Week 6: Wiring your reef tank, everything you forgot to think about | 52 Weeks of Reefing
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Today on the BRS 160 we are going get electrical Hey guys my name is Ryan, welcome to another
week of the BRS 160 where every week we do our best to help you guys, members of the
reefing community enjoy your tanks and find new ways to explore the hobby. We do that
by following the set up and progression of this one hundred and sixty gallon reef tank. This week we are going dive into the electrical
needs for the tank. We are dealing with saltwater and electricity which can be both a health
and fire hazard. It’s not that difficult to make it safe as long as you plan for this
when you set the tank up. Most important components to consider are your homes electrical infrastructure,
water safety and proper cord management. We’ll of coarse finish with the installation of
our solution for the BRS160. First step of this is making sure you have
enough power for your tank. Just to you give you the typical consumption of a four foot
reef tank. You probably have a three hundred watt heater, LED lighting is around three
hundred watts. Fifty to a hundred watts of powerheads, a hundred watt return pump. Fifty
watt skimmer, and maybe another fifty for other filtration equipment. So that’s a base line of about a thousand
watts for a typical aquarium. Add a chiller, UV light, T5 or halide lighting, calcium reactor,
ozone reactor, Zeovit reactor, refugium and other various pieces of gear and you can quickly
start using a considerable amount of power. Most homes will have fifteen amp circuits
but if you are lucky the circuit might be 20 amps. On a 15 amp circuit you can run up
to around 1,800 watts and a 20 amp circuit will be around 2400 watts. Best way to identify
this is locate the circuit breaker and it will say on the end of the switch. If you know you have a limited amount of power
available at the location you want to place the tank and adding another circuit isn’t
an option you can reduce this electrical load significantly by selecting energy efficient
equipment like LED lighting and only installing the things you absolutely need on the tank. Now that you know what you are working with
and what the limit is we need to figure out two things; what else is on that circuit and
how much power will your tank consume. If you can, get as many other things off the
outlets on the circuit you plan on using as possible and make sure nothing that consumes
a ton of power is on that circuit. For example it is a bad idea to use the same circuit that
has a twelve hundred watt microwave, thousand watt entertainment system or space heater
on it because there will be very little power left for the aquarium before the breakers
trigger. Keep in mind that we don’t want the breakers
to trigger ever because the tank needs power to maintain the life support system. The breakers
triggering are also a warning sign that you are overloading the circuit which is fire
hazard and shouldn’t be ignored. If you are uncertain about any of this and want some
advice or want to get a second circuit installed google, craigslist or Angie’s List an electrician
and get it done right. Once you have figured out your electrical
load and how you are going to handle it try to avoid plugging more occasional high consumption
items into that circuit in the future and make sure you let your family know that it
is a bad idea to plug in vacuums, clothes irons, hair driers and similar items into
these outlets. Since we are dealing with water it is also
highly recommend using either GFI outlets or circuit breakers which help protect your
tank and home from shorts, especially those related to water. If you can’t do that you
can also use power bars which have GFI’s built in. Some reefers might suggest against using GFI’s
because they can be can be accidentally triggered but I think protecting your home kind of trumps
all and there isn’t a lot of debate to be had. If you can’t use a GFI or don’t want
to you do have other alternatives, mainly being just put more effort into other safety
elements. Biggest issue to consider is water always
runs downhill and power cords are like water freeways that lead strait into a high power
electrical box. More or less we need to address this and completely eliminate these cord freeways.
Which means something like a power bar laying down on the bottom of the stand where water
can flow right into them is not ok, not even for a single day. In an ideal world that means we would install
all of our power bars and outlets above the tank. Water doesn’t travel up so this is the
safest option but most of us can’t do that so we do the next best thing which is install
drop loops. You will find a diagram of a drip loop with
basically anything electrical sold with the aquarium. It’s more or less a bend in the
cord so if something leaked and started to travel down the cord it would fall of the
bend in the loop rather than flow right into an electrical socket. We also need to put
something in place to secure the loop in place like a hook, clamp or zip ties. Your power bars should be mounted as high
as possible and away from things that can spray if they malfunction or get ignored like
a like full protein skimmer. While they are typically not considered water
tight I also like to plug unused outlets with caps like these which will reduce the chances
of random spray causing an issue. It’s also wise to not put the tank directly
in front of the outlet if possible and out it beside the outlet instead. This makes it
a lot easier to keep water from running in the outlet if something were to happen to
your drip loops. The next piece of this is neatness and organization
counts. If it looks neat and organized with everything securely mounted the chances of
it being safe go way up over the painfully common cord octopus which is typically not
safe. I think one of the best ways to achieve that
is to mount everything to a separate board where you can neatly and securely route all
of your cords behind the board. Then mount the board inside your stand or on the wall.
One of the most common boards for this is just a white Rubbermaid shelf which can be
found at any large hardware store for a few bucks. On the back of the board you can use a variety
of different things to secure the cords. For equipment and cords I am fairly certain are
not going to change a lot and I won’t have to remove for maintenance zip ties and these
adhesive pads work well. For items like skimmers, pumps and heaters
which do need to be removed periodically for cleaning I suggest using Velcro straps or
something similar which are easy to open, close and reuse. I also like these plastic
adhesive clamps which allow you to easily open and close them. Make sure to drill the holes big enough that
you can get all the cord heads through. On the front of the board you can install these
plastic caps which close the hole up and make it a bit cleaner. These can also be found
at most larger hardware stores. One note specifically related to routing your
PH, Salinity and ORP probes. These probes can have noise interference issues if you
route them with all of your power cords and near noisy ballets. Probes also need to be
replaced so if you can try to rout them away from all of the other cords and make them
easy to remove without cutting a bunch of zip ties apart. If that isn’t possible try and use a higher
quality probe which are commonly referred to as lab grade probes. Most of these should
have much better shielding on the cord to eliminate or reduce that noise and give more
accurate readings. If you are interested in how it achieves that or what makes a lab grade
probe different check out the video on our site, it is interesting how some things that
look so similar can perform very differently. Ok so on to our install. This is going to
be pretty simple because we don’t have many things hooked up to the tank yet but I am
going to get the infrastructure in place for success later. First I had an electrician
install a 20 amp circuit just for this tank. Over the course of this series we are going
to plug a ton of equipment into the tank and I just don’t want issues. If I knew we were
going to use halide lighting and a chillier who both consume a lot of power I might have
had them install two circuits. The circuit is GFI’d here at the breaker
box which will protect me and the building if anything were to go wrong. The outlets themselves I had installed higher
than the tank itself and on an opposing wall away from the sump. The chance of water getting
into these outlets is pretty slim. We also mounted our boards. The first one
here has our power bars with holes drilled for the cords to go through. As long as we
always bring the cord up through the hole and plug the cord into a socket above the
hole that will serve as our permanent drip loops that won’t get disturbed. The other boards will be used to mount our
other equipment like the Vectra’s controller. Ultimately we are going to use all this to
mount the aquarium controller and the accessories as well. If you really hate cords there are also cord
management tracks you can buy which hide everything. I think you can probably start to see what
I mean when I say clean and organized typically also means safe. This room has a fire alarm and sprinklers
in it but if yours doesn’t install a detector. If you have a cord octopus disaster and despite
everything you saw here today don’t plan on fixing it do yourself a favor and pick up
a small fire extinguisher as well. Couple last tips related to electrical safety,
make sure your power bars can handle the load and don’t look for the cheapest thing out
there. Your whole tank is depending on this thing to work so buy something quality from
a brand you recognize
and trust. In relation to that there is a lot of super
cheap aquarium equipment being imported these days. The cost of these things can make them
super enticing but there is a reason they are so cheap. Ultra-low cost imports are almost
never associated with high quality but more importantly safety. You are going to have
to weigh the value verses quality and safety on your own. Since it is impossible for the average reefer
to know what’s safe and what isn’t the best way for is just look around and see who
sells these products in the US. Do the vendors who know the industry and you trust show you
they trust these manufactures by selling their products? If not you might want to do some
additional research. If the only outlet is eBay, a foreign website or relatively unknown
website this almost always means it is unsafe trash and reputable vendors either don’t want
to put their customers in danger or deal with the lawsuits. Last tip I have is if you are a beginner and
find all this intimidating give some thought to those all in one tanks like the Nuvo from
Innovative Marine. They do consume less power than the average tank and the nature of not
having a sump with water in the cabinet below makes it a lot easier install a safe electrical
solution. Next week we are going get water into the
tank, you seriously don’t want to miss it so hit that subscribe button. If you are interested
in learning more about any of the products we talked about in today’s video hit this
link. See you next week with episode seven of the BRS 160: Water!

47 thoughts on “Week 6: Wiring your reef tank, everything you forgot to think about | 52 Weeks of Reefing

  1. This series has been great!  I hope you do a whole series on quarantine for both fish and corals.  Perfect addition to your new #BRS160 show.

  2. You guys arnt afraid to shell out a few extra bucks for some high quality gear, awesome tank ! To bad its one video a week 🙂

  3. Great video as always Ryan and BRStv. I think I am part of your target audience you mentioned in this video at 9:00 haha :p. I think your Nuvo 20 starter kit will likely be my first reef tank. Have a great weekend!

  4. I like to use DJ switch products that have an illuminated switch for each item plugged in. Label then and you can shut off one thing at a time without pulling plugs.   They run about $40 at the Guitar Center for a series of 8 outlets.

  5. You can only run 80% of power on a breaker. So a 20amp breaker runs 1920watts and a 15 allows 1080 watts. Otherwise it's designed to trip over that current. Watts = 120v x current.

  6. About circuit breakers. You really don't want any breaker to be tripping often. Circuit breakers are mechanical devices and the more often they trip, the faster they wear out. You'll find in older apartment buildings were the breakers have been tripped so many times over the years, that it actually takes less overload to get it to trip. Most circuit breakers should be replaced after 10 years. Some may suggest replacing them more often. Ultimately, you can do what ever you want….at your own risk.

  7. Such a cool series! It's no wonder you appear so excited when you get to build a perfect high end setup from the ground up!

  8. What are you guys using to mount the quiet drive controller @7:39.
    And what is on the cord near the controller? Some sort of connection point?

  9. Hey great video on power management. I have one question concerning your choice of power bars. What's the name of the power bar and where can I get one? It looks as if the power bar is labeled P3 and I tried finding it online with no luck.

  10. Awesome series i haven't started my first reef tank yet but i'm getting more confident with every video you guys put out!!

  11. Loving these videos! Quick question I believe you said that you had a 20 amp circuit ran. If so why did the electrician only use 15 amp outlets?

  12. For 30 bucks at Home Depot I bought a Husky brand PVC handheld pipe cutter. It makes clean fast straight cuts and makes life much easier.

    With the cutter it's easy to rough cut all the pipes a hair longer then you think they should be, then easily trim them during the test fit process.

  13. I live in Belgium… We have 20 amp fuses, but 220v… so we can go up to 4400 watts, our main fuse is about 40 amps for the whole house, so here you can put on about 8800 watts at all time.

  14. I have a home computer running the same circuit and that's pretty much it. I'm planning a setup via 3ft tank , protein skimmer,chillers,leds,pumps and the typical stuff you need. Would it pose a problem? P.S: I think the circuit is running at 16A.

  15. What is the tool used to drill the shelf? Is it just a wood hole saw attached to a normal drill? What size holes did you make? 2"?

  16. I Need help, im trying to hook up my kessil 160we up to My reefKeeper lite Via the ALC module. I have the kessil controller cable but It doesn't show up under the systems on Myreef 2.0…I'm stuck and am wondering if i waisted my money and shoulda just got the Spectral Controller from kessil. Any help would be great.

  17. On my tank adjacent plugs I use GFCI and outdoor rain covers to ensure that the outlets and plugs are protected and i'm protected from the tank. They also have titanium ground plugs that plug into the GFCI outlet and sit in the sump or tank so any stray voltage gets grounded and the GFCI will subsequently trip keeping the humans safe.
    I also have a 3500 watt generator from my RV that stays in the garage for power failures wired to a transfer switch. In the event of a power failure start the generator and flip the switches and the house and tank are back online. I can run the whole house except for the AC.

  18. Ryan, you're power board is awesome and clean, but how do you get all the devices power cords to that board from the tank and sump?

  19. Great video, only issue is because this is a continuous use system (on for over 3 hours at a time) a 15amp should only have 1440 watts and a 20 amp 1920 watts st a time according to NEC code.

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