How to build a co2 regulator [56k!]
*** 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.
http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...kos4/ET-2M.jpg (manifold mount ET-2M-24)
http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/15490-2.jpg (manifold 15490-2)
http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...lkos4/ET-2.jpg (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 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f.../B-8-HRN-4.jpg (Hex Reducing Nipple, 1/8 NPT x 1/4 NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-RB-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...4/B-8-RB-4.jpg (Reducing Bushing, 1/8 NPT x 1/4 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-E http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...kos4/B-6-E.jpg (Elbow, Female 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-SE http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...os4/B-6-SE.jpg (Street Elbow, 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-ME http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...os4/B-6-ME.jpg (Male Elbow, 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-HN http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...os4/B-6-HN.jpg (Hex Nipple, 1/8 NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-RSE-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f.../B-6-RSE-4.jpg (Reducing Street Elbow, 1/4 in. Female NPT x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-HLN-1.50 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...-6-HLN-400.jpg (Hex Long Nipple, 1.5" 1/4 NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-HLN-2.00 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...-HLN-400-1.jpg (Hex Long Nipple, 2" 1/4 NPT)
Clippard # 11999-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...kos4/11999.jpg (Short Coupling, #10-32)
Clippard # 15036-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/15036-1.jpg (1/8” - 27 to #10-32 Reducer Plug)
Clippard # 2CPF-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...lkos4/1CJF.jpg (1/8” NPT to #10-32 Female Reducer)
Clippard # 15453 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...4/IMAG0108.jpg (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 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f.../B-810-1-8.jpg (Tube Fitting, Male Connector, 1/4 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-402-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/B-602-1.jpg (Nut for 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-403-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...4/B-1213-1.jpg (Front Ferrule for 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-404-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/B-814-1.jpg (Back Ferrule for 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-405-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f.../B-815-4-1.jpg (Tubing Insert, 1/4 in. OD x 1/8 in. ID)
Swagelok # B-6M0-1-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...B-12M0-1-8.jpg (Tube Fitting, Male Connector, 6 mm Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-6M2-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f.../B-602-1-1.jpg (Nut for 6 mm Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-6M3-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...B-1213-1-1.jpg (Front Ferrule for 6 mm Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-6M4-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f.../B-814-1-1.jpg (Back Ferrule for 6 mm Swagelok Tube Fitting)
Swagelok # B-6M5-4M http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/B-815-4.jpg (Tubing Insert, 6 mm OD x 4 mm ID)
Swagelok # B-2-TA-1-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...6-TA-1-4-1.jpg (Male Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-TA-1-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...B-6-TA-1-4.jpg (Male Tube Adapter, 1/4 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Male NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-TA-7-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...6-TA-7-4-1.jpg (Female Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Female NPT)
Swagelok # B-4-TA-7-2 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...B-6-TA-7-4.jpg (Female Tube Adapter, 1/4 in. Tube OD x 1/8 in. Female NPT)
Swagelok # B-2-HC-A-401 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...HC-A-401-1.jpg (Hose Connector, 1/4 in. Tube Adapter, 1/8 in. Hose ID)
Swagelok # B-2-HC-A-201 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...4-HC-A-401.jpg (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 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/MCV-1BB.jpg (#10-32 ports, female in/out)
Clippard part # MCV-1 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...kos4/MCV-1.jpg (#10-32 ports, male in/female out)
Clippard part # MCV-1AA http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/MCV-1AA.jpg (#10-32 ports, male/male)
Swagelok # B-2C2-1/3 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/B-4C2-1.jpg (Poppet Check Valve, Fixed Pressure, 1/8 in. MNPT, 1/3 psig)
Swagelok # B-4C-1/3 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...os4/B-4C-1.jpg (Poppet Check Valve, Fixed Pressure, 1/4 in. Swagelok Tube Fitting, 1/3 psig)
Swagelok # B-2C4-1/3 http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/B-4C4-1.jpg (Poppet Check Valve, Fixed Pressure, 1/8 in. FNPT, 1/3 psig)
Clippard part # 11752-4-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/11752-4.jpg (#10-32 male, 1/8 ID hose)
Clippard part # 11752-3-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/11752-3.jpg (#10-32 male, 1/8 ID hose, short barbs)
Clippard part # 2CP4-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...lkos4/XCX4.jpg (1/8 NPT male, 1/8 ID hose)
Clippard part # 11924-1-PKG http://i536.photobucket.com/albums/f...s4/11924-1.jpg (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...)
-Mounting a Fabco NV-55
This is the best way to do it. There are a couple other ways, like running it in-line or using Clippard part number 11999. I do not believe using part number 11999 is a good idea. It's way too easy to break. I've personally broken two of them on accident. Running it in-line with hose barbs is fine.
This is what I use to mount it directly to the regulator assembly.
Clippard # 2CPF
Clippard # 15453
Red Loctite # 271
3/32 Allen wrench
7/16 socket wrench/adjustable wrench/open-end wrench (whatever...)
You only need a drop here. No need for a mess. Use the 3/32 Allen wrench to screw your 10/32 coupling into the female 1/8 x 10/32 reducer. You're just snugging it up. No need for lots of force, too much and you'll strip or break something. I just do it hand tight using the Allen wrench.
Same deal on the other side. Just a drop.
Using a 7/16 socket(or whatever you have that will work), I screw on the reducer. I just tighten it until it's snug. Too much force here and you strip something. The Loctite will hold it together just fine. Let dry 24hrs.
**Consider this connection permanent** You may be able to get it apart but you might break the coupling trying to do so.
Fabco generally doesn't tighten this screw down very much(probably to keep you from messing up the valve by over tightening. Never use a needle valve as a 'shut-off' valve.) This will lead to just the knob turning and not the valve opening or closing. I just snug it up a little to prevent this.
-Prepping Your Regulator For Assembly
The first thing I like to do is strip the whole thing down and clean it up. This means taking off the gauges and whatever else is connected to the regulator body. This will eliminate any leaky connections left behind from the last guy to have it and will help with assembly. If you've got yourself a new reg, this step isn't necessary.
Now that you've got it all apart, you need to clean out all the ports really well. There will be some Teflon tape remains in the threads and you have to remove it. Failing to clean these out well will result in a clogged solenoid or needle valve. It only takes a little piece to foul your solenoid. If you have access to compressed air, use it. A Q-Tip or small child's tooth brush work well.
-Assembling A Regulator
I just want to mention that there are a variety of ways to put these things together. This reg is pretty basic and uses as few parts as possible.
Get everything you're going to need together in a clean area to work in. I seem to have left the pipe fittings out of the picture here. They rolled behind the white board and I didn't notice - ops.
-Pipe fittings (Hex Reducing Nipple, 1/8 NPT x 1/4 NPT - Street Elbow, 1/8 NPT)
-Clippard part # MCV-1 check valve
-Clippard part # 11752-4-PKG hose barb
-Clippard # 15453 Male #10-32 Coupling, stainless steel
-Clippard # 2CPF-PKG 1/8” NPT to #10-32 Female Reducer
-8" crescent wrench(2)
-7/16 open/box end wrench
-11/16 open/box end wrench
-non-hardening pipe dope
4 to 5 turns of Teflon tape on the CGA-320 nipple. Note the direction it's being wrapped.
A good 11/16 box end wrench is all you need to connect your CGA-320 nipple to your reg. Get this as tight as you can without damaging anything. If you try to use an adjustable or open ended wrench here, you won't be able to make as tight of a connection without damaging the CGA-320 nipple.
Prepping the high pressure gauge.
Instillation of the high pressure gauge. I'm just using a crescent wrench here. Again, get this tight but not so tight you can't straighten out the gauge.
Prepping the pipe fittings.
This is where 2 crescent wrenches come in handy. Nice and tight.
Installing the solenoid body. I have removed the coil because I feel like it gets in my way.
This is when I start to connect the post body to the regulator body. It's really easy to scratch the reg here. Take care and if you think it's necessary, you could put some tape over the reg body here to keep from scratching it up.
Getting the low pressure gauge ready to install. Buy now you may have noticed there's no tape on the ends of any of the fittings. There's a good reason for this. You don't want any little pieces tape coming loose and clogging something up. When you get the tape all the way to the ends of the fittings, the threads will cut the tape and little bits will come off.
Low pressure gauge in place.
Here I'm using some pipe dope on the fitting that connects my NV-55 to the solenoid. I'm using pipe dope here because I feel like it provides just a little more 'lube' and lets me get it on there just a little better.
For this fitting, I have to use a open ended 7/16 wrench. My wrench is on the 10-32 Female Reducer, not the NV-55.
Cleaning up the excess pipe dope.
Assembling the check valve and hose barb. No tape or dope here. They come with little gaskets. These 10-32 fittings are rather fragile and you don't want to use a lot of force here putting them together. Slight wrench is all you need.
Putting the coil/din connector back on the solenoid. This nut is a 7/16. This doesn't need to be super tight either. Just snug.
Adding a bubble counter to a NV-55
- JBJ type bubble counter
- Clippard part # 15036
- Clippard part # MCV-1AA
- 5/32 Allen wrench
- 8" crescent wrench (optional)
- non-hardening pipe dope
Pipe dope had been applied to Clippard part # 15036 and screwed into the bottom of the bubble counter with a 5/32 Allen wrench.
Clippard check valve part # MCV-1AA screwed into the the bottom. It's sealed with a little gasket that comes with the check valve.
Now just screw the whole thing into your Fabco. Again, just slight wrench.
Bettatail has a great write up for this:
Here are some examples of what you can build on your own.
2) choice of connectors/fittings
Airco, and rebranded regulator from other manufacturers.
no child brand, but rebranded under gas service providers available.
rebranded regulators from all major manufacturers, Airgas is gas serivce povider but don't build their own regulators.
BOC(Victor design regulators), they also have rebranded regulators from other manufacturers.
Victor, fire power, liquid, purity gas, metalist, OSC, Pro Cutter, and more..
all rebranded regulators from other manufacturers, Alphagaz is medical equipment provider.
Harris, Matheson, VWR, Scott, fisher scientific, Smith, and more
Concoa, Praxair, Air Liquide, ...
Don't know if they make any, but they do have rebranded regulators from other manufacturers, and large percentage of their rebranded/manufacture? regulators are from Asia.
Veriflo, Western Medica, Hudson, .....
rebranded from other manufacturers.
majority are rebranded parker hannifin
Hey guys, this for you. If it seems confusing or you feel like I need to cover something more in depth, let me know :)
if you need the fittings info, you can img/link the pictures from my post body kit sale thread, pretty much needed fittings are shown on those two pictures, and I have more different types which are not commonly use, will take pictures of them and give you the link.
and copy and paste from my metering valves selection thread is welcome, just make sure you mention the original link.
Mod, please make this thread a sticky.
I could use some feed back guys. Is this heading in the right direction? Remember, this is still under construction... :rolleyes:
I second that.
Very nice regs! :proud:
please continue, oldpunk78
Don't worry. I've got a lot more to add.
I'm in the woods camping at the moment so nothing more will get added for a few days.
in the woods camping with internet? gotta love smartphones, however I would ditch the smartphone while camping ;)
That will do perfect if your solenoid has the square type cable plug. If it has the cable plug with the angled cord input, the cord will be too thick.
I've updated the assembly section a little. Does this look like it's going to be clear enough for everyone?
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