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Thread: Custom automation controller project

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    Join Date
    Jan 2013
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    Atlanta, Georgia
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    Custom automation controller project

    Hello - TFP Newbie here. I finally decided it was time to take advantage of the energy savings of a variable-speed pump so this past spring I finally took the plunge & replaced my old single-speed pump running off an Intermatic mechanical timer. I have to say, the old pump has lasted much longer than I ever expected it would (16 yrs.) so hats-off to the American Products Ultra-Flow 1HP workhorse that I cheerfully sold on Craigslist.

    My equipment setup is pretty simple - pump, filter, SWG, .... no water features or heater. For my new pump, I chose a Speck Badu Eco M3V pump. Without getting into a lengthy comparison of pumps, the quality, price, and warranty of the Speck pump were key factors for me. But having chosen the pump, I quickly learned that there's so much more to using a variable-speed pump than a simple ON-OFF switch like the old single-speed pump. There are also some very smart features that you can take advantage of, but the tradeoff is some added complexity. Enter the automation controller market. The big-3 have done a pretty good job of offering a full suite of products including pump, controller, valve actuators, etc., but they (understandably) want you to buy the pump & controller from one source. The 'mix-n-match' (compatibility between manufacturers) concept is not highly supported here.

    However, the Speck pump had clearly noted its compatibility with 3rd-party controllers (I'm sure they had the big-3 in mind). I'm a very handy guy & have worked in engineering & industrial automation enough to get excited about the prospect of inventing my own controller. So late last fall my research & design began. Fast forward to today, and Voila!..... the finished product can be seen in the pictures below. All the parts (and the cabinet itself) are industrial-grade automation control components that I bought over the internet on various websites, Amazon, eBay, etc. The timer-controlled relay board connects to your PC via USB cable and requires no more programming knowledge than the average third-grader posesses.

    This custom-made controller runs the Speck pump on High and Low speeds based on the simple schedule/program I set up. It also controls the SWG and has a reliable, temperature adjustable, freeze protection circuit as well. I've also added a valve actuator for the automatic pool cleaner. The controller shuts off the pool cleaner when the pump is running on low (filter) speed, and opens it during high speed. This should save tremendous wear and tear on the cleaner vs. running the cleaner anytime the pump is on. The pump schedule has been set up so that the pump is off whenever the valve actuator is moving. This reduces pressure on the actuator and should prolong the life of the actuator. The controller is designed to have the least amount of devices energized at any given time to minimize the energy consumption of the controller itself. The manual switches you see in the pictures allow me to switch the controller out of 'program' mode and into a 'manual' mode where I can operate the pump, SWG, and pool cleaner valve actuator manually - for when you need to backflush, or perform maintenance, or anytime you just need to override the program & operate things manually.

    My budget was pretty tight, so I re-used the breakers from the old Intermatic timer panel for power to the pump and auxiliary (lights, receptacle) power. They were in good shape, they would be expensive to replace, and besides; my new control box was just too small. The lament of being an inventor on a budget!

    Anyway, it's done, it works PERFECTLY, and I'm excited to share it with everyone here. I had a great time with this project and learned so much along the way. This is probably what I should be doing for a living . I designed the controller around a variable-speed pump, but it would also work perfectly on any 2-speed pump as well. I'm already thinking of how to add control for a heater and water features, which I don't currently have, but hey - a guy can dream, can't he?

    I'm happy to reply to any questions or comments anyone has. And many thanks to those whose posts over the years on TFP have educated & advised me on many occasions.

    Happy summer to all!
    Mark
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    Re: Custom automation controller project

    I'm impressed that you took the effort to complete this project. I just finished a couple of automation courses using PLCs or Arduinos. Perhaps I'll follow your lead.
    16x32 inground vinyl pool
    Hayward sand filter
    Hayward 2 hp super pump

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Custom automation controller project

    Impressive!!
    Dave J. TFP Moderator
    24' x 52" Round AGP. 2hp/¼hp SPL Power-Flo 2-speed pump. 200sqft Waterway Cartridge Filter. 45MHP2(3GPD) Stenner Peristaltic Pump
    Pool School ----- Pool Math ----- TF-Test Kit

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    Atlanta, Georgia
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    Re: Custom automation controller project - 9 Month UPDATE

    9 months after my initial installation: We're just coming off of 2 below-freezing cold spells here in metro Atlanta and so far, the controller has performed great. Freeze protection has kicked in as expected (thank God!) & saved my precious plumbing & equipment. It does it's job every day and doesn't whine for attention.

    Since the initial installation I haven't made any changes to the relay program - don't you just love the idea of "set it and forget it"?. I've had 2 incidents where I've found the pump in an 'error' state. I suspect either power spikes (we have frequent power outages in this area) and/or the delicacy of the onboard electronics on the variable-speed pump. Either way, a power-down and power-up at the breaker panel and it clears the error & I'm back in business. If anyone else has this Badu pump I'd be curious to hear if you've had similar experience with yours. Hmmm... maybe I'll think about adding an inexpensive inline surge-supressor.

    Anyway, so far, so good. We'll see how we're doing at the 1-year mark in the Spring.

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    Re: Custom automation controller project

    Hello again - bortman3 here. Looks like I forgot to post at the 1-year mark. It's now almost 2 years in and the controller is still going strong every day with no issues. I had one lightning-storm-induced power-spike over the summer that made it hiccup, but again, a brief power-down/power-up at the breaker and all's well again.

    The pool cleaner needs to be replaced, the gunite is starting to chip, and the concrete decking is in need of some attention - but the controller has been reliable. Hope that holds true for another 10 years.

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