bilge pump is a convenient option. However, always have a manual pump as a backup in case of power failure.

  3. Float switch compatibility: If you opt for an electric bilge pump, ensure that it is compatible with a float switch for automatic operation.

  4. Ease of installation: Some bilge pumps may require more complex installation processes, so consider your skill level and the available space in your bilge area when selecting a pump.

Installing Your Bilge Pump System

Once you have selected the right bilge pump for your boat, follow these steps to install the system:

Step 1: Choose the Location

Find a suitable location in the bilge area for your pump. The ideal spot is the lowest point in the bilge, where water naturally collects. Ensure that the chosen location is easily accessible for maintenance and has enough space for the pump, hose, and wiring.

Step 2: Mount the Bilge Pump

Secure the bilge pump to the chosen location using the manufacturer’s recommended mounting hardware. Ensure that the pump is level and firmly attached to the bilge floor.

Step 3: Install the Float Switch

If you are using an electric bilge pump with a float switch, mount the switch near the pump, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Ensure that the float switch can move freely without obstruction and that it is positioned at the correct height to activate the pump when water reaches the desired level.

Step 4: Connect the Hose

Attach a hose to the bilge pump’s discharge outlet, using a hose clamp to secure it in place. The hose should be long enough to reach the boat’s through-hull fitting, where the water will be discharged overboard. Ensure that the hose is routed in a way that avoids sharp bends or kinks, which can reduce the pump’s efficiency.

Step 5: Wire the Bilge Pump

Connect the bilge pump’s wiring to your boat’s electrical system, following the manufacturer’s instructions and adhering to proper marine wiring practices. Ensure that the pump is connected to a dedicated circuit breaker or fuse and that the wiring is protected from water and damage.

Step 6: Test the System

Once the installation is complete, test the bilge pump system to ensure that it is functioning correctly. Fill the bilge area with water and observe the pump’s operation, checking for any leaks or issues with the float switch. Make any necessary adjustments and retest until the system is working as intended.

Maintaining Your Bilge Pump System

Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the continued reliability of your bilge pump system. Check the pump, hose, and wiring for signs of wear or damage, and clean the pump and float switch as needed to prevent clogs or malfunctions. Test the system regularly to ensure that it is functioning correctly and address any issues promptly.


Installing a new bilge pump system is a crucial safety upgrade for your boat, providing peace of mind as you set sail with your family. By selecting the right pump for your needs, following the proper installation steps, and maintaining the system regularly, you can ensure that your boat remains safe and dry in any situation.