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Old 05-21-2008, 12:49 AM   #1
Wasserpest
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The Wasser-Controller


I have been pondering this for quite a while... In our age of cheap electronics, there should be affordable timers with multiple, independently controllable outlets. Yet, for some reason there is no such thing. The closest you can get for "affordable" is the Coralife double strip which is prone to bursting into flames. If you spend some serious money, you can get the Aquacontroller. After you pull out your wallet for the base unit, equipment still needs to be connected which costs even more.

So, seeing a niche here, I present you the Wasser-Controller, which is affordable, flexible, and partially hand-made. The original idea was discussed here, but there has been some fluff accumulating in that thread so I figured it might be better to start over.

What I am switching/pumping right now:

Main lights
Sunset/sunrise lights
Moon lights
Macros
Micros

What we need:

Irrigation controller ($35 for 6 station DIG 8006)
Relays (~$3 each)
Outlets ($0.70 each)
Some wires and a soldering iron to connect all of that

Total cost was around $50.

Initially I tried to take an existing power strip apart and make it work for my purposes, but that didn't work so well.



So instead, I attached the controller and outlets to a wooden board, leaving some space for the relays.



After soldering it all together I found out that two of the relays were faulty. Luckily I had bought 2 more, so with a few choice words I un-soldered and replaced them. I was going to enclose it all with more wood panels, but then I saw a box (from an electric shaver that I just bought with all the money I saved) and for some reason the whole setup just so fit in there. Fixed the front with some screws and saved myself a lot of woodworking.



Okay, let's call it a prototype. It is now hidden in a corner behind some other equipment, so no need for beautification.

Since the whole setup is a bit confusing, I tried to create a schematic that shows how things flow and switch:



Now that it has been working for a few day I must admit that I live with a feeling of great accomplishment. Had a long power outage the other night, and thanks to the 9V backup battery in the controller I didn't have to change two mechanical and reset two electronic timers. Not a single problem so far.

Things to consider...

1) Putting it all together in a package like I did makes things compact, but access to the controller is somewhat difficult. So if you are still figuring out your schedules, and/or have a desire to constantly fiddle, it might be better to put the timer in a better accessible spot.

2) Driven by an irrigation controller, it is very easily adapable for all sorts of solenoids to automate water changes. One day my tank will have an overflow for "used water" and I will just run the water change nightly or whenever without having to remember.

3) Unless you are familiar with electricity and know how to hold a soldering iron, do no attempt anything like that because you will surely hurt yourself and your loved ones. This isn't meant to be an instruction, rather I am just sharing an idea.
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:55 AM   #2
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You are the DIY master!
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Old 05-21-2008, 04:13 AM   #3
original kuhli
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Nice work, now if someone could set the wasser up with some punched out DC8 style housings we could get going on a true home brewed controller.

A couple questions:

1. What's the spec on the relay, there's an awful lot to choose from.
2. Can you see a cost/space effective way to control 12 to 18 outlets?

I'd read of some famed Siemens industrial controller that was quite cheap a ways back that looked like it had potential, not as cheap but still sub $75 if I remember right.
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Old 05-21-2008, 03:50 PM   #4
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So it controls you with 6 switches?
hehe

Looks nice and is an excellent DIY.
Thanks for starting a new post and the schematic.
This should work pretty well.

I've always eyeballed those irrigation controllers.

Thanks for the thread
Two green thumbs up!

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Old 05-21-2008, 03:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by original kuhli View Post
1. What's the spec on the relay, there's an awful lot to choose from.
I used POTTER & BRUMFIELD KHAU-17A11-24 RELAY 14 BLADE 24VAC from ebay. If you have time to shop around you can get those relays cheaper from some surplus places and save some dough.

Quote:
Originally Posted by original kuhli View Post
2. Can you see a cost/space effective way to control 12 to 18 outlets?
The controller I used maxes out at 6 zones, there might be others that can do more, but they might not handle two at a time and independent programming. You could use 2 or 3 of the controllers. Controlling 18 outlets (if you must) would cost you about $150, with the AC Jr. probably around $400, so still some savings although at some point it might be more convenient to just deal with a single control module.
Space-wise you would need room to mount the controllers and outlets. The relays don't take that much space.
For a future tank I will mount the outlets directly in the stand, with a more accessible controller, and the wires all hidden away safely.

Last edited by Wasserpest; 10-07-2010 at 05:58 PM..
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Old 05-21-2008, 05:15 PM   #6
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WOW...one of the BEST DIY threads here wasser ... thank you so much for posting this.
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Old 05-21-2008, 05:43 PM   #7
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Woofta, with 30 amp capacity those relays won't be an issue. Have you had any problem getting them to switch very low draw applications? I know the neptunesys/aquacontroller have had problems with low draw stuff, I've not had any trouble though.
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Old 05-21-2008, 06:07 PM   #8
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Nope, the relays don't care if there are low amps going through the contacts. As long as it isn't more than they are spec'd for there is no issue at all.

Thanks aquanut, Tom, and all others for your positive comments! Makes the many hours of tinkering worth it.
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Old 05-21-2008, 11:00 PM   #9
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Excellent project and write up. Thanks for taking the time to share it.

Here's a great site for project enclosures that offer free samples of various size/type project boxes. Knowing how you tinker, I'm sure you can find a use for them...lol
I've received some great free boxes from them in the past that I used for various PC and electrical projects.
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Old 05-21-2008, 11:53 PM   #10
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I try to squeeze in the time to do water changes and trims and you are out there designing KILLER controllers !

Great job on that , you are the man !
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Old 05-22-2008, 01:05 AM   #11
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WP - Outstanding! You are to be congratulated. Thank you!

This makes me want to go grab my soldering iron. I'm gonna go grab my Jemco catalogue and see what kind of enclosures I can find. But first a few questions...

1) I'm I seeing this correctly? That's two sockets, and two socket pairs (two plugs each) that are being controlled?
2) And that also you have not wired the 5th and 6th controlled circuits to the 120V, but to the 24v because your intention is that they are dedicated to your 24v solenoids?
3) Are those relays all different? They look like it. Maybe similar function, just what was in your grab bag at the time?

And I'd like to chime in as a "high tech", heavily controlled kind of guy...

I think this would work just fine, or maybe a pair of them. Being limited to two channels at once isn't such a big deal. You wouldn't want to drain and fill your tank on the same time. That should be sequential. So only one channel used there. And if you were doing fert dosing, well you could do that when you were not draining or filling. So again, only one channel used.

The other channel would control your lights, and depending on timing, that too might be on the same control channel. So did I say you might need two of these? Shucks. Sounds to me like one might do just fine!

Thanks for trying this and sharing it WP. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
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Old 05-22-2008, 03:49 AM   #12
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Looks totally awesome. I'm eventually going to get to using a Omron PLC for my tank this summer. Looking at your circuit diagram it appears you are switching the 120V nuetral. I am curious as to why you chose not to switch the 120V hot side, as this would eliminate the electrical potential on your equipment when its not running.
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Old 05-22-2008, 04:34 AM   #13
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Really? Seems as if the neutral runs from the line straight to the outlets... not switched.
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Old 05-22-2008, 02:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck View Post
I try to squeeze in the time to do water changes and trims and you are out there designing KILLER controllers !

Great job on that , you are the man !
Thanks Buck! Once you get your water changes automated, all of a sudden you have time to throw together a few other things.

Last edited by Wasserpest; 08-04-2008 at 11:15 PM..
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Old 05-22-2008, 03:08 PM   #15
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Thank you Steve for your kind words. As always, you think things through a bit more thorough, so let me try to address your comments...

Quote:
1) I'm I seeing this correctly? That's two sockets, and two socket pairs (two plugs each) that are being controlled?
It is three socket pairs, making for a total of 6 outlets (A-F in my schematic). The first two (A and B) are switched independently, while C and D as well as E and F are flip-flops. When one of them is on, the other is off. In other words, C/D and E/F are both controlled by a single relay.

Quote:
2) And that also you have not wired the 5th and 6th controlled circuits to the 120V, but to the 24v because your intention is that they are dedicated to your 24v solenoids?
That is correct... I could have connected the 5th and 6th controller outlet to two more relays, but a) I didn't see the need to switch THAT many things independently, and b) yes, I want to use at least one of them for driving water changes in the future.

Quote:
3) Are those relays all different? They look like it. Maybe similar function, just what was in your grab bag at the time?
No, they are all identical. In the first picture, I took 4 of them and placed them in different ways so four sides can be seen. Hehe.

Quote:
I think this would work just fine, or maybe a pair of them. Being limited to two channels at once isn't such a big deal. You wouldn't want to drain and fill your tank on the same time. That should be sequential. So only one channel used there. And if you were doing fert dosing, well you could do that when you were not draining or filling. So again, only one channel used.

The other channel would control your lights, and depending on timing, that too might be on the same control channel. So did I say you might need two of these? Shucks. Sounds to me like one might do just fine!
I think the 6 zones give you quite some flexibility. Keep in mind that in another project I created a Delay Timer to dose micros, and I can connect that one to any other switch. For example, my macros dose at 10:28, while the micros are connected with the moonlight which turns on at 21:59 (lights turn off at 22:00), and they run for like 4 seconds as per delay timer setting.

Two at a time is much better than one at a time... still a bit limiting. For my daytime high light period I have two banks of light running at the same time, so obviously there is nothing else that can be switched during that time. But everything else (moonlights, water changes, fert dosing) takes up relatively short periods so there is a lot of different things that can happen successively after lights are out.
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