Gear Review: Estrellita’s Watermaker Saga

In sum: Powersurvivor 40E – thumbs down. West Marine – thumbs up. SeaMaker 20 – provisional thumbs up.

P1010727At the end of our first year of cruising, we installed a new Powersurvivor 40E which we had purchased at West Marine. We chose the smallest electric desalinator on the market because we wanted a “supplemental watermaker” that could be run from our batteries, off of our solar production, to extend the time between taking on water from shore sources. The 40E is rated at 1.5 gallons per hour and we figured that we could run it overnight every other night and keep up with our usage. The unit is also very small and fit in the cupboard underneath the Pretorien sink on the outboard side.

What we forgot to take into consideration is the production as a function of the voltage of the batteries. The rating given for the 40E at 1.5 gallons per hour is at something over 13 volts. Overnight, with our batteries no longer being charged by solar, the volts are lower than 13 and our watermaker output was very low. This meant that we had to run the watermaker during the day – all day, every other day – in order to keep up with our usage. A big miscalculation on our part because although we could sleep with it running, it was annoying during the day.

That alone would not have ruined the watermaker for us. The real reason we were unhappy with the 40E is that it kept breaking and it kept leaking, always in a new spot. All kinds of plastic parts on the watermaker broke in the first year of usage. Our pressure relief valve housing broke twice and leaked in the meantime. Our spool valve cracked. We kept replacing o-rings trying to get the thing to stop leaking. The seal replacement kit isn’t cheap and we spent too many hours working on the watermaker, trying to keep it functional. Fail.

The good news is that the company was willing to ship parts to us for free and responded quickly to our emails. The bad news is that those parts had to be shipped inside the US. The good news is that the company was willing to trouble shoot it in house for us. The bad news is that they wanted us to ship it to them (at our cost) – this would have meant shipping from Mexico or from French Polynesia. Essentially, when looking for a product, because we will be far from repair centers, we want reliability over parts replacement offers and our Powersurvivor 40E was not reliable.

Finally, after a few years of attempting to repair it, to make it work, to trouble shoot it, to pretend it was going to eventually be functional, as the company warrantee was coming to a close and our watermaker was still not functioning reliably, we contacted West Marine who agreed to refund our purchase cost in gift card form upon receipt of the watermaker. We paid the shipping, they gave us a gift card. People like to talk smack about big businesses, but I want to say how very, very happy we are that we shopped for this purchase at West Marine. Thank you West Marine for standing behind this product (which, as I understand, they have stopped selling).

P1010820We replaced our 40E with a SeaMaker 20. We don’t like to review major gear purchases until we have had them for at least a year. So, I’ll just say that so far we are delighted with it. We already had a Honda 2000EU aboard and the combination is working like a charm. We are able to flush the watermaker with just our inverter and can probably run the watermaker from batteries with the inverter while the engine is running (keeping the volts up) if we ever need to. Plus, of course, it is nice to make a crapload of water in an hour. This is the watermaker we would have originally bought if knew about it at the time.

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