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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey all,

I got this idea while designing my current build (which i've posted about a ton lately...i swear i'll post pics real soon :p)...

To make things simple, I've studied a ton of plumbing lately and I've come up with some ideas but I'd like to run them by some of the more experienced members for flaws/improvements/comments.

Unless a product like this exists for really cheap, I am all about what I call LAYDIY (learn as you do it yourself )

IDEA #1: PROGRAMMABLE FLOW VALVES (Controlled time-varied water features)

1 electronic flow valve (saw one at HD today for ~$8)
1 programmable (MICRO?)controller that outputs an "on" or "off" at a programmed time; controllable output preferred (dimming) but not necessary

Add waterfalls, sprinkler drippers, etc.


I intend to use it with a solenoid valve on my waterfall for an experimental time-varied falls (so that I can change the flow rate of the water...granted this first attempt is merely on/off, but the next step is to add a "dimmer")

In other words, I will have 2 waterfalls from 9am-9pm, and at 9pm one of them will "dry up" (the digital controller would trip the valve into closing). As a result of course my first falls would get stronger. At 9am, the digital controller triggers the solenoid to open the valve, creating 2 falls again.

Combining this concept with various types of sprinkler heads (in particular, the low flow 0.5gph dripper) .....well I actually don't really have any use for it, especially not in my current build I just KNOW something good can be done with it and i'll come up with it for my next build :p


NOTE: Although I got excited at the idea of controlling my misting system and waterfall from 1 source, I believe this to be a BAD idea. Unless your water is filtered thoroughly, watering your plants and animals with recycled waterfall water is not the best idea... waterfall water should be used for the waterfall and water features only, in my opinion.

EDIT: in my research so far this type of product seems non-existant....perhaps I am looking in the wrong places. A friend of mine who is an electrical engineer pointed me towards ACTUAL microcontrollers (Arduino boards) that would be programmed (like, in C#) . I've got basic electrical down but this may be pushing my skill limit; I don't have time to learn about microcontrollers and a programming language >.<

I've considered sprinkler timers but the cost is a bit much....


IDEA #2: FLOAT VALVE LOOP

1 SECONDARY WATER SOURCE (HIDDEN)
1 FLOAT VALVE
MAIN WATERFALL LINE INPUTTING DIRECTLY TO WATER SOURCE

If my understanding of a float valve is correct, the valve will open at a set water height and close when the float drops below that height.

I was thinking about putting a smaller (hidden) watersource at the mouth of my falls connected to the actual falls by a ball valve, with the waterfall pump consistently feeding this secondary source.


What I believe will happen is:
-2nd source empty, valve is closed (lowest water level)
-Waterfall pump feeds 2ndary source, raising water level
-Float goes high enough, valve opens releasing the falls
-As water releases the float drops, lowering the waterline until it closes the valve
-as a result, the waterfall stops

as i type this, i realize the concept is very similar to the tank of a toilet so I guess it should work...only I'd need to find a much smaller valve


This would basically cause a time-loop action, depending on the size of the 2ndary source and the valve.....but basically the waterfall would run for a brief time, stop for a brief time, run for a brief time, etc.

I was alternatively thinking of experimenting with this for a VISUAL rainfall (separate from the misting system for actually watering the plants). Using the delayed release of the float valve, combined with some large DRIP sprinkler heads ....make it LOOK like rain hopefully (lets be real, misting systems are awesome, but they dont look natural!). There are lots of problems with this, but with some more thought I'm sure something awesome can come of it
 

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My day job is in control/instrumentation. I'm not exactly clear on what the end goal here is, but there should be some pretty simple solutions. You're not going to be able to do it for pennies, though.

IF I understand what you are after then I think a sprinkler timer and 24v solenoid valves are your cheapest bet. There are some plumbing tricks you can incorporate, but really modulating flow incrementally will cost much more.

Seems like a lot of fuss for little pay off though. Why not just hide 2 submersible pumps on separate timers. That would be cheap.
 

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quick answer, it'd be very quick and easy with an arduino, electrically - if its just switching some pumps (or solenoids) just grab an arduino and one of the various motor shields, with enough ouputs for what you need... you'll find lots of example code on the arduino forum, you don't need to be a programmer to sort that out...
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
My day job is in control/instrumentation. I'm not exactly clear on what the end goal here is, but there should be some pretty simple solutions. You're not going to be able to do it for pennies, though.

IF I understand what you are after then I think a sprinkler timer and 24v solenoid valves are your cheapest bet. There are some plumbing tricks you can incorporate, but really modulating flow incrementally will cost much more.

Seems like a lot of fuss for little pay off though. Why not just hide 2 submersible pumps on separate timers. That would be cheap.

although cheap is a factor, i learn a lot more when I make it myself and I like that.


I am also a big fan of "CLEAN" solutions....using 2 of the same thing works, but just isn't clean :p

@andyl: yea that seems to be next on my learning list....friend of mine came over the other day and showed me a bunch of the basics, I will probably buy one soon. I haven't programmed since high school though...thats going to be a learning curve lol
 

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This sounds like a really interesting DIY build to learn a bunch about what can be done, but I'm curious as to why you want to build a system as complicated as all this?

Do you know if the electronic valves from the big box store are variable control or on/off switched?

If you didn't want to go as far as adding the learning curve of an arduino, you might be able to use a reef keeper lite to control it, but I've not used one to know how you would need to set it up.

With your float valve gravity feed idea, it should work, many reef setups use similar set ups to recreate wave action and surf zones. In a waterfall setup such as you are building, your waterfall output will be limited by the weight of water in your gavity tank, you probably wont have a very strong falls, even when your supply tank is completely full.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
With your float valve gravity feed idea, it should work, many reef setups use similar set ups to recreate wave action and surf zones. In a waterfall setup such as you are building, your waterfall output will be limited by the weight of water in your gavity tank, you probably wont have a very strong falls, even when your supply tank is completely full.
I didn't actually intend to use it for a waterfall, I was just brainstorming the idea and then trying to figure out how I would set it up.

Wave action and surf zones is a fantastic use !

I'm not sure about the valves, but after learning a bit more about the arduino boards (and seeing that great thread that just popped up) Im' pretty sure that is my route
 

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in this context the arduino is so simple, stack a motor drive shield on and follow the example code, or wire some relays into the arduino pins connect your solenoid with the 24v + through the relay (common and NO) to run the motor its just a simple command to make it start or stop...

Wanna get fancy - gate / knife valves and an RC servo will let you fine tune rate of flow...
 
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