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I'm sure we've all had a few 'gulp' moments messing with automated water change systems and I thought it would be useful to share the problems we've had. My hope is that we can all improve our designs and minimize any trouble these systems can cause - because the know the benefits are fantastic!

1. I used these float switches from autotopoff.com, after a year and a half one finally gummed up and stuck. All that happens with my system when that occurs is that the tank will refuse to fill. I covered my sensors with loose tea filters that look something like this:http://baldmountaincoffee.com/Mercha...L/00002131.jpg. I'm not 100% certain whether its a good idea or not.

2. I used a diaphram style drain solenoid like this: http://www.madhocontrols.com/solenoid_valve_lar.jpg. The problem I had with it was under unusual circumstances but basically I was messing around backflushing my filter and a tiny piece of carbon stopped the diaphram from sealing completely.

The result was the tank kept draining, thus it kept filling. At that point I didn't have a thermostatic valve in place and the inlet water was cold (small volumes didn't matter). Consequentially some fish got very cold, some didn't make it. Two design changes were required. First a thermostatic valve, the best I could find was like you found, limited to 90 deg F or so. A bit warm and still an issue if the tank were unattended for long periods but better than freezing the fish out! And the second I did not implement: limiting the length of a fill cycle with a timer program. I really think this is an important one to avoid lots of potential damage.
 

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Initially I used a cheap, simple float valve to turn off the house water supply on the fill side of the tank. They are not made for that. It just kept dripping.

Using a float switch controlling a irrigation valve resolved the issue.

Really haven't had any issues with the original automated water changer, although if the irrigation valve or float switch had failed, it would have been bad.

My latest setup is a bit different, almost idiot proof, with a passive overflow. So far so good... but it has only been a few weeks.
 
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