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Thread: Best Practices for heater controllers?

  1. #1
    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Best Practices for heater controllers?

    The sticky in this section is great for the basics. But as many are aware, heater redundancy and failsafes are critical. The Apex should never be the only thing controlling your heater(s).
    If you have two heaters they should be on separate EB8s at least, if not separate circuits. If they have internal thermostats then Apex should be turning them on and off based on the Apex temp probe and the heaters' should be set to a slightly higher temp where they'll turn off if Apex fails somehow.

    But if using heaters with a separate controller (Inkbird, Ranco, Finnex, etc.) what's the best approach?
    I feel that I would want the controller to manage normal temp ranges and have Apex only react if temp goes too high. Correct?

    So something like:

    Inkbird_1 (Inkbird set to keep temp at 78)
    Fallback ON
    If Temp > 81.0 Then OFF
    If Temp < 76.0 Then ON

    Inkbird_2 (Inkbird set to keep temp at 78)
    Fallback ON
    If Temp > 81.0 Then OFF
    If Temp < 76.0 Then ON



    Anything more complicated to it than that?
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

  2. #2
    Frequent Contributor zombie's Avatar
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    It's actually best to set the heaters thermostat high and let the apex control temp unless the heater thermostat doesn't play nice with being powered on and off. I would set the thermostats at 80 or 81 (make sure they actually match the apex temp or adjust accordingly so they are 80 or 81 apex temp and then do this)

    Heater1
    Fallback OFF
    If Temp < 77.8 Then ON
    If Temp > 78.2 Then OFF
    If Time 00:00 to 11:59 Then OFF
    If Temp < 77.6 Then ON
    If Temp < 75.0 Then OFF

    Heater2
    Fallback ON
    If Temp < 77.8 Then ON
    If Temp > 78.2 Then OFF
    If Time 12:00 to 23:59 Then OFF
    If Temp < 77.6 Then ON

    You might be an engineer if...You have no life and can prove it mathematically.

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    Frequent Contributor zombie's Avatar
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    FYI the failsafes added here are:

    only 1 heater runs at a time under normal conditions splitting the load so they alternate every 12 hours. If one alone is not able to keep up, they will both turn on at a slightly larger hysteresis.

    In the event the temp probe falls out of the tank or fails, only one heater will keep the tank temp on it's own thermostat setting.

    In the event the energy bar fails to communicate, only one heater will keep the tank temp on it's own thermostat setting.

    You might be an engineer if...You have no life and can prove it mathematically.

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Thanks zombie, for a heater with internal thermostat that makes perfect sense to me. But I can't imagine constant on/off cycles of controllers like Inkbird, Ranco, Finnex, JBJ, etc., are good for them. Mine are off/on about 8-10 times every 24 hours in winter.
    But if temp swings too widely with them I wouldn't be thrilled with that either.

    My current setup with naked 'dumb' Finnex titanium heaters is:

    [300W_Finnex3]
    Fallback OFF
    If Temp < 77.5 Then ON
    If Temp > 78.0 Then OFF
    If Temp < 70.0 Then OFF
    If FeedA 006 Then OFF
    If FeedB 045 Then OFF
    If Power Apex Off 000 Then OFF

    [300W_Finnex5]
    Fallback OFF
    If Temp < 77.6 Then ON
    If Temp > 78.0 Then OFF
    If Temp < 70.0 Then OFF
    If FeedA 006 Then OFF
    If FeedB 045 Then OFF
    If Power Apex Off 000 Then OFF

    (I don't want to heat the sump while return pump is off for Feed and I have EB8s on UPS.)

    BTW, I really like your code to switch primary heaters based on time of day, might have to adopt that. I'd been switching them manually every so often.

    I'm going to add Inkbird controllers in between the EB8s and each Finnex heater. Guess I'll just play around with both approaches and see if the Inkbirds can keep a tight enough temp range.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Frequent Contributor zombie's Avatar
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    Lots of switching is identical to minimal switching for the internal thermostats or external ones like rancor as long as the apex is the one doing the switching. It's the exercising of the contact that wears them out. They will last many times longer switching 10 times more often on an apex than using their own thermostat.

    You might be an engineer if...You have no life and can prove it mathematically.

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zombie View Post
    Lots of switching is identical to minimal switching for the internal thermostats or external ones like rancor as long as the apex is the one doing the switching. It's the exercising of the contact that wears them out. They will last many times longer switching 10 times more often on an apex than using their own thermostat.
    Well now that's a fascinating tidbit. Thanks.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

  7. #7
    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    OK, so I set up the Inkbird yesterday evening with temp set to 78deg, 1 deg differential allowed, and Apex to 81 deg max. To its credit, the Inkbird kept the temp right around 78deg, with min/max swings of 77.4 to 78.4. But that's still a lot bigger differential than I can do with Apex in control.
    So for the next 24 hours I'll have Inkbird set to 82deg max and let Apex go from 77.7 to 78.2, similar to what was suggested. I only have the one Inkbird in hand at this point.
    On a side note, I've seen where people with high power heaters are required to use the Relay outlets only. At what wattage and above is it a good idea to follow that rule? I have my 300W heaters on TRIAC outlet 3 of each EB8. My Tunze 6055 powerheads are on outlets 4 and BRS dosers on outlets 8. Might be able to move the 6055s if it's a good idea to do so...
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Master Control Freak RussM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by don_chuwish View Post
    On a side note, I've seen where people with high power heaters are required to use the Relay outlets only. At what wattage and above is it a good idea to follow that rule? I have my 300W heaters on TRIAC outlet 3 of each EB8. My Tunze 6055 powerheads are on outlets 4 and BRS dosers on outlets 8. Might be able to move the 6055s if it's a good idea to do so...
    300w is not what I'd call a high-power heater

    An EB8's TRIAC-switched outlets (1-3 and 5-7) are rated for 5A. A 300w heater draws, in theory, 2.5 amps @ 120VAC. I say "in theory", because many heaters are over-rated and actually consume less power (and produce less heat) than labeled. Your 300w heater is just fine plugged into one of these outlets; there is no need to use the 10A-rated outlets. A 500w is the biggest I'd plug into a TRIAC outlet.

    Your 6055 need not be plugged into outlet 4 or 8 either.
    I'm not a Neptune support rep. Please do not send me PMs with technical questions or requesting assistance - use the forums for Apex help. PM me ONLY if the matter is of a private or personal nature. Thanks.

  9. #9
    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RussM View Post
    300w is not what I'd call a high-power heater

    An EB8's TRIAC-switched outlets (1-3 and 5-7) are rated for 5A. A 300w heater draws, in theory, 2.5 amps @ 120VAC. I say "in theory", because many heaters are over-rated and actually consume less power (and produce less heat) than labeled. Your 300w heater is just fine plugged into one of these outlets; there is no need to use the 10A-rated outlets. A 500w is the biggest I'd plug into a TRIAC outlet.

    Your 6055 need not be plugged into outlet 4 or 8 either.
    Thanks for confirming! Yes I rarely see either EB8 go above 4A total and the heaters are responsible for less than 2A when on.
    6055s could really be off the EB8s completely but it’s convenient and tidy to have them on it.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Got the 2nd InkBird today and now have them both mounted in a tidy way. In the end I used zombie's code samples exactly. Makes for a nice tight average around 78deg and I feel much better about my heater setup now.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Hi Don,
    I also have my 2 Finnex 500watt heaters, one Finnex heater connected to one of my 2 EB8's in the sump and the other Finnex heater in the display tank connected to my other EB8. I have also programmed my heaters to alternate on and off every 12 hours to split the heating duty just the same as you and Zombie. So far so good, but I am wondering how the Inkbirds are set?

    I assume that the Inkbird's are first plugged into two Apex outlets and then the Finnex heaters plugged into the Inkbird's receptacles. If your Apex outlets are set to control from 77.7 to 78.2 and your Inkbirds are set to MAX of 82.0 to turn OFF, then do you set the Inkbird's turn ON temperature to something like 75.0? I just wanted to be clear before I order 2 new Inkbirds.

    Thanks, Ron (Toronto, Ontario CANADA)

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rst View Post
    I assume that the Inkbird's are first plugged into two Apex outlets and then the Finnex heaters plugged into the Inkbird's receptacles. If your Apex outlets are set to control from 77.7 to 78.2 and your Inkbirds are set to MAX of 82.0 to turn OFF, then do you set the Inkbird's turn ON temperature to something like 75.0?
    Hello, glad this thread is benefitting more than just me. The Inkbird works on a little different principal than the Apex. Instead of saying ON at X and OFF at Y, you tell it to maintain a temperature, then you set the differential allowed. So mine are set to maintain 82, with a max differential of 1 degree. This is also why it's better to let Apex control actual temperature - you get a much tighter temp range than the Inkbirds could do if they were in control.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Titanium Schego heaters

    Hi there. I've been reading this old thread with much interest, as ive just taken delivery of an Apex controller and heaters etc prior to my aquarium arriving from Italy. The heaters i have bought are two Schego 300w. i did not realise that they do not come with a thermostat setting. I am very green and new to this and wondered if your programming example that you put on this thread would work for me ?. Sorry for my niavety.

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    Hi Don,
    i am still trying to figure out how I will benefit if I incorporate the Inkbirds with the EB8’s? My original idea was to let the Apex be the primary control by keeping the temperature to within +- 0.2 degrees and then use the Inkbirds as a failsafe backup in case the Apex somehow fell out of its tightly set programmed range. How can one set up the Apex with the Inkbirds and obtain this goal if you plug the Inkbird controller directly into the EB8’s outlet and then the Finnex heaters plugged into the Inkbird’s heater receptical? Sorry, but I am still not clear on how to obtain heater failsafe redundancy.
    Thanks

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bash762 View Post
    Hi there. I've been reading this odd thread with much interest, as ive just taken delivery of an Apex controller and heaters etc prior to my aquarium arriving from Italy. The heaters i have bought are two Schego 300w. i did not realise that they do not come with a thermostat setting. I am very green and new to this and wondered if your programming example that you put on this thread would work for me ?. Sorry for my niavety.
    I think it should be useful, yes. You might want to look for separate temperature controllers as well for the failsafe.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rst View Post
    Hi Don,
    i am still trying to figure out how I will benefit if I incorporate the Inkbirds with the EB8’s? My original idea was to let the Apex be the primary control by keeping the temperature to within +- 0.2 degrees and then use the Inkbirds as a failsafe backup in case the Apex somehow fell out of its tightly set programmed range. How can one set up the Apex with the Inkbirds and obtain this goal if you plug the Inkbird controller directly into the EB8’s outlet and then the Finnex heaters plugged into the Inkbird’s heater receptical? Sorry, but I am still not clear on how to obtain heater failsafe redundancy.
    Thanks
    I think I had the same initial confusion that zombie helped clear up. Basically the Inkbirds get turned on and off all the time - when Apex calls for heat, the Inkbird is turned on and stays on until either Apex turns it off, or Inkbird's own temp probe goes above 82 and it turns off it's own heater plug.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Thank you very much Don. Sorry In my post it should have read “This old thread” not odd. I don’t know which brand of thermostat controller to look at, as I haven’t been able to find the ones mentioned in the uk.

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bash762 View Post
    Thank you very much Don. Sorry In my post it should have read “This old thread” not odd. I don’t know which brand of thermostat controller to look at, as I haven’t been able to find the ones mentioned in the uk.
    No worries. Might want to try some UK based reefing forums, see what is commonly used.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Thanks Don for your help. Ok, so the Apex tightly controls the tanks temperature from 77.7 to 78.2 and then if somehow the temp goes beyond the range, the Inkbird will turn the finnex heater off at 82.0 degrees.

    Does this mean that the Inkbird actually has the set point to something like 79 degrees with a hysteresis set at +- 3.0, so then the Inkbird turns on as long as the tank’s temp is above 76 degrees and stays on until the tank’s temp reaches 82 degrees and then turns off?

    And if the tank somehow falls below 76 degrees (heater malfunction in the Winter season) and keeps falling, then will you then have NO BACKUP protection? And if this is true, how should one provide backup and protect their tanks inhabitants from the falling temperature? Boy this gets complicated real fast!

    Thanks, Ron

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    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rst View Post
    Thanks Don for your help. Ok, so the Apex tightly controls the tanks temperature from 77.7 to 78.2 and then if somehow the temp goes beyond the range, the Inkbird will turn the finnex heater off at 82.0 degrees.

    Does this mean that the Inkbird actually has the set point to something like 79 degrees with a hysteresis set at +- 3.0, so then the Inkbird turns on as long as the tank’s temp is above 76 degrees and stays on until the tank’s temp reaches 82 degrees and then turns off?

    And if the tank somehow falls below 76 degrees (heater malfunction in the Winter season) and keeps falling, then will you then have NO BACKUP protection? And if this is true, how should one provide backup and protect their tanks inhabitants from the falling temperature? Boy this gets complicated real fast!

    Thanks, Ron
    On the Inkbird you just set the temp you want it to maintain, in this case 82. Then you tell it what 'differential' you'll allow - I set it to the minimum possible of 1. So in reality the temp COULD go all the way up to 83 before it'll turn off power to the Finnex.
    If temp were dropping because of one heater failure or EB8 failure then the other heater, on a different EB8, would pick up. This is why we have two heaters on separate EB8s.
    Beyond that failure scenario is getting into having spare heaters, alerts to your phone/email, etc. and having a plan to respond.
    Oh, and a generator handy. ;-)
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Hi Don,
    Just for clarity, if your Inkbirds have a set point of 82 degrees and a hysteresis of +- 1.0, wouldn’t your Inkbirds also be turning off your Finnex heaters below 81.0 degrees?

  22. #22
    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rst View Post
    Hi Don,
    Just for clarity, if your Inkbirds have a set point of 82 degrees and a hysteresis of +- 1.0, wouldn’t your Inkbirds also be turning off your Finnex heaters below 81.0 degrees?
    You made me look, cuz I see how the question came up. But re-reading the manual, it says, for example (and I paraphrase):
    "When the measured temperature is less than or equal to the set value minus differential value, system enters heating status."
    So it'll try to heat the tank up to 82 no matter what. Then Apex turns it off before it actually can.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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    Don,
    Sorry if I worried you but thanks for checking. If you find that the Inkbird controller does NOT remain in the heating mode below the hysteresis point of the set point -1.0, let us know. Hopefully our discussion will help others who might be wondering how these Inkbird controllers work. Thanks to you, I can go ahead and purchase new Inkbirds knowing that my tank’s heaters will be shut down if they fail or the Apex fails.
    Ron

  24. #24
    Regular Vistor don_chuwish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rst View Post
    Don,
    Sorry if I worried you but thanks for checking. If you find that the Inkbird controller does NOT remain in the heating mode below the hysteresis point of the set point -1.0, let us know. Hopefully our discussion will help others who might be wondering how these Inkbird controllers work. Thanks to you, I can go ahead and purchase new Inkbirds knowing that my tank’s heaters will be shut down if they fail or the Apex fails.
    Ron
    Oh I know it works properly - had it running this way for a while now.
    don_chuwish
    Southern Oregon

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