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Have you ever RVed in a friend’s driveway or parked more than 25 ft from a sewer hookup? If so, you could have probably benefitted from a macerator pump. Some RVs come with macerator pumps built-in. For those who have never heard of one of these devices, let’s discuss what it does and how it can help RVers.

A macerator pump is a motorized pump with a blade that turns your black tank waste into a slurry. Think of it as a garbage disposal for an RV black tank. Because the waste is pumped into the hose, it is ideal in situations that require you to dump uphill or long distances. Since the waste is chewed up into a slurry, you can use a small hose, too, even a 1″ garden hose. Another advantage a macerator pump has is the broader availability of dumping locations, such as your home sewer system (if legal in your municipality).

How do you use a macerator pump?

Macerator pump connected to a 90-degree clear elbow adaptor. Source

The pump itself has a large bayonet fitting that hooks directly to your sewer dump outlet. It’s the same connector style as the large 3″ sewer hoses. The pump will have a discharge outlet to attach the waste hose. Some brands will have a third connector that allows you to connect a freshwater hose to backflush the system after dumping.

Note: If you are using a garden hose to dump, make sure you only use that hose for dumping, as it will always be considered contaminated.

To use the pump, attach all of the hoses, connect a 12V power source, open the black tank and turn on the pump. It will start chewing up and pumping the waste through the hose. Once the black tank is empty, turn the pump off. You may wish to use the backflush option to fill your tank with a little bit of water and then turn the pump back on until it is empty again.

It can be helpful to connect a transparent sewer hose adapter between the RV and the pump so that you can see when you have adequately flushed your tank out. Flushing your tank is essential if you plan on storing your RV after dumping. Waste left in the tank can accumulate and dry up inside the tank itself if it is not flushed completely. Once your black tank is sufficiently empty, turn the pump off, close the black tank, open the grey tank, and turn the pump on to flush the line.

If your sewer dump hookup is at an angle, you will probably have no problems pumping all the liquid out. Many motorhomes have a sewer compartment that forces you to hook up the pump parallel to the ground. This can make it difficult to empty all of the liquid.

If your sewer compartment looks like this, you may need to use an extension piece to get it past your compartment, and then use a 90-degree adapter in order to get a complete drain. Photo by Levi Henley.

That is where the transparent adapter and making sure you have adequately flushed the system before unhooking it comes into play. Any lingering water that comes out should be clear as opposed to, well, any other color.

The following video shows how to use a portable macerator pump.

Are there any cons to macerator pumps?

Though macerator pumps can allow you to dump more easily sometimes, they come with their share of problems too. For starters, they don’t make dumping your tanks any faster. The traditional way to drain an RV tank with a 3″ sewer hose can be done in about 10 minutes or less. By the time you hook up everything, thoroughly flush everything, etc., you will have spent at least 20 minutes dumping your tanks with a macerator. A small price to pay if you have to dump uphill.

Some other cons of portable macerator pumps are:

  • They require maintenance.
  • It is possible to find yourself in a situation where the pump builds up excessive pressure causing damage to your system. You can avoid this by ensuring the drain valves are open whenever the pump is running. Still, a mistake in this area can cause quite an unpleasant mess.
  • With all the flushing and slower drain process, it generally takes a bit more water to dump your tanks.
  • They aren’t cheap.

How much does it cost?

Given a macerator pump’s usefulness, it would seem like every RVer would want to carry one around just in case. Unfortunately, they are not the cheapest RV accessory you can find. On average, they run between $200-$300. So it’s not an item that RVers typically have if they don’t run into situations that require them often. You can find popular brands like Flojet and Shurflo on Amazon, Camping World, and other RV retailers.

Should I get one?

If you find yourself needing to dump your tanks at home or regularly camp where the sewer dump is far away or uphill from your RV, it may be worthwhile. Many RVers who stay exclusively at full hookup campgrounds won’t find a need for one. However, if you find yourself up a creek, it’s nice to know of this paddle available to you and your RV.

About The Author: Levi Henley

Levi Henley and his wife, Natalie, have been full-time RVers for over 5 years. They have also been Coach-Net customers for the same amount of time.  They travel and workcamp around the U.S. in their 26-foot Itasca Sunstar motorhome with their two cats.  They write for multiple RV-related publications and recently co-wrote “Seasonal Workamping for a Living: How We Did It.” You can follow their adventures on the road at henleyshappytrails.com 

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