Simple, Effective, Expandable Reef Tank Battery Back Up System

CuzzA

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Messages
340
Reaction score
355
On a different forum I shared my battery backup system and figured I would add it here to help anyone looking for a solid setup.

Yes, there are many ways to do it, but from my research UPSs are unreliable and only last a few hours depending on the model.

Some aquarium product manufacturers produce their own battery backups, but they still have a relative low number of Amp hours. Plus your limited as to what you can power.

With this system you can be assured there will always be life support on your tank even if you're not home. You can add batteries if need be, like your car battery in a late night emergency. You can power different appliances. And finally, given how much money you probably have invested in your tank there should be no reason not to have some type of backup no matter the cost. It really is cheap insurance.

I'll add from living in Hurricane alley Florida and many people living in areas of the country that face similar natural disasters many should purchase a generator. A battery backup only goes so far if the power is off for an extended period of time. Run it every time you mow your lawn or at least once a month and only use non-ethanol fuel in all of your small engines.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way responsible if you injure or kill yourself. It is your responsibility to research and completely understand what you are doing when working with electricity. If you're unsure or uncomfortable working with electricity then DON'T. Hire a professional.

First of all, the use of a GFCI protected circuit. In the event the outlet installed on the circuit detects a fault (lack of ground) it will interrupt the circuit and no longer provide power to anything plugged into that circuit, including the Battery Tender Float Charger. They can be purchased at any Home Depot or Lowes for around $12-$25 depending on the model. Follow the installation instructions. You must turn off your main service breaker or if you're certain which circuit the outlet is on then turn off that breaker. Check to be sure it's off before proceeding.

Why is this important? On an unprotected circuit if a ground were to fail within the circuit, anyone touching that appliance (Battery Tender, water, powerhead, etc.) or outlet would then become the ground. Your body becomes the connection to the ground sending the electricity through you which could result in serious injury or death.

There have been debates on this forum about the use of GFCI's. Some have argued not to use them because if they trip then power will no longer be supplied to your system. This is terrible advice. What good is a fish tank if your house has burned down or your dead! I can assure you that you'll not be enjoying your tank anymore and we simply don't know if fish go to heaven. ;Dead There are other ways to solve this problem, like the use of this Battery Backup or two circuits and splitting life support among the two circuits. Keep in mind, many controllers today can send you an alert indicating a power failure or tripped breaker by utilizing a battery back up. HERE is a PDF explaining how to do it on a Neptune Apex. But back to my side point, the GFCI tripped because there is a problem and it's doing what it's designed to do, protect you.

Now, they do go bad from time to time and if a GFCI continues to trip repeatedly or won't reset, it's time to replace it with a new one. If the new one continues to behave the same way then there is something wrong with an appliance or your wiring. If you don't think this is serious, just read this THREAD. A reefer who lost his life to an unprotected circuit. We all know water and electricity don't mix. HERE'S another good read on the subject and includes the importance of the grounding probe as well. There are also countless electrical fires that have ruined people's lives. Don't risk it!!! FWIW. On my system I have two dedicated 20 Amp circuits on GFCI breakers. Which are far more robust and cost around $40.

So, we have the the utility power to Battery Tender covered... Check.

Now, from the Battery Tender to the Deep Cycle Marine Battery (or similar). The Battery Tender is different from a typical trickle charger. Integrated into the unit are some important safety features to protect itself and the battery. Most importantly are the automatic float mode, reverse polarity protection and short circuit protection. The float mode avoids overcharging the battery. The reverse polarity protection eliminates electricity from being sent back through the charger. Finally, the short circuit protection will shut down the unit if a short is detected.

These are the Key Features of the Battery Tender Plus I used and they can be purchased HERE for around $45.

"The Battery Tender Plus is a 1.25 amp battery charger designed to fully charge a battery and maintain it at proper storage voltage without the damaging effects caused by trickle chargers. The E-Z quick disconnect harness (1 of each ring ends and alligator clips included) allows you to leave the charger wiring attached to the battery while operating the vehicle. Battery Tender Plus will not overcharge or boil the battery when connected long term."

Features:

- Temperature compensated to ensure optimum charge voltage according to ambient temperature.
- Automatically switches from full charge to float charging mode.
- Reverse Polarity Protection to ensure user safety.
- Complete 4-step charging program (Initialization,Bulk Charge, Absorption Mode, and Float Mode)
- Built-in Mode Indicators
- Spark Free Hook Up
- Perfect for Wet cell, AGM, and VRLA Batteries
- Demand Sensing
- Reverse Polarity Protection
- Short Circuit Protection
- Thermal Protection
- Temperature Compensation
- 10 Year Warranty

Ok, Battery Tender... Check.

Now to the battery itself. Shorts and batteries are bad and can be dangerous. Batteries can discharge gas and a spark from a short can ignite that gas and cause the battery to explode. You must insure that when you wire any terminal to the lugs on the battery that they are wrenched down securely with a nut. You want solid contact with absolutely no movement from the terminal.

Because of the explosion risk of a battery I'll reiterate the battery should be permanently installed outdoors. It's also important to place the battery inside a marine battery box to insulate it from the elements or tampering. You can find them very inexpensive, around $9 HERE.

As far as the battery, do not use a standard starting battery like ones used on a car. While they can be used when you're in a pinch, once they've been completely drained the battery has likely been damaged. For long term use you're going to need a deep cycle battery. Do your own research to determine what size (How many Amp Hours) you'll need. Expect to pay at least $100.

Ok, battery... Check.

Next is the actual wires coming off the battery. This area is where the installation effects the risk of wires melting or worse an explosion due to a short. If the installation is done properly the risk of a short is minimal. Nevertheless, something could damage the wires, like a squirrel that loves a rush.

So, here's what happens. Both sets of wires (from charger and power out to transfer switch and inverter) will become power out. The battery doesn't know which wires to send the power, both wires are wired to the positive and negative terminal lugs so both have a charge. As I mentioned, a short could melt both sets of wires and lead to a fire and sparks which could also ignite the battery and lead to an explosion if the conditions are right.

The solution here, especially on long wire runs is to simply install a properly sized inline fuse on both sets of wires as close to the battery as possible just outside of the battery box. Thus, if a problem develops the increased discharge of power will pop the fuse and interrupt the power supplying the short.

Another more expensive alternative is to use a DC Circuit Breaker. This is the same principle as the fuse, yet if the breaker pops all you have to do is fix the problem and flip the breaker back on rather than replace a fuse. Of course fuses are inexpensive and again if your installation is done properly, protecting wires with conduit, the likely hood of this happening is very small. However, I recommend going ahead and installing the fuse. It's simple and cheap. The Blue Sea System Terminal fuse can be found HERE for around $15.

Ok, wiring... Check.

Now on to the Wagan Pure Sine Wave Inverter and utility power to the Kisae Transfer Switch. The inverter can be purchased HERE for $100 and the transfer switch HERE for $45. There's really not much to discuss in terms of the transfer switch. It's very simple in that it automatically detects when utility power is not being supplied and transfers over to battery power. If the utility power comes back on then it transfers back to the utility power. Again, and with any type of wiring, you want to make sure you secure the wire properly to the terminals.

In terms of safety, the focus here will be on just the Wagan Inverter.

As a side note, you can only run a "pure sine wave inverter" for most equipment we use on our tanks. A modified sine wave does not provide clean power and will ruin motors or they simply won't operate at all. A simple search on the subject will provide more detailed information.

Here are the safety aspect of the Wagan 400 watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter and they can be found HERE.

- Input voltage: 10 V to 15 V DC
- Output voltage: 120 V AC at 60 Hz
- Output Waveform: Pure Sine Wave
- TrueRated™ Power: 400 W
- Surge power: 800 W
- Maximum Efficiency: > 90%
- Overload protection: 400 W – 450 W
- Reverse polarity protection: Internal Fuse
- Short circuit protection: Auto-Shutdown
- High temperature protection
- No load current draw: < 0.4 A
- Total Harmonic Distortion: < 3%
- AC socket: 2 U.S. standard grounded
- Thermal Cooling fan
- Two Year Warranty

The keys here are the reverse polarity protection with an internal fuse and the auto shutdown if the unit detects a short circuit. This will interrupt power from the unit if there is a problem and protect you from injury. The unit will also sound an alarm and automatically shut down if the battery supply drops to low.

So finally, all systems are check. ;)

As always, you are encouraged to do your own research and verify information. The concept of this design is how millions of boat manufacturers design boats in terms of working with shore ( AC utility) power, DC (battery) power, chargers, transfer switches and inverters. This technique has been around for many years and has performed excellent. I've been using this system for many years and it has worked without a hitch. Just remember to keep cooling fans dusted from time to time and check the health of your battery.

I hope this tutorial helps anyone looking for a solid backup system. Now you can sleep well at night and have the assurance that when you're away from your tank everything will likely survive "automatically". :cool:

1575857176995.png
 

Attachments

dougers31

Valuable Member
View Badges
Joined
Aug 23, 2010
Messages
2,076
Reaction score
185
Location
Albert lea, MN
So up here in the northland would keeping the battery in a garage be recommended? Unheated garages up here can get well below zero but would still be warmer than outside. Just wondering in general what kind of temps deep cycle batteries can handle. Nice write up by the way:)
 
OP
CuzzA

CuzzA

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Messages
340
Reaction score
355
So up here in the northland would keeping the battery in a garage be recommended? Unheated garages up here can get well below zero but would still be warmer than outside. Just wondering in general what kind of temps deep cycle batteries can handle. Nice write up by the way:)
Thanks, in the garage would be find if you took the right precautions. If it's not climate controlled to some degree you might find the battery level to be diminished. Here's a decent write up about good steps to take for charging indoors.

 

Phildago

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Oct 11, 2019
Messages
427
Reaction score
475
Location
Broad Channel
Nice write up. I've been thinking about doing a battery back up just in case, but don't have the space to do so... So I'd have to fall back on a portable battery connected inverter and/or a gas powered generator. Both of which will work fine, but take time to employ.

I really just wish there was a simple way to do this...
 

Dr. Dendrostein

Marine fish monthly
View Badges
Joined
Nov 8, 2017
Messages
7,789
Reaction score
15,871
Location
Fullerton, California
On a different forum I shared my battery backup system and figured I would add it here to help anyone looking for a solid setup.

Yes, there are many ways to do it, but from my research UPSs are unreliable and only last a few hours depending on the model.

Some aquarium product manufacturers produce their own battery backups, but they still have a relative low number of Amp hours. Plus your limited as to what you can power.

With this system you can be assured there will always be life support on your tank even if you're not home. You can add batteries if need be, like your car battery in a late night emergency. You can power different appliances. And finally, given how much money you probably have invested in your tank there should be no reason not to have some type of backup no matter the cost. It really is cheap insurance.

I'll add from living in Hurricane alley Florida and many people living in areas of the country that face similar natural disasters many should purchase a generator. A battery backup only goes so far if the power is off for an extended period of time. Run it every time you mow your lawn or at least once a month and only use non-ethanol fuel in all of your small engines.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way responsible if you injure or kill yourself. It is your responsibility to research and completely understand what you are doing when working with electricity. If you're unsure or uncomfortable working with electricity then DON'T. Hire a professional.

First of all, the use of a GFCI protected circuit. In the event the outlet installed on the circuit detects a fault (lack of ground) it will interrupt the circuit and no longer provide power to anything plugged into that circuit, including the Battery Tender Float Charger. They can be purchased at any Home Depot or Lowes for around $12-$25 depending on the model. Follow the installation instructions. You must turn off your main service breaker or if you're certain which circuit the outlet is on then turn off that breaker. Check to be sure it's off before proceeding.

Why is this important? On an unprotected circuit if a ground were to fail within the circuit, anyone touching that appliance (Battery Tender, water, powerhead, etc.) or outlet would then become the ground. Your body becomes the connection to the ground sending the electricity through you which could result in serious injury or death.

There have been debates on this forum about the use of GFCI's. Some have argued not to use them because if they trip then power will no longer be supplied to your system. This is terrible advice. What good is a fish tank if your house has burned down or your dead! I can assure you that you'll not be enjoying your tank anymore and we simply don't know if fish go to heaven. ;Dead There are other ways to solve this problem, like the use of this Battery Backup or two circuits and splitting life support among the two circuits. Keep in mind, many controllers today can send you an alert indicating a power failure or tripped breaker by utilizing a battery back up. HERE is a PDF explaining how to do it on a Neptune Apex. But back to my side point, the GFCI tripped because there is a problem and it's doing what it's designed to do, protect you.

Now, they do go bad from time to time and if a GFCI continues to trip repeatedly or won't reset, it's time to replace it with a new one. If the new one continues to behave the same way then there is something wrong with an appliance or your wiring. If you don't think this is serious, just read this THREAD. A reefer who lost his life to an unprotected circuit. We all know water and electricity don't mix. HERE'S another good read on the subject and includes the importance of the grounding probe as well. There are also countless electrical fires that have ruined people's lives. Don't risk it!!! FWIW. On my system I have two dedicated 20 Amp circuits on GFCI breakers. Which are far more robust and cost around $40.

So, we have the the utility power to Battery Tender covered... Check.

Now, from the Battery Tender to the Deep Cycle Marine Battery (or similar). The Battery Tender is different from a typical trickle charger. Integrated into the unit are some important safety features to protect itself and the battery. Most importantly are the automatic float mode, reverse polarity protection and short circuit protection. The float mode avoids overcharging the battery. The reverse polarity protection eliminates electricity from being sent back through the charger. Finally, the short circuit protection will shut down the unit if a short is detected.

These are the Key Features of the Battery Tender Plus I used and they can be purchased HERE for around $45.

"The Battery Tender Plus is a 1.25 amp battery charger designed to fully charge a battery and maintain it at proper storage voltage without the damaging effects caused by trickle chargers. The E-Z quick disconnect harness (1 of each ring ends and alligator clips included) allows you to leave the charger wiring attached to the battery while operating the vehicle. Battery Tender Plus will not overcharge or boil the battery when connected long term."

Features:

- Temperature compensated to ensure optimum charge voltage according to ambient temperature.
- Automatically switches from full charge to float charging mode.
- Reverse Polarity Protection to ensure user safety.
- Complete 4-step charging program (Initialization,Bulk Charge, Absorption Mode, and Float Mode)
- Built-in Mode Indicators
- Spark Free Hook Up
- Perfect for Wet cell, AGM, and VRLA Batteries
- Demand Sensing
- Reverse Polarity Protection
- Short Circuit Protection
- Thermal Protection
- Temperature Compensation
- 10 Year Warranty

Ok, Battery Tender... Check.

Now to the battery itself. Shorts and batteries are bad and can be dangerous. Batteries can discharge gas and a spark from a short can ignite that gas and cause the battery to explode. You must insure that when you wire any terminal to the lugs on the battery that they are wrenched down securely with a nut. You want solid contact with absolutely no movement from the terminal.

Because of the explosion risk of a battery I'll reiterate the battery should be permanently installed outdoors. It's also important to place the battery inside a marine battery box to insulate it from the elements or tampering. You can find them very inexpensive, around $9 HERE.

As far as the battery, do not use a standard starting battery like ones used on a car. While they can be used when you're in a pinch, once they've been completely drained the battery has likely been damaged. For long term use you're going to need a deep cycle battery. Do your own research to determine what size (How many Amp Hours) you'll need. Expect to pay at least $100.

Ok, battery... Check.

Next is the actual wires coming off the battery. This area is where the installation effects the risk of wires melting or worse an explosion due to a short. If the installation is done properly the risk of a short is minimal. Nevertheless, something could damage the wires, like a squirrel that loves a rush.

So, here's what happens. Both sets of wires (from charger and power out to transfer switch and inverter) will become power out. The battery doesn't know which wires to send the power, both wires are wired to the positive and negative terminal lugs so both have a charge. As I mentioned, a short could melt both sets of wires and lead to a fire and sparks which could also ignite the battery and lead to an explosion if the conditions are right.

The solution here, especially on long wire runs is to simply install a properly sized inline fuse on both sets of wires as close to the battery as possible just outside of the battery box. Thus, if a problem develops the increased discharge of power will pop the fuse and interrupt the power supplying the short.

Another more expensive alternative is to use a DC Circuit Breaker. This is the same principle as the fuse, yet if the breaker pops all you have to do is fix the problem and flip the breaker back on rather than replace a fuse. Of course fuses are inexpensive and again if your installation is done properly, protecting wires with conduit, the likely hood of this happening is very small. However, I recommend going ahead and installing the fuse. It's simple and cheap. The Blue Sea System Terminal fuse can be found HERE for around $15.

Ok, wiring... Check.

Now on to the Wagan Pure Sine Wave Inverter and utility power to the Kisae Transfer Switch. The inverter can be purchased HERE for $100 and the transfer switch HERE for $45. There's really not much to discuss in terms of the transfer switch. It's very simple in that it automatically detects when utility power is not being supplied and transfers over to battery power. If the utility power comes back on then it transfers back to the utility power. Again, and with any type of wiring, you want to make sure you secure the wire properly to the terminals.

In terms of safety, the focus here will be on just the Wagan Inverter.

As a side note, you can only run a "pure sine wave inverter" for most equipment we use on our tanks. A modified sine wave does not provide clean power and will ruin motors or they simply won't operate at all. A simple search on the subject will provide more detailed information.

Here are the safety aspect of the Wagan 400 watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter and they can be found HERE.

- Input voltage: 10 V to 15 V DC
- Output voltage: 120 V AC at 60 Hz
- Output Waveform: Pure Sine Wave
- TrueRated™ Power: 400 W
- Surge power: 800 W
- Maximum Efficiency: > 90%
- Overload protection: 400 W – 450 W
- Reverse polarity protection: Internal Fuse
- Short circuit protection: Auto-Shutdown
- High temperature protection
- No load current draw: < 0.4 A
- Total Harmonic Distortion: < 3%
- AC socket: 2 U.S. standard grounded
- Thermal Cooling fan
- Two Year Warranty

The keys here are the reverse polarity protection with an internal fuse and the auto shutdown if the unit detects a short circuit. This will interrupt power from the unit if there is a problem and protect you from injury. The unit will also sound an alarm and automatically shut down if the battery supply drops to low.

So finally, all systems are check. ;)

As always, you are encouraged to do your own research and verify information. The concept of this design is how millions of boat manufacturers design boats in terms of working with shore ( AC utility) power, DC (battery) power, chargers, transfer switches and inverters. This technique has been around for many years and has performed excellent. I've been using this system for many years and it has worked without a hitch. Just remember to keep cooling fans dusted from time to time and check the health of your battery.

I hope this tutorial helps anyone looking for a solid backup system. Now you can sleep well at night and have the assurance that when you're away from your tank everything will likely survive "automatically". :cool:

1575857176995.png
Thanks for write up. I'm in planning stages on implementing a back up system. Thanks again
 
Legendary Corals
OP
CuzzA

CuzzA

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Messages
340
Reaction score
355
Nice write up. I've been thinking about doing a battery back up just in case, but don't have the space to do so... So I'd have to fall back on a portable battery connected inverter and/or a gas powered generator. Both of which will work fine, but take time to employ.

I really just wish there was a simple way to do this...
Thanks. If only we all could have our own fish room laboratories, right?
 
OP
CuzzA

CuzzA

Active Member
View Badges
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Messages
340
Reaction score
355
Ironically, I came home for lunch today and found the power out at my house. Powerheads were automatically humming along. Back to work I go. No worries.

15760868247194770300580843746335.jpg
 

Terry Mattson

Well-Known Member
View Badges
Joined
Apr 16, 2019
Messages
503
Reaction score
326
Location
Emory Texas
Thanks for directing me to this link. At some point I need to explore this. I live in Lake Fork texas and since 2002 never had power down for more than an hour. But what if.... so about 6 months ago purchased a pure sign wave gas generator. Well, a month later power went out and stayed out. So I fired it up. Kept Tank and refrigerator running. Our power is underground but the feed line is above ground about 4 miles away. Sure enough, a person ran off the road and took out the pole. Wires down everywhere. Power was out for nearly 12 hours. Thankfully I purchased the generator. But what if I was not here. The battery backup (icecap) for my icecap 3000 set to gyro barely move water. Not enough. Disappointed. So I will start to explore your backup scheme. I am retired but travel some.
 

DO YOU USE BLUE (ACTINIC) LIGHTING TO MAKE YOUR CORALS POP?

  • YES

    Votes: 424 82.0%
  • NO

    Votes: 71 13.7%
  • Other (please explain in the thread)

    Votes: 22 4.3%

Online statistics

Members online
2,575
Guests online
14,251
Total visitors
16,826
Corals.com
Mistress Corals
Top