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Reversible Pump Automated Ballast System Design

Reversible Pump Automated Ballast System

This seems to be a popular topic lately, both on the forums, and for our ballast experts on the phone, so we figured it would be beneficial to write a full guide on how to design a ballast system around a reversible impeller style ballast pump. As usual, there are multiple ways to accomplish the same goals, so this shouldn't be taken as the definitive guide on ballast system installations, but rather a recommendation on how to install a fully functional system that operates correctly based on our years of experience. Feel free to deviate from these plans where you see fit, or contact us if you any questions.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the good stuff!

The Basics
Impeller style pumps (like Jabsco's Ballast Puppy) are unique because they can pump water in both directions, which means you can use one pump to both fill and drain the same ballast bag(s). Additionally, impeller type pumps act as a check valve when not running, preventing the flow of water into or out of the bag which simplifies the design of the system.

Design and Layout
In general, all ballast systems that make use of reversible pumps will have the following principles in common, although the specifics may vary from one installation to another depending on the applicable goals or constraints.

The system design we've outlined in this article does use one check valve fitting which allows the water being pumped out of the bag when draining to exit the boat above the water line. This is a popular option for many people because it results in a visual and audible indication of when the bag is draining, and when it's empty. Alternatively, removing the check valve, wye fitting and attached thru-hull vent will result in a simpler and cheaper system that fills and drains through the thru-hull intake fitting.

Water Source
Regardless of the specifics of the system, you will need to find a source of raw water to use to fill. This can be a dedicated intake fitting installed specifically for the ballast system, or can make use of an existing drain plug fitting in the bilge using our available brass integration fittings. We DO NOT recommend using the engine's raw water intake as the source of water for your ballast system. The risk of damage to the engine is not worth the small amount of convenience during the installation.

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There are currently two manufacturers producing then type of reversible pump used in this ballast system. They are the Jabsco Ballast Puppy and Johnson Ultra Ballast both of which are very high quality pumps that are used by Mastercraft, Nautique, Supra, Moomba, Centurion and others in their factory ballast system.


The specifics of your installation will depend on your particular boat, but the basics outlined here are generic regardless of the boat. Based on the capacity of these reversible pumps, we advice using 1" connections throughout the system to maximize capacity. Both Jabsco and Johnson pumps also accept 1" hose connections natively with out any additional fittings or adapters necessary, which is nice.

Immediately after the thru-hull intake fitting install a full-port Bronze Ball-valve as an emergency shut-off point to allow you to immediately stop the flow of water into the boat if something goes wrong.

If you choose to implement a system that drains above the water line, next install a check valve fitting to prevent water from draining back through the intake.

Next is Wye fitting to redirect the flow of water out the thru-hull vent fitting when draining.

Then comes the pump, and finally you can make your connection to the bag. Because reversible pumps fill and drain through the same bag connection, you only need two connections to the bag, one for filling and draining, and one for venting. We recommend using Fly High's Flow-Rite Quick Release Connector system for all bag connections so that you can quickly and easily remove the ballast bags for cleaning, winterization or storage.

Both the drain and vent hoses are terminated with Shop For Wakeboard Ballast Parts»

Here is a summary of the parts used in this single bag system, along with an approximate cost for a system of this type. Obviously the total cost will depend on which bag you choose, whether or not you implement the above water line drain, and a host of other factors. If the cost is of concern to you, Qty SKU Product

Total Cost
1 w707
Fly High Fat Sac
1 w610-p Reversible Ballast Pump
1 STH750W 3/4" Thru-Hull Intake
1 IBV750 3/4" Brass Ball Valve
2 LV1219 3/4" Check Valve
1 18231 3/4" Hose Barb Wye Fitting
2 w736 Fly High W736 3/4" Quick Release Connect
1 w740 Fly High W740 3/4" Straight Quick Release Connector
1 w742 Fly High W742 3/4" Elbow Quick Release Connect
2 18151 3/4" Thru-hull Drain Fitting
30 malibu-hose 3/4" Ballast Hose

Hopefully you found this article informative, and it helped to answer some of your questions regarding wakeboard ballast systems using reversible pumps. If you have any other questions, or would like help designing a system to meet our specific needs, please contact one of our ballast experts and we would be glad to assist.

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