Introduction: Super Simple Pool Automation (No Coding)
I love how easy Alexa has made life and I wanted to expand that to my pool. But the cost was outrageous.Some quotes were upwards of $5000. I've priced my entire project to be around $500 that a 10x savings!
I'll be documenting as I go and doing it with simple steps along the way.
Make sure you take proper precautions because some of these voltages are quite high.
- Install panel
- wire up waterfall and lights
- Extend control to Main pool pump and Pool cleaner
- 3 Automated Valves and Heater
- Waterproof enclosure
- 4 Channel 120v Outdoor WiFi plug
- 50' black 12AWG wire
- 50' white 12AWG wire
- 10' green 10AWG wire
- 3/4" flex-conduit with adapters
- 40Amp contactor (relay) with a 120v AC coil
- 2 more 40Amp contactor (relay) with a 120v AC coil
Phase 3 - 3 valve acutators and 4 24VAC power supplies
Step 1: Get an Enclosure
Make sure the enclosure you select is waterproof. Even though the controller I selected was made for outdoor use, I still wanted it to be protected. And also, some of the other parts won't be as weather resistant. Make sure to order not just the enclosure, but also a metal backplane to go with it. The backplane will be grounded for safety and any equipment you mount to it gains some of that protection. Be sure to plan ahead how you are going to run wires within the enclosure so that you have a nice tidy box instead of a rats nest.
In this picture I'm just showing the purchased parts. I didn't attach them that way. I used some velcro and slapped the Wifi plugs to the side of the box on the inside. That save a lot of space. I put the relay at the top left corner trying to save space for the additional components that will be coming in later phases.
Step 2: Test the Relay
This Relay is a direct contact relay with an open-style so you can actually see the inner workings. A magnet pulls in the contact to allow the current to pass. It basically acts as controllable switch. I'm using the Wifi plug to control the relay and my waterfall pump circuit will be completed with the main contacts. I selected to use a Single Pole relay because I'm only controlling the 'Hot' side of the circuit. By only worrying about one side of the circuit, I can reduce the number of wires that I'm running into the enclosure. If you want to purchase a double pole relay you'll have to run both sides of the circuit into the enclosure making that 4 wires instead of 2. The advantage being that its just a bit safer.
If you look closely, this particular relay is also a double throw relay meaning a circuit can be completed when the coil is energized and a different circuit can be completed when its not energized. I don't need a circuit to be completed when the relay is not energized so I left that contact un-wired.
For this step, I cut an extension cord in half and wired it up to the relay coil and plugged it into the first channel of my Wifi plug. I went through the wifi setup procedure and was able to energize the coil and hear the relay snap onto place correctly. I didn't have anything else hooked up at this point. Just checking that my wifi plug could operate the relay.
Step 3: Preparing the Wiring
Time to think about your project and what the actual wiring is going to need. For me, I needed to hook up:
3 pool pumps, pool lights, 120v for the wifi plug and a ground wire. Each pool pump will get a relay. Because I'm using single pole relays that means I need 2 wires for each relay. I also need 2 wires for the pool lights and 3 wires to get power to the wifi plug. That's a total of 11 wires. I checked the gauge of the existing wiring and found that everything in my existing electrical box was 12AWG. Its a really good idea to maintain the same gauge wire as what you are hooking into.
At your local hardware store you should be able to find some flex conduit, often with the connectors in a package. I found a 3/4" diameter 6-foot length with connectors for $10. I took my wire and cut it into 10-foot lengths. Before you run them in the conduit, its a good idea to pair the wires up. I used some different colored small zip ties and connected the ends together in pairs. That way I know which wire is which after they are run through the conduit. So when I'm done running wires through the conduit there's a blue zip tie on either end of the conduit around a pair of wires that I'm using for the waterfall relay. I chose yellow for the lights, grey for the main pool pump, etc. Hopefully you get the idea. Mark your wires before you run them through conduit.
Step 4: Drill a Hole
Easy step, drill a hole in the bottom of your enclosure. I like to use a step-styled drill bit so I can easily control how big my hole is getting. The idea is to make it just big enough for the connector to fit in the enclosure. Don't go too big with your hole or you may end up buy a new box.
I also had to enlarge the hole on the existing electrical box using the same drill bit.
Step 5: Mount the Enclosure
OK the picture is a mess with all those wires looped up inside there. The next phase I'll make take a prettier picture. I wanted to leave extra wire in there in case I needed it. I really don't want to have to pull wire through that conduit again especially after its already installed.
I had to move the small box (power for the chlorinator) down a bit and the new enclosure took its place. The conduit went down and around. I used every bit of that 6 feet even when the panel were really close to each other. Just goes to show you that wire runs take more wire than what you expect. Plan ahead!
Step 6: Wiring It Up
This picture is just to show what a hot mess wiring can be.
First thing is, you better have a volt meter or don't even attempt to do this step. Some of the voltages you will be dealing with are not your regular household 120v, but upwards of 240V. That's very dangerous. Always, always, always turn the power off at the circuit breaker and then check with your volt meter just to be sure.
For me, the waterfall was controlled with a simple light switch (but still 240V!). After testing voltage with the switch on and with the switch off, I was able to determine the wires coming from main power, and the wires going out to the pool pump. Going very slowly and methodically, I tested what was happening when I was disconnecting wires. Did I interrupt the circuit? Once I found how to interrupt the circuit I knew which wires needed to be hooked up to the relay. Remember, I only needed to interrupt the 'hot' side which is usually the white wires and hook those to go to the relay and back. For each of these little experiments I did to understand how my existing pool was wired I turned off the circuit at the main breaker. It was a lot of back and forth but its better to be very safe with operations such as these. When I was done, I left the previous light switch in place and added the relay in series. This means that both the light switch and the relay must be on for the lights to come on. I just leave the light switch in the on position now.
I repeated these steps for the pool lights. But for the pool lights I didn't need to go through a relay because they were using 120v. The pool pump uses higher voltage so it needs to go through a relay that can handle that kind of load. I just ran my pool lights off the power plug directly. But that's MY pool lights. Yours might be different. If yours are higher voltage than put a relay between the wifi plug and the lights. If you run power into the plug it'll definitely not work and you might fry the wifi plug.
Step 7: Adding More Pumps
I bought 2 more 40 AMP relays (Contactors) for the remaining 2 pumps; Pool cleaner and Main pump. I went with a different style this time. The open style is good for seeing how exactly the mechanism is going to work, but it can shock you by its open nature. Before the project is done, I'll switch the original one out so the box is a bit safer.
The premise for wiring these pumps up is the same. 240V is very very dangerous. Use a volt meter to check where the voltages are at. Shut down power before you disconnect anything. Be sure that the 120 from the WIFI controller plug is energizing the coil. You should be able to hear the 'Click' as it pulls the coils in. I tested the relay on my workbench before I went to install it so that I would know exactly what it was doing before I hooked it up to the higher voltage.
Again, I just extended the circuit from the old timer box to this relay and left the timer ON all the time.
Step 8: How to Use It
Now that I've got my waterfall and pool lights hooked up to the Wifi plug its time to put Alexa to work.
Setup your wifi plug to work with Alexa and name your plug appropriately, like 'Pool Waterfall' and 'Pool Lights'. Add routines if you want some things to happen automatically. For instance, I want my water fall to run for 30 min everyday so I added 2 routines; one to turn on the waterfall at 12:00pm and one to turn it off at 12:30pm. My pool lights are color changing and you can go to the next light by cycling power. I created a routine to turn power off to the lights, wait 5 sec, and then power them back on. I trigger this routine with the phrase 'Alexa, next color'.
Step 9: Add Control for Pool Heater
For this step of the project we are moving away from high voltage electricity back to household 120v, which is still super dangerous, so don't let your guard down! I added this little WiFi controller board that has 4 independent channels. (See the note at the bottom). I used a USB power plug hooked up to 120V to power it. I'm going to use this to turn the heater on and off with the first channel and the other 3 channels will control Valve actuators in the future. I 3D printed a mounting plate for it. You could probably use some other material or standoffs to keep it from touching the back aluminum panel which we are using as our ground.
To control the heater look for something called a Fireman's switch in the electrical drawings. Its a very basic jumper that a person could pull to remove power from the unit. Pull the jumper off and replace it with a 2 wire lead that goes back into the control panel and terminate it on the WIFI controller board.It won't hurt anything if you get the wiring backwards. If you try to turn the unit on with Alexa and you get the opposite result you were expecting, switch the wiring around. You will have to leave the heater 'ON' all the time, but the removed fireman's switch won't actually let the unit turn on unless the WIFI controller is also set to on. Super simple.
4 Channel WiFi Momentary Inching Relay Self-Locking Switch Module DC 7-32V DIY Switch Module eWelink APP Remote Control Switch Relay Module Compatible with Alexa Echo Goolge Home
Step 10: Adding Valve Actuators (Future)
I purchased a 24VAC transformer and 3 Intermatic Valve Actuators (PE24VA) when the price dropped as low as I had seen it in a while. Got them at $88 each. See link below. These work by 2 limit switches inside the box and a three wire connection. If you give 24 VAC power to white and black it goes one direction until it hits the limit switch. If you give power to red and black it goes the other direction until it hits the other limit switch. There's also a little control switch on the side that will change the direction of motion. Really easy to wire up and then flip the switch if its going in the wrong direction.
Because this is AC power the +/- thing doesn't really matter.
To wire it to the 4-Channel relay board put red on normally open, white on normally closed and tie all the commons on the relay to one side of the 24VAC transformer. Tie all the black wires together from the controllers together with the other leg of power from the 24VAC transformer with a wire nut. Done
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