Panbo

EasyBailer, a good idea done well

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 28, 2010
EasyBailer cPanbo.JPG

Weird world that it is, I first learned of EasyBailer via Twitter, even though the "factory" is just down the coast.  Last week I stopped in and met "CEO" John Bianchi in his shop full of small boats, including an impressive plank-on-frame Rangeley Guideboat he built himself.  Thus I wasn't surprised to see how neatly put together his solar-powered dinghy pump is (click above for detail).  And I consider myself somewhat expert on this subject as I tried to assemble a similar system myself with poor results...

Yup, the idea of putting a little self-contained electric pump in a small boat you leave tied up is not unique.  In fact, there are several examples in my harbor, and they're quite noticeable right after a big rain storm when the rest of us are hand pumping or hauling our tenders onto the floats so we can tip the water out.  And, in fact, Bianchi has dropped the idea of a patent since he's realized how many others have tried to gizmo their way around that chore (kayakers too).
   But there's the matter of execution.  My own attempt worked for about a month before the pump's built-in float switch failed somehow, rain water rose above the motorcycle battery, and much of my wiring, including the standard three-position switch I'd mounted onto my plastic box, turned into green gunk.  Bianchi wisely uses a solid state Ultima Pump Switch, which is very hard to foul, and which can be used as a manual switch by simply touching the two sensor spots (you may have to wet your fingers).  He also experimented with components before settling on a Johnson 500 gal/hr pump, a 5 amp-hour sealed AGM battery, and a Sunforce 1W solar charger with built-in overcharge protection.  He showed me a couple of clunkier prototypes, demonstrated how well the finished model works, and I tend to believe his claim that it will handle a long period of rain and overcast (Lord knows, we had the testing conditions last June and July).  At any rate, I now have a sample to test myself next summer, but I'm already fairly convinced that while you could build one of these yourself, it's likely smarter, and surely easier, to get an EasyBailer.

easybailer_installation2.jpg

Comments

PS I'm still very much a Twitter newbie, but do plan to use it again in Miami like I did at Ft. Lauderdale:

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2009/10/ft_lauderdale_boat_showtweet_tweet.html

I'll also try harder to post breaking electronics news tweets. So, if interested, please follow me at Panbo_BE.

http://twitter.com/Panbo_BE

Posted by: Ben at January 29, 2010 7:57 AM | Reply

For what it's worth, I've installed a two Ultima pumpswitches -- one on my own boat, one for a client. Both failed within a year. I'm staying with Ultima for now, because the reasonably-priced alternatives aren't very good either, but I'm gun-shy. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Posted by: Jeff Zurkow at January 29, 2010 12:04 PM | Reply

I have had water witch on my sailboat for over 4 years now and other than cleaning the contacts off about once a year (they get a little slimey) it has and continues to work perfectly...

Posted by: Lauren at January 29, 2010 12:21 PM | Reply

I saw a similar bailer advertised last year, offered by the former owner of Pattens Boatyard in Eliot, ME. - Like Ben says, there seem to be a few of these on the market. I do like the idea. What concerns me, though, is how easily somebody could walk away with it. $175 is a lot of boat bucks, so it would be nice, if some kind of theft protection could be built into the case to discourage the casual thief.

Posted by: Bremer Speck at January 29, 2010 5:11 PM | Reply

Isn't Bremer Speck in New Hampshire? That might be your problem right there ;-)

Actually we've had a little thievery here in Camden, but I finished my tender out from a bare hull specifically to endure our public landing. I can not only lock the oars in but they make it hard to get into the center thwart which can hold life jackets and a pump like this.

A serious criminal could get through my defenses easily, but our problems mostly relate to the proximity of several bars.

Posted by: Ben at January 29, 2010 5:43 PM | Reply

We tried one of the Ultima switches in our shower sump, hardly a hostile environment - we thought it was a great idea, being solid state instead of mechanical. Within a month it failed and got returned and replaced with the old school float switch that's been working fine forever.

The Ultima switches are NOT reliable and have some serious problems... I wouldn't bet my boat one one...

Posted by: Scott E at January 30, 2010 1:13 AM | Reply

Last year there was a new invention that came out on the Swedish market to solve the same problem. With a very simple solution.

http://lansman.nu/?lang=en

/Fredrik

Posted by: Fredrik at January 30, 2010 2:30 AM | Reply

Drainman looks quite clever, but it wouldn't work very well in my harbor because we don't tie tenders up fore and aft and there's rarely any surge. Plus $100 seems somewhat high.

Posted by: Ben at January 30, 2010 9:06 AM | Reply

I'm surprised to hear of problems with Ultima bilge switches, and note that it comes with a three year warranty (and the whole EasyBailer system is warrantied for one year).

I've always heard good things about the Water Witch switches but they may not be right for this application as the company warns about in their tech sheets:

"If large amounts of rain water can enter the bilge, it may dilute the normal, fresh or salt, water outside our sensitivity window. Corrective action can be to switch pump on manually to remove diluted water or to add minerals such as salt, baking soda, bilge cleaners, etc� NORMAL FRESH WATER HAS AMPLE MINERAL CONTENT FOR PROPER OPERATION."

http://www.waterwitchinc.com/new/SiteElements/Pages/SecondaryPages/Products/BilgeSwitches.html

There's no similar warning in the Ultima literature:

http://www.johnson-pump.com/JPMarine/products/bilge/ultimaswitch.html

Posted by: Ben at January 31, 2010 10:02 AM | Reply

Dear Ben,
please look at this marvelous bilgepump. Driven by the force of nature it pumps 2500 liter per 24 hour. It works great, no battery needed.
http://lansman.nu/?lang=en
Sometimes an idea is too simple to think about.

Posted by: Reinier Zwolsman at February 1, 2010 6:48 AM | Reply

Dear Ben, sorry. I see that someone already mentioned the Drainman by Lansman. Best regards, Reinier

Posted by: Reinier Zwolsman at February 1, 2010 6:50 AM | Reply

I hadn't heard of the Ultima bilge switch before but now I want one. The Water Witch looks good too.
I looked for complaints on the web and it seems that using them in showers is the worst case. Perhaps that has something to do with soap. It is recommended that the sensors be kept clean from scum.

Posted by: norse at February 1, 2010 1:37 PM | Reply

There's another solar powered dinghy bailer on the market, from Sea Joule:

http://seajoule.com/index.html

Posted by: Ben at March 3, 2010 2:01 PM | Reply

There are some advantages with the Sea Joule Solar Bilge Pump. It has a bigger battery 7amp hour vs. a 5amp hour, it uses a conventional float switch that does not drain the battery down, it has a 1.2watt Kyocera solar panel vs. a 1watt, it also has a locking point on the enclosure so it could be locked to the dinghy, it can be mounted to the floor, and it is smaller in size.

Take a look www.seajoule.com

Posted by: Tom Nugent at March 10, 2010 10:37 AM | Reply

Ben,
A better way to compare the units is to analyze how much water a given pump-battery combination can move. For that we need to do some math. The 360GPH pump in the Seajoule (I assume Rule) draws 2.1 Amps. If the battery is 7 Amp hours, it will run 3.3 hours before battery depletion. At 360GPH it will pump 1188 G. EasyBailer�s 500GPH pump draws 2.5A; its 5Ah battery gives 2 hours run time, for a total of 1000 G.
Considering that a rain event of near Biblical proportions would be hard pressed to put even 200G into a dinghy, both of these units are way overbuilt.
The Ultima switch in the EasyBailer has no stand-by current drain. Early versions of the EasyBailer employed float switches, but they proved troublesome. Hence the considerably more expensive Ultima switch was adopted. I am not aware of any switch failures since the change. Switches are the Achilles Heel of most bilge pump systems. I would rather build EasyBailers than fix them.
The EasyBailer�s solar panel is way more than adequate to supply the needs of the system. I�ll spare you the math. What matters more than two tenths of a watt is the greater adaptability of having a solar panel that can be remotely mounted up to 7 feet away from the box. What if you want to put the box under a thwart to keep it out of the way? No problem with EasyBailer. Try using a Seajoule under the floorboards in an Alden Triangle.
Regarding security, the EasyBailer can also be screwed to the floor. A determined thief will take what he wants. Most boat thieves worth their salt carry a master key (bolt cutters) that can easily defeat the little aforementioned locking point.
Does Seajoule include a 4 foot discharge hose, 2 hose clamps and discharge fitting for the gunwale in the purchase price? EasyBailer does at no extra cost.
Sorry to be long winded, but claims presented without explanation are sometimes misleading.
Best, John
easybailer. Bianchicom

Posted by: John Bianchi at March 12, 2010 1:39 PM | Reply

Thanks, John. I think it's fine for you and Sea Joule to go back and forth about your products here. In fact, I think both companies would be wise to list all the components used on their sites. It's obvious (and fine) that both the pump systems are assembled from known products and it would help potential buyers to understand better what they're getting into. At least I'd want to know what parts were used, and why, if I were shopping bailers (which is why I like this thread).

Posted by: Ben at March 12, 2010 6:34 PM | Reply

I'm about a year late to this discussion. I am considering the Drainman wave action pump. Wondering if anybody has had any experience with one? Does the unit always maintain a prime even when "sucking air"? Thanks.

--David

Posted by: David at March 10, 2011 6:51 PM | Reply

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