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DIY automatic ballast install
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Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 4:21 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

After spending many hours researching and exploring different ballast options, I thought I would share my work in hopes of providing useful information to others planning a similar project.

The project goals were:

1. Build a one ballast system hidden in the ski locker
2. Ballast must be fully automatic (no manual valves to turn)
3. Drains from the side of the hull, not the bottom
4. No issues with prime
5. Keep costs as low as possible without sacrificing quality
6. Safety

PUMPS
The first step was deciding whether to use a self-priming / reversible ballast puppy or Attwood Tsunami aerator pumps. At first I wanted to go with the Ballast Puppy for its self-priming feature, not allowing water to flow through when they’re in the off position, and simple plumbing. However, in order to achieve goals 2 and 3, a $150 solenoid valve would need to be purchased and plumbing would be more complex. The other downsides of the ballast puppies are its sensitivity to being run-dry, possibly more maintenance being needed and bottom-line cost. I decided on going with the aerator pumps once costs were factored in, see below. Amp draw wasn’t taken into consideration but for a multiple ballast setup it should be noted (1) ballast puppy draws 12amps versus (1) aerator pump that draws 3 amps.

Ballast Puppy cost
Ballast Puppy $245
Solenoid valve $150
Total $395

Attwood Tsunami cost
(2) Attwood Tsunami 800s $50
Contura switch & actuator $15
Total $65

I chose to use the Attwood Tsunami 800 GPH pumps based on their standard ¾” threaded input and output, very easy to work with and find fittings for at Boaters World. ¾” ID (inside diameter) PVC braided tubing was used for the plumbing.

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Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 4:26 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

THRU-HULLS
The next step was choosing what type of thru-hull I wanted to use, scoop type strainer or mushroom. Malibus, Mastercraft, and Nautiques use the mushroom type. Upon examination of a scoop type strainer, it appears it will force water into the ballast lines and ballast bag when the boat is moving, hence the name “scoop.” I didn’t want my bags auto-filling or having to install an extra valve so I chose to use the mushroom type. (2) ¾”chrome plated thru-hulls were purchased for the drain and vent lines.



SHUT-OFF VALVE & 90° ELBOW
Do not buy brass shut-off valves and elbows at hardware stores. Buy bronze shut-off valves and elbows at boating stores at 2.5 times the price. Yes, you read that right. There’s actually two types of thread. NPT for National Pipe Thread and ST for Straight Thread. Most threaded things we have come in contact with are Straight Threaded meaning we can screw it in until the screw head or something else seats and can’t go any further. NPT thread is different. The thread is tapered.

The thru-hull is ST and you don’t want to mix it with NPT because you can’t get enough turns to make a strong connection. The shut-off valves and elbows at boating stores are mostly ST so be careful when you are choosing. I did some Google reading and found that bronze is a harder metal than brass and is also more corrosion resistant. A ¾” shut-off valve at Home Depot costs approximately $8 versus $25 at boating stores.

Lastly, you won’t have the thread mixing issue if you use PVC elbows and shut-off valves but I liked the idea and piece of mind of a metal versus plastic / vinyl blend.

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Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 4:29 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

PUMP & BALLAST BAG FITTINGS
I used (3) ¾” FIP (female) thread to ¾” ID barb fittings on the pumps and (3) ¾” Fly High Quick Disconnect fittings on the ballast bags (fill, drain and vent). The Fly High Quick Disconnects allows for taking the ballast bag out without the use of any tools. If this feature is not important, you could just use ¾” Fly High barb fittings and save some money.

CHECK VALVE
My system uses one ¾” PVC spring check valve in the fill line. Check valves restrict water flow to one direction only. I chose this type of check valve to serve two purposes: 1) to prevent draining of my ballast bag through the fill line once it is filled and 2) to a small degree, prevent auto-filling because the spring inside the check valve needs approximately 2 PSI of pressure to open. Hopefully, it only opens when my fill pump is on. If you’ve never seen a check valve this may be confusing but once you see and touch one, you’ll understand the concept.

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Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 4:32 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

SWITCHES & ELECTRICAL
I spent quite a bit of time learning about switches. Basically, we need a 3-way (on-off-on) switch to operate the two aerator pumps. The technical name for this type of switch is a Single Pole Double Throw (SPDT) switch.

You can use a toggle style or a rocker style switch. Toggles are easier to install into the dash because you only need to drill a small hole to feed the toggle through and it locks into place with a nut. Rockers requires a bit more work because a rectangular cut-out is needed in the dash and that involves the use of some of a cutting tool. I chose to go with the rocker style switch for aesthetic reasons.

SPDT (on-off-on) switches can be purchased from any auto parts store. However, I liked the look and feel of the Malibu and Mastercraft switches (high quality switches from Carlingtech). I purchased the same Carlingtech Contura switches Malibu and Mastercraft uses at Waytekwire.com. Then I bought the actuator from a Malibu/Mastercraft dealer for $3. The actuators have the fill/ballast/drain labels.

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Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 4:38 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

THE INSTALL
I saved the install for last because it’s the easiest part. By now, all the engineering should be complete and we know what we’re putting in and hopefully we already conceptualized how we would do it.

Step 1) Find a location below the water line to install the thru-hull water intake (I installed mine as low as possible). Drill a small pilot hole to ensure accurate placement. Then use a 1” hole saw to drill the hole (please confirm a 1” hole saw is the correct size for your application). Be sure to wear safety goggles, dust mask, gloves and a long sleeve shirt. You do not want fiberglass dust in your eyes, lungs and skin. I didn’t know this the last time I drilled 5” holes for my speakers and had tiny shards of glass on the backs of my hands and forearms for the next few days. Its painful and there’s no way of getting it out. It eventually comes out in a few days when your skin is naturally replaced. I was surprised to find the hull was approximately 1” thick where I drilled my hole.

Step 2) Clean up the dust and clean the hull area around the hole. You want a clean surface for the sealant/adhesive you’re going to be using next. Make sure the thru-hull slides easily into the hole. If the hole is too small, you can bore it out with a ½”drill bit. Insert thru-hull and apply sealant (not too much because most of it will be forced out and you’ll need to clean it up later). Push thru-hull up (the sealant is very tacky and will hold it in place while you go into the boat to tighten up the nut) Spray brake cleaner on a towel or rag and go back underneath the boat to clean up the sealant. Depending on how much sealant is squeezed out, you’ll probably need to turn the rag a few times and respray brake fluid on it. Brake cleaner works wonders here! If you used a wet or dry rag you would just be smearing the stuff. I learned this trick when I installed my Perfect Pass paddlewheel.

Step 3) Use Teflon tape on the threads and connect the elbow, shut-off valve, pump, check valve and ballast bag in that order. Fill line is complete.

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Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 5:57 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

Step 4) Find a location where you want the ballast to drain. Drill two 1-1/16” holes for the thru-hulls (drain and vent). Connect the thru-hulls to the drain pump and vent. Drain and vents are complete.
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Keep it going man! Looks great. Also the fly high quick connect can be purchased at a severely discounted price from flow-rite. I think flow-rite is the supplier of these. They look identical.
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 6:05 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

Step 5) Find a location for your ballast switch. Mark the cut-out size. Drill a pilot hole large enough to insert your cutting device. I chose to use an air saw that runs off an air compressor. It took me approximately 15 minutes to make the cut. It took another 15 minutes of trimming to make the panel fit inside. The fiberglass at the dash was approximately 3/4” thick.
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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 6:07 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

Step 6) My fuse box had (3) terminals that were labeled “accessory” and were not being used. Be sure you choose one that is “always on” so you don’t need to turn the ignition to operate your ballast pumps. I added a 10amp fuse to it and wired it to the ballast switch. 10 amps is plenty for my application consider I’ll only be running one 3 amp pump at a time. My fuse box also had ground terminals so I wired a (-) wire from the switch to ground (this is only needed if your ballast switch has lights). If you fuse box doesn’t have a ground, you can use the (-) on the battery.

Step 7) Run one +12v wire from the switch to pump 1. Run one (-) wire from pump 1 to ground. Repeat for pump 2.

Step 8) Test your switch to ensure it can switch on the fill and drain pumps and that you didn’t blow the fuse (which indicates incorrect wiring). If everything checks out OK, you’re done. Now go out for a water test.

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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 6:15 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

TOOLS USED
Bench vice and heat gun are not pictured

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PostPosted: Mar 19, 2008 6:34 pm    Post subject: DIY automatic ballast install Reply with quote

The total project cost was $397. I have a spreadsheet detailing the materials I used, where they were purchased from and their costs. The forum doesn't allow Excel or Word file attachments so if anyone knows of a good alternative, let me know.
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PostPosted: Mar 20, 2008 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nice writeup Smile
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rideit
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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where do you connect the drain pump to the sac. on the bottom or top?
If on the botton of the sac, what keep's the ballast drain pump from draining when it's not turned on?
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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rideit wrote:
Where do you connect the drain pump to the sac. on the bottom or top?
If on the botton of the sac, what keep's the ballast drain pump from draining when it's not turned on?
On a friends boat, we connected the drains to the bottom of the sac and had to put pvc ball valves in place to keep them from draining.

It sucks to have to manually turn the valves, but as long as you mount them in a reasonably convenient location it's not too bad. All of the remote options looked pretty expensive.
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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 6:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you mount the pump into the top of the sac does it prime it self or do you need to push down on the pump to get it started?
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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice write-up. Very detailed. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great job!

I'm getting ready to help my buddy out with his 95 Super Sport Nautique, do any of you think a strainer for the intake is necessary?

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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

very nice ... good job on the instructions Fossilfuelburner
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PostPosted: Apr 08, 2008 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rideit,
The drain pump needs to be at the bottom of the the fat sacs for prime reasons. Gravity keeps them from auto-draining because the thru-hull drain is approximately 3 feet higher than the drain pump.

JRW160,
Does your friend's ballast have a vent line? Without a one, there could be pressure in the bag that pushes the water out.

84tique2001,
I do not recommend a strainer. All the strainers I've seen have a built-in scoop. The scoop causes your sacs to auto-fill when the boat is moving unless you put a valve in. If you face the scoop towards the stern, you will have issues with prime when you fill on the go. I chose to use the mushroom thru-hull because thats what Malibu, Mastercraft and Nautiques use for their ballasts.

Thanks for the compliments. Hope the writeup gave others ideas for their ballast systems and let me know if you have questions.

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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2008 7:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fossilfuelburner wrote:

JRW160,
Does your friend's ballast have a vent line? Without a one, there could be pressure in the bag that pushes the water out.


He has a vent line, but they were still draining on their own.
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PostPosted: Apr 09, 2008 7:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JRW160, Put a swing check valve on the fill line. I had that same problem with mine. If you are using an aerator pump it doen't have a built in check valve like most pumps and it will drain right back out the fill.

http://www.plumbingsupply.com/pvccheck.html

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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2008 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fossilfuelburner,
Where did you buy the bronze 3/4 ball valve shut off and the bronze 3/4 90.
do you have any problem with the bag's filling when your on the go, do you have to shut off the ball valve's if you don't want the bag's to fill on the go?

This thread is awesome, THANK YOU.
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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2008 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vette74 wrote:
JRW160, Put a swing check valve on the fill line. I had that same problem with mine. If you are using an aerator pump it doen't have a built in check valve like most pumps and it will drain right back out the fill.

http://www.plumbingsupply.com/pvccheck.html

We used those exact valves on the fill lines. The problem we ran into was the drain lines. The system uses separate pumps for fill and drain. It was fine initially with two tanks and a center sack. We added a bow sack and 500lb sacks on top of the hard tanks and water was steadily running out of the drain lines.
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2008 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rideit,
I got the elbow and shut-off valve at Boaters world. West Marine and other boating stores should also have it.

The shut-off valve is only used in case of an emergency (if the aerator pump cracks or leak) Otherwise, I don't touch it. I don't have any auto-filling issues. I have a PVC check valve in my fill line... the same one Vette74 suggested. Its spring loaded so, normally with the pump off, there isn't enough water pressure to push open the spring. Another purpuse this check valve serves is it doesn't let the ballast drain from the fill lines. The check valve does slow down flow alot. I would esitmate it reduces flow by 50-75%. Another words, with out it you could fill 2x as fast.

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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2008 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JRW160, Put the outlet higher than the sacks there is no way it can drain out then.

Fossilfuelburner, Replace those with the swing check valves they are much more efficient.

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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2008 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The outlets sit higher than the sacks, which is why we didn't think it would be a problem. I think reason it is draining is due to the pressure the walls of the sacks are exerting on the water...that's the best guess I have at least.
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2008 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The water is creating pressure on the sacks not the other way around. I could understand if you really fill them up but if they are 3/4 full it is not creating pressure to push water. Is it leaking out of the hole when you take off(is the hole below the sack due to bow rise)? If it is going out of the drain lines loop the lines higher than your drain hole so the water has to go over the "hill" before it drains.
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PostPosted: Apr 15, 2008 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Should add some pics of the bag and stuff installed to complete it. Great job by the way.
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PostPosted: Apr 16, 2008 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ballast bag with fill, drain and vent lines connected
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PostPosted: Apr 16, 2008 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Switch installed
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PostPosted: May 02, 2008 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

have you had any problem's with the sac's self filling on the go?
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PostPosted: May 04, 2008 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm curious too, are the check valves working like you wanted them to? I think I'm going to do a similar install on my boat, but with 3 bags.
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PostPosted: May 11, 2008 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just curious, did you have to drill any holes to run the hose from the fill pump into the ski locker, or was there already an opening to run the hose through?
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PostPosted: May 13, 2008 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rideit: No issues with self-filling
pickle311: The spring check valves I originally used restricted flow and caused prime issues so I switched them out to swing check valves. Works great now.
JMart2210: Yes, I drilled 3 holes for the fill, drain and vent lines into the ski locker. You can't see the holes unless you follow the hoses and really look for them.

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PostPosted: May 13, 2008 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

smart man with 4200, 5200 will tear the gel-coat right off!

i would have used high speed pick ups
but then again how many guys fill at a high speed, lol

Mr. Green

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