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Thread: What do you need in a pool controller?

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    What do you need in a pool controller?

    Hey all,

    Iíve developed a pool control system for my pool and am looking into the feasibility of marketing it. I currently have it controlling my pump and lights and am coming to you to ask how you use yours, what features I need to add to make it a viable product and if there is a market for competition with the major players in pool automation.

    I now have control over single and 2 speed pumps as well as lighting (jandycolors light currently, but can easily program any power controlled light). The unit will also be able to control automatic valves that use the 24v three wire control interface.

    I can easily add anything that is controlled though on and off but do not have communication protocols to talk with manufacturer specific smart equipment, though if anyone has a spec sheet for communication, I have the ability to interface with external equipment.

    My next major addition is to work with an existing salt cell system using my controller. My hope is to select an existing manufactures cell, and control it directly from my unit. You would use my control unit and their cell, but not their controller. I had initially planned on the Jandy AquaPure unit as I liked their sensor puck and thought I could interface with it easily (and have one in my backyard). In reading the boards though it might be better to focus on a different cell (Hayward?) and design or source a flow/temp/salt sensor to go with it. I would extend a warranty to the cell, as I imagine using my controller with their cell would void their existing warranty.

    As for working with the unit itself, it currently has a web interface that is available locally. The finished product would also have the ability to control from a manufactures portal, but NOT require it. This would allow you to securely monitor/control your pool from anywhere in the world without having to open a direct port on your firewall/router. Because it is a web based interface, it can easily be controlled from any phone/computer and has been designed with a small screen in mind.

    My hope is to eventually have a line of automatic valves, VS Pumps, Salt Cell, etc. but for now I want to be able to control existing product so I can concentrate on bringing the item to market with most bang for the buck and the least amount of new equipment purchase for existing pools.

    Here is where I need your help/advice:

    1. How do you use your automation equipment currently and what does it control?
    2. What current salt cell range would be the best to concentrate on utilizing?
    3. Is there room in the market for a lower priced controller that allows DIY installs?
    4. Do I need to develop a VS pump that I can communicate with, or is there a good one already on the market that has published/open communication protocols?
    5. If there is an option to upgrade to a touch screen on the unit itself, for pool service use or owner convenience, would you pay for that option? My research has led me to believe that adding a 7Ē touch screen duplicating the web interface would add around $100 - $150 to the cost.
    6. I donít have a pool heater, how do heaters work with automation controllers, is a simple on/off at given water temp acceptable, or do I need to communicate directly with the heater and if so, who has an open/published communications protocol?


    Thanks for taking the time to read this!
    - Matrioux

    2007 18K pebble IG pool - Wincor Pool Systems automation & SWG (under development) - DE Jandy DEL60 Filter - Jandy 1HP Pump - TF-100 Test Kit

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    cowboycasey's Avatar
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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Interesting, I can tell you my experience (I tend to wing things) and what I have seen here on this forum.

    1. I have an Intermatic PE653RC Wireless Control System, it is probably the cheapest automation system there is and will control, 1, 2, and VS pumps, along with 3 or 4 other "things" I have my SWG and lights on 2 positions and my 2 speed pump takes 2 positions so I have 1 left over.. At 375 bucks it does a lot and also includes a WIFI remote, Z-wave, pool and air sensor's for freeze protection and solar controllers, control 24v switches and anything else from 24v to 220v.

    With that said, I think I am one of only a handful of people on this site of thousands that has one, why you ask, because it does not say Hayward, Pentair, or Jandy on it.. This is because 95% of pool owners get there pools build and equipment put in by the builder/pool company and those 3 companies market to the pool companies. So you looking at 5% of the market share of people that are do it yourself like me and you and 4% of those go with the same 3 companies because it works with what they are installing... Intermatic is a huge company that almost everyone uses there power equipment on pools among other things and they have not broke the code on automation to the masses.

    Do I think you will find some people that would install it, yes, but how many may be a way smaller number than you are thinking.

    I hope this helps
    Pool: Intex 16x32 15000 gal, 2 speed 340042, Pentair CC320 Filter, CircuPool SJ45 Salt System, Intermatic PE653RC; Hot Tub: 650 Gal SWG Megachlor
    links: pool school * Recommended-Levels * SLAM * CYA chart * Test kits * How To Post Pictures * Poolmath * OCLT ** Support your website if we helped you :) **

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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Thanks for the feedback, and you've nailed the things I worry about right on the head. I, of course, feel my equipment is superior (hence replacing a working Jandy iAqualink system), but am worried about market exposure.

    I did forget to mention that I have the temp sensors and freeze protect, and can handle the same 24v to 220v items. I've also got the ability to go as far as 8-16 power relays with the base equipment and can easily add daughter boards if anyone needs more relays.
    - Matrioux

    2007 18K pebble IG pool - Wincor Pool Systems automation & SWG (under development) - DE Jandy DEL60 Filter - Jandy 1HP Pump - TF-100 Test Kit

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Quote Originally Posted by cowboycasey View Post
    Interesting, I can tell you my experience (I tend to wing things) and what I have seen here on this forum.

    1. I have an Intermatic PE653RC Wireless Control System, it is probably the cheapest automation system there is and will control, 1, 2, and VS pumps, along with 3 or 4 other "things" I have my SWG and lights on 2 positions and my 2 speed pump takes 2 positions so I have 1 left over.. At 375 bucks it does a lot and also includes a WIFI remote, Z-wave, pool and air sensor's for freeze protection and solar controllers, control 24v switches and anything else from 24v to 220v.

    With that said, I think I am one of only a handful of people on this site of thousands that has one, why you ask, because it does not say Hayward, Pentair, or Jandy on it.. This is because 95% of pool owners get there pools build and equipment put in by the builder/pool company and those 3 companies market to the pool companies. So you looking at 5% of the market share of people that are do it yourself like me and you and 4% of those go with the same 3 companies because it works with what they are installing... Intermatic is a huge company that almost everyone uses there power equipment on pools among other things and they have not broke the code on automation to the masses.

    Do I think you will find some people that would install it, yes, but how many may be a way smaller number than you are thinking.

    I hope this helps
    Based on your post, I decided to go check out the Intermatic automation that you are touting. I would disagree a bit though that people do not use this because it does not have a big name on it. From the little info on the Amazon site, it is VERY limited and would not do a majority of the things I got my ProLogic to do. It looks like it only turns things on/off and has heater control. What about turning valves for pool/spa/solar? No SWG support. No apparent solar support.

    While I agree that it is a cheap option for wireless control, it sure is missing a majority of the capabilities that many people are buying automation systems to control.

    Edit: I see you mention some capabilities that Amazon does not disclose, like the valve control and solar control.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
    18k IG pebblesheen pool, Hayward ProLogic P4 w/ T-15 SWG, Pentair 1HP 2-speed Superflo, Hayward 6020 DE filter
    500 sqft Heliocol solar panels, ThePoolCleaner, TF-100 test kit w/ SpeedStir
    Pool School + Test Kit + PoolMath = A TROUBLE FREE POOL
    If you found TFP helpful and we saved you money ... Become a TFP Supporter!

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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    The Intermatic seems more of an automated timer with wireless access and some programability then a total controller. I will integrate SWG as well as allowing control over more items at once. I am not sure about the level of programming on the Intermatic, but the controller I'm building includes scenes (programmed run times for combinations of relays), sunset & sunrise awareness (for pool or yard lights, say run from sunset to sunset + 5 hours or sunset to midnight), Scene activation and deactivation (so you could store different run options for different seasons without having to set them up each time), and overrides (run pump, turn on/off light, run spa) that are active for a set time, until deactivated, or until over-ridden by a scene (user choice). I should be able to add email/text alerts for certain alarm conditions as well.

    My concern is that no mater how good and how cost effective, what is the size of the market, and what do I need it to do to appeal to the largest portion of that market.

    I guess I need to understand how solar works as well, is it as simple as opening valves and running main pump if solar temp is greater then pool temp and pool temp is below desired temp, or is it more complex with additional pumps and such?

    I have no doubt I can include things like heater and solar, I just need to make sure I understand whats needed. The hardware can handle it already (valves, relays, temp sensors), its just defining the operations in software that will require work before release.
    - Matrioux

    2007 18K pebble IG pool - Wincor Pool Systems automation & SWG (under development) - DE Jandy DEL60 Filter - Jandy 1HP Pump - TF-100 Test Kit

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Solar checks that the solar temp is above the water temp and the water temp is below the desired temp (within some tolerances).
    It has the ability to turn a valve to turn the solar on and off.
    And has the ability to switch to a desired speed (high of a 2-speed or a set speed on VS).
    There are other options like keeping the pump / solar running past the schedule shut-off time if there is still a demand for heat and heat is still available.
    Jason, TFP Moderator
    18k IG pebblesheen pool, Hayward ProLogic P4 w/ T-15 SWG, Pentair 1HP 2-speed Superflo, Hayward 6020 DE filter
    500 sqft Heliocol solar panels, ThePoolCleaner, TF-100 test kit w/ SpeedStir
    Pool School + Test Kit + PoolMath = A TROUBLE FREE POOL
    If you found TFP helpful and we saved you money ... Become a TFP Supporter!

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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Makes sense, I'll make sure that the functionality for that is in the controller.
    - Matrioux

    2007 18K pebble IG pool - Wincor Pool Systems automation & SWG (under development) - DE Jandy DEL60 Filter - Jandy 1HP Pump - TF-100 Test Kit

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    cowboycasey's Avatar
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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Don't get me wrong I think your controller is way more than the Intermatic, what I was saying is that I got it and wanted it because it would do the things I needed, run my 2 speed pump, my SWG, and my lights.. I think there are 2 types of people and pools,

    1 are the above/in ground like mine that want some stuff automated but do not have the complex systems like you are building

    2. complex systems

    Youi are doing a full blown system that does everything

    Quote Originally Posted by Matrioux View Post
    The Intermatic seems more of an automated timer with wireless access and some programability then a total controller. I will integrate SWG as well as allowing control over more items at once. I am not sure about the level of programming on the Intermatic, but the controller I'm building includes scenes (programmed run times for combinations of relays), sunset & sunrise awareness (for pool or yard lights, say run from sunset to sunset + 5 hours or sunset to midnight), Scene activation and deactivation (so you could store different run options for different seasons without having to set them up each time), and overrides (run pump, turn on/off light, run spa) that are active for a set time, until deactivated, or until over-ridden by a scene (user choice). I should be able to add email/text alerts for certain alarm conditions as well.

    My concern is that no mater how good and how cost effective, what is the size of the market, and what do I need it to do to appeal to the largest portion of that market.

    I guess I need to understand how solar works as well, is it as simple as opening valves and running main pump if solar temp is greater then pool temp and pool temp is below desired temp, or is it more complex with additional pumps and such?

    I have no doubt I can include things like heater and solar, I just need to make sure I understand whats needed. The hardware can handle it already (valves, relays, temp sensors), its just defining the operations in software that will require work before release.
    Pool: Intex 16x32 15000 gal, 2 speed 340042, Pentair CC320 Filter, CircuPool SJ45 Salt System, Intermatic PE653RC; Hot Tub: 650 Gal SWG Megachlor
    links: pool school * Recommended-Levels * SLAM * CYA chart * Test kits * How To Post Pictures * Poolmath * OCLT ** Support your website if we helped you :) **

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    Re: What do you need in a pool controller?

    Casey, I understood what you where saying The Intermatic is a good solution, and would actually have been the right choice for my setup if I didn't want to completely integrate controlling the SWG as well (and if I had seen it when doing research).

    Obviously I am creating and hoping to market something a bit more complex, but am worried that I will miss a feature that needs to be standard (like solar) or that the level of people who are DIY'ers, looking for a controller, and not immediately diving into the big 3 isn't large enough to support a new system.

    If this gets off the ground, eventually I hope to produce enough of a full line to start interacting with builders directly. My first push and preferred base, however, would be people who care about their pool and are replacing old systems or static timers, or looking to add SWG. Exactly the people at TFP. While I won't actually market on this board, I do want the opinions of the people here on what I need to make sure the system can do and if they see any value to bringing something like this to market.
    - Matrioux

    2007 18K pebble IG pool - Wincor Pool Systems automation & SWG (under development) - DE Jandy DEL60 Filter - Jandy 1HP Pump - TF-100 Test Kit

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