AN ECONOMICAL AND FUNCTIONAL APPROACH TO AQUARIUM TIMERS
By James Gasta
As a crewmember for
the Wet Web Media, I am always looking for ways to make the marine hobby easier
and fun to maintain, and this is one item that really caught my attention. Are
you tired of having multiple plug in timers controlling your powerheads,
lighting, cooling fans, etc. and having to reset everything in the event of a
power outage? If you are, then this is for you.
Would you like to eliminate this and
add some automation to your system? If so, X10 may be for you!
The X10 system of
wireless controllers were originally designed for home security but can be used
to control most anything that requires power. The advantage of this system
is that besides using it for home security tasks such as turning on lights at
given times, starting the air conditioner while you’re on your way home, and
controlling your garage door opener, it can be used to control your aquarium
functions. The basic units come with the interface which plugs into a wall
outlet and a USB cable. The unit requires four AAA batteries (which
are not included) to save the time in case of a power outtage. After you
install the software you click on help for information on how to use the
system. You don’t have to be a computer guru to use this.
There are many
applications for the aquarist. The X10 system can turn on individual
lighting systems and operate the dimming capability of electronic ballasts, they
can be programmed to leave a fan on for a few minutes after the lights go off in
order to cool down. They can reduce the turbulence of the water at night
by shutting down powerheads. They can control dosing pumps. You can
also program macro strings, where a single program controls a series of events
such as turning various lighting components on and off in a specific order to
simulate dawn and dusk. The X10 is capable of storing a total of 1000
timed events in increments as short as one minute (useful for wavemaker type
functions) and repeating functions can be used in macro strings.
Infinitely many events can be stored in your computer.
Users can program macros (automated
programs) to perform a variety of functions. For example, a rise
in temperature could signal the system to turn off heaters and lights.
With the correct modules, users can even program an alarm to sound if
pets or children approach the aquarium!
The software uses
the Windows platform for the various programming options. On any
individual module, you can turn the unit on and off as many times a day as you
require. This is useful if you want to change flow directions during the day or
night in your aquarium. This is all done through the easy -to- use
software. Each module has a small dial on it that you select for the input
number that will be assigned to that module. The software is set up so you
can go to individual rooms and make changes or additions. You have the
ability to name your rooms (or tanks!) that you are controlling. Each
“room” can have up to sixteen modules and the system is capable of handling up
to eight rooms.
The X10 software allows the user to
organize the system in a tremendous variety of ways. "Rooms" and modules
can be renamed in any way the user chooses.
Each module can be labeled as the user
chooses and can provide a variety of controls.
There are many
different modules available for the system, including wall switches both two and
three way lamps, modules for both 115V and 220V appliances and modules with
motion detectors and floodlight detectors. Want to keep an eye on your
tank while you’re at the office? No problem. Cameras are available
to record areas of interest and transmit them via the home computer to your
office or place of work.
The receiver plugs
into an outlet near your computer and connects
with a USB cord and modules
are inexpensive and easy to address.
I believe there are many possibilities
with this system along with the fact that it has more than one use. The
best feature is the price. The basic system, which includes the USB
interface with cable and software, is about $50.00 factory direct. The
modules average $14.00 to $20.00 depending on the current range you need.
"Appliance " rated modules should be used for high current equipment like large
water pumps and high wattage lighting systems because of their ability to handle
surges. Radio Shack sells X10 modules so it makes it convenient if you
need one in a hurry.
Now is the time to get rid of the timer
mess, and get into the simplicity of controlling aquarium and home applications.