First, the good news - marine plumbing is a lot easier for the do-it-yourselfer than at home. Even though marine toilets need little maintenance, don’t think you can ignore them. Like every other part of your boat, ongoing maintenance will save you from the larger task of an overhaul.
Cleaning the lines, lubricating the pumps, and sanitizing the toilet are simple tasks.
Run a pint of white vinegar through the head monthly. This will prevent calcium deposits from building. Flush the lines with fresh water and you should be good to go. Toilets flushed with salt water cause calcium deposits to build up scale. This accumulates in the discharge lines and hoses. If left unchecked, calcium deposits can create a total blockage.
Follow the monthly vinegar flush with a lubricating oil to keep the pump operating.
Many people associate boat toilets with a foul odor. This doesn’t have to be the case. Again, if you maintain the head by installing proper hose, valves, and strainers, odor won't be an issue.
The most common cause of odor comes from the hose. Be sure to install a proper marine sanitation hose. Leaking connections are another common cause of odor, so make sure all seals are tight.
Holding tanks for both water and waste need to meet U.S. Coast Guard standards. A water/waste holding tank made of polyethylene (PE) will not filter taste into water or emit waste odors.
Hose for a boat water system must be non-toxic, non-contaminating, taste-free, and FDA-approved for drinking water. For that reason, semi-rigid (PE) tubing has grown in popularity.
Next to consider in your marine plumbing are water pumps. The pump on your boat can be either an electric pump or a manual pump. The main advantage of the latter is they reduce water waste measurably. This can be a concern for boaters expecting to spend a long time away from water supplies.
You can boil water to wash and rinse dishes. You can wash your hands with cold water if you have to. But no one wants to take a cold shower on their boat. For that, you want a marine water heater. This small insulated tank operates with a pressurized water system downstream of the pump.
You want to have a different pump than your bilge pump for the shower water. Build up in the bilge can cause odors and you risk clogging the bilge pump with hair. Showers should have their own dedicated discharge pump.
The variety of marine and boat plumbing parts can seem daunting. Just remember, all the parts are visible making them accessible. Pipes in your home are hidden behind walls.
When you have a plumbing problem in your home, you'll need to call your insurance company. When you have an issue with your marine plumbing, you can call your friendly marine parts experts!
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