Seeking advice from our aquaponic community regarding power usage and pump usage
Hi everyone, We live in NW Oregon and the weather is mild this winter, so we are going forward with greenhouse projects, to jump start our growing season. Currently we have been using goldfish, in a chop system, letting the system idle down in late November, keeping the water flowing, and then jump starting the system in late February or March depending freezing temps with a scratch built heater.
Last year I focused on growing tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, salad greens, some herbs, strawberries, asparagus, and celery. We had a pretty successful garden. My wife let me replace the greenhouse with a nicer wood and plastic panel structure. So This fall when we idled down, we moved a few rabbits into some of the growing space; and a small space heater.
Our system is designed around the pump I selected for the job. Like a lot of people on here we wanted the moon at first on a shoestring budget, so I opted for using a harbor freight pump. And it has worked great for its purpose. But after a brief description of our system I am looking for a few thoughtful ideas on my setup as we expand to raising fish and the associated needs.
Our system is 1 Ibc tote with top as main grow bed. Ibc tote has an insulated cover, I use gravity fed 1.5” pvc to fill three grow beds with manual valves, and each has a bell siphon feeding into a single 4” pvc sewer pipe. All collecting in a 55 gallon trash can; in the bottom sits a Hydro star 1600gph pump with a float switch and return 1.5” pvc return line.
When the pump is activated it does three things. I have two splitters on main outflow of pump. Siphoning off some of the water pressure to feed vertical grow towers and pushing some water through 100 feet of 1/2 “ black poly tubing for solar heat in addition to returning water to ibc tote. The main return pipe from pump has enough pressure to slowly rotate the entire amount of water in the fish tank, which helps with solids collecting in the middle of tank, where I’ve put the intake for the grow bed plumbing. I also drilled a few holes near the top of the pipe before it goes down to the bottom and it pulls in air which blows out in bubbles to oxygenate the tank and prevents back siphon issues when pump shuts off.
The other end of the poly Solar heater also feeds back into fish tank after it is heated in the tubing. And excess water from towers drains back to sump. The solar heater works pretty good when its not frozen outside. I have a kitchen temp probe jammed into the out flow and it shows real water temp.
For heat I built one of Rob’s designs and used a timer, last winter I had a lot of power outages, and water losses. And gave up on it. So this year I went with a stock tank heater, on the same timer and will be plugging that in real soon.
We use 95% rain water to fill our system, and use hydroton for our grow media we Also have T5 grow lights as needed to extend growing. For power we have been sharing a few plugs from an outside workshop that has a single 20amp circuit breaker with a gfci.
So here is what I am seeking advisement on
I am unable to run a dedicated power supply back to the greenhouse area for another year.
So with the current setup I have in place sometimes we pop the circuit breaker at the gfci when both the pump and the heater are on at the same time. The end result is if not caught within a few hours, the water is drawn down to about 2/3 full in the ibc tote before the airbrake stops the gravity flow out. And I lose the warm water to feed a nearby hedge. Plus have to add more water. And reheat it.
First attempt at solution resulted in moving the outflow plumbing higher up the ibc tote side to allow less water to escape when power fails. Which also effects the outflow volume that feeds off of gravity.
so I may still rework the plumbing in this area, (future upgrade)
second attempt has been to shut off the pump at night, and just heat the tank, till around 11am, So far this has been working. 1 timer for power to pump and one timer for power to heater; Pump during the day, heat at night. But water temp fluctuates a lot, so still not getting a steady temp in fish tank.
If I were to replace the pump out with say a pond pump that moves 400gph would it require less power to run, so as not to overload when the heater/ timer comes on.
And would I need a larger sump volume to accommodate a pump that was constantly on?
And would it also handle all three tasks of the larger pump or would I need more than one pump to cover my three areas.
If you made it all the way to the end of this ramble, I would value any input Look forward to a few ideas from people in similar setups. This is still in a hobby phase for us. So keep that in mind.
I am ready to get the fish fingerlings on order and am just looking for a way to keep power usage manageable, and safe. And not kill off the fish. I am sure I will find many other ways to kill them as we go along.