This Automated House

Ever toss out an old washing machine?  Felt guilty for junking so many usable parts?  In all the old washing machines I've hauled away for people, I have found that one of the last things to go bad on them it the water fill solenoid valve on the back.  You know, the thing where the hot and cold water lines go in?

After several years of saving these items, I've come the realize that these make perfect electrically activated air and water valves.  One such project is the X10 Pool Filler.

Basically, the valve from the washing machine has three ports on it -- hot input, cold input and an output.  The Hot and Cold inputs also have 120 volt terminals to them.  These are the valves.  The output is a 3/8" barbed connection and, for this project, will need to be capped off as it will not be used.

First, you'll need to install a standard garden hose spigot type valve somewhere in your domestic water supply lines that's close to where the valve unit is to be located.  After that, a second spigot will have to be installed on the end of the pipe that feeds the pool.  In my case, I buried a 3/4" CPVC line from the basement to the skimmer port on the pool. Running to the skimmer guarantees that no back pressure from  the pool pump will send pool water to the domestic water supply.  Depending on you own circumstances, this line may need to be drained and/or blown out when the pool is winterized.

After the plumbing is done it's a matter of mounting the valve unit into a plastic enclosure with the new input and output (old hot and cold) ports exposed through the side.  For this, I picked up a plastic box from The Shack.  Care should be taken as to mount the box to the wall with the ports pointing downward, as for this project we will be mixing water with line voltage, which is not a good combination.

By the way, if you're not a junk collector/ recycler like I am, these valves can be picked up for around $20 used at the local appliance shop.

At this point, I should mention that the pipes must be grounded (both inflow and outflow) and the final apparatus should be hooked to a GFCI equipped circuit.  Also, the pool should have a local ground strap somewhere in the pump plumbing.  Grounding to the local electrical branch is unacceptable.

To wire up the unit, find a spare three prong cord with the male end intact.  Run both hot and neutral connections from the cord, through a hole in the enclosure to BOTH valves inside the enclosure and then ground any metal on the exterior of the enclosure.

The plumbing of the unit is connected via standard (I recommend braided stainless steel jacket) washing machine hoses.  While your at it, maybe a X10 enabled water sensor should be installed on the floor under the unit to alert you in the case of a ruptured hose.

Finally, plug the whole thing into an X10 3 pin appliance module set to the House Code/Unit Code of your choice.  On my system, I have the unit set to run water for 20 minutes at a time, three days a week, during the summer months only.  This can be set up as an advanced timer through Active Home Pro.  The Flow Rate can be adjusted to suit your needs via the spigot valve.  The unit can also be disabled by unplugging the electrical connection and turning off the manual valve.

As a side note, I've noticed that some of these valve units like to toy with the automatic sensing current of the appliance module.  To alleviate this, plug a cube tap into the module and add a small 4 watt night light to the circuit.  The light will swamp the sensing current, thus keeping the valves  from turning on themselves, and provide a visual indicator when the valve is active.