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Bilge Pump Switch options

Tim Eichel

Has anyone ever used a Water Witch 230 bilge pump switch? One of the sailing sites rated it #1 about 15 years ago.....looks like the US and Canadian Coastguard use it. Any thought on this or other switches?

I am looking for a dependable switch for my upper 2nd bilge pump. This will be 8" or so above the floor of the bilge. I know all about the Ultra Safety switches and have had one in the past which seemed to collect oil and gum up a bit.

Here is a link to the Water Witch;

Any feedback would be appreciated.


Looks interesting. I suppose you’re going to have to be the guinea pig and tell us how it works out once installed :)
I went with an "Air switch" earlier this year. And added a Counter to keep track of how much it discharged. So far, so good as they say. The Water Witch switch looks interesting.


James M. Cleary
Groco make an air actuated diaphragm switch which is mounted well clear of the bilge with only a small tube extending down near the pump. We've have one that's been working fine for many years.



Stephen Ruell
I have two Johnson Pump Ultima electronic switches for my two bilge pumps. Very simple to install and no moving parts. I have had no problems for three summer seasons now. I think they are about $60 each.
I agree that float switches are a pain and not reliable, especially if you have an oil leak to gum them up. I don't know how many I replaced over the years in the previous boat. The trouble with the Morgan 382 bilge is that it is deep, dark, and not very accessible so hard to monitor and check on the float switch.
My groco switch failed after 3 years, which was 10 times longer than any other switch I tried. Several switches failed after only one time offshore in rough seas. Definitely get a counter, I learned that a typical switch can actuate 1000's of times in 24 hours of rough seas. I will never use a float switch in the bilge again. That's just a horrible idea.

I am now trying the Jabsco pressure switch that is similar to the groco. The groco was metal and corroded and failed. The Jabsco is sealed in plastic, and also has some electrics in it-requires a 3rd wire for ground. Time will tell.

Nice about both of them is that they can be checked and serviced without going into the bilge. I mounted it under the galley sink.



Ken Ferrari
I've had good service from the Aqualarm products, both their switch and pump monitor (installed in 2015). I've never had a problem. The switch is technically a float switch, but it's not like most. All of the electronics are completely sealed and are activated by some sort of proximity switch. The monitor is great to have aboard. The air switches are interesting, too.

Aqualarm Bilge Pump Monitor

Aqualarm Smart Bilge Pump Switch
I had an Ultima switch and a regular float switch in my boat when a lightning strike hit the mast. The Ultima was killed, but the float switch survived, as did the pumps. Also, most of the LED lights aboard were blown, while the incandescent bulbs survived.

Tim Eichel

I just I ordered the Jabsco Hydro Air switch that Warren has. I think I will also buy the Water Witch 230 in a few weeks to replace my rule float switch that is on my lower primary bilge pump. I will re-post if any issues. As always thank you for the responses!!

Tim Eichel

When installing this 2nd bilge pump I need to find and configure a discharge port for the water. I am considering drilling a hole on the port side, above the water line, a couple feet or so below the side deck drain. I would use this for the 2nd bilge discharge but also reroute the cockpit drain to the same through hull. Any other ideas on where to discharge this 2nd bilge? I really hate to drill holes in my boat.....
The air switch I installed is the Jabsco as well, but it hasn't been more than 6 or 8 months ago. So far it functions as it should. But I feel it hasn't had much "testing"
I mounted it on the forwrd wall (bulkhead) up high in the hanging locker just forward of the nav station, along with a counter. Easy to get to, to route the wiring and to monitor. I am also adding a second pump. Which will function as the primary pump. Smaller with an auto electronic switch which is internal. As per a chapter in "This Old Boat" book. Anyway, I too, am still tryng to decide where to discharge the pump out. And HATE drilling holes.

The only issue with the Jabsco switch I might relate, was that at first it would run constantly when powered up. I bypassed it for a while and couldn't figure out the problem. I called Jabsco and was told by tech that there is an adjustment screw for sensitivity, on-off. I didn't see any reference in the instructions. Anyway, the sightest turn of the screw fixed that issue. The Guy at Jabsco was excelent for what it's worth.

Tim Eichel

Mitchell, thanks for the heads up on the Jabsco switch. I was able to locate a possible discharge without drilling a hole. The manual bilge pump is discharged via the torpedo tube. I could add a "Y" hose connector (or something like that) and discharge the second pump that location. Does anyone see a problem with both pumps discharging to the same opening on the torpedo tube? Maybe if I was running the elec pump and the manual at the same time...not enough room for both to flow? The opening is fairly big.....forgot to measure it though. My bilge pump hose will be 1 1/2".
Some notes on discharge location. You should not have multiple bilge pumps on the same through hull, and you also shouldn't have a pump attach to a cockpit drain. The factory pump does attach to the cockpit drain(torpedo tube), and I had to change that to qualify for offshore racing. If not racing, I wouldn't have bothered changing it, but I would not add another one to it. If you DID decide to add another pump to the torpedo tube, you could probably do so on the other side with simple PVC pipe fittings without needing a "Y"

The higher above the waterline, the lower the volume of water the pump will move. A 3000gph pump will not pump anywhere near that if the through hull is much higher than the bilge where the pump is. On the other-hand, a through-hull close to the waterline will be under water while heeled. You will need to use a below the waterline rated hose, and loop it up higher than you expect the water to come, and might even consider a vented loop.

For my boat, I have 3 pumps total, and 3 separate through hulls. 2 on the port side, and one on the starboard side. They are as high as practicable, and toward the stern of the boat. About in line with the helm seat, where I can access them from that locker. Using larger and multiple pumps is the compromise I made to keep the through hulls where they will never be submerged.

PS, This summer I drained a portable A/C unit into the bilge, and the Jabsco triggered multiple times per day. It's not been installed very long, but has worked great.
I completely agree with Warren on discharging the seperate pumps. My new small pump will be routed out the stern near the hull/transom edge somewhere. When I have someone to help with installing the thru hull fitting.

Just a "for what it's worth"...
Our boat did the Pacific Cup and other coastal racing before we aquired her, so I imagine this is a result of Ocean Racing Regs. But worth considering. And I am a fan of redundancy with bilge pumps anyway ;)
We have one large electric pump now that I will move higher in the bilge and mount the small pump on the bilge floor as the primary or "everyday pump"
There are also 2 hand pumps on Sonata. One HUGE Edson manual, mounted to the inside of the engine bay/quarter berth bulkhead. Handle is accessible next the the laddur. The other manual pump is smaller and mounted to pump from the helm. They all discharge seperately.
I was in the Pacific Cup in 2018 with Eliana.

Having 2 manual pumps, one above and one below decks is a rule for the pacific cup. There is no requirement for an electric pump. That is worth noting because that rule comes with years of experience of post accident investigations. Electric pumps will fail when you need them most, if the boat is rolled or pooped on the batteries may likely fail.

Many boats in the Pacific Cup have pump failures because of crud that washes from all over the inside of the hull to the bilge after they get underway. If you drop a space connecter in just about any inaccessible place it will eventually find its way into the bilge and jam the pump. So it is very good to take a hose and spray every accessible place and wash out the dust/grime before you get under way.
Hi Warren, Yes good info.
I have looked at the Pac Cup rules, though honestly don't recall what is there in refence to pumps. I hope I didn't sound negative regarding the number of pumps on Sonata. I realize they are there as a result of the boat competeing. And I am happy for all the redundancy on our boat.
It is amazing how much little crap finds its way to the bilge too. Washing out the debris is a great piece of advice.
I regard the electric pumps as a convenience, and for the times when we are away from the boat. In an emergency, they may help but the Big Manual Edson would do the bulk of the work. It moves a lot of water.
My experience has taught me most race rules are implemneted due to "inceidents" having occured in the past. Lessons, if you will.
It is the same in the auto racing world, and I expect any type of racing. And some trickle down to everyday life. It is ususally a good thing.
Here is my installation of the Air switch and counter on Sonata. Small hanging locker forward of the Nav. Station. The Allen wrench is just threre temporarily for adjusting the sensitivity.
I sent an inquiry to Water Witch about oil contamination yesterday. They replied that they had tested it extensively with a 1/4 inch of oil and that it delayed the actuation slightly until the oil floated past the sensors. I subsequently purchased one as they were on sale at Go2Marine.