If you’re happy with a basic, stone-axe-reliable water system and don’t need pressurized or hot water, just install manual pumps in the galley and head; good units are available from Fynspray/Imtra and Whale. The latter’s foot-operated Gusher pump seems to be the most popular choice.
If you want a pressurized system, the pump should be sized according to the number of outlets it will have to service. Prices are linked to pumping capacity; you can get a low-powered, 2-gallon-per-minute pump for under $100, or spend as much as $550 for a hefty 10-gpm model. If you want to run a shower, you’ll need a minimum of 3.5 gpm. Remember that a more powerful pump will consume more electricity. Big diaphragm pumps, like the belt-driven Jabscos, are also noisier than the new generation of low-power pumps.
On that note, I’d strongly advise you to also install manual pumps in the galley and in the head(s), and to urge guests to use them. This saves both energy and water; there’s nothing that annoys me more than seeing someone brush his teeth with the water running. And you would be stupid indeed to rely solely on electric pumps for your water supply.
The best electric water pumps for pleasure-boat use operate automatically, with an integral sensor or switch that turns them on when a faucet is opened. These are now so common, and so reliable, that there is no reason to install a more complicated remote-switch pump with a switch built into the faucet. Diaphragm pumps are better for pressure water systems than impeller or centrifugal types, for good reason. They’re self-priming, use less power, and can be run dry.
It’s perfectly feasible to use domestic faucets on your boat. An adapter with a barbed tailpiece will allow you to connect PVC tubing. I think most household faucets and mixers look clumsy and out of place on a boat, though. Marine/RV faucets are available in assorted styles and finishes, with prices ranging from affordable to excruciatingly expensive. Whichever type you choose, it pays to install a shower/mixer type with retractable hose in the head. Even if you don’t shower on board, it comes in handy for rinsing salt out of your hair.
Don’t be afraid to seek technical advice from manufacturers, and don’t be afraid to tackle a job like this yourself. The hardest part is getting into the cramped spaces where builders usually hide the pumps and plumbing. If your boat didn’t have pressure water, you’ll have to run a new wire from the switch panel to the pump, and that’ll be the hardest part of the installation.
Thanks to Whale Water Systems for their technical help and guidance.
imtra marine products
Whale Water Systems