Making the IntelliChlor Work in a mild Winter

MyAZPool

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Moved from here.. DIY Peristaltic Automation Questions

*SWGs don't work in the winter, and the IntellipH takes cues from the SWG (they communicate with each other and share safety features), so it too goes down for a couple of cold months. So that's thier Achilles heal.

@Dirk

So I got a question for you on this one point.

Per your statement above, we both know that the IntelliChlor (and then consequently) the IpH will not work after H2O temp falls below 52F +/- 3F.
That fact is one of the things that bugs me about the system. I understand the reasoning but for those in moderate climates where the water temp just borders around 55, we still need a tad bit of chlorine and MA here and there throughout the winter months.

During those winter months, I detest lugging chem bottles to the edge of the pool with a plastic measuring cup like I used to do in the "old days".

So, what would happen if one were to cut the wires to the thermistor as was suggested in the thread below which I am following with some interest.

As @Jimrahbe points out, the cell is then tricked into thinking that the H2O temp is 77F.
I don't think my water temp ever gets much below high 40's even in the winter, so I don't think cell damage would be an issue here do you?

What would be any other "side-effects" or disadvantages to cutting the wires to the thermistor in your opinion?
My IC-60 no longer reports "Salt Level" anyway, so I don't care about that and I never use that reported value to determine my salt level anyway.

Maybe Jim can weigh-in as well.
Just doing a little thinking outside the box here. Heck, everything at my pad that says Pentair has already been modified in some way or the other with the exception of the IntelliFlo. (no need there :thumleft:)

Thanks guys...
r.
 
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Jimrahbe

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Ron,

In the back of my mind, it seems like the cold water shut off is not controlled by SWCG's flow switch thermistor.. Not sure that is true or not.. :scratch:

Let's ask someone that most likely knows for sure.. Calling @JamesW

Thanks,

Jim R.
 
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JamesW

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Cutting the wire should prevent the cold water shutoff.

The thermistor in the flow switch is where the cell gets the temperature and it determines when the Cold water shutoff is triggered.

Once the thermistor is deemed unreliable by the cell software, the cell defaults to a standard 77 degrees as the assumed temperature.
 
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MyAZPool

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Cutting the wire should prevent the cold water shutoff.

The thermistor in the flow switch is where the cell gets the temperature and it determines when the Cold water shutoff is triggered.

Once the thermistor is deemed unreliable by the cell software, the cell defaults to a standard 77 degrees as the assumed temperature.
@JamesW
Great info and thanks much.
So if I were to cut the thermistor wires to get around the cold water shutoff feature, what if any "downsides" or negative effects/disadvantages might this action cause? (besides trashing the warranty of course :p )
Any recommendations or other considerations that I might have missed here?
Thanks again!!
r.
 

JamesW

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So if I were to cut the thermistor wires to get around the cold water shutoff feature, what if any "downsides" or negative effects/disadvantages might this action cause? (besides trashing the warranty of course :p )
The process becomes less efficient.

I don't know of any serious downsides to operating at lower temperatures.

It's not recommended by the manufacturer. So, it's your own risk if you decide to do it.
 

Dirk

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Jim and I (Gemini?) were having this exact conversation in a PM yesterday! I was running the idea by him that I could cut the wire and turn the IntelliChlor (IC) down to 0% output, so that the IntellipH (IpH) would think it's 77° and continue to dispense acid, while the IC cell was safe as it wouldn't try to generate chlorine. But then I remembered that the IpH has a "safety feature" that doesn't allow acid injection while the IC is set to zero. I believe that has something to do with spas. As in: you would set your automation controller such that it would dispense chlorine while the actuators pointed the SWG to the pool, but not to the spa. By setting the SWG to 0% while in spa mode, that signals the IpH to shutdown, too. So you'd get neither an over-chlorinated spa but also no acid (low pH) in there either. The IpH doesn't communicate at all with Pentair's controllers, so it would have no other way to know not to dispense.

Anywho, that brought me back to my original idea, which I've yet to try. I think a few here have already done this, in fact I think James is in on this. You disconnect the IpH's pump from the IpH controller, and run it directly from an alternate transformer. That transformer would be wired to a controller relay, and dispense for a minute at a time, x times a week, all winter long.

I would also be inclined to add a couple of safety features, to mimic those that are built-in to a "normal" IC/IpH combo. I'd wire the IpH's alternate transformer relay in series with a flow switch, installed somewhere in the plumbing. (The IpH controller normally uses the IC's flow switch for this safety feature.) I'd also wire all that in series with the controller's pump relay (just as the IC/IpH combo normally is) so that even if the IpH relay got out of sync somehow with the pump runtime schedule, it still couldn't come on and inject. So that is two safeties: no flow and no power when the pump is off = no inadvertent acid injections.

The IC would be powered down for this "IpH only" season, so no cold-water-running issues for the cell.

And the nice built-in safety feature that shuts down the IC's chlorine production while the IpH is injecting doesn't need to be recreated, because the IC will be powered down while using this alternate winter setup.

Then there is the matter of a runaway IpH injection event. Like if the IpH's relay came on randomly, or didn't shut off for some weird controller-failure-reason. I don't have a great solution for that. Technically, that possibility exists even with the normal IC/IpH setup. An event like that was reported here. One way to address that obscure possibility is to dilute, or otherwise limit the amount of acid in the hopper. Which wouldn't be that big of a deal in the winter months. That way, even if the setup shot the entire contents of the hopper into the water, it would only be what you kept "in stock." So a gallon of 31% acid, diluted to 50% would make two gallons in the hopper. That would be enough to get me through the winter. If the whole thing got dumped into the pool (naturally this would occur right after you filled the hopper!), then that'd be only a gallon of acid. In my 12K pool that wouldn't cause any undo damage and would likely work itself out in a few weeks, maybe a month.

This dilution of the hopper's contents could also be used if a one-minute run of acid injection was too much for the pool, or if you wanted to inject everyday instead of once a week (to keep pH more even throughout the week). I'll just keep diluting the acid until I get the appropriate "winter mix."

I'm thinking I could wire in the "winter IpH" transformer to a relay and a flow switch and wire all that to a connector that matches the existing connector of the IpH pump. Then set the schedule (the one minute X times a week schedule), and then just leave that as is year 'round. So then once a year I just swap the pump's plug from the IpH controller to the alternate transformer, and pull the fuse out of the IC's transformer (or just unplug it, since mine is external to my EasyTouch). That way, neither the SWG nor the IpH controller can fire up. So once I get the DIY rig up and running, switching between the two won't require any rewiring twice a year, it'll take less than a minute. And the schedule will already be in place! I'll just leave that programmed year round, so I don't even have to remember to do that each year. EZPZ.

Anywho, that's my plan.
 

Jimrahbe

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Dirk,

I believe the ipH runs off of about 35 to 40 volts of DC voltage, not AC.. The SWCG's transformer sends about 24 volts of AC power to the Surge card (Power Supply) which make the DC voltage that goes to the salt cell.. There is no AC voltage that goes out the SWCG connector at the bottom of EasyTouch.

Thanks,

Jim R.
 

Dirk

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Right, I think that's been addressed by others that have already bypassed the IpH controller and are running the IpH pump with a relay. An AC/DC converter is also needed, not just a transformer. I think JamesW was in on sorting all this out in another thread (I might have been in on that too!). My memory is shot, but I also seem to recall the pump's voltage (DC?) is slightly higher than what is coming in to the IpH controller from the Power Center. I think that because my initial thought was to use the SWG's transformer directly on the IpH pump (by disconnecting both the SWG and the IpH controller from it first). That would have been pretty simple, but my dusty ol' brain is remembering that the Power Center and the IpH pump voltages don't match.

Either way, it's just a matter of measuring the voltage (be it AC or DC) to the pump, and supplying that with whatever transfomer/converter is needed.
 

Dirk

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@Jimrahbe, we'll continue our PM here, if that's OK with @MyAZPool.

I disconnected the IC from the IpH controller and then restored power to the ET. The IpH first displays it's model/firmware startup screen, then "CHECKING CELL." It then reports that it will execute an injection in 60 minutes. That is it's normal startup procedure. When I used the IpH controller menu to dispense acid manually, it immediately goes back into "CHECKING CELL." Then it displays "CELL NOT READY." Then, (and I got excited!) it asked "DISPENSE ANYWAY? Press ENTER for yes." At which point I enthusiastically pressed ENTER! But then it reported "STOPPED" and no dispensing occurred. :cry: No other error message.

While disappointing, this is expected, and frankly appropriate, behavior. The IpH is not going to dispense acid unless it can verify flow, and it can't do that without the IC connected. Pure and simple.

I then reconnected the IC and powered up again. And repeated the experiment. The IpH wouldn't even dispense with the IC connected while the IC was still in its own startup process. Which also makes sense.

The IpH dispenses every 60 minutes. It varies its pump runtime to accommodate the IpH controller's acid injection setting (1%-100% increments of 1%). It doesn't begin its scheduled pumping until the first 60 minutes has elapsed. In other words, it injects at the end of its 60-minute cycle. That, too, makes sense to me. 60 minutes is plenty of time for the filter pump to finish priming, for the filter and plumbing to pressurize and/or fill with water, and for the SWG to finish startup, and for the pool to start "swirling." That all only takes a few minutes, of course, but it makes sense to inject at the end of the 60 minutes, as opposed to first thing, when pump and plumbing and SWG and pool might not be yet ready.

In reviewing the spec's of the IpH (faceplate photo above), you can see the discrepancy between the IpH controller input and what it's pump needs (or rather its max V and A). While they're both DC, I'm not sure how prudent it would be to power the IpH pump with the IC's Power Center output directly. Probably OK? But I'd feel better about that experiment if someone else was doing it!! 🤪

This or something like this would be all that is needed, and for $13 I can forgo the extra transformer and/or converter and use the Power Center.


I could connect that to the PowerCenter and regulate whatever its output is to whatever the IpH pump needs. The Power Center is already wired to the filter pump's relay, so that safety layer is already in place. Then just send the output of the regulator through a second ET relay (for acid injection scheduling) and maybe also through a flow switch, and then on to the IpH pump. Bob's-Yer-Uncle.

My previous idea of making the seasonal switch over simple would still stand. Just swap the IpH pump cable from the IpH controller to this new rig, and unplug the IpH controller from the PowerCenter (shutting down for the winter both the IpH controller and the SWG).

The PowerCenter and the new voltage regulator would power up during filter pump runtime, and then power to the IpH pump would occur when the ET's "acid relay" closes for a minute (but only if there was actually flow in the plumbing).

If I could use the ET's lighting circuit somehow (which I no longer use for my 5G LED), to schedule the acid injection relay, then the acid injection events would show up on ScreenLogic's History graph (even if it would be only a sliver). That'd be cool. Might need you Jim to help me program that, as I never have figured out the ET's setup interface of pumps and features and circuits, oh my.
 
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Dirk

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Sorry, r. More than you asked for, but maybe you can make use of some of that...
 

MyAZPool

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Sorry, r. More than you asked for, but maybe you can make use of some of that...
:laughblue: I'm laughing because before I saw this last post, I was just getting ready to reply with "Boy Dirk, you sure give a guy a lot to think about LOL"
I'm still digesting much of this (in bite size pieces lol), but one point that I wanted to clear up.

This has been my experience in the winter months. "If", the SWCG AND Pump are both "ON" and no matter if the water temp is too cold for the SWCG to go into normal operation mode or not due to the low water temp, I can still manually dose ma for 60 seconds by overiding the cell not ready message. Not sure if you were saying the same thing or not there.

Or to put it another way. I can still dose "Manually", even in the winter months, if I override the "cell not ready, dispense anyway? But the pump must be running of course. This was the procedure that I used all winter 2019/2020, when the water temp was too cold to allow the IpH to operate in auto mode.
r.
 
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Dirk

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No, I was discussing a test of trying to get the IpH to dispense with not IC connected (which doesn't work).

Hmm, I thought I tried manually dispensing a few days ago and it didn't work. ??? I'll try again today. Regardless, because of the rate my pool consumes acid I'd be out there at least once a day, maybe more, to manually dispense. That's why I'm contemplating this project. As I've stated elsewhere, I can pretty much take care of my pH (and chlorine) using a measuring cup just once a week when it's cold. So it's not like I'm saving scads of time or effort. But it will save some, plus eliminate the need to handle acid weekly, or carry it across my deck. I won't get an "effort ROI" for a while, but eventually.
 

Dirk

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Mystery... I just tried a manual acid injection while the IC is connected but reporting cold. I did try this before today, but I never noticed before that after the IpH controller reports it's not going to dispense due to cold, it asks if I want to anyway. To which I replied "Yes," to which it alerts "STOPPED." The same exact sequence I got when testing this with the IC disconnected.

So, either you're wrong, or my IpH is not performing as it should. And this technically invalidates my earlier test of today (trying the IpH without IC attached). So now I have to get to the bottom of this mystery.

r, are you sure you're able to manually add acid using the IpH when the IC is showing a single, red LED (labeled: COLD WATER SYSTEM OFF)? Mine is showing no other LEDs, just that one red one. Is your setup standard, with no mods? IC plugged into IpH plugged into automation controller (or transformer)?

And if you are able to manually add with your IpH, is your IC showing just one red LED?
 

Dirk

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Well that was odd. I thought this might be a firmware issue, maybe something they fixed in later models? So I just went out and cycled through the menus to see if I could find the firmware number. For shots and giggles I tried manual mode one last time, with same single red LED showing on the IC, and sure enough it worked, dispensed just fine. So that's weird.

I don't think this was a remnant from the previous experiment (without IC connected), because I had powered down and back on since that experiment. But something's amiss. I'll have to try this over the next few days to see what's up.

Anyway, today was not a total loss. I never realized before that an IpH could fire manually while the IC was cold, but now I do!

Still doesn't solve the overarching issue though. My automation is designed to allow me to be really lazy, and to take care of my pool while I'm away. And to take care of my pool when I would otherwise forget or neglect to. Manually adding from the IpH, which is inarguably easier than using a measuring cup, doesn't solve for my use case. So the DIY mod is still something for me to consider....
 

Jimrahbe

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Dirk,

Just so I understand... normally your ipH dispenses automatically x times a day.. When you say yes to manually adding, does is then continue to add x times a day, or do you have to push the manual button each time you want it to dispense???

Not much help if it won't just work on a x times a day mode... :(

Thanks,

Jim R.
 

Turbo1Ton

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Dirk - When I try to dose manually, it always stops on the first try, then I do it a second time, and it takes.

Jim - If you add manually, and the IC cell is up and running, the manual addition resets the timer but the ipH will continue additions every 60 minutes. If you add manually and the IC cell is cold water or low salt cutoff, the ipH will not continue on its normal time cycle as it has been halted by the low cutoffs on the IC cell. I think I explained that clearly. If not, let me know.

You are correct, it is useless in the winter/colder weather. Which is why I am following Dirk and Ron's discussions on this. I am with Dirk on the whole lazy thing. I still test my water almost daily in the summer and every 3-4 days so far, this fall, but I want to do as little 'hands on' as possible. If I can punch a button and make something do it for me, or better yet, set it up to do it automatically, it's much more likely to get done.

Thank you,
 

Dirk

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It's pretty limited, and irritating. Manual mode operates the pump just one time, then the controller reverts back to the normal schedule, but (irritatingly) restarts the 60 minute interval clock. So, for example, if I decide to add manually near the end of a 60 minute cycle, the 60 minute cycle restarts after the manual injection, in effect skipping what would have been the next pending injection.

To clarify, the IpH shares the IC's schedule, which is in essence the filter pump's schedule (when in "Pool" mode). So:

6.5 hours of runtime will yield 6 acid injections.

6 hours of runtime might interrupt the last injection, because power could go down right in the middle of the injection event.

5.5 hours of runtime will yield 5 injections. And so forth.

Kudos to Pentair's built-in safeguards, but there's one that is missing. Should the pump's runtime end a few seconds, or even minutes, after an acid injection, the acid might not make it into the pool, conceivably it could get trapped in the plumbing. Or it could make it, but then not get circulated around enough and collect on the bottom of the pool. Pentair doesn't address this, and doesn't mention it in the manual. The work-around is to schedule the pump's runtime to end well after the last injection. 6.5 hours would do the trick. In all likelihood, this is a non-issue and the amount of injected acid left in a plumbing pipe, or that might make it to the pool, would cause no damage. Some of the concern can be negated by using a 15% dilution of acid in the hopper, which IS recommended in the manual. That's more to cover the wear and tear the acid inflicts on everything downstream of the hopper: connecting lines, the pump, more connecting lines, the duck-bill injector, etc. It's just generally not a good idea to use full strength acid in the hopper.