Terrible Advice Tuesdays: The Easiest Way To Save Your Return Pump While You Are Away


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: If you are going out of town, rig up a float switch to turn off your return pump if the water level in your sump gets too low. This way you won’t burn up your return pump. Whenever you get back into town, just add water to your tank and turn the pump back on.

The rest of the story: This person clearly hasn’t heard of this nifty invention called an “auto top off system” (ATO) that will replenish any water lost to evaporation. Problem solved.

Taking the solution a step further, if you did have an auto top off on your tank, and you wanted to save your return pump from burning up, you could use a float switch to turn off your return pump if the water level got too low in your sump. Here’s the really important part that just a float switch leaves out:

What happens to your display tank when you turn off the return pump for hours, maybe days on end?

Here’s what happens: dissolved oxygen in the tank gets depleted and stuff dies. Perhaps a couple of fish and/or coral will live and if they do, nutrient levels in the tank will rise quickly due to the dead and rotting fish. These elevated nutrient levels will likely kill the fish/coral if the lack of oxygen doesn’t.

While I do like the idea of a float switch that senses a low water level in your sump, if you want that float switch to turn off your return pump, make sure the float switch sounds an alarm such as through a controller so you can be informed there is a problem while you are away.

Here’s another way to prevent your return pump running dry: grab a webcam (or this one) and point it at the return pump chamber in your sump. Check the webcam daily to see if your ATO has failed and the water level has dropped too low.

Just turning off your return pump and waiting to refill your tank till you get back is a horrible idea.

Thanks to Duncan P. for sending in this T.A.Tues idea.

 

 

 

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Comments for this article (6)

  • Alex says:

    Pump turns off, weir drains to sump, pump turns on…. Pump turns off, weir drains to sump, pump turns on….Pump turns off, weir drains to sump, pump turns on…. and repeat

    Sure way to burn out your pump…

  • chris r says:

    I am a huge fan of my d-link webcam dcs-930l.
    It is a third of the price and setup was a snap.

  • Buddy says:

    Obviously… someone needs a good tank buddy and a little more planing of their tank care before leaving on vacation 🙂

  • Dan says:

    I just went on vacation for 2 weeks and followed this advice with perfect results! First, I installed a “redneck” ATO, which is a 5 gallon reservoir about 2 feet above my sump with some tubing, an in-line stopcock set to “drip flow”, and finally to a manual float switch in the sump. Even if the float switch malfunctions, I know the sump will be able to accommodate the extra 5 gallons if the reservoir drains. Second, I bought a FOSCAM web camera and monitored everything from a remote PC, and even from my phone. The webcam can be pre-programmed to point to the sump, tank, reservoir, auto-feeder, floor (to see if there are any spills), etc.
    You can’t put a price on the peace of mind this brought me!
    Solid advice as usual Mark, and I hope my experience confirms it.

  • Scott says:

    If you have an Apex controller with I/O breakout box, and I highly recommend them, ATO is easy. 2 float switches (1 for the ATO and the other for the ATO safety incase of a failure), a Tunze lift pump, a RadioShack universal power converter plugged into the relay portion of the Apex power bar, some very simple programming and you have an ATO system. You can even have ATO for your ATO utilizing float switches and solenoid valve controlling the water flow from your RODI filter if you have the desire for added safety, convenience and equipment. Stability is key. Best wishes to you Mark!!

  • Mr. Saltwater:

    Ironically your “Terrible Advice” is rearing its ugly head again:

    You indicate:
    “While I do like the idea of a float switch that senses a low water level in your sump, if you want that float switch to turn off your return pump, make sure the float switch sounds an alarm such as through a controller so you can be informed there is a problem while you are away.”

    It is not that simple. You need control logic or a latching circuit if you wish to implement a “low water” float switch. If you just put a float switch inline with your return pump, a “low water” event will still burn the pump up.

    1) Water evaporates to the point of tripping the switch
    2) Pump turns off
    3) Display back drains to sump
    4) Switch rises due to drain back
    5) Pump turns back on
    6) Water drops, turning off pump
    7) Display back drains to sump
    8) Switch rises due to drain back

    The cycle will repeat itself every few seconds until the pump fails.

    TERRIBLE ADVICE

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