WiFi Pool Controller Only Cost $20

Pools have come a long way. It used to be you had a pump and if you were lucky it had a mechanical timer switch on it. That was it. Now you have digital controllers and spa jets and heaters. You can even get them that connect to your home automation system. If your pool isn’t new enough to do that already, you can get a range of add-on accessories. For a price. [Rob] paid $500 to get a remote for his pool. It wasn’t even WiFi, just a simple RF remote. In 3 years, the transmitter had burned out ($300 to replace) and he decided he had enough. For $20, [Rob] added MQTT control and monitoring to his pool using an ESP8266. You can see the video description of the project below.

Naturally, the instructions are a bit specific to the Pentair system he has. However, it isn’t as specialized as you might think. The project relies on the connection for a wired “spa-side remote” that most modern pool systems support. The electrical connections for these aren’t quite standard, but they are all very similar, so you have a good chance of reproducing this for your setup assuming you have a connection for one of these wired remotes.

The remote has a few buttons and LED for status. The LED reacts differently depending on the pool’s current mode, so connecting there not only gives you control but also allows you to provide some limited status. It isn’t going to let you monitor pump currents or anything exotic, but it is a simple place to gain access. Using the Arduino pulse input function makes it easy to sense if the LED is on, off, or blinking. Another sensor reads the water temperature. The controller makes it available, but it isn’t simple to read, so the project just reads the raw sensor voltage from the existing thermistor and computes the temperature.

[Ron] does a nice job of explaining some basic concepts like using opto-isolators. However, the real value to the video is the easy way to interface to the existing controller. A little configuration into Home Automation rounds out the project.

If you have an older system, you might like to see more of a pool system rebuild. If you are interested in controlling the pool chemistry, we’ve seen that before, too.

26 thoughts on “WiFi Pool Controller Only Cost $20

  1. I actually also just added remote control to my pool, using a Sonoff 4CH pro. In my case, I have 3 devices I want to control. The pool pump itself, a water feature close to the pool, and the pool lighting. I also incorporated a flow rate sensor into the pump to make sure that the pump was not working too hard (as can happen when there is too much debris in the pool weir basket!).
    To drive the flow rate sensor, I tapped into the 5V supply before the 3.3V regulator, as the sensor was specced to run on 5V-24V, or thereabouts. I also inserted a level converter in between the flow rate signal and the Sonoff, even though it should be OK with 5V. I didn’t feel like taking chances.

    I flashed Tasmota firmware onto the Sonoff, and configured GPIO2 as a counter, and I now have the whole setup reporting to Node Red, which switches the pumps on and off on schedule, or as desired. I’m quite chuffed with the result, although now I need to learn a lot more about how Node Red works! :-D

    1. Just curious, what size pump do you have? The Sonoff claims 10A per channel, but my 1HP pump needs a 40-50A relay to safely deal with cold-start current. Unless the relays are overspec’d I’d be worried about literally burning out those contacts pretty fast.

      1. It’s a 750W pump. Since it is running on 220V, steady current would be ~3.5A, so inrush current could be as high as 20A, according to some sites I’ve just found. Doesn’t sound awesome.

        Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have to take a look see what alternatives I can find. :-(

        1. A relay with its contacts can take some inrush current. I found value’s between 15A and 30A for a typical 10A relay. Some datasheets even specify motor load with FLA and LRA (locked rotor amp, the max. value you get at start up.

          About 20yr ago I changed the big noisy (*) contactor for the 400V/3 phase 1kW pool pump to a 4 pole relay similar to this one: https://www.reichelt.at/Industrierelais/FIN-55-34-8-230V/3/index.html?ACTION=3&LA=2&ARTICLE=13324&GROUPID=7622&artnr=FIN+55.34.8+230V&trstct=pol_4 because of the noise it made. It makes small sparks at the contacts, but is switching every day in summer since 20yrs. If there is no cleaning work to do, the pump is only switched one cycle per day by a timer. So, maybe 2000 or 3000 switching cycles is not much for a relay, but it is sufficient. And even if it would burn out now, it had a 20yr lifetime.
          *) the loud “clonk” when it pulled in and sometimes humming from the coil. That disturbed my father sleeping in a near room.
          We do not need remote control, it just has to work.

          1. Oh well… That industrial relay has ‘almost’ the same contact ratings of a simple songle srd-05v sl-c relay (specifically the C form/single phase). But I’m sure it won’t last as long as 20y+ in such harsh environment.

            I was looking for a high power capable latching type to stop my old car from draining its battery… Came across this.

  2. Couple of questions / asking for advice please.

    He’s not using a pool side remote box but emulating it.
    But what if he wanted to use both?
    At the moment it’s simulating the buttons. What if you need to both simulate the buttons and also read them if they are pressed?

    Would that we solved with two opto’s per button, one to read and one to press ?
    Ignoring the LED feature entirely.
    Because you cannot assign a pin to be both input and output.

    And you’d need to think about seperation (diodes to seperate the two paths?) if you wanted to read a local button press verses a node press, or would you be better off just doing that in software. Detecting a button press and checking to see if the node had recently issued one itself.

      1. Sounds like a collaboration effort needed! I’m in the process of replacing the logic board in my Davey spa pump. Ants and other insects decided to short the bits out, and consequently killed the brain and not worth replacing the thing due to the ‘luxury tax’ added to anything pool/spa related!

        I’ve determined that the pump works fine with some hacker testing. I desoldered the contactor (heavy duty relays) from the Davey board, and currently triggering one to start the pump with an 8266 and 12V relay as a proof of concept, and has been running this way for about 6 months in a watertight enclosure for the modded bits.

        Today, i finally got around to getting under the spa again and determined that the temperature probe inside the pump is a DS18x20 probe, which is great as that means that TASMOTA can talk with it natively. It had 4 wires coming out, but only used 3, the Red (3.3V), Black (GND) and Orange (Data). I didn’t even need the 4.7K resistor as mentioned in all the online articles about the probe, so that was also a win.

        I’ve ordered a 4CH opto isolated relay board to enable me to control the Pump, Heater, Blower and Halogen light. The halogen light will be replaced by an RGB ring light (WS2812) also triggered by the ESP8266 on a spare Digital out pin.

        I do need to work out how to create a nice OLED display and means of increasing / decreasing the temperature, as well as starting/stopping the pumps. I can do it easily in HASSIO and MQTT. Then the waterproofing of the new brain!

  3. it depends on how the motor is controlled. If it’s a dummy motor with no speed control, like most pool motors, Sped is right, amps will drop. If it’s a speed controlled motor, then yes, restricting the motor rotation will have the control board put more power on the motor and therefore making it harder if you will.

    However, if the dumb motor’s rotation is restricted, then it will use less current, but it’s going to heat up. And furthermore, the motor is using the water to cool itself, less flow equal less cooling.

    The point of watching the flow of the water to see if there is debris and a change in water flow is a great idea and should work work. It will prevent motor damage in the long term and will provide cleaner water as more water will go through the filter. It’s a win situtation. congrats on doing this

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