Hydor Smart Level Control Automatic Top Off System 5-3/4" x 4" x 1" thick (Mfg# J03101)
Bang for your buck!
When searching for an ATO (Automatic Top-Off) system, three goals were in mind:
1. Easy on the wallet.
2. Predominant use of sensor-based technology vs. unreliable float switch(es)/moving parts.
3. Reliability; stress-free set-up and operation.
The product is well-packaged and includes instructions -- in multiple languages-- that are clear and concise and easy to follow; this makes device setup a breeze!
Note that special attention to correct sensor orientation during setup is advised, as denotative markings on the sensor itself are mere raised letters of indistinguishable color: Black-on-Black. Improper sensor placement will trigger the ALARM -- A moderately-loud; incessant--'Beep!' This 'Beep!' is reminiscent of a 90's beeper, or the tone of a home microwave.
Note also that this product is NOT UL listed. This is certainly a factor when considering insurance for higher-end aquariums, or potential livestock, aquarium, and/or home damage due to product malfunction.
Purchased alongside this product was the HYDOR Universal Pump (Seltz L20). This combination is ideal, and advisable, as the 50-watt AC connection for the top-off reservoir pump is compatible with this product. More importantly, the minimum run-time for the ATO unit is 25 seconds, and the Seltz L20 provides flow adjustment for easier calibration.
Note also that the distance between sensor positions MIN, MAX and ALARM is approximately 3/8 in. This short distance in water level sensors is effective at maintaining a more stable salinity in Saltwater Aquariums; thus, a correctly-sized, adjustible reservoir pump is paramount. A pump NOT manufactured by HYDOR may not function well, or fit the given 50-watt pump outlet, lacking male and female receptacle holes.
Note also that the unit's sensors are temperature-differential based. Calibration takes 10-20 seconds, and operation is very accurate; however, significant concern for device failure is warranted with any Electronic Temperature Probe. Replacement of the water level sensor is impossible, as it is hard-wired to the ATO unit itself.
Drip loops on ALL aquarium-related wiring is advised, or you may indeed get a 'BANG!' for your buck! In the product's defense: The power switch is housed in a -- 'gummi-like'-- rubber and the device housing appears to be competently water-resistant.
Thus far -- 2-week usage period-- operation is smooth, hassle-free, and reliable. The product deserves a 4-star rating for its accuracy, functionality, and cost-effective price-point. Safety and reliability are of significant concern, but this product satisfies the search for a short-term ATO solution. Long term... we'll see. I have my fingers crossed.
The price is definitely unbeatable! Thanks HYDOR for considering the pocketbook in a hobby full of overpriced gadgetry! When operating on a modest budget, this is a product that can't be beaten!
December 18, 2013