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URGENT - Please Help with Electrical Inline Water Heater with Temperature Controller

Hi everyone!

I am a koi hobbyist living in Montreal, Canada. I have an 8000 gallon outdoor pond in which I have 24 koi, ranging in size from 12" to 24". I could or should I say "should" leave them outside for the winter, but I've opted to bring them inside now for many years. I used to have 3000 gallons in my basement winter set up, split between two tanks. One, which was a 1700 gallon above ground pool developed several leaks over the years, so I trashed it last summer leaving me with the one tank, a 1200 gallon capacity. Needless to say, this year fish are very stressed due to being overcrowded. I could give you plenty of more details as to how I care for them,may need for a hospital tank, but I'd rather get straight to my question. :)

Two fish have developed two small ulcers which I am currently treating, but I need to raise the water temperature from its current 60 degrees F to 76-77 degrees F.

I'm on a restricted budget (unemployed), so I am not in the position to purchase an expensive inline spa water heater or anything else in the same price range.

I've attached a couple of videos of DIY inline heaters, easy to make for under $100., but need to know what supplies I would need to change up if going with a higher watt system. I would like to use either a 1500 or possibly 2000 watt element. I'm assuming that the first video below is a 1000 watt or less, because nowhere is wattaged mentioned (unless I missed it). Second video is well under 1000 watts.

So if any of you have experience with these type of DIY devices, kindly advise the correct parts required, meaning: element, size of thermostat controller and If I need a solid state relay? The relay part has me confused as I have never used one in any electrical application. Remember, this is for a 110 outlet, which already has a 1/4 horsepower pump and a hefty air pump plugged in to. What amps should I have on this circuit? (maybe I need to call a licensed electrician to increase amps at my electrical box?)

So here are the a couple links for the general idea.
Please answer ASAP as my two sick fish need more warmth in order to heal.


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I have almost everything. Element arrives on Monday. Will pick up project box and wire tomorrow. What about the grounding issues with ssr (does it really need to be grounded / mounted on metal? I was thinking of just placing the ssr inside plastic project box, being sure to cover all wire contacts with electrical tape?... Still confused that ground on water pump will also ground controller?

StevedNETN said:
Hi Chris, 12 gauge wire should be good for the heater. If the wires on the element are exposed, you could create some type of cover so you can get to them later. I think I would wrap with electrical tape and the put a plastic cover over them too. Be creative :). We're you able to get all your parts?
More thinking...

Steve, In photo of my ssr you'll notice contact screws are numbered 1,2,3,4. According to your hand drawn diagram showing your ssr connections, how do they relate to the 1,2,3,4 connection points on my ssr, meaning what wires go where?

... Don't worry, soon you'll be rid of me! Lol.
Here's your diagram.
Hi Chris SSR Terminal 4(-) connects to negative of PSU. As previously mentioned, SSR Terminal 3(+) connects via Controller Relay to PSU positive.

For safety connects the 120V ac LIVE wire to the SSR Terminal 1 and SSR Terminal 2 to Heater Element. The other terminal of heater element to ac NEUTRAL wire.

The metal flat plate of the SSR is for good thermal contact - if large current or fast switching the SSR heats up and best to mount on heat sink.

The heater will draw ~ 1500/120 Amp. ~12A &12/40 ~ 25% of rated current so you should probably be fine - just ensure there is adequte airflow around the SSR(mounted on stand offs)

You pump will draw 1A

Not suficient info to determine airpump current requirement.

Good morning Pieter, Thanks for your reply and I do apologize to all for being so thick headed. :)

I think I'm good now on wiring. I will pick up a heat sink today.

More questions:

1: After fastening the ssr to heat sink, can I still install ssr inside my PVC project box / gang box? Does it need to be screwed down inside the box, or can it just be placed inside loosely?

2: I realize that one side of wring out from wall wart gets wired to ssr and heat output on temperature controller, but the actual plug end of wall wart, may I cut this off too and strip back wires and pair them to their respective wires on the temperature controller's power out wires, allowing me to keep wall wart inside gang box?

Here's a pic of heat sink, I'm assuming it DOESNT NEED A FAN like a computer....

Thanks for your help!

Like Arnold says,... I'll be back!
Heat sink phot for post above. Please read.

Also, I'm reattaching a new wall wart photo. It was suggested that I use the one on the left, its a Palm model - Input 120v - 0.15, 60Hz. DC output 5.0v - 1.0A

The one on the right is an Omega model: Input 100v-240v 50-60Hz 0.5A - Output +5V 1.0A +12V 0.75A

Could I use the Omega model instead of the Palm? The wiring looks more substantial and it would give me the opportunity to keep the wall wart completely inside project box (gang box).... The Palm model would have to be plugged (connected) to power supply outside of project box as electrical prongs are part of wall wart itself.

Hope you understand the question.

Heat sink
Okay, back from gathering all my supplies. While I was out buying the heat sink, I noticed they had ssr's in 25 instead of the the ssr 40 I purchased on Amazon. Should I use the 25 instead of the 40 (see attached photo showing both) and does that change the need for a wall wart?

Also, now that I've purchased the heat sink and special glue to attach to ssr, will the ssr and heat sink be cool enough in temperature to be in my PVC gang box?... Don't want anything melting?
Please read all questions above this post... I need several answers. Also salesperson sold me Nexxtech brand heat sink compound, but once home I searched the net for application directions an found plenty of negative comments saying that Nexxtech is crap... Should I exchange it for something else?

Also, YouTube videos on application of compound are varied in opinion. Some vids say to apply this stuff evenly with straight edge X-acto blade, some say small dab in center, others say vertical paste line or X shape? What do u guys recommend as far as Nexxtech brand and application method.

So close to finish line... Hopefully I'll have all my questions answered by tomorrow morning.

So to recap posts from today:

Ssr - 25 or 40 - if 25 now, will wring changed - do I still need wall wart (see photo in previous post)
Quality of heat sink compound that I purchased and how to apply.
Will ssr and heat sink be too hot to house inside PVC gang box 8" 8"
The two wall warts, which one is better (see previous post and photo)
Do I need to ground controller? (My pump is grounded, but I don't understand the relationship?)
Where to purchase mass amounts of vodka....

Thanks guys!
See above recap list. Forgot to ask if I need to use these types of contact clips (see photo) on ssr or can I just wrap wire around screw head like usual?

Also, both ssr and heat sink came with no mounting screws. What type of screws should I use for maximum contact... Self tapping?

Hi Chris, You have done well.  Either wall wart would be fine.. What ever fits your layout better will work. 

The installation of the SSR on the heatsink isn't rocket science.  The  Thermal Grease is the stuff between the SSR and heatsink.  I put a spot in center and smash two together.  Basicly this just thermally connects the two pieces of metal so heat flows from the source to the heatsink quickly to help cooling.   Once you have this system wired up and you turn it on.  Don't toutch the contacts with power, but feel the back of the SSR or the heat sink.  It will be warm but shouldnt be too hot to touch.   If it is really hot, then think about mounting it outside of an enclosure.  Using the 40 amp ssr vs a 25 amp will mean you are using a device capable of more power.  This means it will create less heat and should be less problem there.  Like I said.  Wire it up and see how much heat it generates.  More than likely you will be able to put in the 8x8 encloser and be fine.  

Grounding.  Always ground anything A/C powered.  Water and A/C are dangerous.  Good grounds are essential.  That said.  The Controller is only touching the water with it's temp probe and then a DC wire from wall wart is going through it.  If there is a ground screw or terminal, then use a power cord with a ground and ground it.  

As for the wall wart, no worries once it is converted to DC.  

The heater element is another story.  This is going to bring 120 volt directly to the element and in immediate proximity to the water.  There is no ground connection on the element to tie to.  So you can address this in a few ways.  The nut portion of the element is steel and attaches to the pump/filter housing you are installing the heater into.  If there is a way to connect the ground to this, that would work.   If this doesn't prove feasible, then go to the nearest piece of metal that has a bolt on it that you can put the ground wire under.  Pump bolt, mount foot what ever.  Just imagine if there is a short from either wire going to the element, the electricity needs to find a fast path to ground.  Otherwise it energizes the water near it, kills your fish and potentially you.  So use the ground wire to carry this to the safe ground of the plug.  Then ensure that the element is plugged into a ground fault protected plug.  

Little crimp on ends are tidy, but twist the strands of wires together tightly and secure them under the screw and you will be fine. 

SSR to heat sink.  What ever works.  You don't need to crush them together.  Just held firmly together.  your PC has a heat sink similar to this on the CPU to shed heat.  They are held on with springs and work reliably.

Vodka... Head straight north past Santa's house to Putin's

Well done Chris - I've nothing to add to Steve's suggestions - the PC CPU Heat Sink is a very good suggestion.

Send us photo's of your completed box.  Hope your fish are soon cured..


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