HOT TIP Submissions -- Topic: Automation Tips

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HOT TIP Submissions -- Topic: Automation Tips

Postby liquid » December 13th, 2004, 8:21 pm

HOT TIPS Column: January 2005 Issue of Advanced Aquarist

January's theme is "Automation Tips." Please submit any tips or tricks you have found for automatin your reef tank. Your tips and tricks will help new and existing reefkeepers and also helps to bring the hobby to the next level (plus it's just cool to get published in a magazine like Advanced Aquarist). :P

When published, your hot tip will have your username published (along with your real name if you so desire). Every month we will be running a new HOT TIP thread so stay tuned and help out when you can. :)

The staff at both Reefs.org and Advanced Aquarist would like to thank you for your continued interest and support of our online community, magazine, and services.

Let the submissions begin! :D

Best regards,

Reefs.org and Advanced Aquarist staff
Shane
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Postby Reef Box Etc » December 15th, 2004, 2:34 pm

There are many X10-based automations, but since pretty all the equip. are in one location, I usually use relays instead. There are cons and pros of each type, but IMO, it is easier to trouble shoot.

The most common item on reef tank to be automated is light. For this, I just use regular applicance timer. Those that are into astronmical timing (moonlight simulation) may use more sophicated timer, but I am not a big fan of it.

Another item is topoff. This topic is a whole field by itself. I prefer to use electric solenoid-based automation because of the reliability compare to mechanical valves, such as floats.
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Postby cwa46 » December 17th, 2004, 2:53 pm

Reef Box Etc wrote:There are many X10-based automations, but since pretty all the equip. are in one location, I usually use relays instead. There are cons and pros of each type, but IMO, it is easier to trouble shoot.

The most common item on reef tank to be automated is light. For this, I just use regular applicance timer. Those that are into astronmical timing (moonlight simulation) may use more sophicated timer, but I am not a big fan of it.

Another item is topoff. This topic is a whole field by itself. I prefer to use electric solenoid-based automation because of the reliability compare to mechanical valves, such as floats.


Do you have data suggesting solenoid-based valves are more reliable than float valves? I have yet to have a float valve fail.
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Postby Reef Box Etc » December 21st, 2004, 11:43 am

Not specific data, but misapplication is usually the issue with float valve. For example, some float valve can't handle line pressure of 100 psi, if you are one of those that use straight tap water as top offs.

So you never have leaky toilet? :D
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Postby cwa46 » December 21st, 2004, 1:17 pm

Reef Box Etc wrote:Not specific data, but misapplication is usually the issue with float valve. For example, some float valve can't handle line pressure of 100 psi, if you are one of those that use straight tap water as top offs.

So you never have leaky toilet? :D


Yes toilets leak and I have seen homes flooded by solenoid-based valves in clothes and dishwashers.

By the way, normal water pressure for a home is between 30 and 60 psi. These are the pressures that appliances are designed to meet. If your line pressure is higher than that, it is necessary and in many places required by code, to put in pressure regulators to control it.

I personally don't know which type valve works best in each application. It depends on many factors, but solenoid-based systems aren't necessarily any less failure prone than a float valve, from my exerience. If there is data suggesting one is better in some way than the other, I would like to see it, before spending the bucks to install such a system.
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Postby Reef Box Etc » December 21st, 2004, 1:47 pm

I agree with you that nothing is failure-proof. But it is difficult to assign fault to the solenoid in clothwasher if the sensor or other ancillary part is at fault.

Solenoid value does seem to be more expensive than float valve. I don't know if you are going to agree with me on this on not, but solenoid-based automation give you more flexibility than mechanical valve because there need not be a physical, rigid rod (connection) between the float (sensor) and the valve (actuator). More specifically, the float and the valve usually is in the same container, while a solenoid can be on a different location than the pressure/level sensor.
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Postby cwa46 » December 21st, 2004, 2:50 pm

Reef Box Etc wrote:I agree with you that nothing is failure-proof. But it is difficult to assign fault to the solenoid in clothwasher if the sensor or other ancillary part is at fault.

Solenoid value does seem to be more expensive than float valve. I don't know if you are going to agree with me on this on not, but solenoid-based automation give you more flexibility than mechanical valve because there need not be a physical, rigid rod (connection) between the float (sensor) and the valve (actuator). More specifically, the float and the valve usually is in the same container, while a solenoid can be on a different location than the pressure/level sensor.


I am not sure I disagree with you, but wanted to know where you got your reliability info. One type valve my be better then the other depending on the installation. I was just questioning your blanket assertion
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Postby Reef Box Etc » December 21st, 2004, 4:03 pm

Not a QA engineer, but I my assertion is based on the number of on/off operation that the solenoid are rated for. Most are "certified" to millions of operation, and mechanical float switch don't usually brag about it.

So how deep is my hole?
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Postby cwa46 » December 21st, 2004, 8:10 pm

Reef Box Etc wrote:Not a QA engineer, but I my assertion is based on the number of on/off operation that the solenoid are rated for. Most are "certified" to millions of operation, and mechanical float switch don't usually brag about it.

So how deep is my hole?


I don't know, just think advice should be as accurate as possible.
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Postby Reef Box Etc » December 22nd, 2004, 10:37 am

This is pretty much way off topic for a tip thread...

Anyway, I realize that I need to admit something here. My background in instrumentation make me a bit bias against anything that contains no electric or electronic part... :D
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Postby J.Howard » December 22nd, 2004, 8:10 pm

I do everyhting I can to avoid automation. The more you automate, the more room all the equipment takes up.
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Postby Reef Box Etc » December 23rd, 2004, 12:06 am

But... but isn't the whole point of having a reef tank is about equipment :?: :!: ;)
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Postby dgasmd » December 28th, 2004, 10:39 pm

*Lights:
Appliance timers
*Top off:
Can't beat a litermeter. After years in this hobby, I ahve read dozens of posts about tank crahses after a float valve failed or how the RO/DI unit kept going, etc. I have read only one bad story with a litermeter failing. Even that one I think it iwas a lie LOL............
*CaCO3:
Oversized kalk reactor. Pays for itself over time.
*Huge CaCO3 demands:
Large Ca reactor. You thank god someone invented this stuff.
*Testing:
Probes and probes. pH, temp, salinity
*Water changes:
Large water container connected via a pump to your sump, so a water change becomes turning 4 valves in 5 minutes.

I have found over time that the best automation tool is actually common sense. If you take 5 seconds to looks at your equipment daily, you will avoid 99% of the problems others have.
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Postby vair » January 4th, 2005, 1:32 am

I do everyhting I can to avoid automation. The more you automate, the more room all the equipment takes up.


That's crazy! You have to automate at some point when you get a system big enough or it would be a full time job, not a hobby. The room it takes.. it's called the fish room.

Setting up- tweaking equipment is for a big part of the hobby I like, toys toys toys corals rock and fish. (it''s a song)

I'm reading this topic hoping for some good automation tips where are they? Trying to set up a slick RO/DI storage and make up water sytem for the fish room. Any good links?

Review of mine:
The Tunze water top off works great.
The Tsunami top off has never failed me but has a less accurate level control (Water Fluctuation) Using the Tunze instead.

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Postby tinyreef » January 7th, 2005, 10:08 pm

it's about the toys not the corals. :P

i use a SWCD as a surge device for an above tank refugium. the intermittment surge created by the SWCD allows for a more realistic wave-action as the refugium ebbs and flows into the display area. the other end of the SWCD is just piped into the main tank as additional flow.

while i've seen some other cool surge setups here (the 'flush' avatar is my fav) 8) i think the SWCD is a very simple and useful device for creating more naturalistic wave/surge action for those DIY-challenged (like myself). it's sorta automation. automatic wavemaker. whatevah.

i've found my corals/livestock respond better to the intermittment flows (waves) than a constant flow (streams/river), regardless of respective flow rates. i've also found that my plankton tend to flow better (thru a drain) with a varying surge rather than a constant trickle/flow. i guess the water's surface tension affects the buildup of scum/crappie at the drain. this is for the typical gravity-output refugium. it just tends to get clogged over time. (who's a lazy reefer? :roll: )
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