If all ATOs are prone to malfunction, why get one and risk damage to tank and home?Many/most ATO have some kind of failsafe built in but it still isn’t unheard of for them to fail. Having an ATO stay on when it shouldn’t can potentially be catastrophic for the tank and your house depending on how much water it can pump into your tank from the reservoir.
As for evaporation I evaporate about 1.5g a day from my roughly 100g tank and about 2g from my 125g tank. There are a lot of factors that effect evaporation rates including amount of surface agitation, type of covers on the tank, your ambient humidity, etc.
The more times you manually top off the tank the better but I would think that once a day should be the minimum. If you don’t want to buy an ATO right now you can figure out how much water you need to add and setup a dosing pump to add that much daily. I don’t know how much cheaper it would be than a ATO though. That is how I keep salinity in my qt tank stable.
What’s a dosing pump do? You set up how much per day for it to pump into the tank? Must be pricey though and close to same as an ATO I assume?