*** I want to start off by noting that there are almost limitless possibilities when it comes to putting one of these things together. You are by no means limited to using the parts or methods listed here. If you have a question about compatible parts or the quality of certain parts, just ask. That's why this thread is here.
Here's a bunch of really useful info if you're willing to do some reading:
And here's another great guide to help you build a co2 regulator:
Picking out a suitable regulator
This is probably not the easiest thing to do if you don't know what to look for. Here's a few things to look for.
Generally, you want a regulator that has a working pressure between 30-100psi. In most cases the low pressure gauge will read 60-200psi. The low pressure gauge will usually read double the the max working pressure. Regulators with a lower working pressure can be used, but you will be limited as to how you can diffuse co2 as the new atomizers require about 30psi to work. Read you will limited to glass/ceramic diffusers and reactors. A regulator with a higher working pressure can also be used but you will not have as much control over your working pressure.
Make sure both gauges read "zero". Used regs with blown gauges can be signs of other problems. The high pressure gauge should read between 0-1000psi and 0-4000psi. If the reg has a high pressure gauge of less than 1000psi it's not for us. Sometimes someone will put a lower pressure gauge on a regulator that will handle more pressure but unless you know what you are getting yourself into, stay away from them. Again, the low pressure gauge should read 0-60psi up to 0-200psi. Note that some low pressure gauges will measure a vacuum. ie: -30psi to +100psi. Those are fine.
-Single Stage Vs. Dual(2) Stage Regulators
This usually turns into heated debate. I'm not going to make an argument for either. Both work, period.
The main difference is that when you have a 2 stage reg, it's like having two regulators in one body. The first stage is pre-set and the second stage is the one you can adjust. This helps keep work working pressure consistent when you have a gas that will change pressure inside the cylinder.
One of the great things about building your own regulator is that you have many choices. Most of the 2-stage regulators out there retail for over $400. We can find them used for a fraction of that. You have to ask yourself, do I want a regulator that is intended for precise delivery in a clean room or an industrial application or a regulator that was built with the intention of pressurizing a beer keg?
-Stainless Steel Regulators
These are the flagships of the regulator manufactures. They often cost $700+ retail. These are used for very high purity gasses or very nasty and corrosive gasses. I've gotten a couple that were very corroded and not usable. Some extra time/care should be used when looking into these. If you get one in good working order, it will probably out last your interest in the hobby.
Most of regs we would come across use either neoprene, brass or 316 stainless steel. A lot of the 2-stage regulators out there use the stainless diaphragms. All of the regs out there intended for beer use neoprene. As you might imagine, the stainless ones last a lot longer. Stainless diaphragms are nice, but are not a must have.
-Do I Need To Buy A Regulator With A CGA-320 Connection?
No. It's nice, but these are something we can change. Your local welding shop will have these or they are easily obtained on the web. These are sold as a nut and a nipple and for the most part can be found from $7-$20. Something to consider is that some regulator manufactures actually use a thread locker to seal the the high pressure "in" port. This can make removing the old cylinder fitting difficult. I don't consider myself a really strong person and I have yet to get a reg I couldn't remove the old cylinder connection with just hand tools. Some of will probably need a vise and and air tools depending on physical ability.
There are a lot. Cornelius, Smith, and Micromatic are all good single stage names to use. These can be found either new or used for a reasonable price and have proven themselves to be good for our our uses. GLA and Sumo have been selling these for years without issue.
They don't make bad 2-stage regulators. There's no market for them. Some of the more common brand names you will see are:
Airgas, Airproducts, Concoa, Matheson, Victor, Linde, Smith, Praxair, Harris, and Union Carbide. There are many more I will probably add later as I remember...
*Note that all of these brand names produce single stage regulators as well.
-How and Where To Buy
This forum and Fleabay are your best bets. There are a few members that sell regulators and regulator supplies in the swap-n-shop and powerseller forums that have already done the work for you. If you are patient, you can find awesome deals on Fleabay. Just make sure you understand what you are bidding on. Many times, the sellers are not knowledgeable about the items they are selling/auctioning. Sometimes they even list the wrong brand or model number. There are a lot of us that can help out trying to select a regulator. Just ask if you know for sure. I'm going to say that spending around $50 on a used regulator body is fair(if it's in good condition). If I'm looking for a new one, I try not to spend over $100. These are just guide lines I try to fallow. There are better deals but they are fewer and fare between.
Parts Involved With Your Build
You need a solenoid if you want to put reg on a timer and not have it going 24/7.
There are tons of different solenoids out there. Many of them will work for us. I'm only going to cover two for now.
Burkert 6011 - This is a very dependable choice. It comes with 1/8npt female ports and is easy to install and have work correctly. This a 110V solenoid that you can get with or with out a power cord or DIN connector. Note that it is directional. It comes labeled with a "P" on one end and a "A" on the other. "P" is the "in" side.
*Available in stainless steal.
Where do you get one?
*Note that if you order from Fresh Water Systems you will need to order the solenoid, DIN, and cable/plug. The one from aquariumplants.com you just need to decide if you want the cable/plug installed. Both available seal types work just fine - Buna-N is slightly better.
Clippard Mouse Solenoids - These are smaller low voltage solenoids. They come in standard and manifold mount and are available in 6, 12, 24VDC. I like the manifold mount because it gives you one 1/8npt male connection and one 10/32 female connection. You need Clippard part number ET-2M-6, or ET-2M-12, or ET-2M-24 and Clippard part number 15490-2. You will also need to come up with you're own DC converter of the appropriate voltage.
(manifold mount ET-2M-24)
(standard mount ET-2-24)
More to come.
There are a ton of needle valves out there to pick from. Many of them are not intended for the very low flow that we use for a planted tank. Ideal and Fabco are probably the most recognized. They are also a couple of my favorites. The best Needle valve I have used is the Ideal V54-1-12. It's stainless and has a metering handle. It's also expensive(>$130) and imposable to find used. It's brass counterpart without the metering handle option Is about $80, The Ideal 52-1-12(Vernier handle option V52-1-12) . The Fabco NV-55(10/32 ports) or NV-55-18(1/8npt ports) are great choices if you have more of a limited budget at $23 and $34 respectively.
Ideal valve 52 series(w/o vernier handle)
Ideal 54 series (stainless steel) (w/o vernier handle)
(you need to call Bill at Ideal to order)
Here's one of Swagelok's better metering valves(for us), the 'S' series (These part #'s are for the stainless versions. Brass is also available.)
SS-SS4-A-VH (same valve but angled with the vernier handle option)
***Please note that there are many different Swagelok valves
. While they are all very well made, I have only found the 'S' (low flow) series to be worth the money you're going to pay for them. These are best found used or 'new old stock' as they are expensive new. I should also add that most of them use tube fittings and a special adapter is need to plum them into your regulator. Try to find 1/8 npt or tube fittings models or 1/4 tube(best) fitting models. Also, the metric versions can be troublesome trying to find adapters for. Stay away from the VCR connection. 1/16 tube fitting models should only be used 'in-line'.
I really like Swagelok and Parker pipe fittings. They go together easily and don't leak if assembled properly. By no means are you limited to use these fittings. Most of these can be obtained at a well stocked hardware store. If you need the Swagelok part number for the stainless counterparts of the fittings listed below, just replace the first 'B' with 'SS'.
Swagelok # B-4-HRN-2
(Hex Reducing Nipple, 1/8 NPT x 1/4 NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-RB-2
(Reducing Bushing, 1/8 NPT x 1/4 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-E
(Elbow, Female 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-SE
(Street Elbow, 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-ME
(Male Elbow, 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-HN
(Hex Nipple, 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-RSE-2
(Reducing Street Elbow, 1/4 in. Female NPT x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-HLN-1.50
(Hex Long Nipple, 1.5" 1/4 NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-HLN-2.00
(Hex Long Nipple, 2" 1/4 NPT)
Clippard # 11999-PKG
(Short Coupling, #10-32)
Clippard # 15036-PKG
(1/8” - 27 to #10-32 Reducer Plug)
Clippard # 2CPF-PKG
(1/8” NPT to #10-32 Female Reducer)
Clippard # 15453
(Male #10-32 Coupling, stainless steel)
*You can't just order this one from their online store. You need to talk to a distributor. It is a lot stronger than part # 11999 and if you want to mount a NV-55, this is the way to go. This is a part you need to use Loctite with. I'll cover that later on. I've seen a couple builders here on the forum selling these as well.
-Swagelok Tube Fittings & Adapters
Swagelok # B-400-1-2
(Tube Fitting, Male Connector, 1/4 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-402-1
(Nut for 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-403-1
(Front Ferrule for 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-404-1
(Back Ferrule for 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-405-2
(Tubing Insert, 1/4 in. OD x 1/8 in. ID)
Swagelok # B-6M0-1-2
(Tube Fitting, Male Connector, 6 mm Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-6M2-1
(Nut for 6 mm Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-6M3-1
(Front Ferrule for 6 mm Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-6M4-1
(Back Ferrule for 6 mm Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-6M5-4M
(Tubing Insert, 6 mm OD x 4 mm ID)
Swagelok # B-2-TA-1-2
(Male Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-TA-1-2
(Male Tube Adapter, 1/4 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-TA-7-2
(Female Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Female NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-TA-7-2
(Female Tube Adapter, 1/4 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Female NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-HC-A-401
(Hose Connector, 1/4 in. Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Hose ID)
Swagelok # B-2-HC-A-201
(Hose Connector, 1/8 in. Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Hose ID)
Here's a great resource about how to use Swagelok tube fittings:
These come in various lengths. You can get them in brass, chrome plated brass, and stainless steel.
Clippard part # MCV-1BB
(#10-32 ports, female in/out)
Clippard part # MCV-1
(#10-32 ports, male in/female out)
Clippard part # MCV-1AA
(#10-32 ports, male/male)
Swagelok # B-2C2-1/3
(Poppet Check Valve, Fixed Pressure, 1/8 in. MNPT, 1/3 psig)
Swagelok # B-4C-1/3
(Poppet Check Valve, Fixed Pressure, 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting, 1/3 psig)
Swagelok # B-2C4-1/3
(Poppet Check Valve, Fixed Pressure, 1/8 in. FNPT, 1/3 psig)
Clippard part # 11752-4-PKG
(#10-32 male, 1/8 ID hose)
Clippard part # 11752-3-PKG
(#10-32 male, 1/8 ID hose, short barbs)
Clippard part # 2CP4-PKG
(1/8 NPT male, 1/8 ID hose)
Clippard part # 11924-1-PKG
(1/8 NPT male, 1/8 ID hose, short barbs)
The 1/8 NPT barb fittings can be found at most hardware stores.
Here's the most common and reliable one:
It's made of brass and plastic and has an integrated check valve. This check valve is prone to failing and I highly recommend using another check under it when installing. While this style of bubble counter is convenient for the user, I don't really recommend them. There's a lot less that can go wrong with a cheap glass in-line counter.
You can build one of the with nothing but a couple crescent wrenches and a pair of Vise Grips. However, some other tools will make the whole process a little easier.
-8" Crescent Wrenches
-Air Impact Driver
-Assorted Open End/Box Wrenches
-A Clean Place To Work
-Small Set Of Allen Wrenches
Teflon Tape/Pipe Dope/Thread Locker
-Teflon Tape vs. Pipe Dope
High pressure connections. You need to tape these. If you use pipe dope on your CGA-320 nipple or your high pressure gauge, they will probably leak. Tape is also a good idea on all stainless steel pipe threads. It will probably keep you from breaking a thread one day. It is very important not to get tape on the ends of the threads. Little pieces get cut off and end up getting stuck places we don't want them. If you have to re-do a taped connection, be very careful to remove the residual tape from the threads.
Pipe dope. Great for small low pressure connections. I generally don't use it. When I do, it's for a situation where I can't use a lot force making the connection.
Red Loctite. You can pretty much use it for all your NPT connections. Problem is that it's very difficult to get them apart again. Some of you that have taken apart an old Victor reg probably know what I'm talking about. The only thing that I really use it for are those stainless 10-32 couplings. (That's how Clippard designed it...)