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Pool and Spa Time Clocks and Remotes



Time Clocks

Time clocks are becoming more and more popular these days, perhaps for the convenience it offers. Once you determine the filtration and the heating schedule, set the timer clock, it does the rest, like, water circulation through the filter and heating of the water and turning on the decorative lights and the fountains. They have become the key component to a pool or spa.

Electromechanical Timers

The electromechanical timers are the time clocks that are run by small motors and allow for many on/off settings during a 24-hour day.

The small electric motor runs on the same push-pull concept of opposing magnets as the motors used for pumps. A winding is electrified that creates an electromagnetic field and sets up the rotation, which happens at a predictable 400 rpm. The only difference between a 110-volt and a 240-volt clock is that the 240-volt unit does not have a neutral line, but includes two incoming lines and two outgoing loads for the equipment. The neutral location is a ground.

A series of reduction gears in the motor housing result in the actual drive gear turning at a speed that rotates the dial just once every 24 hours. The pool time clock is different from other time clocks in that it has only one hand, and that hand remains still while the clock face rotates.

On and off trippers are used to set the clock. The words "on" and "off" are labeled on the trippers. Set them for the desired times, and the clock will control the flow of electricity to a specific piece of machinery. To set the clock, you simply pull the face toward you and rotate it until the number on the dial, corresponding to the correct time of day, is under the time pointer. After setting the correct time, release the dial and it snaps back into position, re-engaging its drive gear with the motor drive gear.

Screw terminals are located at the bottom of the clock so it can be attached to the wires of the appliance like motors, light, fixtures. Electricity flows into the clock from a household circuit breaker. The wires feeding electricity to the clock are wrapped on the line and neutral terminals (with a 240-volt clock, the one lead would be attached to each line terminal). This way there is a constant supply of electricity to the clock.

Waterproof boxes in metal or plastic are available to house time clocks. Other versions have built-in brackets that are designed to align with the screw holes on the clock plate, and these are held in place by two machine screws. The boxes are built with knock-out holes to accommodate wiring conduit of various sizes and have predrilled holes in the back for mounting the box to a wall.

Each appliance requires its own clock; that is to say that if you want to run the heater and the pump and also the filter, each will have its own set of timer. Only care should be taken to remember that whenever the heater is on, the pump timer must be set to shut off at least half an hour later. This gives the pump time enough to clean the pipes of the circulating hot water.

Twist Timers

Twist timers are used mostly with booster motors and blowers on spas. Whatever the twist timer is controlling will remain on for the time period set. It is a mechanical timer that has a spring loaded to unwind the minutes it is selected for. Once the spring unwinds, the circuit breaks and shuts off the appliance. A twist timer is built to fit in a typical light switch box and contains no user serviceable parts. This unit has a faceplate showing 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. The knob attached to the shaft that comes through the faceplate is twisted until its pointer or arrow aligns with the desired number of minutes.

Twist timers are handy and safe because there is no way to forget to turn them off. This is important in a spa, where you tend to forget the time spend in the spa. Twist timers are good for controlling the lighting that is not to be kept on all night.

Electronic Timers

Keeping up with today's electronics revolution electronic timers are becoming more and more sophisticated. Most spas are equipped with some such automatic controls. Spa control packages also include electronic thermostats and other sophisticated controls. The advantages of electronic controls are precision and low voltage. Most have digital readouts so you can precisely set the time and temperature desired, as well as programming a host of other features. Lastly, most electronic devices have small backup batteries so that when main power is interrupted, they don't lose the time of day or previous programming.

Repairs

Lubricating a time clock is the only service and maintenance that a clock needs. Otherwise they are cheap enough and can be replaced rather than fixing them.

Replacement

If a time clock fails, simply replace it. When replacing a unit, make sure it has the same voltage as the original clock. If it is housed in a waterproof box, buy the same brand to ensure a correct fit.

Before starting the replacement, always remember to shut off the electricity at the breaker. To disconnect the clock, remove the load and line wires, and also the ground wires from the clock. To replace the new clock, unscrew the old clock from the box and screw in the new clock in place. Reattach the wires to the appropriate line or load terminals, that is the electrical supply wires attach to the line terminal and the two appliance wires from the pool equipment attach to the load terminals. If line and load is not marked, look for the screws where the clock motor is connected. The two internal clock wires always are attached to the line terminals. Turn in the power and test the clock by turning the manual on/off lever to 'on'. Most of the clock have visual inspection opening to see if it is operating.

Lubricating

A time clock can need lubricating and to lubricate a time clock the first thing to do is to turn off the power at the main service box. Remove the clock from the box leaving the wires attached. Expose the back of the clock and spray penetrating oil lubricant around the gears. Next spray the lubricant on the gears behind the dial face. Do not get the lubricant in the the electrical contacts. Place the clock into the box and turn on the power. Check it a few times to work in the lubricant.

Mechanical failures

When you pull out the dial face of the clock to set the time, take care that when you release it you get a true reengagement of the dial with the motor drive gear. Try setting different times on the clock and you will note that sometimes the two gears don't mesh, but rather the dial gear sits on top of the motor gear. Obviously, in this case the clock won't work.

The answer is to wiggle the dial face as you release it. As you release it, twist the dial back and forth very slightly in your hand to make sure the gears mesh. With a few practice settings you'll feel the difference between a dial that has gone back into place completely and one that is slightly hung up. Often, clocks that don't work are a result of this setting problem, so make this one of the first things you check when you suspect time clock failure.

The second mechanical problem of time clocks is with the trippers. if the screw is not twisted tightly on the face of the clock, they come loose and rotate around the dial, pushed by the control lever instead of doing the pushing themselves. Check the trippers regularly because they can come loose over time or from system vibration.

Settings

When setting on/off trippers, you can place them on the dial face side by side to what appears to be about 30 minutes between them. I have found that when they are too close, they won't operate the lever. Generally, trippers must be at least an hour apart to operate.

Make frequent checks of your time clocks. Power outages, someone working at the house who shuts off all the power, the twice yearly daylight savings time changes, and any number of other household situations can interrupt power to the time clock. Each time this happens, the clock stops and needs to be reset when the power returns in order to reflect the correct time.

Remote Controls

Used mostly with spa equipment, remote control devices allow you to operate pumps, heaters, lights, blowers, and other devices without actually going to the spa. Such devices are also available with switches at or in the spa, so you can control appliances without getting out.

Remote control devices fall into two categories: those operated by pneumatic (air) switches and those operated by electronic wireless switches.

Air Switches

Pool and spa air switches operate on the idea of compressed air in a hose, you force a switch to go on, off, or to a new operating position. A man named Len Gordon pioneered these devices with push buttons for pool and spa.

Air is forced into a flexible plastic tube by depressing the plunger in the middle. The force is transmitted along the air tube until it reaches a simple, bellows-actuated electromechanical switch at the other end, turning it on, off, or to another position. These Air switches operate up to 200 feet from the button.

Besides simple on/off switches, some activate a rotating wheel, which in turn activates up to four switches. You push the button once to turn on the circulation pump and heater, a second push to add a blower, a third push to add a booster, and a fourth push to turn it all off. Most of these four-function units allow combinations that vary the pattern, depending on your use preference or the additional equipment you have.

You can mount this type of button near or even in the spa, for the electrical part of the air switch is usually located in a waterproof box, housing the wiring connections. In some units there is a small electromechanical time clock that can operate one or more appliances at preset times in addition to the activation by the air switch button.

There is little chance of anything that might need servicing or repair except the hose. So the troubleshooting is easy and simple.

Troubleshooting

With the air switches, the problem can be the button, the hose, or the electrical switch. Disconnect the hose from the switch nipple and place another hose on the nipple and blow through it. If the switch operates, then the problem is in the hose or button. Do the same to check the button. Usually the problem is with the hose. But if the problem are with switch or the button replace them.

Air leaks

You may have an air leak in the hose when the equipment fails to activate with a push of the button. If you can reach both ends of the hose, tape the new hose to the old, at either end, and pull the old hose out. But if you cannot access the hose ends then you have to follow the replacement procedures.

Replacement

When you remove the center button portion, if there is no slack in the air hose, the hose might come off the end of the button and might be hard to reach for attachment to the new button. Try pushing the hose from the other end, the end attached to the electrical switch box toward the button to force it back out of the conduit. If there just isn't enough hose, pull out the old hose and run an electrician's snake through the conduit. When the end comes out, tape the new hose to it and pull the snake back through. Now you can attach the hose ends to the button and the switch. You will find that not all air hoses are run in conduit. Because they have no water or electricity in them, there are no standards or rules about running a length of hose.

New installation

Original installation of an air switch system is not difficult, but should be done by the electrician.

Troubleshooting

With the air switches, the problem can be the button, the hose, or the electrical switch. Disconnect the hose from the switch nipple and place another hose on the nipple and blow through it. If the switch operates, then the problem is in the hose or button. Do the same to check the button. Usually the problem is with the hose. But if the problem are with switch or the button replace them.

Air leaks

You may have an air leak in the hose when the equipment fails to activate with a push of the button. If you can reach both ends of the hose, tape the new hose to the old, at either end, and pull the old hose out. But if you cannot access the hose ends then you have to follow the replacement procedures.

Replacement

When you remove the center button portion, if there is no slack in the air hose, the hose might come off the end of the button and might be hard to reach for attachment to the new button. Try pushing the hose from the other end, the end attached to the electrical switch box toward the button to force it back out of the conduit. If there just isn't enough hose, pull out the old hose and run an electrician's snake through the conduit. When the end comes out, tape the new hose to it and pull the snake back through. Now you can attach the hose ends to the button and the switch. You will find that not all air hoses are run in conduit. Because they have no water or electricity in them, there are no standards or rules about running a length of hose.

New installation

Original installation of an air switch system is not difficult, but should be done by the electrician.

Wireless Remote Control

Due to convenience in use, in the past few years, wireless remotes have gained popularity. These are composed of a battery-powered wireless sending unit with anything from 4 to 24 buttons in a waterproof case and low voltage for safe water-side use. The buttons send a signal to a receiver that might be as much as 1500 feet away that is usually mounted in the pool or spa equipment area. The receiver interprets which button has been pressed and activates a switch that turns on or off that piece of equipment. In essence, it works just like the air switch, except the signal is sent by radio signal instead of compressed air.

Some units do not have batteries, but plug into any household outlet. When you press the button, the signal is sent along the household wiring to the receiver, wherever it is located, which is powered by the same household current. Obviously, because these sending units are powered by 120-volt household current, they cannot be located near the body of water. The value of these is that they are not subject to battery failure or weak radio signals that sometimes fail to penetrate thick walls or long distances.

There are too many makes and models of these wireless remotes to detail the wiring or technical data for installation or repair. As with a new air switch system, you might want to include your friendly neighborhood electrician in the price of installing a new system. Many are sold in modules that allow you to configure any system arrangement you wish, adding modules to existing wiring and equipment.

As mentioned, the main failure of these units is that the battery becomes weak or the radio signal cannot penetrate thick walls or long distances between the spa and equipment location.