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You may have heard of an RV macerator pump online or from fellow RVers. Or maybe your RV even came with one. But what is a macerator pump exactly? What does it do, and how necessary is it to a successful and thorough holding tank dumping experience?
Like many things related to RV tank dumping, the concept of a macerator pump may not only be confusing but could be somewhat intimidating, too. An RV black water tank – and the dumping thereof – are no one’s favorite RVing topic, after all.
But let’s take the intimidation factor out of tank dumping and look squarely in the eye at the RV macerator pump – what it is, what it does, and whether or not we need one.
- 1) What Is an RV Macerator Pump?
- 2) What Are the Advantages of an RV Macerator Pump?
- 3) What Are the Disadvantages of an RV Macerator Pump?
- 4) Are Macerator Pumps Permanently Installed?
- 5) What Are the Most Popular RV Macerator Pumps?
- 6) Is an RV Macerator Pump Worth It? (Do You Need One?)
What Is an RV Macerator Pump?
An RV macerator pump is a device used to aid in the dumping of RV black and gray holding tanks. Many of us use a standard RV sewer hose, and they work typically work perfectly well for the purpose of emptying the contents of the gray and black tanks into the sewer or dump station.
However, in a situation where the waste needs to be pumped uphill or pumped very long distances, an RV macerator pump can be helpful.
Essentially, an RV macerator pump has blades that macerate (or blend/grind up) waste and toilet paper, and the pump then moves it through a thinner hose to its final destination of a sewer or septic system.
This can be especially helpful to anyone who needs to dump their tanks into a sewer outlet that’s a fair distance away from where the RV is parked… and you’d rather not have to uproot everything just to get that job done.
What Are the Advantages of an RV Macerator Pump?
RV macerator pumps are often used because they:
- Can dump uphill
- Can dump a longer distance than a standard sewer hose
- Can dump at a home clean-out to sewer or septic system
- Use a thinner dump hose that can be easier to handle & store
In addition, some users note that a macerator pump eliminates problems related to toilet paper because it “chews up” the paper into a fine slurry, thus solving an RV toilet paper problem. But, if your toilet paper is able to make it out through the black valve on your RV’s plumbing, it isn’t likely to cause a problem in the 3” diameter sewer hose.
Typically, people will have a problem with toilet paper in their RV’s black tank because they (1) are using too much in large wads, and (2) it doesn’t break down enough in the black tank before dumping. Those large wads of TP end up blocking the outlet from the black tank, preventing ANY dumping from occurring (regardless of whether it’s just a standard gravity feed down a 3” sewer hose or into an RV macerator pump). So a macerator pump won’t help in that situation.
If you’re having this particular problem, you should test to be sure your toilet paper is “RV Safe”. You can check out our post about RV Safe Toilet Paper… or you can watch us show you how to test if your toilet paper is safe for use in an RV in this video:
What Are the Disadvantages of an RV Macerator Pump?
Despite the advantages noted above, an RV macerator pump has a few potential disadvantages as well.
- Because it slows down the flow of waste out of your holding tank(s), it may not completely empty them. It’s the “whoosh” of water & waste leaving the tank through a large opening (like a 3” sewer hose) that helps to pull solids out. The slower flow through a macerator isn’t as thorough.
- Power is required to run the macerator and the pump (with the exception of a Valterra pump that uses a water jet)
- More items to carry around (and another apparatus to deal with when dumping)
- Additional expense
Are Macerator Pumps Permanently Installed?
Macerator pumps can be portable units or permanently installed ones.
Portable units attach directly to the existing 3” sewer outlet on your RV. These may be the better choice for 5th wheels or travel trailers that might have more than one sewer outlet (like on some bath-and-a-half fifth-wheel floorplans) since they can be moved from one to another.
But, if possible, a permanently-installed RV macerator pump eliminates some of the hassles of setting up each time.
What Are the Most Popular RV Macerator Pumps?
There are a number of macerator pump systems available. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular systems.
This RV macerator pump has a stainless steel cutter that reduces the size of any solid matter down to ⅛”. It has a 12V DC permanent magnet motor that’s fully enclosed in a stainless steel shaft.
This pump connects directly to the RV waste tank outlet and a garden hose attaches to its discharge port, A 6’ wired remote allows for easy on/off operation without having to crouch down. Note that it’s manually operated using the button.
Reviewers note that if you’re running the hose uphill, the pump will heat up but has an automatic shut-off to prevent the motor from burning out. (Don’t walk away from it, though, because as soon as it cools off, it starts right back up again.)
The pump has circuitry that provides run-dry protection (30 seconds) and comes with a heavy-duty storage case.
- Connects directly to the RV waste outlet, elimates 3" sewer hose
- Dump longer distances and drain holding tanks at home using any convenient sewer receiver
The Thetford Sani-Con RV macerator units are sold by MobileMustHave.com, the first authorized online retailer of the Sani-Con Turbo line of macerator pumps. (You’ll also save 5% off purchases at Mobile Must Have with Discount Code RVGEEKS.)
This line of products has been pre-installed on high-end motorcoaches for many years and is now available for retail purchase as a customer-installed unit.
Sani-Con Turbo pumps allow uphill dumping up to 9 feet, and up to a distance of 100 feet on flat-level dumping. They offer a gray water bypass system which means that you can leave your gray water valve open even when the macerator pump isn’t enabled.
The Sani-Con Turbo system is designed for most Class A motorhomes (and many Super C RVs) because these rigs have adequate storage with enough clearance to install the macerator pump, attaching the sewer inlet hose to the pump’s outlet. The Sani-Con system is best for rigs with an enclosed wet bay service area.
This little pump weighs just under 6 ½ pounds and pumps about 12 gallons per minute. It attaches to a standard 3” RV waste outlet and has a thermally protected motor with an intermittent duty cycle.
The SewerFlo macerator pump gives a vertical lift of 6 feet using up to a 50-foot, ¾” hose.
- Easily attached and removed
- Connects to standard 3" RV waste outlet
The Valterra RV SewerSolution moves waste a distance of 100 feet horizontally or 3 feet uphill, (though one reviewer notes that he has run a 100’ piece of PVC pipe with a 12” rise and this pump allowed the flow without issue). It’s small, weighing in at about 3 pounds with a length of just over a foot.
The macerating mechanism of this unit is water-powered, so a high-velocity jet nozzle macerates the waste and toilet paper (as opposed to an electric pump). This means you don’t need to have/locate any electrical connection for it to operate.
This system includes a 10-foot drain hose, the pump head, a sewer adapter and quick-connect, and an anti-siphon valve.
- RV SEWER WASTE DRAINING SYSTEM: 3-in-1 waste draining system pulverizes, pumps, and cleans for a quick dump process
- MACERATING MECHANISM: Water-powered, high-velocity jet nozzle uses shear force to pulverize waste and toilet tissue for easy draining without an...
Is an RV Macerator Pump Worth It? (Do You Need One?)
MANY RV owners who have/use macerator pumps LOVE them and wouldn’t be without one. Some RVs even now come with them as standard equipment (or as a factory-installed option).
We’ve never used one ourselves as we haven’t had the specific need (i.e. no long-distance or uphill dumping), but we certainly aren’t averse to the idea.
Here’s how we dump our tanks:
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Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.