Anyone build your own ATO?

Discussion in 'DIY' started by HiFidelity, Jan 17, 2014.

  1. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    Hi, I've been kicking around the idea of building my own ATO.

    I know that this is easily doable with a modern controller & a couple of float valves but I want to take things a step further, I want to put together a stand alone ATO that does not rely solely on float valves but I want to incorporate optical sensors (sort of like Tunze Osmolator).

    My current concept incorporates the following...

    Either one float switch & one backup optical sensor on the sump
    DC powered everything or DC sensors triggering an AC relay that fires an AC pump

    I would love to do an all DC system with 2 optical sensors one in the sump & one in the DT the sump sensor will trigger a 12v automotive relay powering a brushless pump when water level drops, the DT sensor would be an absolute in case of emergency type thing where it would shut the entire system down (except powerheads) if water level rose above the sensor.

    I like the idea of doing everything DC that way i can DIY my own power back-up & run everything off a car battery in case of power outage...

    Nevertheless I want to hear about your designs whether it's like this or totally different, just for the drawing board.

  2. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    I have done my own ATO control, but controller based.
    Random thoughts:

    There is one extra advantage to a micro-controller - you can add a timer.
    Meaning, you stop after X minutes per day, regardless of float sensors.
    It adds an extra layer of backup.

    An option is to get a microduino or such. It could work fine for a long time off a car battery
    if that is a big concern.

    There are some DC diaphragm pumps that might work well for an ATO.
    Used for sprayers normally. But they use a lot of power.
    A normal pump is often not usable due to head distance from reservoir to tank.

    A power backup on an ATO seems a bit overkill. Most systems can run for days without an ATO,
    before salinity or sump water level becomes a real issue. But not saying it is a bad thing.

    For the DC relays, be a bit careful on the current. Some of those relays draw more
    than simple optical or float switches can handle. You may need an extra transistor
    or mini relay to bump it up.
  3. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    Hi Mark, very good points there....

    I wouldn't see a need for a timer as long as I run optical sensors, they don't clog and they don't wear (as long as they aren't hit by light) I think it was you I showed them to a couple months ago, they're the ones on ebay & are sold 2 for $25.


    microduino - what specifically would i want to get this guy to do? sorry for the dumb question :p

    There will be no head issues since I'm placing my reservoir next to the sump inside the stand and I wasn't particularly planning to have the ATO on power backup but I will never buy another AC pump and plan to slowly replace every pump in my tank with a DC one so basically the whole entire thing can run off a battery if it needs to and I don't quite care how much they draw from the battery since I will always have the ability to swap batteries with my car (I plan to buy the same style battery I use in my car for this reason). There's also the option of linking batteries together or alternating 2 where one stays on the charger while the other runs, options are infinite with car batteries (gel cell not acid) also did I mention deep cycle 24v RV batteries? :D

    In regards to relays, I've used Bosch relays on cars for over 10 years now for custom stereo/alarm installations and they almost never fail unless submerged in water, the trigger side of the relay is no-load all it does is sense when there is low voltage signal coming in and then they actuate the load bearing line to turn on whatever it is you're turning on, the optical sensor would essentially run on it's own independent power since the relay is handling double the rating for the sensor or even more thus requiring a different rating transformer.

    This is the diagram of the relay;


    30 - Main power source
    87 - Pump + wire
    85 - Common Ground
    86 - +5v trigger signal from optical switch

    Of course I'm going to have multiples wired together so I can trigger status LED's etc. but that's just fluff, not necessarily playing factor in the action of this ATO design...
  4. brleong

    brleong Supporting Member

    I'm building a DIY ATO system. Parts are actually on the way right now. I got my parts from for an ATO system for my sump:

    KIT003Top-it-Off Kit Deluxe149.9949.99
    MAH002Mold-a-Holder 18 Inch16.956.95
    FLT001i-float Float Switch16.996.99
    ALP001AquaLifter Pump117.9917.99
    BUZ001Low Voltage Buzzer16.996.99
    TUB0035' Quarter Inch Tubing13.393.39
    BKT001Black Four Gallon Bucket17.997.99

    Essentially my system will have 4 float switches for more flood protection.

    #1 low in sump to maintain level
    #2 higher in sump to turn off the pump if #1 fails to the on position and wants to pump my whole bucket into the sump
    #3 in my DT to shut off the pump if my overflow gets blocked and my DT is near overflowing
    #4 in my ATO bucket to shut off if my ATO bucket is near empty so that I do not burn out the pump

    Buzzer so that I know when my bucket is near empty and I can refill.
  5. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    On some website somewhere I once saw a module for the aqualifter (or any pump like it) that was basically a box with female & male AC connections and one small gauge wire for trigger, it's basically a plug & play relay, anyone know what I'm talking about?

    I may just go with all optical sensors and the aqualifter so I can keep the pump out of my 5 gal reservoir...
    On top of that if I just leave enough room in my sump for an extra 5 gallons of water, overfilling would be absolutely impossible. I'm going to run a 22 gal sump on a 45 gal DT.
  6. brleong

    brleong Supporting Member

    That is actually not a fully safe assumption. If your overflow gets blocked, your sump will pump the contents of the return chamber into the tank, and as that gets low, your ATO will kick in and fill it. So you would only be safe if you had room in your DT for both the return chamber plus your ATO bucket size. For my 55 gallon tank with 22 gallon sump, that would mean 3 gallons+5= 8 gallons out of my 55 gallon. That would just look very silly to have water that low in my DT.
  7. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    Good point, I'm actually in process of building a fail safe drain (discussed in a different thread) but you might have missed my earlier posts where I was talking about taking a step further & having one of the optical sensors on the DT to monitor max level, this will be another emergency precaution; whenever the water level reaches this sensor it will shut down the return pump & only run powerheads in the DT.
    The only part of the tank that won't be able to auto shut off is the skimmer, I figure worst case scenario burned pump but no death.
    That plug & play relay would be perfect since I'm trying to trigger so many things with these optical sensors, I wish I could remember where I had seen them :mad:
  8. aqua-nut

    aqua-nut Supporting Member

    I've seen something like that at the site. Look in the Misc. section.
  9. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    $15 that's not too bad, now I need to figure out how many of these & how many switches...
  10. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    So it looks like there is something out there that is basically the same exact thing I wanted to build yet even cheaper and comes put together in a nice little package;

    Aside from this I will need one infrared sensor & a relay kit to monitor DT max level and plug the return pump into it, so if the drain is clogged the sensor will quickly see the water level climb in the DT then shut the return pump off, the skimmer will keep circulating water in the sump and ATO will pretty much do it's job but much slower.
  11. rygh

    rygh Supporting Member

    Key issue: Your circuit has no hysteresis.
    Meaning, little waves in the sump will cause that relay to go on and off like crazy.
    Relay may survive, but pump will not.
    You need a low sensor point that turns on the relay, and a higher sensor point that turns off the relay.

    The trigger coil current is what I was talking about above.
    For a big relay, at 12V, that can range from 50mA to 200 mA depending on vendor/component.
    Not huge of course, but big for a micro-controller and other tiny circuits.
    Looking at one optical sensor, it was rated to 100 mA.
    Which means - it could fail. Detailed checking is needed.

    A microduino is a very small and cheap micro controller.
    About $10. Arduino based, so fairly simple tools.
    I have not tried that one specifically though.
  12. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    That's what sold me on the fish-street kit, it seems to have all that built in, as far as the emergency sensor I plan to put in the DT, yes I can see how there can be a problem and because of where it's going to mount there will be no chance of putting high/low sensors on the DT so I suppose I would have to look into the microduino for that one...

    Main thing is I have ATO figured out and the rest will just be free time research kinda stuff.
  13. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    Another problem solved (in regards to the optical sensor rating) instead of the kit I can buy my own project box & a power cord thn put it together with a solid state relay, according to the tech sheet 3v at 7.5ma is enough to trigger it;

    That only leaves the issue of hysteresis which I will have to look into deeper, worst case scenario I get lazy & of course I would take a burned pump over a spill any day of the week, but I get things like this stuck in my head until I figure them out.
    The only discouraging thing about the microduino is the learning curve and time it would take me to get this one little thing figured out, but I feel that the 'duino world is growing so close around me I have no choice but to get on top of it & see for myself what exciting things I might be able to do with it.

    oh & for those who prefer not to DIY too much I found this little gadget while I was researching all this other stuff today;
  14. brleong

    brleong Supporting Member

    just finished my ATO build with 4 float switches from Works like a charm except my tank evaporates much more water than i originally thought and my bucket needs to be re-filled more often than i originally thought.
  15. grizfyrfyter

    grizfyrfyter Guest

    I read the whole thread then I bought a hydor ATO and went to sleep lol
    bluprntguy likes this.
  16. Vincerama2

    Vincerama2 Evil Overlord

    I bought a bunch of parts and pumps and stuff, then just gave up and shelled out mucho dinero for the Spectrapute Ultimate top off, which is awesome beyond belief, but hellishly expensive.
  17. tygunn

    tygunn Webmaster

    I've both built my own float switch based ato and used a tunze osmolator.

    I definitely prefer the osmolator as they seem to have gotten the issue of hysteresis and splash mitigation into account. In short, it's pricey but it works.

    My diy ato units are more for backups or qt where I don't want to spend the dough on another tunze....

    Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk
  18. grizfyrfyter

    grizfyrfyter Guest

    Hydor smart level has worked great for me so far. The alarm goes off when I turn off and on my return pump (sump level rises over the alarm sensor). It stops after a couple minutes, I just wish I could mute it for 5 minutes by pushing a button. It's nice to know it works though.
  19. HiFidelity

    HiFidelity Guest

    anyone running ATO off their controller?

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