DIY automation vs Intellicenter for new install

gwatts225

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Feb 10, 2021
5
Indiana
Hey All!

First off thanks so much for all the great resources on this site. Really helping to put a pool newbie more at ease. We are scheduled for our pool to be built in June 2021 and are trying to finalize and sign-off on all of our equipment and I’m hoping you all can help especially when it comes to the decision on automation. In short, pool will be 18’ X 36’ rectangle w/ sun deck (approx. 18k gallons per designs), vinyl liner, 2 spillways (36” Atlantic Water Gardens Colorfall). No spa.

Equipment proposed from PB is as follows:
VS Pump 3HP Pentair Intelliflo part #011028
Heater Ultratemp 110k btu Pentair Part#460932
Cartridge Filter 200 sq ft Pentair Clean & Clear RP Part#160353
2 Pool Lights Pentair Microbrite Part#620428 (considering upgrade to color but unsure we would use it)
1 Largemouth Hayward Skimmer
Frog system Leapfrog Twin King Technology Part# 01-01-7850
Automatic Cover Motor is Coverstar Eclipse

Based on what I’ve read on the forum I’m already planning to have the PB remove the Frog system and give us a credit for it. We are interested in installing a SWCG which leads into the conundrum of what all to pay for the PB to install (unfortunately at the PB markups).

For automation I basically just want to be able to control the pump, SWCG, heater, lights, actuator valves for turning on the spillways, and sense the position of the cover (just so that the spillways won’t be able to turn on when the cover is closed). I’ve read through many of the posts from @cmc0619, @Katodude, and @MyAZPool and think that I am leaning toward having the PB do only the basic install with load center and then going down the separate box DIY raspberrypi route but wanted to get other opinions. I am admittedly a novice when it comes to electrical and coding but am willing to learn and will also have my father-in-law available who is a retired IT guy.

  • Will I be able to accomplish everything outlined automation wise through the DIY solution?
  • Regarding the SWCG – pros and cons of going with a Circupool model vs sticking with the Pentair Intellichlor? I would like to install this myself to avoid the PB markups. It seems like the only advantage of the Pentair Intellichlor would be if I went down the route of upgrading and installing everything into the Pentair Intellicenter with the built in load/power center but then I lose basically all warranty options and it significantly ups the budget.
  • It looks like many people are perfectly happy running the nodejs pool controller on its own but what would I be missing out on by not having the Intellicenter also installed and using the nodejs dashboard functionality? Is it worth it just to pay the $4500 for the Intellicenter including the SWCG?
  • Has anyone accomplished the monitoring of the position of the auto-cover via the DIY route? I can’t seem to find anything on the forum outside of the use of the pool cover expansion card with the Intellicenter. I think I will definitely need to have the rotary encoder (Automatic Pool Cover Parts) installed but unsure of how to integrate that into DIY controller interface.

Thanks in advance for all the great advice!
 
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ajw22

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Jul 21, 2013
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Get a larger filter - CCP320 or 400.

I don't know what "basic install with load center" means. What exactly will you have the PB install?

Do you understand the protocols involved in being able to control the pump, SWCG, heater, lights, actuator valves for turning on the spillways, and sense the position of the cover? Some people are using the IntelliCenter to do the communication with the devices and then front ending it with a custom UI.

Trying to do this without the IntelliCenter depends on your technical chops and value of your time. Only you can decide if it is worth it and if you want a major automation project or a pool to enjoy and swim in.
 

Katodude

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Aug 22, 2017
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First welcome!!!

+1 on the larger filter.

Now on to the fun stuff. Its really up to you. It depends on what you want to accomplish, and how much time you are willing to invest. Can you do everything without an Intellicenter, YES absolutely. The only automation system I have is my Rpi. Same for @cmc0619. Now @MyAZPool has an Intellicenter and has hit a new level of control.

Here is what my system does. I can turn the pump on and off, and change the speed to anything I want all from my phone (the Intelliflo and NodeJSpool controller make this very easy and I like not having a 220v relay anymore). I can move the valves to change from pool to spa mode. I can turn the SWG on and off. (In theory I can adjust the output of the SWG but have not bothered to do it). I have real time pH monitoring. I can also cycle the heater on and off, and can set a temperature for the heater to operate. At some point I might add acid dosing, but I am discovering that I probably dont need that.

I have the system Alexa enabled so I can turn spa mode on with voice control, I can also get my spa spillover waterfall to turn on.

All of this was accomplished for about $600 plus the valve actuators, and pH monitoring was probably another $400 (that was more of a I wanted to do it rather than needed to do it).

Some point soon, I am planning a rebuild which might add another $200 to the project to clean things up a little.

I have a tech background which helps, but since I used NodeRed I did not have to do any real coding. It really was more of an integration project.

Do some more research, ask many questions and we will help whichever way you go. The folks over here are very helpful and friendly.

And @ajw22 I promise you I spend more time enjoying my pool than working on it. :whoot:
 

cmc0619

Gold Supporter
May 2, 2018
166
Cherry Hill, NJ
  • Will I be able to accomplish everything outlined automation wise through the DIY solution?

The only thing I haven't done out of your list is the auto cover sensing. But I took a look at that doc. More on that below.
  • Regarding the SWCG – pros and cons of going with a Circupool model vs sticking with the Pentair Intellichlor? I would like to install this myself to avoid the PB markups. It seems like the only advantage of the Pentair Intellichlor would be if I went down the route of upgrading and installing everything into the Pentair Intellicenter with the built in load/power center but then I lose basically all warranty options and it significantly ups the budget.

I have a Circupool and am very happy with it. They don't have a DIY penalty either.

  • It looks like many people are perfectly happy running the nodejs pool controller on its own but what would I be missing out on by not having the Intellicenter also installed and using the nodejs dashboard functionality? Is it worth it just to pay the $4500 for the Intellicenter including the SWCG?

I don't think so. And I often wonder to myself why anyone would get an Intellicenter on a new install if they have the ability to roll their own control system. I went a different route and don't use nodejs-poolcontroller at all. Just node-red which is a program that runs on the pi. I define each block of equipment I have in my system and then it's a matter of using the nodes to turn things on and off. At the end of the day it's just a computerized box of switches and we're able to control the on/off of those switches with some visual based programming. Now that may be changing as one of the nodejs-poolcontroller developers is working on stand alone logic for a rPi for those of us without Intellicenters. I told him I would beta test when my pool thaws and the weather warms up. So at some point it will be even more turnkey than it is already with the same user interface the njpc folks use. But it's really not difficult either way you choose to implement it with no Intellicenter required to do whatever you want it to do.

  • Has anyone accomplished the monitoring of the position of the auto-cover via the DIY route? I can’t seem to find anything on the forum outside of the use of the pool cover expansion card with the Intellicenter. I think I will definitely need to have the rotary encoder (Automatic Pool Cover Parts) installed but unsure of how to integrate that into DIY controller interface.

Thanks in advance for all the great advice!
Had a look at the rotary encoder docs. Here's an example of how that would be done. You just wire the rotary encoder wires to the rPi ground and a rPi GPIO and monitor for connection or no connection and respond accordingly in your code.

For a basic system, it's only a few days worth of work with speccing and ordering parts and throwing it on the pad. The problem is when you see what all you can do you tend to go down rabbit holes where you're adding loops for this dosing and that monitoring and making Youtube videos.:laughblue: But I wouldn't call it major automation. I replaced my whole load center with my box and it took me a day to do. I just... didn't stop there. :)

The stability of my system has been 100% over two seasons now. I haven't needed to touch it in any way shape or form to solve a problem since it went in.

Good luck! We're here if you have questions.
 

MyAZPool

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Jul 3, 2018
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@gwatts225

Will I be able to accomplish everything outlined automation wise through the DIY solution?
The short answer here is yes. I agree with @Katodude and @cmc0619 in their take regarding this question. They have done it. There will be many factors though that should weigh into that decision. Time, IT and technical skill sets and patience. Buying and installing an IntelliCenter and then adding the whole raspberry pi(s), installing and running nodejs-poolController/dashpanel is much more "turnkey" but more expensive. Then the question will arise. Are you going to want chemical sensing and control as well? That gets a bit more involved but there are several who have done it successfully. Some have it all, some have variations like sensing but no dosing control. It's all up to you. A couple have used the IntelliChem controller and have integrated it with nodejs-poolController/dashPanel. Others have chosen the Atlas Scientific/Tentacle T3/Relay Equipment Manager (REM) route as I have done. Please see the following thread/post for more detailed information regarding the comparison of those two options.


Regarding the SWCG – pros and cons of going with a Circupool model vs sticking with the Pentair Intellichlor? I would like to install this myself to avoid the PB markups. It seems like the only advantage of the Pentair Intellichlor would be if I went down the route of upgrading and installing everything into the Pentair Intellicenter with the built in load/power center but then I lose basically all warranty options and it significantly ups the budget.

It looks like many people are perfectly happy running the nodejs pool controller on its own but what would I be missing out on by not having the Intellicenter also installed and using the nodejs dashboard functionality? Is it worth it just to pay the $4500 for the Intellicenter including the SWCG?
The only thing that I can add regarding the IntelliChlor/Circupool decision is that I'm pretty sure that nodejs-poolController supports the Circupool. And if you decide to go the purely DIY route, then you can just emulate what @cmc0619 has done.

Again, whether or not you go entirely DIY and integrate with nodejs-poolController/dashPanel/nixie in the future or if you go with the IntelliCenter and use nodejs-poolController as your primary controller, will depend on your skill sets, time, patience and whether or not the purchasing and installing of an IntelliCenter (and the user-friendliness that setup brings) will be worth it to you in $. If you want to save some money and you love to "tinker" and develop on your own, then the pure DIY option may be for you. Either way as @cmc0619 and @Katodude has pointed out, you will have help here.

Lastly, I'm sorry - but I do not subscribe to the line of thinking that those of us here that use advanced or DIY automation/chemical monitoring and control are somehow spending all of our spare time having to minister to keeping our systems running and have no time to actually enjoy their pools. On the contrary.

Now that I have completed my automation/chemical monitoring and control project, I spend way less time performing pool maintenance than any of my neighbors do and my pool has never looked or ran better.
My pool maintenance routine consists of the following.

1. Weekly, I replace the hair nets in my two skimmer baskets and empty my pump bowl basket or any time after a wind storm.
2. Weekly, I backup my automated sensor readings with a manual FC test and pH test using my Hanna Instruments pHep5 hand-held pH meter.
3. Weekly, I brush the tile and sides of my pool and spa and net the surface on an "as-needed" basis.
4. I backwash my filter on an "as needed" basis when the output from my filter gauge transducer indicates that it is necessary.
5. I adjust SWCG output via nodejs-poolController-dashPanel based on my experience and weekly FC readings during the course of the seasons.
6. I add muriatic acid to my acid tank when my REM output to nodejs-poolController-dashPanel indicates that it is necessary.
2021-03-20_08-12-34.jpg

7. I click on and check my InfluxDB/Grafana outputs about every other day or so just to monitor what is going on with MyAZPool.
2021-01-13_06-34-53.jpg

8. Once a month, I perform a full manual chemical test using my TF-100 as a backup to my digits.

And that is about it. I think you will agree that I spend very little time performing pool related maintenance. My expanded automation and chemical control system runs spectacularly well and is pretty much "hands-off" now. Both from a hardware standpoint and from a software standpoint (nodejs-poolController/dashPanel/REM/Nixie/InfluxDB/Grafana).

My pool is crystal clear and my chemical levels never stray outside of the norms as indicated by my poolmath numbers. Very little time is spent with maintenance and lots of time to enjoy my sparkling pool water.

And it will get even better once I purchase a robot and control it via an IntelliCenter relay/nodejs-poolController-dashPanel and ditch my suction side cleaner and receive my Ariel by Solar Breeze this month.

Good luck with your new build and with your pool automation. Whatever way you choose, you will get lots of help here and on the associated GitHub repos.
r.
 
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MyAZPool

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Jul 3, 2018
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I didn't realize you can control the Pentair SWCG with njpc. That's definitely a point in its favor. My Circupool EDGE40 is a manual button to select output.
Yes sir... Those two GitHub developers have been busy. :thumleft: Outstanding improvements and updates to nodejs-poolController, dashPanel and REM are coming hot and heavy.
2021-03-20_10-51-25.jpg

Can't wait to see what improvements come down the line with your collaboration involving Nixie and it's integration with your DIY setup...
r.
 

Katodude

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Aug 22, 2017
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Hey congrats on the purchase of an Ariel. I am waiting for mine too.

Now stop hemming and hawing and buy yourself a real robot. For a guy that has taken automation to an over the top stage it’s inconceivable (and yes I use that word a lot, but I think it means what I think it means) that you dont have a robot.
 
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MyAZPool

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@Katodude
Doggone it. I have done everything short of taking that Hayward aquanaut 400 out to the desert and having a go at it with a few of my "attitude adjustment tools" but no such luck yet on killing it. It thinks it's the energizer bunny and just won't die... Then I will have justification in my warped mind to make the jump to a good robot (most likely one of the Maytronics but I'll need to do my research as to which one.)

Yup, after reading your comments on the NX2, I too pulled the trigger on the Ariel about the same time that you pre-ordered yours.
Really looking forward to it's arrival!!! I friend in Tucson has the NX2 and so I got a up and personal demo and I really liked it.
r.
 

Katodude

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Aug 22, 2017
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If there is one thing that Covid has taught me. Your old thing does not need to die before you replace it. Life is short. If you can afford it, buy it. If you can afford it and it makes you happier, buy it faster.

However, that being said, if it is a stretch, then be frugal. Just your situation and make the no regrets decision.
 

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MyAZPool

Gold Supporter
Jul 3, 2018
1,845
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SWG Type
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If there is one thing that Covid has taught me. Your old thing does not need to die before you replace it. Life is short. If you can afford it, buy it. If you can afford it and it makes you happier, buy it faster.

However, that being said, if it is a stretch, then be frugal. Just your situation and make the no regrets decision.
@Katodude
I can't argue with a single point. I know you are correct.
It's not the expense but just the principle.
I'm thinking maybe I can find someone who has a pool and maybe is down on their luck due to covid and needs but can't afford a pool cleaner. If I can, I'll just donate "Rita" the trusty and reliable suction-side cleaner and then I'll feel good about spending the bucks on a new Maytronics. ;)
Thanks...
r
 
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