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Damn solenoid, a lesson in assumptions about CO2

Discussion in 'CO2 Enrichment' started by Tom Barr, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    I've had a 120 Gal go well, then get a little algae off and on for a few months. Ever since I moved.
    I knew it was CO2, the other tanks have all done well, but not this one.

    I switched out some of the CO2 items, the reg and solenoid. Then added a good pair of ideal needle valves. Still issues here and there. I think I'd be very tempted to think it was nutrients, or maybe magic.......but I know that issue well and also know my other 4 tanks have the same nutrients/water changes etc.

    I'd had the CO2 being fed into the reactor below, so I could not see it coming on/off much, just what was in the tank itself via plant growth/algae. I'd look here and there, but figured it was all new stuff, could not the problem.

    Tank did better when I'd leave for a week etc, and it went limiting.........

    So........

    What was the issue? Damn solenoid would stick open and close a few hours before switch on or off.
    I spotted it last night, the bubbles still where on when I look under the tank at the reactor. I checked AM, and it was off, but then came on after 2-3 hours after the lights where on.

    I pulled it out, replaced the solenoid, it's working right now.
    It's also easier to gas fish when this happens.

    I'm not inexperienced with issues about CO2, but it gets me every now and then too.
    And if gets me, and gets the Amano, and anyone/everyone else a few times, do not feel bad if you think it's something else, but it turns out to be CO2 after all.

    Importantly, do not give up looking for the issue. Some do and then claim nutrients are "the key". Nutrients can be ruled out and with other reference tanks (which I have, but some do not, nor enough experience to tell one way or the other) as well as light(I have a PAR meter and can adjust each tank to be identical by height adjustment). Certain species of algae are also indicative, and they can be added to other tanks and not persist like they did in this tank.

    How long should a person look at CO2 and adjust, before giving up and trying something else?
    Well, if the other options, lower light, sediment ferts, good water changes/dosing, clean filters, good high current, and they still cannot get a decent CO2...........I think those folks are rare.

    But there are some that cannot, then they can go to the PO4 limiting method, but..........with the knowledge that CO2 is still a monkey on their back, they chose not to address. We can fix many things indirectly, but this does not address the root. Ultimately, most can, and this provides the higher level of wiggle room and better growth than limiting nutrients. But a few will never get some of these things right and it can be hard to resolve over the web.

    I would had never caught about 20% of the issues I've seen in person for example about CO2.

    FYI............

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  2. Oreo

    Oreo Guru Class Expert

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    In my profession I have come to understand that equipment, especially mechanical equipment should never be trusted. Systems should be designed with multiple back-ups & fail-safes when ever possible but when it gets down to brass tacks you watch things closely and you trust your own eyes and intuition above all else no matter what the gauges say. Good on you Tom for figuring out that tricky problem. It's a testament to your ability. A lot of people, even with plenty of experience, just aren't good at trouble-shooting and may have never caught that.
     
  3. Whiskey

    Whiskey Subscriber

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    Good call! Glad you caught it before something really bad happened.

    You know? I've never found a CO2 solenoid I can rely on :( I've had 3 of them, and had trouble with them all sticking open at some point for some reason. One of them was on a CA reactor for my 180 gallon SPS reef while I was on vacation,.. melted the media down, and I had heavy losses right after I won a photo contest with the tank and got it on the front page of a board actually.

    My current one on my 30G has stuck open twice, and the tank hasn't even been up that long! Plus it stuck closed when I was in Utah a few weeks ago. I've tried a few times to fix it - using Vaseline,.. making the spring a little stronger,.. cleaning it really good of course, everything has helped, but nothing has solved it.

    I never thought I'd say this when I was drooling over this equipment and then looking at my empty bank account,.. but it sometimes seems that it was easier without it.

    Whiskey
     
  4. Oreo

    Oreo Guru Class Expert

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    You know, if you really, really want to make a fail-proof system you could use a set of four solenoids for one aquarium. Two parallel sets of two in series. Use one timer for each valve. In this way, if any one valve or timer fails either open or closed the entire system still functions as normal. I would think the CO2 tank, regulator, and metering valve are all much less of a concern and probably don't need to be redundant.

    Costly, yes. But if it absolutely must be 100% reliable, that would be the way.
     
    #4 Oreo, Jun 21, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2010
  5. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    It's more a testament to having issues potentially even when you think everything should be workign correctly.
    I get nailed on this stuff as well. Even with a good reference and observations, I know something is not right.

    Redundancy is a huge thing with Airplane systems and space flight.

    I think we do see a few folks in the hobby, for one reason or another............have issues they cannot solve easily.
    There's 1001 ways to mess a method up, but only a few ways to do it right. So potential error is NOT WITH THE METHOD, RATHER, THE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE USER.
    WE FAIL, NOT THE METHOD.

    There's not one method that's fool proof, someone cannot get for whatever reason... if you think so, we can certainly a fool that will mess it up:)

    I was at fault, not EI, not the nice dual stage reg, or the ideal valves, light, Sediment............or general care etc.........

    I have read so many who want to blame others, a method, anything but themselves. It's a scapegoating culture almost, rather than aaceptance, humility to say they are doign somethign wrong and the tenacity to keep trying different things till they figure it out.

    I knew it was CO2 the entire time..........what specifically was the real mystery.
    I've been checking it.

    Now there is awlays a silver lining with a path of pain and algae woe.
    You can isolate and know what CO2 issues look like, youi learn more ways to mess a CO2 system up, you can recall what happened and help others who, while rare, have a simialr issue.

    I also had a similar issue with an Azoo diffuser disc that took about 1-2 hours to start bubbling, it was really clogged and looked clean etc, it was the damn check valve, the other ones I used did not have a sticking Check valve.
    Little crap like this can really bother a hobbyist, they think they are doing everything right, I look at the tank and tell them "you got a CO2 problem", a dozen others say the same, then they pull their hair in frustrtaion, gas their fish with CO2 etc trying desperately to rectify the issue.
    They do not believe you much based on their results.

    Without a data logging CO2 meter, it's tough to say much.



    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  6. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Ahhh damn.............I'd kill someone if I mauled an SPS tank. I'd want some heads on the block.
    I think this really goes back to LeftC's manta: go high grade stuff on CO2.

    Check valves
    Dual stage Regs
    High grade high flow diffusion methods that have stable flow through(needle wheels seem the best to me)
    Visual cues to make sure things are working and adding gas etc
    High grade gas tubing lines
    High grade needle valves with a vernier handle(or add a DIY tick marks so you can see where the flow was set at)
    Good surface current
    Stable degassing rates
    Good connections and soapy water leak checks
    And ............high grade good solenoids.

    BTW, it was a cliappard, I've fired 4 over the years, the Milkwaukee? About 12!!!
    I would never suggest or use one of those.

    There's a lot lot more to CO2 than most folks give it credit for and far more ways to louse it up.
    The only way I know this is from exprience and also, by simply ruling everything else out as a cause(measure light and nutrients, those are easy to do).
    Measuring CO2 is also a PITA.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  7. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yep, thought about a few times in the past.
    Too lazy or not willing to address the risk this way..........have not learn enough lessons I suppose:)

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  8. shoggoth43

    shoggoth43 Lifetime Charter Member
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    So what would be a high quality recommended solenoid?

    -
    S
     
  9. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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    Have you guys had any experience with Bürkert solenoids?

    I've been using a 00456786 6011 brass Bürkert solenoid for a while now. It's seals are made from FKM and the coil is 4 watts. I've never read anything bad about them or any complaints of failure. It's a mechanical device, so ....

    Their 6011A model is made for analytical use.

    6011 pdf: http://us.burkert.com/products_data/datasheets/DS6011-Standard-US-EN.pdf

    AquariumPlants.com has a 6011 for sale too: http://www.aquariumplants.com/Burkert_Brass_Solenoid_Valve_Type_6011_p/bu6011.htm
     
    #9 Left C, Jun 21, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 21, 2010
  10. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Yes, I have one. Decent.

    I think we might want to look around more for a good high grade no sticking version.

    From there, a simple list of CO2 key critical parts and a resource.
    Not just regs, or valves, but all the pieces from start to finish.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  11. hani

    hani Lifetime Charter Member
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    I have been using the 6011 for 3 years, no issues.
     
  12. Left C

    Left C Lifetime Members
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    Bürkert also has the 6011's and 6011A's in stainless steel and with Viton seals.
     
  13. csmith

    csmith Guest

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    I think Darkblade's "CO2 Primer" sticky would be a good place for this. All the information in one place. As he's already listed what you need from start to finish, half the work is done.
     
  14. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hey Tom - regarding the solenoid sticking 'on' - I've had this happen to me a few times, and it's turned out to be a tiny bit of gunk in the solenoid. Wouldn't the highest quality solenoids still have this issue? Any idea where this gunk could have came from given the sealed nature of the solenoid - could it be an accumaltion of impurities in the CO2? The .1% ? ;-)

    As far as sticking 'off' goes - what can cause that? Are all solenoids essentially the same, i.e. an electromagnet is responsible for opening up the CO2 flow? In the case where a solenoid is not coming on after 1-2 hours, how could this be anything other than a dodgy timer or something along those lines? Maybe the timer you were using was flakey and it's not the solenoids fault?
     
  15. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    Gunk could come from the teflon tape, or the pipe compound, anything in the line, back flow from the water, I use check valves, but these are not always 100% either, nothing is.
    I did not take the housing apart, I was too pissed.

    I do try and clean things out good. Sometimes little bits of the seal might get clogged etc.
    Still, the point of gunk is significant I would think, I do try to avoid it, but over time, it can occurs and get into the system.

    But.......my valves never get clogged either...........so.........they where not adjusted etc and are stable.

    Not sure why/how.
    I might link the needle wheel method and the solenoid on the same timer.
    This way they both stop no matter what.

    This would prevent adding it at night if it's stuck open, but in most of my cases, the valves stuck close or part way/ part of the day.
    This is better(under dosing) than the other(over dosing).

    Annoying but fixable at some point..........once you find it.


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  16. scottward

    scottward Guru Class Expert

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    Hey Tom.

    Yeah - now that I think about it the gunk that I found could have been a 'rubbery' type compound that eventually made it's way through the lines. I suppose regular 'preventative maintenance' on my part could help prevent it happening again but work, kids, life in general makes it hard... ;-)

    I was thinking for a moment about putting 2 solenoids in series, to turn the gas off. If one solenoid were to stick on, hopefully the second solenoid would turn off properly and would close of the gas flow. This would be ok to handle the worse case of over dosing CO2.

    However, solenoids sticking 'off' would need a parallel arrangement, not in series, such that if one solenoid stayed 'off', hopefully the second solenoid would turn on and allow the gas through the parallel path.

    Ah ok...now I understand why somebody earlier mentioned 4 solenoids. ;-)

    It's a shame that CO2 enrichment needs so many parts - so many points of failure. While I was on holidays a few weeks ago I came home and noticed BBA in my tank and pale leaves. Before I even opened my cabinet to inspect the equipment I knew at a glance some part of the 'CO2 system' was at fault. Sure enough it was, in this case, a bubble counter with gunk stuck in it. ^&$#!!!

    Scott.
     
  17. Oreo

    Oreo Guru Class Expert

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    THose of you looking for high quality solenoid valves should really look at Parker. Not just any Parker though, it's gotta be one spec'd proper for the job. I covered it pretty well in another thread here. After taking several solenoid valves apart and looking at how they function inside I do believe the design of the parker valve I posted about is a more reliable design mechanically as well as electronically. In particular, I like the way Parker used the spring compared to say, Clippard.

    Having said that, I had problems for a few days because first teflon tape, and then brass shavings (from the brass fittings I used) found their way into the solenoid valve pressure vessel causing it to stick open, and leak when closed. Then I read the directions for the Parker valve- they plainly state that while the valve will function in any orientation they recommend a vertical installation so that if debris gets into the pressure vessel it is less likely to cause a malfunction. Sure enough I have my valve installed upside down.
     
  18. hbosman

    hbosman Guru Class Expert

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    I have one of the $12.00 Parkers. The same model where you had two failures I believe. Anyway, it is easily serviced and I indeed would look for another Parker of some model if, this one ever fails. The valve part is much better than the Clippard, I would just have to look for a Parker with a better coil.
     
  19. Orlando

    Orlando Subscriber

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    You folks would be surprised at what comes out of a co2 cylinder. Steel cylinders are even worse. This macro photo is looking down the CGA stem, debris directly from the cylinder is sitting on the filter screen..

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Tom Barr

    Tom Barr Founder
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    You also have debris from the tank refilling process, etc.

    Orlando, are you planning on selling the solenoids you have separately?


    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
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