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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ok all you DIY'ers, I'm having trouble coming up with that most efficient way to exchange heat from my ballasts to flexible tubing. I want to use the 8 hot ballasts under my tank to heat the tank! They are typical square ballasts.

A few of the ideas I thought about are below:

Idea #1
Light weight square metal tubing! If I could find some small 1" by 3/8th tubing, it would be the perfect flat surface to glue to the ballasts. My problems, first how to connect the tubing to the square metal tubing, second what type of square metal tubing to use and where to get it.​

Idea #2
Use some sort of copper tubing and flatten it so it would fit flat on the ballasts. I think this would be hard to get it nice and flat so it would maximize surface area for heat transfer.​

Idea #3
Use flexible tubing and wind it back and forth under the ballasts, then screw the ballasts down tight enough to hold the tubing in place. I'm not sure you would be able to get a good tight twist on the tubing.​

Any of you guys have ideas?

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You could just buy a 20 foot coil of the metal tubing and keep winding the metal around the ballast until you have a nice coil with no gaps. That way you wouldn't have to flatten the tubing.

Also, I would be careful using copper tubing since copper is toxic to aquatic organisms, particularly shrimp, snails, invertebrates and some plants.
Zapins, Wow, I didn't realize copper would cause a problem. I'm using it in a 1 liter bottle for fertilizers. I wonder if this will cause a problem?

Also, I'm wondering how hard it is going to be to get a good tight fit around the ballast with metal tubing?

I think I would look into coolent rather then tank water... Then have another coil that heats the water. JIMO.
Tab, Can you give more detail on your thoughts? I'm having a hard time following this idea?

I've been working on a similar project, but easier because I'm not trying to transfer heat from a solid - that's pretty hard. I'd be careful about flattening the copper tubing - the metal thins out and you don't know if you'll get leaks a month or a year from now.

Take a look at CPVC tubing - it handles high-temperature situations really well and doesn't crush easily.
Andyh, yeah, I think it was your LED project that gave me the idea. Now, I'm stuck with how to get mine to work. I'll look into the CPVC tubing. This is similar to what I what I was thinking lastnight. Look at the post after this one and give my your ideas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Ok, here is another idea I came up with lastnight when I had quite a few beers in me and my creative mind was working.

I've never opened up a ballast so I'm assuming that everything would be attached to the bottom and the rest is just a cover. Based on that assumption, I again assume that the bottom would be the hottest part of the ballast and therefore the best part to attach to.

I was thinking about taking some black flexible vinyl tubing they sell at HD and sandwich the black tubing between 2 of the ballasts and use the screw holes on the ballasts to tighten them down with wing nuts so it would squash and flatten the tubbing a little.

When that is complete, I would then have 4 individual pieces, each consisting of 2 ballasts and tubing each that I could screw down to some soft of board.

To help out even more, I could wrap each of the 4 units in some sort of straping to help keep the heat in...

IDEAS?

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Since you mentioned beer, I started listening.

Let's look at it this way. We use a computer heat sink and thermal glue. Some how the heat sink needs to be enclosed on all but the base. Remove the paint from the ballast in some particular location and glue with this, high thermal conductivity glue. Silver, I know, but there is no contact with the water.

We then just need to come up with a way to encase the heat sink with something we can plumb to. High temp silicon and lexan?QUOTE]

Funny, you mention this. I'm am a 18 years self-employed computer tech... I thought of this idea, but couldn't figure out a way to get the heat sink to water transfer.

I don't know why I didn't think of Liquid Cooling computer systems before. I'll look into that.

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
A pic is worth a thousand words... forgive my crapy paint skill.



basicly you have tow closed systems, One tht pumps a "coolent"( Which could be water) from a bucket, around the ballest, then back to bucket. The 2nd pumps water from the tank, into a a coil indside of the 5 gal bucket and back to the tank. That way neither system every contacts each other.
Ok, I understand now. Why are you concerned about having the aquarium water go around the ballast? I don't see that the water would ever be contaminated? Unless your talking about using copper around the ballasts?

Also, another issue is this requires 2 pumps. I was hoping to use Thermal Siphoning to automatically cycle the water without any pump... Basically, the warm water rises which pulls in water into the intake to replace the exiting hot water!

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Ok guys, I got to thinking about the whole water cooled computer systems idea and found some interesting things on the net.

Why these guys do is put what they call a "Water Block" on the CPU and water runs thru it.

Here is an article about making custom water blocks out of copper or aluminum! Take a look!

http://www.madshrimps.be/?action=gethowto&number=1&howtopage=78&howtoID=34

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·


basicly you have tow closed systems, One tht pumps a "coolent"( Which could be water) from a bucket, around the ballest, then back to bucket. The 2nd pumps water from the tank, into a a coil indside of the 5 gal bucket and back to the tank. That way neither system every contacts each other.
Tad,

I got to thinking about your concept. Concidentally, the ballasts are right next to my my Fluval 303 filter. I'm wondering if I could get the coolant tubing to wrap around my Fluval. They way I could simply heat the Filter which is already flowing from the tank!!! This would comply with your closed system concept!!! ;)

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ok, another idea!! Could I simply take the ballasts and strap them to the Fluval Filter? Do you think that would melt it?

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ok, another idea, could I simply sandwich the input or output tube between 2 of the ballasts and bolt it together?

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Not to throw a spanner in the works, but assuming you do manage to get the heat transfer problem ironed out, how do you plan to regulate the temperature of the tank water? If the lights are on for 8-10 hours a day and they run at 60 C or so, even if the heat transfer suffers a 50% loss of heat you would still heat the tank water to 30 C, which would kill everything in the tank.

Even if this problem is solved, how are you going to heat the tank for the other half of the day when the lights are off? If the temperature is constantly swinging each day and night it could cause fish to stress and get ich.

I think this project might be difficult to get to work without addressing these problems. On the other hand, a simple submersible heater for 30$ will last you forever and only works for about 15 minutes out of an hour (6 hours a day max), which will probably be cheaper in the long run.
This is very true... I have a heater controller that will prevent the other heater from turning on, but I was considering putting in a bypass switch on my heater controller. I just like the DIY part of the project, plus it is "GREEN" and from my readings, about 35% of the cost of running an aquarium is from the heater. And in a 150, that can be significant.

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Ok, my current idea is to run a coil thru the side of the Fluval and coil it around inside and then back out... That would surely heat the water. I would have to seal the side of the filter where the coil went thru with JBWeld or something.

After doing some reading, it is much less energy to run a small pump versus running a heater. Also, since Light is abundant in an aquarium, I thought about one of those small solar ones on ebay for $15. Put the solar unit in the canopy on the sider and the pump would only run when the lights are one.

To control the temp, I was considering a bypass solenoid that would simply turn on redirecting the water to by pass the filter coil if it got above a certain temp.

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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Ok, I always believe the simplest solution are the best. I have another idea.

Why not just somehow attach the ballasts to the bottom of the tank?

This would do a few things:

First is would warm my roots since I don't have a substrate heater!
Second, it would warm the bottom half of the tank since it is typically colder
Third, is doesn't require any pumps, coils, etc.

Let me know your thoughts!!

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
A few thoughts on this as well:

As was mentioned already overheating could be a big problem, especially in the summer. I know it would be on my tank. So, the idea of a solenoid was proposed but I see some problems with that. If you had coolant somehow circulating around the ballasts and were transferring a meaningful amount of heat to the coolant shutting down that circulation would probably cause the ballasts to overheat, at best increasing energy consumption (it's been my understanding that running ballasts cooler cuts energy consumption?) or at worst cooking your ballasts.

Do you have a cabinet stand? How about just running the ballasts in there, line the inside of the stand with foam sheeting. Maybe not the most effective, but cheaper, easier, and if it gets too hot in the summer just open the door. This has the added benefit of reducing any noise your filter might make!
Regarding the Solenoid, I was thinking it would not stop the flow, but the solenoid would stop the flow to the coil in the filter. In other words when the Target Temperature was reached the flow of the coolant would simply bypass filter and still provide cooling to the ballasts.

Cooling my ballast really isn't the main goal... I'm simply trying to reclaim some of the heat/money which lost due to having the lights... I read somewhere that 1/3 of the cost of running an aquarium is from the heater!! On a 150 Gallon, I bet that can add up.

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
AndyH is correct, they have been cooling PC for years now with Water. All the hard core geeks do it...

I think this would have some potential to completely eliminate my heating during the day, but I would have to use the regular heater at night.

In the meantime, I think I'll simply attaching a few of the ballasts to the bottom of my tank now... Keep in mind, I have 8 ballasts!!!

With this simply solution, I heat my roots, reclaim some of the lost energy and reduce my electrical bills and I'm not creating a situation where I can get leaks. I can't imagine that simply by attaching the ballasts to the glass, it would weaken the glass...

Also have a heat controller that starts beeping if I get 1 degree out of range so I'll keep an eye on it.

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Discussion Starter · #32 ·
Are you taking into account the energy loss of having to pump more water, especially since electrical energy is more efficiently converted to heat than to motion meaning that the heater is more efficient than the pump. I think that once you take everything into account such as the cost of the pump, the cost of the tubing, the huge inefficiency of basically every idea here, the cost of timers or solenoids to regulate when the heater is on and when the heating loop is on I think you are not saving any money and are in fact spending much more than just running your heater.

The only idea I have seen that may save you some money is to put the ballasts under the tank. If you cut some holes in the top of the stand just big enough for the ballast to rest against the bottom glass you would cool the ballast, warm the tank, and the heater would make up the difference in the temperature of the water. By putting the ballasts against the tank directly you save all of the other costs. Unless this somehow overheats the tank it should work
Yes, my current idea is to simply put the ballasts on the bottom of the tank. Luckily on my stand, you can see the top of the tank from underneath!! This should be very simply.

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Sounds like a good idea. Since heat rises and cabinets tend to be rather air-tight, I think this is probably the best/easiest method of using ballast heat.

I am interested in the solenoid you planned on using. Do you have a link to the page? I think it would be useful in an automatic water change system.
I don't have exact parts, but it would be a good use for an Auto Water Change system. I'm sure there is something out there!! Actually for an Auto Water Change system you could probably use one of those sprinkler solenoids and the timer would be handy also for that application. The solenoids are only like $10 and the timers can be as low as $10. Those solenoids tend to be 24v valves.

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
i have a solenoid hooked up to a timer for my auto top-off on my reef. this is basically the same one with a 3/4 fitting for PVC instead of compression fittings for my RO line.

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-PLAST-O-MAT..."-EASMT5E_W0QQitemZ330303678249QQcmdZViewItem

i bought it used years ago and it has worked flawlessly ever since.

-nick
That is a bit big for my purpose, but yes, it would be useful... Basically this is the same as sprinkler valve which is like $10 at Home Depot!

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·
Ok guys, I came up with a simpler solution for how to control the temperature.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a heat conroller that basically turns on the power when the temp is below the set temp. To keep the heat from the ballasts from frying the fish, I want to put simple pump on the temp controller. So basically, when the tank needs to be heated, it turns on the pump with circulates the water that is heated from the ballasts.

Also, this weekend I spent some time and made my prototype. I kinda looks like I'm brewing whiskey but it came out nicely.

Here it is, my inline ballast heater/heater/co2 reactor/fertilizer injector.
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Excellent project.
It seems like an extremely difficult problem. But maybe you're like me... You do something difficult, even though the risks/etc. may outweigh the benefit, because it's FUN! :rolleyes:
Perhaps this will be in the future of responsible aquarium keeping - making use of every ounce of energy possible in order to protect our environment as well as our fishy friends in our tanks! A noble cause! ;)
Good luck and have fun!
Exactly!!! It was President Kennedy that said we choose to go to the moon, not because it is easy.

I love the challenge and the environmental aspect turned me on too...

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