Aquarium Engineering-ACR Calcium Reactor

Ecotech Marine

ca1ore

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As for dealing with Bill, I am just about to send in a deposit on a custom sump valued at several ACR units. I do this after waiting 11 months for my ACR unit to ship. The original estimate was 2 months. I also experienced lots of trouble with contact and when I did, my unit was just about to ship, for months. Towards the end, I was so frustrated, I started sending very un-Canadian like emails (no please and thank you's :mad: ). When the unit arrived, I realized it was worth the wait. He really does do an excellent job machining the purpose made parts for his equipment. That is why I am willing to use him for my custom sump as I know the outcome should be worth the aggravation of the process.

Besides, he assures me they have got better at shipping things in a timely fashion. I guess I will just have to wait and see. :rolleyes:

Man, I wouldn't send him another dollar, neither US nor Canadian. In all my years in this hobby I have not had a worse experience than I did with AE. Why don't you take advantage of the paypal credit offer on his website.
 
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ScottB

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It seems my experience was a minority one. Just over two weeks to receive it. I spoke with Bill twice with a same day call back each time for minor resolutions & a user error. Been running since April without trouble aside from purging each weekend.

I use up about 2 inches of media per month on an 8" stacked.

I do think I will buy a backup valve module to keep around just in case.
 

Dennis Cartier

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It seems my experience was a minority one. Just over two weeks to receive it. I spoke with Bill twice with a same day call back each time for minor resolutions & a user error. Been running since April without trouble aside from purging each weekend.

I use up about 2 inches of media per month on an 8" stacked.

I do think I will buy a backup valve module to keep around just in case.

Oh, can I get a run down on your purging process? I just put mine online a few days ago and want to give it a purge.

I have 5 cases of Reborn on hand that I had planned to use in the filter built into my sump, but have decided to save it for CalRX use. After the first fill, I have about 1/2 a case left, so that gives me about 10 complete reactor fills. Now I just need to get my build done to give me room to grow. ;)

Dennis
 

Dennis Cartier

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I went ahead and purged all the gas out of my ACR and tested the strength of the effluent. I was expecting about 70 dkh as that has been mentioned by users. My effluent tested at 86 ~ 89 dkh. This was a fair bit higher than I was expecting to test at. I did the test the normal way, 1 ml effluent mixed with 9 ml RODI, and tested 4 ml of that with a Salifert test kit. I should have tested the effluent before I purged, but I did not think of it. Next time I will to confirm if the dkh is weakening as time goes on.

Dennis
 

ScottB

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Oh, can I get a run down on your purging process? I just put mine online a few days ago and want to give it a purge.

I have 5 cases of Reborn on hand that I had planned to use in the filter built into my sump, but have decided to save it for CalRX use. After the first fill, I have about 1/2 a case left, so that gives me about 10 complete reactor fills. Now I just need to get my build done to give me room to grow. ;)

Dennis

Now I know where all the Reborn went when it was out of stock for three months: your basement. :)

Sure, the purge is super simple.
1) Shut off water feed valve
2) Unplug power to control valve module (leave the Sicce recirc pump running though).
3) Unplug the CO2 input to the reactor (middle hose in the lid).
4) Plug in a drain hose into that open fitting and put the other end in a bucket to capture effluent once the trapped air is purged.
5) Once I get a solid, uninterrupted, stream of effluent I will give the reactor a shake or two to get the last bit of air out.

Then reverse these steps with one exception: the LAST STEP is to power up the valve module as it will immediately dose effluent when powered on.

Some people never need to purge. Others have to do it more frequently. Weekly seems to keep me stable enough.
 
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Dennis Cartier

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Ah, thanks for the steps. They match what I decided to try. Though I turned the Sicce pump off during part of the purge, which was probably not a good idea.

What I noticed was that when I powered the valve module back up, I heard the CO2 click on, but I did not hear it click off. There were bubbles streaming through the media, so I knew that CO2 was present. It was shortly thereafter that I measured the dkh and got that super reading.

When I started the unit up the first time, I heard a rapid on/off cycling of the CO2 solenoids with the off periods being very short and growing over time until it would only click on infrequently. This time it seemed like the CO2 solenoids stayed on. As well, I had not heard the CO2 solenoids kick on at all today. Then later, while I was dosing something and touched the valve module, I noticed the case near the CO2 solenoids were super hot. That was when I realized that I had not missed them going off, they just had not turned off.

After thinking about it, what I think occurred is that the water in the reactor was high enough in the lid that the CO2 entering was not able to create a big enough pocket of gas to allow the float switch to disable the solenoids. I expected that over time, the effluent leaving the reactor would allow enough CO2 to flow in to enlarge the gas pocket.

I just returned home after being out for a few hours. The valve module is now cool, so I guess the pocket became large enough to allow the solenoids to de-energize.

After the next purge, I need to re-work my hoses. I added a tee into my setup and had a manual purge valve tee'd into the re-circulation line. I noticed that Bill is now including his own custom tee, but he is putting the CO2 in line tee'd into the re-circulation and the other port is dedicated to a purge valve. I will adjust mine to be the same assuming some benefit is to be had with that arrangement.

Dennis
 

Dennis Cartier

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I am getting a lot of gas building up in my reactor. I just vented it now, and the gas built up over 24 hours. The gas pocket had increased to the point where it was just above the intake pipe (with the Sicce off) or 1/4 to 3/8 down from the top of the body with the pump running. It looks similar to what @dadnjesse was reporting, however in my case I am pretty sure it is not because the float switch is installed backwards. The gas build up in mine is very frothy so it differs in that regard from the photos that dadnjesse posted. To alleviate it, I disabled the controller, left the Sicce running and then vented the gas until the water level contacted the rim of the upper body. When I re-enabled the controller, the CO2 solenoids oscillated on and off for a few minutes as it re-pressurized the gas pocket to 10 psi, which is exactly what I hoped to see.

I think in my case, the flow through the reactor is just too low because of the small tank and lowish demand. This is allowing the non-CO2 gases to build up rather fast. I am running at 2 / 180 right now and may need to dial it back a little.

I am starting to work on an auto flush solution to address this situation. This issue may not crop up as much, or as fast, when I move the ACR to my larger build, but it will still be handy to be able to have this capability.

Dennis
 
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ScottB

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I am getting a lot of gas building up in my reactor. I just vented it now, and the gas built up over 24 hours. The gas pocket had increased to the point where it was just above the intake pipe (with the Sicce off) or 1/4 to 3/8 down from the top of the body with the pump running. It looks similar to what @dadnjesse was reporting, however in my case I am pretty sure it is not because the float switch is installed backwards. The gas build up in mine is very frothy so it differs in that regard from the photos that dadnjesse posted. To alleviate it, I disabled the controller, left the Sicce running and then vented the gas until the water level contacted the rim of the upper body. When I re-enabled the controller, the CO2 solenoids oscillated on and off for a few minutes as it re-pressurized the gas pocket to 10 psi, which is exactly what I hoped to see.

I think in my case, the flow through the reactor is just too low because of the small tank and lowish demand. This is allowing the non-CO2 gases to build up rather fast. I am running at 2 / 180 right now and may need to dial it back a little.

I am starting to work on an auto flush solution to address this situation. This issue may not crop up as much, or as fast, when I move the ACR to my larger build, but it will still be handy to be able to have this capability.

Dennis
That is pretty quick to accumulate that much air. I'd be looking for microbubble source(s) and points where air could be getting sucked into the feed line.

Agree an auto-purge facility is a fine suggestion. There were some posts earlier in this thread -- and in the FB Group. I have not settled into which method to use, but intend to do something similar.
 

Dennis Cartier

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That is pretty quick to accumulate that much air. I'd be looking for microbubble source(s) and points where air could be getting sucked into the feed line.

Agree an auto-purge facility is a fine suggestion. There were some posts earlier in this thread -- and in the FB Group. I have not settled into which method to use, but intend to do something similar.

I had not considered a vacuum leak. I did consider an air leak and sprayed the push connects with soapy water. Hmm, now that I think of it, that might explain the observation of frothing. :rolleyes:

Maybe I will replace the push connects to see if it makes any difference.

Dennis
 

Dennis Cartier

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Thank you @ScottB for mentioning the possibility of microbubbles. I had forgot that my unit had come missing a fitting on the pump intake for the water feed. When I wanted to do a leak test several months ago, I had grabbed the only fitting I had handy, which was an elbow. It would only thread in so far before hitting the shroud. It did not leak, but I suspect it was sucking in air.

I purchased the proper fitting and set about changing it out. The problem was, after starting it back up, the air ingress happened even faster. After 2 hours of operation the water level was 1/4" below the rim. I started to suspect that something might be lose on the pump volute, so I drained and disassembled the pump section. Sure enough the fitting that screwed into the volute was not very tight. I greased the o ring, and screwed it back in and cracked the volute in the process. dang.

Luckily I had the exact same pump waiting for another DIY project, so I grabbed the volute off that one. Screwed it in and cracked it as well. Sigh.

Then I went fishing around in my sump for the same model of pump that is being used internally and salvaged the volute from it. I carefully cleaned up the one from the sump and installed it being careful not to tighten it too much. I started it up to test it, got a little pin sized stream of water shooting out the side of the fitting and volute, tightened it a tiny bit more, and fingers crossed it is working, and air tight. I will not know for a few hours if it worked.

The difference between tight and cracked is ridiculously small, with the o ring design on the fitting on the ACR. Other people have mentioned this exact same occurrence happening to them. I plan on speaking to Bill in the next day or so about my sump. I have an idea that I will propose to him that will fix this volute issue both for me and people going forward.

Dennis
 
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ScottB

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Thank you @ScottB for mentioning the possibility of microbubbles. I had forgot that my unit had come missing a fitting on the pump intake for the water feed. When I wanted to do a leak test several months ago, I had grabbed the only fitting I had handy, which was an elbow. It would only thread in so far before hitting the shroud. It did not leak, but I suspect it was sucking in air.

I purchased the proper fitting and set about changing it out. The problem was, after starting it back up, the air ingress happened even faster. After 2 hours of operation the water level was 1/4" below the rim. I started to suspect that something might be lose on the pump volute, so I drained and disassembled the pump section. Sure enough the fitting that screwed into the volute was not very tight. I greased the o ring, and screwed it back in and cracked the volute in the process. dang.

Luckily I had the exact same pump waiting for another DIY project, so I grabbed the volute off that one. Screwed it in and cracked it as well. Sigh.

Then I went fishing around in my sump for the same model of pump that is being used internally and salvaged the volute from it. I carefully cleaned up the one from the sump and installed it being careful not to tighten it too much. I started it up to test it, got a little pin sized stream of water shooting out the side of the fitting and volute, tightened it a tiny bit more, and fingers crossed it is working, and air tight. I will not know for a few hours if it worked.

The difference between tight and cracked is ridiculously small, with the o ring design on the fitting on the ACR. Other people have mentioned this exact same occurrence happening to them. I plan on speaking to Bill in the next day or so about my sump. I have an idea that I will propose to him that will fix this volute issue both for me and people going forward.

Dennis
I cracked the first volute as well. It is a very weak link in the chain. That ABS plastic is paper thin. So I now own 3 Sicce 2.0s.

Curious to hear about your proposed resolution.
 

Dennis Cartier

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I cracked the first volute as well. It is a very weak link in the chain. That ABS plastic is paper thin. So I now own 3 Sicce 2.0s.

Curious to hear about your proposed resolution.

I reached Bill and spoke to him about it along with my air bubble issue. The air bubble issue turned out to be exactly what you had mentioned, but I had not clued into what you were suggesting. When I described how the ACR was being fed and Bill mentioned that air bubbles getting sucked into the feed pump would cause it to happen (eventually) a light bulb went off in my head and I realized I had put the pump back in the sump near the return from the tank, which is a wall of bubbles. Doh. I can stop trying to solve any air leaks on the suction side of the ACR. Now I just need to fix the broken volute.

When I described the volute issue to Bill, he was aware of the delicacy of the volute and mentioned he had plans to machine a replacement volute out of PVC. My suggestion is to machine up some collars out of PVC that can slip over the neck and get glued into place. A piece of grey schedule 80 1" PVC pipe has an internal diameter slightly smaller than the diameter of the Sicce volute. Ditto for sch 80 3/4" fittings. Cut to the proper length, with 3 slits spaced 120 degrees apart to clear the ribs and glued into place with ABS/PVC transition cement, would make the volute much stronger and easier to work with.

However I needed a solution now, both to test the idea, and to wait for Bill to make official ones. I searched around looking for PVC, CPVC and CTS piping that had an outside diameter slightly larger than the volute stem. I found that 1" CPVC-CTS fitting was almost exactly the right size. I could even push it 1/8" on the stem with no changes. I took some emery cloth strips and wrapped it around a 3/4 sch 40 PVC pipe and sanded the inside of a union fitting. Once it could slip all the way on to the volute stem, I cut off about 14 mm of the fitting and made the collar below. Glued on to the volute stem, it's not the prettiest, but not bad for handmade. Once I put it on the Sicce, I expect to be able to tighten the ACR fitting with no worry about cracking the volute any longer.

ACtC-3eIfj0QwA9VYkqeCokcXeXGK--AnJIiniPcYKLJacgg_ZzjWHcdhKKVtKF1LQVZi9-HmAHCRlC-eMOua3iOsKWTmGw3VLydeYW6MXfoTK8yeKCCkWRxrc6En1tAsw_MmRFIrl2KmmElPGH08hmYOaI_=w1275-h957-no



Bill said he is going to machine some of the collars up, so you may want to contact him to get on the list.

Dennis
 

ScottB

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I reached Bill and spoke to him about it along with my air bubble issue. The air bubble issue turned out to be exactly what you had mentioned, but I had not clued into what you were suggesting. When I described how the ACR was being fed and Bill mentioned that air bubbles getting sucked into the feed pump would cause it to happen (eventually) a light bulb went off in my head and I realized I had put the pump back in the sump near the return from the tank, which is a wall of bubbles. Doh. I can stop trying to solve any air leaks on the suction side of the ACR. Now I just need to fix the broken volute.

When I described the volute issue to Bill, he was aware of the delicacy of the volute and mentioned he had plans to machine a replacement volute out of PVC. My suggestion is to machine up some collars out of PVC that can slip over the neck and get glued into place. A piece of grey schedule 80 1" PVC pipe has an internal diameter slightly smaller than the diameter of the Sicce volute. Ditto for sch 80 3/4" fittings. Cut to the proper length, with 3 slits spaced 120 degrees apart to clear the ribs and glued into place with ABS/PVC transition cement, would make the volute much stronger and easier to work with.

However I needed a solution now, both to test the idea, and to wait for Bill to make official ones. I searched around looking for PVC, CPVC and CTS piping that had an outside diameter slightly larger than the volute stem. I found that 1" CPVC-CTS fitting was almost exactly the right size. I could even push it 1/8" on the stem with no changes. I took some emery cloth strips and wrapped it around a 3/4 sch 40 PVC pipe and sanded the inside of a union fitting. Once it could slip all the way on to the volute stem, I cut off about 14 mm of the fitting and made the collar below. Glued on to the volute stem, it's not the prettiest, but not bad for handmade. Once I put it on the Sicce, I expect to be able to tighten the ACR fitting with no worry about cracking the volute any longer.

ACtC-3eIfj0QwA9VYkqeCokcXeXGK--AnJIiniPcYKLJacgg_ZzjWHcdhKKVtKF1LQVZi9-HmAHCRlC-eMOua3iOsKWTmGw3VLydeYW6MXfoTK8yeKCCkWRxrc6En1tAsw_MmRFIrl2KmmElPGH08hmYOaI_=w1275-h957-no



Bill said he is going to machine some of the collars up, so you may want to contact him to get on the list.

Dennis
I like what you did there. And a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you.

What glue did you use?

I believe Bill also recommended silicone caulk for the threads so you don't have to crank down so much. That was how I avoided cracking the second volute.
 

Dennis Cartier

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I like what you did there. And a picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you.

What glue did you use?

I believe Bill also recommended silicone caulk for the threads so you don't have to crank down so much. That was how I avoided cracking the second volute.

I used plain PVC adhesive, but now that I know the volute is ABS, I would use ABS/PVC transition adhesive. Though either will work fine for this application.

Dennis
 

Dennis Cartier

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I have certainly had some struggles getting my ACR to run successfully. From getting micro bubbles coming through the feed line to an incident I had yesterday morning. About 30 to 60 minutes after re-positioning the pump feeding the ACR, I noticed the sound of a pump sucking air. When I went to investigate, I found the water level at the mid way point of the pump intake inside the reactor. My first thought was, where did all the water go? I searched around for a leak, but there was none. As the realization that the effluent had to have been returned to the tank, a feeling of certain doom started building in me.

The tank I am testing is on is a small frag tank (80G), very sparsely populated with frags from a past crash. I had the controller turned down to as low as I could 1/999 without resorting to power cycling it off periodically.

With more than 2" of the volume of the ACR being delivered to the tank, I was fearing my alkalinity would be through the roof. I did a manual alk test while I waited for my Alkatronic to reach it's next test cycle. In hindsight, I could have used the Extra measure on the Alkatronic to get an immediate answer to how bad this was going to be. The manual test showed a jump of ~ 0.4 dkh. I was a bit relieved when I realized that the corals should be able to weather than just fine. When the Alkatronic did it's next periodic test, the result lined up with the manual test.

So what happened? The only thing I can conclude is that the pinch valve failed to close properly on one cycle and effluent was flowing back to the tank for a whole off period. With the controller set to 999 seconds off, that is around 16.5 minutes. It appeared the pinch valve corrected the itself and closed properly in subsequent cycles. However the deluge of effluent could have been catastrophic. I got lucky that I had the ACR running into a secondary chamber before being returned to the tank, so I probably had a buffer of weaker effluent that got returned.

With the possibility that this could happen again, I have for the moment, removed the effluent line from going through the pinch valve in the controller and have a Masterflex pump being the metering device for the effluent from the reactor. I have it running at 0.2ml/min currently while I try to re-balance the effluent demand.

I will discuss my pinch valve issue with Bill, but for the moment I will leave the Masterflex in place. This particular pump was originally purchased with the plan to use it with a CaRx. So it is getting used as intended.

Dennis
 
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mcgaws

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Oh, can I get a run down on your purging process? I just put mine online a few days ago and want to give it a purge.

I have 5 cases of Reborn on hand that I had planned to use in the filter built into my sump, but have decided to save it for CalRX use. After the first fill, I have about 1/2 a case left, so that gives me about 10 complete reactor fills. Now I just need to get my build done to give me room to grow. ;)

Dennis

Where did you get 5 cases of reborn from!! I have been looking around and can’t find any!! Maybe you bought it all haha
 

dadnjesse

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All I gotta say is everything being said is common. Bill never answers phone calls. His warranty is frankly worthless. I would have thought he had changed his ways but it is the same crap it has always been. As for the backfeed I had the same problem and he mentioned I won't need a check valve.
I found that he would answer me on his Facebook group. The only problem with that is you have to be approved to join, and that can take awhile.
 

Dennis Cartier

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Where did you get 5 cases of reborn from!! I have been looking around and can’t find any!! Maybe you bought it all haha

I have had it on hand for a couple of years. Originally it was going to be the coarse media in a filter I am working on. Now with the shortage, I will be using Florida Crushed Coral as the coarse media in the filter.

What PH ranges people are seeing in the effulent exiting their reactor? I have been doing some PH probe maintenance and on a whim, decide to measure the PH of my effulent. My effulent came in at a PH of 6.11. That PH is after the effulent has passed (very slowly) through a secondary chamber.

I plan to experiment with an aeration column to strip the CO2 from the water and see how that deals with the PH of the effluent.

Dennis
 
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Dennis Cartier

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I can finally report that I have my ACR running well. It has been a struggle though. I will go through the problems and my attempted solutions for anyone that runs across the same issues.

When I first started up the ACR, after reading about reports of back flow when the feed pump is taken offline, I tested my unit and found that I did in fact get back flow. So I installed a check valve inline with the feed pump.

The next issue was that I was getting a build up of gas beyond the level of the float switch. While searching for the cause, I cracked the volute on the Sicce pump. I fabricated a collar to strengthen the volute and make cracking less of a worry.

Then the pinch valve stuck open and dumped a couple of inches of the CaRx volume into my sump. Luckily, it only raised my alk a bit as the ACR effluent was not up to full strength yet. My effluent today comes out at 100 dkh, so if that were to happen now, shudder. My solution for that was to switch to using a Masterflex to regulate the effluent flow.

I was still getting gas building up and decided it must be micro bubbles coming in the feed line. I tried moving the feed pump around in my sump to areas that should be less prone to it, but it continued to occur.

Unable to find the cause of the micro bubbles, I decided to try to confirm their existence with a test. I inserted a Y connector in the feed line and ran a translucent line 6 feet into the air with a valve on the end. Opening the valve filled the line with water and then it was just a matter of waiting for any passing micro bubbles to get trapped in the vertical line and build up some air pockets that I could visually confirm. I waited days. Nothing, not a single bubble or air pocket build up in the vertical dead end.

My next proposition was that the bubbles were only becoming evident when exposed to the higher pressure within the ACR. My test with the Y line was before the check valve and after the pump, so only the pump pressure was present at that point. I decided to make a vessel that could be an air trap. My plan was for a sealed reservoir that had 3 lines, 1 for a feed, 1 for a drain that used a vertical tube to pull water from the bottom of the reservoir, and 1 as a vent to vent the hopefully collected air pocket. My first try at building this used a mason jar with a plastic lid. That was a total failure as I could not get it air tight enough. I started looking at old retired reactors to see if one could be re-purposed for this task. Then I noticed I had a bunch of used RO filter housings from when I swapped in double o-ring versions into my RODI system. I took one of those and made the output pull from the bottom of the canister by cementing a PVC pipe into the center nipple inside the canister head. I wanted to thread the inside of the nipple for a sprinkler riser to thread into, but I didn't have a 1/2" NPT thread tap on hand and neither did any stores I tried. I decided to just sand the threads on the riser down until they slipped into the nipple and then used lots of PVC cement. It worked perfectly. I also drilled and tapped a 1/4" hole into the top of the head for a vent valve to attach to.

I installed the RO canister after the check valve to make sure it saw the pressure inside the reactor. I filled it 75% full of water and then opened the valve on the line running to the ACR. The air pocket was compressed down to about 1/2" but it remained. Perfect, now I fully vented the ACR and waited to see if the gas pocket built up again. Several hours later, the gas pocket had come back and was 1/2" below the top of the ACR. The bubble trap was a complete failure.

While staring at the bubble trap and running through the expected method of operation, it hit me what the real cause of the problem was. When I vent the ACR, I am obsessive about getting all the spent gas out. I wait until a steady stream of water flows out the vent, with the Sicce running, but the venturi off (I have a ball valve in the venturi line). Only then, I re-enable the controller to allow the CO2 solenoid to energize and start to fill the float chamber with CO2. It takes several hours for the solenoid to turn off as it is limited to the rate that the Masterflex pulls from the ACR (1.6ml/minute currently). Then when the solenoid turns off, it never turns back on before the gas pocket forms.

What I came to realize is the gas pocket was not air coming in from the feed line, it is CO2. When the CO2 is filling, it is at 10 PSI, and the check valve prevents any back flow, so the gas chamber fills fully with CO2 at 10 PSI and only after it reaches the float valve does it turn off the gas. Then as the Masterflex removes effulent, the gas pocket continues to expand at a lower pressure. It is the presence of the check valve in the line that causes this problem. Well that and me obsessively venting all the trapped gas to start with 100% water in the ACR.

My fix was simply to remove the check valve. This caused the ACR to start to behave as intended. To deal with possible back flow, I left the bubble trap inline and elevated higher than the ACR. This should act as a siphon break and give a buffer before low PH and high dkh water reaches the sump. My issue with the pinch valve staying open may have been caused by the check valve as well. The pinch valve normally does not see 10 PSI in reactors without check valves inline.

The common view is that the ACR runs at the pressure that you set the CO2 regulator at, but that is not really true. The CO2 will expand and drop to the head pressure of the feed pump in practice.

Dennis
 
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Derrick Picker

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Sounds familiar. I had the same exact issue and Bill kept saying it was my regulator. Then send me a bubble trap that did nothing. Removing the check valve leaves the system to dump HIGH KH and LOW LOW ph back into the sump. Design has flaws.
 
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