Automatic Watering System
Well, my autowatering system has been in place for a few months now and I'm ready to report on how it has been working.
First, my requirements. I wanted a system that could continue to deliver water to the rabbits should the power go out (at least for a day or so.) I wanted a water system that would not be destroyed by a hard freeze should power and heat go out. I wanted a water system that would not freeze easily. I wanted a system that would be easy to maintain and repair. And I wanted a system that would continue to work when I was unable to keep a water hose from the house connected to it.
Most systems I have found failed on one or more of these points.
Now, a general description of the whole system.
The top reservoir is a 30 gallon barrel. It is mounted six feet off the ground. There is a stock tank heater in the bottom that maintains a 40 degree temperature in the tank.
A bulkhead fitting comes out the side about two inches from the bottom of the barrel and there is a shutoff valve immediately outside it. From here, PEX tubing goes in a circuit down the centers of three double rows of cages and then drains in to a 55 gallon collection drum.
The collection drum also has a stock tank heater in it as well. There is a submersible sump pump in the bottom of the collection drum to pump water up to the top resevior. This is controlled by two floatswitches.
The float switch that came with the sump pump turns it on when the water is above a certain level in the collection tank. A second float switch turns the power to the pump on when the water in the top reservoir drops below a certain level. These two switches, in series, ensure that the pump turns on when the water is low in the top tank and turns off when the top tank is filled or the bottom tank is empty.
Since the PEX tubing is used, I use a PEX fitting for the water valves. Flair-it makes a "Ice Maker T" that fits 1/2 inch PEX and the standard waterer valves fit in to nicely. (Flair-it Ice Maker Tee, part number 06834.) If you order more than 100, mention that I told you about it and ask for a discount. They gave me almost half off their list price and said they would do likewise for any large orders I refer.
Here's how it stacks up against my requirements:
* I wanted a system that could continue to deliver water to the rabbits should the power go out (at least for a day or so.)
Since the water is delivered by gravity, the rabbits continue to get water as long as there is water in the top reservoir.
* I wanted a water system that would not be destroyed by a hard freeze should power and heat go out.
We've had five instances of hard freezes that froze the water in the lines, no breaks or leaks have resulted from this. These were due primarily to power to the barns failing (GCFI overloaded by block heater on old diesel truck being plugged in to the same circuit, load balancing issues, etc.) The system was restored to working order once the barn temperature reached 40F.
* I wanted a water system that would not freeze easily.
The water in the tanks is maintained at 40F as long as there is electricity to the barns. The fact that the water flows through the system constantly inhibits the water from freezing in the lines.
* I wanted a system that would be easy to maintain and repair.
I used PEX connectors that twist together. When a blockage occurred in one of the lines I was able to take out the section in question, clear the blockage, and put it back together. Try THAT with PVC!
I noticed that sometimes the water flows past the last few valves so fast that it sucks air instead of providing water. I added a shutoff valve at the end that drains in to the collection barrel. I can control how fast the water drains by turning it part way off. This slows down the water flow enough that those last cages get their water.
* And I wanted a system that would continue to work when I was unable to keep a water hose from the house connected to it.
I can keep the system "charged" with water by pouring water in to the collection barrel. I have some six gallon water totes that I use. I usually add six gallons in the morning, and six gallons in the evening.
After the last frost I will hook connect the system to my water spigot at the house using an RV/Marine water hose (garden hoses have lead in them and the lead can leach into the water. I prefer my rabbits unleaded.)
All told, the entire setup cost about $600 and saves me $14600 in labor a year (assuming I pay myself about $10 an hour)
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