Variable air valve for skimmers

Request new hardware or ideas for the controller

Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:12 pm
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:20 am
So right now, RA is able to fairly accurately measure the water level with a greater degree of precision than just float switches. I've been thinking about what neat things I can do with that kind of data, and I keep coming back to skimmers. Most skimmers have a variable air line that allows you to control the ratio of air to water in the skimmer, which not only changes how wet or dry your skimmate is, it controls the level of the water in the skimmer. I've found that if my water level just drops 5-7% in my sump, my skimmer becomes much less effective, and conversely, if the water level goes up about that much, my collection cup might flood.

I was looking around online and thought I might start playing around with these "Flexinol Electrostem II Air Valves" - I can't post the link because the board won't let me, but if you Google that, you'll see a few product sheets and robotic hobby sites selling them.
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Posts: 234
Joined: Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:40 am
Location: Houston TX
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 7:46 am
What you just explained about how you adjust your skimmer and the issues you have with varying water height defines the run of the mill every day typical design that companies are going with... There is not much R&D going into these things. They just change one thing here and come up with some marketing for it and sell it....

The best functioning skimmers do not regulate water height in the skimmer by adjusting the air volume going into your skimmer... This should actually be one of the very last things you adjust... The more air you have going in, the more turbulent the water will be in the skimmer and therefor the more protein you will take out of the water in a shorter period of time. I've had about 8 different skimmers ranging in all kinds of sizes and when I came across the design that Jeff at LifeReef uses I was quite taken back... Water height regulation is done by adjusting a valve on the exit side controlling how much water flow you have exiting the skimmer, your skimmer pump never changes as long as you have the proper filtration preventing it from getting clogged up.... I set my skimmers water height about 2 years ago and have not adjusted it since. Also, his design produces 0 micro bubbles exiting the skimmer. It is well worth taking a look at and considering if you ever get tired of constantly tinkering with your skimmer to keep it operating properly...


But your idea is pretty cool
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Posts: 5362
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:42 am
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 12:55 pm
It sounds like you need a baffle before your return pump. Your sump water level shouldn't vary like that.

Also you should have an ATO to prevent that.

If my return goes off i turn off the skimmer and i have a function that will wait till water level is down before turning it back on. Thats based on switches but you could just as easily use the water level sensor.

Some more details on your sump and setup would help.

Posts: 58
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:12 pm
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:59 pm
lnevo wrote:Also you should have an ATO to prevent that.


Well, I do - it's just a POS, apparently, which is what led me to buy a full RA setup complete with water level sensors and IO breakout and all the doodads on Friday. I'm officially part of the club :lol:

Now I'm just looking to tinker - I have a fair amount of PLC and Raspberry Pi tinkering experience, so I'm assuming most of this will be a breeze.
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Posts: 5362
Joined: Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:42 am
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 4:26 pm
Once you get used to the environment it is. A good ATO should take care of the fluctuations.

Once your sump level is stable, if your float switches trigger or your ATO times out you can shut things down and page you rather than going nuts with the air valve.

Another approach you could take is to get a dc pump skimmer and control that :)

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