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Wind Turbine

Draft 1 – 14-Jul-12

Objective

To build a mid powered wind turbine to learn about producing enough power to get a small cabin off the power grid.

Razor VAWT

Razor VAWT

Picture from Windgenkits (dot) com

 

Intro

I’ve wanted a VAWT but could not see spending the about $1500 for a new one or 1000 to build up a mid powered 500-1000 watt unit from an assembly of kits. This building included building my own generator from exotic high priced magnets and rolling and casting my own stator windings.

Info from the internet and friends relates that rewiring a Fisher and Pakel (F&P) washing machine motor will produce a good generator for use in a wind turbine or water turbine. It also stated that there were good results obtained and there were several wiring options that would produce and output power band to match the speed of the turbine blades I selected. I.E. options to get better results.

With the encouragement of some friends, I decided to plunk down the doe and see what I could make happen.

 

Motor

F&P Motor

F&P Motor

Rotor outside Rotor magnet side

F&P Rotor Magnets

F&P Rotor Magnets

F&P Rotor Magnet 4 Poles

F&P Rotor Magnet 4 Poles

Notice that the 12 magnet strips glued to the rotor have four magnets in them. They are polarizes as North, South, North, and South. This results in 48 magnetic poles on the rotor, 12 x4=48.

 

I Goggled some info and watched several YouTube videos. There were a few sites with good info, see the resources section, but most related there experience with DIY building with little hard data as to the results. One site produced compelling generator results by using his lathe as to turn the generator. Nowhere did I find a step-by-step build with info about the power output, physical performance, and demonistratable results, like fit for purpose to power an off grid system.

The first major step was to get a motor, rewire it, and see if it would output useful power. So I was off to get a motor. Due to my lack of experience and knowledge, Fisher and Pakel washing machine motor from a front load LG washer was selected. A top load washer motor from machine with a dasher would likely be better due to its longer axle and top load bearings, since this is the way it will be used in the VAWT.

Rewiring as a generator

Stator Coils

Stator Coils

Stator as per factor, all coils in series, 3 phase output

Stator Rewired

Stator Rewired

Stator being rewired

The resources I found suggested wiring the stator in a 3 phase star circuit in groups of 6 coils. This was done by wiring the 1st and 4th coil in series ton phase 1, 2nd and 5th in series to phase 2, 3rd and 6th in series as phase 3. Since the stator had 36 coils, this series wiring was repeated 6 times, 6*6=36 coils, and tied in parallel to the 3 wires for the 3 phases that were brought out of the generator.

One side of each of the three sets of two coils was tied together, making the center of the start wiring. That connection was not brought out or even tied to the other group of 6 coils.

Coil winding theory

The theory was that 36 coils produced a max of 500 volts when cranked up to speed with factory wiring. Factory wiring had all coils in series, so each coil could produce a max of about 13.9 volts AC each. By putting 2 in series you could get about 1.7 time the individual voltage max or about 24 Volts AC. With them generator on a wind turbine the speed varies with the wind. The hope is that the output will be above charging voltage, say 13.8 volts enough of the time to fully charge the batteries.

Coil Wiring2of6

Coil Wiring2of6

Coil wire attachment

Coil wire attachment

How the coil wires are attached to the 3 output wires

 

Stator Mounting

Stator mounting

Stator mounting

Stator is mounted to mounting plate and plastic drum with 6 screws.

Note this is before it was rewired. It mounted to the mounting plate into the plastic outer drum. Outer drum is behind plate and cut down to workable circular size. Rotor, rotor center bolt, and motor hookup wiring are removed in this picture

Axle Bearings and Mounting

Outer Tub surgert

Outer Tub surgery

Outer Tub and motor mounting center cut out for easier use with the VAWT.

 

Top Bearing

Top Bearing

F&P Short Axle

F&P Short Axle

Axle side view

Axle side view

Short motor axle with tub mounting arms press fit on the end of the shaft. Axle show is from a front loading LG washing machine. Thanks to Michael at M&W Appliance in Richardson, Texas for the help in identifying and removing all the parts I needed from the washing machine. He offers fair prices and good customer service for appliance repair or purchase.

Arms – Spokes

I decided to use the mounting arms sold by Windgen and adapt them to the F&P washer motor 3 arm mounts.

Spokes:
http://www.windgenkits.com/vcom/product_info.php?cPath=26&products_id=65

Tri-Star Bearing Carrier:
http://www.windgenkits.com/vcom/product_info.php?cPath=26&products_id=56

F&P Motor with Arms

F&P Motor with Arms

F&P motor and axle

F&P motor and axle

Measuring for tub arm mounting holes

Measuring for tub arm mounting holes

Drilling tub arm mounting holes

Drilling tub arm mounting holes

Mounting Holes

Mounting Holes

Mount arms on tub arms

Mount arms on tub arms

 

Tower Mounting Plate and Flange

Tower mounting plate

Tower mounting plate

Tower mounting plate set on top of “bottom” of the F&P motor. No holes for the tower mounting plate marked or drilled yet. These will be 4 each ½” diameter holes.

I wanted to mount the VAWT on a tower rather than a building so I decided to use the 4 bolt pole mounting plate sold by Windgen. I like these guys designs and they are sheet metal workers so there prices and quality were good.

So that the F&P motor arms and blade assembly would mount centered and balanced on the pole,  I needed a mount coming out of the bottom of the F&P motor. That was tough because the rotor was on the bottom of the F&P motor, turning with the wind. Several of the mounts I found required extensive metal work and welding and some looked like a sideways “U” with custom bearing mounts.

My design was to mount a plate on the bottom of the F&P motor supported by stand offs welded to the bolts that held the R&P mounting plate to the original washer tub outer tub. This mount held the tub, outer tub, suspension, clothes, and water as well as all the force vectors from the motor, so I assumed my approach would work well. Time will tell!

My jig for welding the factor bolts to 5” 3/8” diameter all-thread as extensions to mount the F&P to the tower mounting plate

Bolt welding jig

Bolt welding jig

The bottom of the jig held the factory bolt for welding to the all-thread

Bolt welding jig bottom

Bolt welding jig bottom

I used the nut a the top to compress the joint between the all-thread and the factor bolt head

Bolt welding jig top

Bolt welding jig top

 

Welding all-thread to the factory bolt head but, getting them very straight was done with a rubber mallet!

Welding bolt rods

Welding bolt rods

Tower Flange:
http://www.windgenkits.com/vcom/product_info.php?products_id=81&cPath=24

tower flange

tower flange

Picture from Windgenkits (dot) com

Razor Blades

Turbine blade design to produce high rotational speed maximized generator output. For this reason, and due to the center mounted vs. dual bearing mounting blades, I choose the R2-40 Razor Blade wind turbine blade kit from Windgen.

 

Razor Blade Kit

Razor Blade Kit

Kit picture from Windgenkits (dot) com

Razor wings

Razor wings

Razor Blades hung for drying

Razor Blade pipe mount

Razor Blade pipe mount

Blade mounting bracket

Razor Blade mount

Razor Blade mount

Razor Blade mount drawing

Razor Blade mount drawing

http://www.windgenkits.com/vcom/product_info.php?cPath=34&products_id=86

http://www.windgenkits.com/vcom/index.php?cPath=34

http://www.windgenkits.com/vcom/product_info.php?cPath=34&products_id=86

 

Wind Turbine Blades – Lenz II

Here are the best blades for building a first VAWT. They require two bearing mounts which requires a long axle. I assume the axle from the top load with dasher Washing machine with a F&P motor would work well for this, as it has a longer axle and bearings designed for top loading.

Lenz II

Lenz II

Picture from Windgenkits (dot) com

Lenz II VAWT Example 1

Lenz II VAWT Example 1

Picture from The back shed (dot) com

Lenz II VAWT Example 2

Lenz II VAWT Example 2

Picture from The back shed (dot) com

Conclusion

When I hand turn the generator setting on a bench it produces 2 VAC at a very low speed, something like 60 RPM. From this I predict good result from the wind.

I have no generator real world output data yet. I’m waiting for money for a tower pole and concrete for a base. Also, it seems city restrictions are designed to not favor the DIY homeowner, but I bet I can at least erect and test for a good period of time before I am forced to comply to over stringent codes. After that I’ll move it to the land I’m planning to build on and  use it to produce off the grid power.

Again time will tell!

Terms

VAWT = Vertical Axis Wind Turbine

Stator = the part of a generator that composes the coils and does not rotate

Rotor = the part of a generator that composes the magnets and rotates around the stator.

Resources

Projects and Information:

What F&P is that?

How to pull apart a F&P washing machine

Rewiring the F&P stator

Decogging the F&P smartdrive

Fisher & Paykel Windmill

PVC extruded blades

Aluminium extruded blades

Mounting extruded blades

Looking for windmill parts?

Buliding a 300 200 watt dump load

http://www.uppsndowns.com.au/f&p.htm

 

Trellis Tips

Trellis for AP

My beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes refused to stop growing. When they produced many runners over 5 foot long, I decided I should have already had them “trained” on a safe grow path.

Trellis

The result is four trellises. Three are basic 8 foot tall ladder trellis

One trellis is a 6’ diameter ½ circle arch.

All are made from ½” EMT galvanized conduit and 18 gauge galvanized wire. I used PVC “Tees” to join the horizontal pipe to the vertical up rights. The joints are secured by drilling a hole and using #8 ½” self tapping, hex head screws.

Trellis with Cucumbers

Trellis with Cucumbers

Also, the screws are placed along the pipes on a 5″ grid pattern. This works to weave the wire around to make 5” grids.

Trellis Wire Guide Screws

Trellis Wire Guide Screws

Tee Joints

I found two types of PVC “Tees” that worked well to support the right angle joints made from ½” conduit.

One is black PVC “Tee” used to join black sprinkler or drip irrigation plastic pipe. The second is white PVC “Tee” that has three ½” threaded connections.

 

Tee Black PVC

Tee Black PVC

Both required I use my ½” hole saw to drill the holes out for a good friction fit for the metal conduit.

Trellis PVC Reamer

Trellis PVC Reamer

Mounting

To mount the conduit trellis to the grow bed IBC metal frames I used two 2” worm gear pipe clamps to attached the bottom horizontal bar to the top IBC grow bed horizontal bar. My design had the bottom pipe the same height as the top pipe on the IBC growbed frames, when the bottom end of the trellis conduit is on the ground.

Trellis Hose Clamp Mounting

Trellis Hose Clamp Mounting

The two bottom ends of the trellis set over two pieces of 1/4” rebar driven into the ground. This four point mounting is very sturdy.

Trellis Rebar

Trellis Rebar

Plant support

I just wove the long plant runners vertically, in and out of the 18 gauge wire grids on the trellis.

Summary

The trellis were fun to build, work well and should last for many years. Also, they are easy to move and reuse. I would advice smarter grouping of plants when planting in the grow beds. All of the tall winding plants should be on one side of the grow bed so you can use one trellis per grow bed for all the tall plants. Also, having the tall plants on the down side from the sun as it crosses the sky, would allow no shade to fall on the rest of the grow bed.

Dimensions

Height of Ladder Trellis 89”

Width 35”

Horizontal pipe heights 1st 29″ or 32″, 2nd 48”, 3rd 67.5”, 4th (top) 87’ center 89” top of top leg.

Trellis Raw Frame

Trellis Raw Frame

Parts List

5 each ½” EMT galvanized conduit.        $2.00 * 5 =             $10.00

6 each black or white PVC “Tees”.            $1.70 * 6 =             $10.20

1/2 box of 100 each #8 self taping hex head screws              $5.00

One drill bit                                                                                        $5.00

½ roll of 18 AWG galvanized wire              $10.00/2=            $5.00

2 each 1 foot ¼” rebar                                    $2.00*2=              $4.00

2 each 2” diameter hose clamps                  $3.00*2=              $6.00

Project total cost:                                                                         $45.20

Labor: about 3 hours

Tools: hacksaw, drill motor, hex head screwdriver, pliers, hammer

Best First Aquaponic System

CHOP Rock System

I hear this question being asked a lot, along with many different answers. Likely the best answer is to found by doing some research (Google), see several functional systems in your area (meetup.com, Yahoo Groups, etc.), gatherer data, then decide which Aquaponics system you like the best.

I’ll get you started with your research by giving you my opinion.

A: The best aquaponics system to start with is the fill and drain system built in an IBC container. Also called an ebb and flow, CHOP (constant height one pump), Chit-Pist

IBC

This is what you use for the fish tank, one grow bed, and the stand and supports for both.

An IBC is short for an Intermediate Bulk Container. It is an about 4 foot square plastic jug in a metal cage on a pallet and with a lid on the top and a drain on the bottom front side.

These are used to transport and store liquids used commercially, like soap for car washers, Karo syrup, barbeque sauce, hydraulic oil, weed killer, etc. Obviously, you want a food quality container, which means it has only been used for storing foods.

Materials

You can build your system with the following:

  1. One IBC
  2. tools to cut it into two pieces
  3. wood as a support for the grow bed that will go on top of the fish tank
  4. small water pump
  5. PVC pipe for water flow, drain or siphon
  6. over flow stand pipe
  7. 2 bulkhead fittings
  8. media
  9. Fish
  10. Plants
  11. Water
  12. Electricity
  13. A place to put your system

Media

The grow bed is where the plants grow. Most often this is gravel (rocks). Media sized three quarters of an inch to one half inch diameter smooth rocks work best, but no limestone or marble as they dissolve and affect the system pH.

Other media is commonly used as well; clay beads (Hydroton ), expanded shale, lava rock, and decorative stone like rainbow rock. The gravel is the cheapest but may require sorting  for size or sifting out the large dirt and debris, and washing out the dust and powered clay.

Why an IBC System

  1. Large enough water volume to make the biology easy to start up and  keep balanced
  2. Easy to build and use
  3. Reasonably easy to get the IBC
  4. Reasonably priced container
  5. Lasts a long time, durable
  6. Room for expansion, just add more grow beds and plumbing
  7. Often used so you will have access to feedback relevant to your system construction

Cost

This type system cost can vary widely and are available pre-built, as kits or as parts and pieces.

Expect to pay $150 for parts and $400 to $600 for assembled systems.

Example Systems

Commercially available home starter system example
http://theaquaponicsource.com/2012/01/17/ibc-tote-aquaponics-systems-by-jerry-jones/

 

Jerry Jones Builds

This system is a handmade system taught at the local Meetup.com meeting in the Dallas area by Dave Pennington. http://www.meetup.com/The-Dallas-Aquaponics-Meetup-Group/

 

Dave's Aquaponic Home System

My fill-and-drain system is shown below before any rocks (media). It was built following plans from Murray Hallam’s “DIY Aquaponics” DVD. It was later is painted with plastic primer and paint to avoid Algae, see first picture.

Bob's Basic CHOP System

Other type Systems

The fill and drain system is called a Constant Height One Pump (CHOP) system (also called Chift Pist). Another popular system is the deep water raft system. It is good for plants that are not tall or heavy and that do not grow large heavy crops like tomatoes, melons, etc.

Summary

I think the best aquaponics best system for use in Texas is the fill and drain system built in an IBC container. Be sure to do your research and leg work.

Resources:

IBC container sources, people who sell them.
Dave Pennington sells them aquaponicdave@gmail.com
Adam Cohen adam@greenphoenixfarms.com

Plans Murray Hallam’s DVD “DIY Aquaponics”

Example of a CHOP system operation http://www.aquaponics.net.au/chops.html  and http://practicalaquaponics.com/blog/?p=219

How Do I Get Started in Aquaponics?

You will get a variety of answers to this question. My advice is as follows:

Identify Your Why

What is your goal with your Aquaponics activity?

  • Just interested in learning?
  • Want to grow food in your backyard
  • Want to participate in Community supported agriculture (CSA) or other group grow goal?
  • Want to learn to make a small business income from growing ecologically sound organic produce.

Why AP Why Garden

Research

Do your homework, research on Google and YouTube, learn about Aquaponics in general. Get a good book and read it. AP 101  AP Links

Training

Attend local meetings and trainings, like those on meetup.com or other local groups

Find and attend classes, especially those that provide hands-on experiences.

Learn how to operate an AP system

Learn

Ask questions and keep good notes of the answers you get.
Local systems likely operate just a little differently than those in “far away lands”. Example: It gets much hotter, for longer, here than other places. How does this effect the system design and operation.
It is much less painful to discover a common mistake by listening to and learning from others, than to make it yourself.

Aquaponic System Flowcharts Nitrogen Cycle

See Systems

See several Aquaponic systems that are functional in your local area

Volunteer at a community gardens, system construction events, etc.

Summary Year One FAP Fish Tank IBC

Choose your system

Identify the system you would like to have to start

Find a local or web hero to follow and learn specifics from.

Build

Order the plans, read them all the way through twice, Gather materials and build the system you have researched and like.

Records

Make regular measurements when you start. Keep good records so you can learn from them.

Start Your System

  • Start up your system by running it through the Nitrogen Cycle
  • Measure and maintain your system’s pH and chemical balance
  • Start or add plants
  • Get fish
  • Make sure you know the logical sequential steps for success and follow them.

 

Resources:

Aquaponic Meetings & Groups

Dave Pennington

http://www.meetup.com/The-Dallas-Aquaponics-Meetup-Group
http://www.synergyfish.com/

Adam Cohen

http://www.meetup.com/dfwaquaponics/
http://greenphoenixfarms.com/

Example System types and designs

Travis W. Hughey, Barrel-Ponics

http://www.fastonline.org/content/view/15/29

500 gallon System pictures

http://www.meetup.com/The-Dallas-Aquaponics-Meetup-Group/events/25872481/
click photos tab

Aquaponics Book

Aquaponic Gardening, Sylvia Bernstein

Links

Aquaponic Kits at the Aquaponics Store

Steps for Planning your System

good summary and rules of thumb regarding your Aquaponics system,

Shade Frame

Shade Frame over Trough

Shade Frame over Trough

We set a record for 70 days of  over 100 degree days and 2nd place for the record with 40 days in a row. Due to the many days over 100 degrees, my plants started to “cook”. The water got hot and the plants wilted. The Mozambique Tilapia didn’t seem to mind much, although they ate less food.

To protect my plants I designed and built a shade frame.

My design goals:

  • provide shade in the summer
  • act as a green house with plastic covering in the winter
  • light enough to move on or off of the trough / plants easily
  • low cost and easy to build
  • built from readily available parts
  • sturdy and last a long time
  • sized to easily slide over one of my FAP grow beds

Construction

The frame is built of 11 pieces of 1/2″ galvanized conduit. The four main curved ribs were bent from 10′ pieces of conduit to be a 64″ arch with the ends 64″ apart.

Shade Frame

Shade Frame

The two bottom members were bent using one 10′ piece of conduit for each. The ends were bent up 90 degrees, starting 6 inches from the ends. The height of  ends after bending are 11 & 1/2″ from the ground and the length of the bottom member is 101″. This will be the overall length of the shade frame.

Shade Frame Joint

Shade Frame Joint

The height of the shade frame after the end ribs are connected to the 11 & 1/2″ bends on the bottom conduit, is 57″. Note the conduit connector in the picture above. This joins the end ribs with the bottom conduit member.

The height was not critical to me and was determined by the length of the 10′ rib and base conduit after bending them. Basically, I was lazy and avoided having to make any cuts on 6 of the 10′ conduits; the 4 ribs and 2 bases. These dimensions also allow room for the plants to grow and room for me to check on them through the sides and ends.

Shade Frame Side Support

Shade Frame Side Support

The two side supports were bent from 10′ conduit, no cutting required. The bends were started 42″ from each end and bent to 45 degrees. I determined the position of the side supports by resting the ends on the curves of the base conduit and adjusting until it was level.

Shade Frame Butt Joint

Shade Frame Butt Joint

I hammered a conduit connector flat using the sidewalk as an anvil and bent it around the base conduit. Then attached it to the side support conduit by pre-drilling holes and using self tapping screws.

They side supports were attached to the two inside ribs using conduit clamps and self tapping screws inserted into pre-drilled holes.

Shade Frame Double Clamp

Shade Frame Double Clamp

When I fastened the  101″ long horizontal ribs I positioned them so I could use the top screw of the conduit clamp that held the side supports. See picture above.

The ends of the horizontal ribs were attached to the curved ribs with conduit clamps and screws.

Shade Frame Clamp

Shade Frame Clamp

The two center curved ribs were extended by adding a piece of 11″ conduit on each end and connecting them together with conduit connectors.

Shade Frame Joint

Conduit Connectors

The two center curved ribs with their 11″ extensions were connected to the bottom conduit with a custom plastic “T” fitting using 3 self tapping screws. The ribs are equally spaced about 32 inches apart along the bottom conduit.

Shade Frame Tee

Shade Frame Tee

The custom plastic “T” was made from a sprinkler fitting from Home Depot. I drilled out the 3 ends to fit 1/2″ conduit with a step drill bit and cut off the bottom 1/3 of the connector, along the long side. This makes a fitting that will snap over the bottom conduit but will not protrude under the bottom of the bottom conduit. I mounted the fitting in my vice and used it as a cut off guide to follow with my reciprocating saw.

Shade Frame Grommet

Shade Frame Grommet

I cut a piece of shade cloth wide enough to allow for a fold / seam on each edge and still fit to my horizontal ribs on the side and the ribs on each end, when it was stretched. Brass grommets were installed, although the plastic grommets from the shade cloth manufacture would likely have been easier to use. They suggest you can install them, and then cut a hole through the shade cloth. I did it in reverse order for the brass grommets. Pieces of plastic plumber strapping was used to make the brass grommets fit tightly to the shade cloth.

Shade Frame with Cloth

Shade Frame with Cloth

 

Bucket Filter

Bucket Filter

Bucket Filter

Purpose

The purpose of the bucket filter is to filter physical particles out of the water as it exits the fish tank. I am using this in my Friendly Aquaponics Micro System 64, IBC fish tank.

The filter that I have presently is too small an area and too fine so it becomes clogged quickly, like every 2 days. The intent is to build a filter that filters the water well, but does not need to be cleaned as often. The hope is filter cleaning will be extended to about 10 days. Mechanical filters must be cleaned often. Biological filters digest the fish and fish food waste that come into them and need very little cleaning or maintenance.

Note: Click on any picture to see it larger. Hit your browser’s back button to return.

Filter Bucket

Filter Bucket

Overview

I was instructed to use screen wire over a PVC pipe as a filter on the fish tank and trap the particles in the fish tank water as it exits the fish tank. They said that I don’t need a mechanical filter, and the air bubbler and activity from the fish would help dissolve the fish poo solids. That didn’t happen. I was careful to feed the fish no more food than they would eat in 0:30 minutes. I used floating food so that I could confirm that all was eaten.

Perhaps the 69 days this summer of over 100 degree temperatures (new record), affected the physical particle accumulations in the fish tank.

Recommendations from other APers locally confirmed I’d need a physical filter. I understood I could build a filter to physically filter the water and it also be a biological filter, but I am staying with the grow bed troughs to do the biological filtering function. Because the fish tank solids were so prevalent, I made a mechanical filter that is easy to construct and service, and inexpensive to build.

The filter connects to the 2” PVC drain outlet on the inside of my 250 gallon IBC fish tank. This fitting is a bulkhead connector through the side of the tank with a PVC slip / glue fitting. This allows easy connecting or removing the fish tank filter for cleaning. The bucket filter mounts horizontally in the fish tank. The filter outlet slips into the 2” PVC bulkhead fitting on the fish tank and the bucket handle is tied to the cross bar in the fish tank for support.

The filter is light weight and allows about 5 times the area for filtration as the original filter I had constructed. Plus the graduation of filter element sizes captures a lot more stuff from the water. I’m using what the filter captures as fertilizer on my potted plants.

Features

  • Gravity feed mechanical filter
  • Constructed of 6, five gallon buckets, screen wire, and filter material
  • All inert material, plastic, poly, etc.
  • Easy installation and removal
  • Easy cleaning, lid snaps off, pieces nest, just wash with a hose
  • Could be used with 3 types of Matala filter material for a little bio filtering
  • Replace lid and install PVC bulkhead pipe fitting, to use filter as a pressured / inline filter.

Construction

The filter is constructed by nesting five each, five gallon bucket bottoms into one five gallon bucket (the sixth bucket). It is sealed with a snap on lid.

Filter Diagram

Filter Diagram

The picture above shows how the buckets “nest” to form a tight seal between them with a space between their bottoms. I use this method to make chambers that filter the water as it passes through each stage of the filter. Each bucket chamber presents a finer mesh filter medium

Filter Stages:

Bucket Filter Parts

Bucket Filter Parts

  • I start with a large baffle to trap large solids
  • Next a 1/4” mesh plastic screen
  • Then an 1/8” mesh plastic screen
  • Then a 1/16” mesh plastic screen
  • Then 3 layers of synthetic filter HVAC material, ½” thick, cut to fit the round bucket bottom.

(Note: Bucket bottom 5 and 6 in picture were modified, see pictures below)

Number 1 is the main bucket and the housing for all the other parts. Number 7 is the lid that fits on bucket 1.

Filter case

Filter case

Notice the index mark on the buckets. This helps align the holes in the bottom of the bucket to maximize flow. Also, it helps align the finger holes that are in the top side edge of the buckets, at 90 degrees to the left and right of the index mark.

Filter number 2

Filter number 2

Filter bucket number 2 supports the filter material and holds it away from the drain bulkhead.

Filter pads

Filter pads

The filter material is inserted into the bottom of bucket number 2.

Bucket number 3 goes in over the filter material and holds (sandwiches) the filter material tightly in the bucket filter to support them.

Filter number 3

Filter number 3

Bucket number 4 has a plastic 1/16” mesh plastic screen hot glued to the bottom of the bucket. I chose to wrap the screen around a piece of orange plastic, cut from a bucket lid. It was cut and drilled to match the bucket bottom. This let me hold the fine mesh tighter when hot glued. This piece was then hot glued into the bottom of bucket number 4.

Filter number 4

Filter number 4

Bucket number 5 has a plastic 1/8” mesh plastic screen hot glued to the bottom of the bucket. Notice in the picture that I had to use two pieces, thus the darker line seen as a slight arc in the picture. The only 1/8″ plastic screen I could easily find was sold as gutter, soffet, roof vent varmint prevention, and was about 9 inches wide.

Filter Number 5

Filter Number 5

Bucket number 6 has a plastic 1/4” mesh plastic screen hot glued to the bottom of the bucket.

Filter Number 6

Filter Number 6

Number 7 is the lid that fits onto the main bucket, number 1.

Filter number 7

Filter number 7

The bottom view of the bucket filter.

Filter Outlet

Filter Outlet

The bulk head connector used in the filter in the bottom of bucket number 1.

Filter bulkhead

Filter bulkhead

This could have been a uni-seal to save costs, but then you would of had to glue rings of PVC on outside of it, to prevent it from pushing further into the filter. A Uni-seal lets you shove pipe into it, and holds from it coming back out.

Instructions for constructing the filter

Filter number 2

Bucket Number 2

  1. Gather the parts
  2. Orient all the buckets the same way, and put an index mark at the bottom edge of all the buckets in the same place. Ex: at the bottom center of the logo on the front of the buckets. This will be used to orient all the pieces of the filter as you build and later reassemble it.
  3. Label one bucket number 1
  4. Label another bucket number 2 and cut it off just below the lowest “collar” on the bucket. This should allow it to fit into the outer, main bucket and still allow enough room for the lid to fit properly onto the main bucket, i.e. bucket number 1
  5. On the bottom of bucket number 2;
    1. Mark 5 equally spaced marks around the edge of the bucket.
    2. Make the center line of the first hole line up with the index mark on the bucket.
    3. Draw lines from these marks to the center of the bottom of the bucket.
    4. Mark a circle an inch just inside the bottom of the bucket.
    5. Now locate and mark where to drill the center of the 5 three inch holes in the bottom of the bucket.
    6. Use the outside circle to position the outside of the hole saw.
    7. Locate and drill two one inch finger holes. One should be about 1 inch from the top of the bucket (end you just cut off) on the left and another directly across from it on the right side. It is best if you align these finger holes at 90 degrees from the index mark. You can see in the picture that I did not do this very accurately, oops. At least my top, first hole is aligned with the index mark.
  6. Bucket height:
    1. Align the index mark on 4 buckets and nest them into bucket number 2. Press them down firmly but take care not to jam them together. You just want them to fit tight. These will  be buckets number 3 through number 6.
    2. Cut off buckets number 3 through number 6 to the same height at the bucket number 2, Bucket number 2 is the bucket that you have the other 4 buckets inserted into.
    3. Drill a 1” finger hole through thru all four of the buckets on both sides; i.e. bucket number 3 through bucket number 6. Use the holes you previously drilled in bucket number 2 as a guide where to drill. Remember, you are doing this while the buckets 2-6 are nested and all their index marks are aligned.
    4. When completed, the index, holes and finger holes should all align, and the top edge of all the buckets are flush.
  7. Drill the holes in the bottom of bucket number 3-6:
    1. Use bucket number two to, mark where to drill the 5 holes in the bottom of bucket number 3, 4, 5, and 6.
    2. Place bucket number 2 over bucket number 3.
    3.  Take care to align the index marks. When the buckets are nested inside each other and the index marks aligned, the 5 holes should be aligned as well.
    4. Mark the position for the holes on the bottom of bucket number 3 by using a sharpie and tracing the holes you previously drilled in bucket number 2.
    5. Now, using bucket number 2 for a template, repeat the above process for locating and drilling the five holes for buckets number 4, 5, and 6.
    6.  Take care to align the index marks.
    7. When the buckets are nested inside each other and the index marks aligned, the 5 holes should be aligned as well.
  8. Screen: Cut out a circle to fit the bottom of a bucket from the 1/16″,  ¼” and 1/8” plastic screen.
    1. Hot glue a piece of 1/16” mesh plastic screen into the bottom of bucket number 4. I used the cut out from the center of an orange lid with 5 each 2” holes to wrap and glue the screen around. Then I hot glued it and the screen into the bottom of the bucket to make the screen mechanically stronger.
    2. Hot glue a piece of 1/8” mesh plastic screen into the bottom of bucket number 5.
    3. Hot glue a piece of 1/4” mesh plastic screen into the bottom of bucket number 6 .
  9. Bulkhead:
    1. Drill one hole in the bottom of the main bucket, bucket number 1, that aligns with the hole by the index mark of the other buckets. Use a hole saw that will hold your bulk head connector firmly.
    2. Install the bulkhead connector.
    3. Cut a short piece of 2” PVC pipe and insert into the bulkhead connector, to allow the filter to slip fit into the bulkhead connector on your fish tank. You can use other size bulkheads and PVC as works best for your application.
  10. Assemble the buckets and lid.
  11. The bucket filter is ready to be mounted in your fish tank drain.

Installing

To install the filter in your fish tank.

Immerse the filter so it will fill up with water.

Immerse FIlter

Immerse Filter

Mount the drain of your filter into the drain of your fish tank.

It is assumed that your filter bulk head connector will connect to the drain in your fish tank. I use a 2″ bulk head in my filter and in my fish tank. Both are slip PVC connections and connect using a short piece of 2″ PVC pipe.

bucket filter outlet

bucket filter outlet

Support the intake end of the filter by tying the filter bucket handle to one of the cross bars in the IBC fish tank.

You can use rope or a tie wrap. I chose to build a quick connect for the filter handle using three pieces of 3/4″  PVC pipe and some long #10 bolts, nuts, and aircraft (locking) nuts. I just slide it onto the bucket handle and over the cross bars in the IBC fish tank.

Bucket Filter Mounting

Bucket Filter Mounting

Bucket Filter installed

Bucket Filter installed

Cleaning

The filter is easy to clean.

  1. Remove filter from fish tank, and insert a temporary filter in its place.
  2. Drain the water from the bulkhead connector by holding the filter by the bucket handle over the fish tank.
  3. Put the filter on the grass and remove the lid.
  4. Remove the nested pieces and filter material and wash them.
  5. Reassemble the filter in the opposite order that you disassemble it.
  6. Replace the lid
  7. Re install the filter into the fish tank.

Parts List

6 Home Depot 5 gallon buckets                                                             $21.00

Two bucket lids, one easy on off (black), one (orange)                $5.00

Synthetic HVAC filter material, cut to fit                                         $6.00

¼” grid spacing, plastic screen wire, 12” x 12” minimum          $1.00

1/8” grid spacing, plastic screen wire,  12” x 12” minimum      $1.00

1/16” grid spacing, plastic screen wire,  12” x 12” minimum    $1.00

Hot glue                                                                                                           $1.00

One 2” bulk head PVC fitting, screws onto bucket                         $12.00

Estimated cost of materials (wo tool cost)                                        $51.00

Tools

One 3” hole saw

One 1” hole saw

Hot glue gun

Hand drill motor

Reciprocating saw and 6” long minimum, fine tooth blade

Sharpie marking pen, black

Power sander and fine grit sandpaper

Sand paper, for hand sanding

File

Reference

Friendly Aquaponics, Filters for Pumps, Newsletter #80

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Feel free to share my idea, pictures, etc. I would appreciate you giving me credit and a link to this article if you use it. Bob Jordan