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Extending the USB Nano Pump: A Test of Power As my order history will attest, the USB Nano Pump is hands-down my favorite Aquarium Co-Op product. It's crazy quiet and powerful for the money. In my home office where I have five tanks, there is ZERO humming sound coming from the five nano pumps providing air to the 20 longs on a wall rack. All I hear is the air rushing "white noise" that even serves to mask the hums of my hang-on-back filters. Find me a conventional 4-port pump that can accomplish that! This gives me a room with several tanks that aren't singing in the key of "E"! But testimonial aside, I recalled Cory talking about the benefits of the "USB" aspect of the pump; especially that it can be powered by a backup battery during power failures. But what if that could be taken a step further? What if it could be used as a daily workhorse pump THAT ALSO automatically switches over to backup power when the power does go out? How long will it last? Can it do this without human intervention? For twenty bucks and ZERO DIY skills, you bet it can! SELECTING THE BACKUP BATTERY In making my choice of backup battery, I listed the following criteria that needed to be satisfied: 1. It has to be Compact 2. It has to Last a Long time 3. It has to Power my pump on wall power 4. It has to Switch to battery power without my touching it 5. It has to be Affordable; I have a lot of pumps! With that in mind and a lot of research, I settled on this UGREEN Portable charger for phones and tablets, for $22 on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07S73M12N (I'm receiving and want no affiliate kickbacks for this.) It mostly matched up with my requirements: 1. Compact: It's about the size of a pack of cigarettes 2. Long-Lasting: 10,000mAh will be tested 3. Power: Pass-through feature sends wall-power directly to the pump 4. Switch: Pass-through charges the battery and switches over when unplugged 5. Affordable: Mixed feelings on this...pass-through isn't cheap! 6. Bonus! Digital readout shows the percentage of charge remaining What is pass-through power technology? You can't just plug the pump into any phone charger and expect it to power the pump while the charger is plugged into your wall; most phone chargers will stop powering your device when they are being charged themselves. But with "pass-through", the charger passes your wall power through to your charging device while it charges itself. Instant permanent battery backup! How to use it? Simply plug the battery backup between the USB pump and its USB charging adapter that comes with it. You need nothing else! So let's dive into the testing... TEST ONE: DOES IT WORK WITH NON-PHONE DEVICES? What we're proposing here is to plug in a device that doesn't draw power the same way as a phone does, into a powering device that's made for phones and tablets. Will it handle low voltage fish stuff? This article wouldn't exist if the answer weren't a resounding Yes! I connected it all and plugged it into the wall. It immediately started the pump and started charging itself at the same time. When I unplugged the power from the wall, the pump kept going and the battery started draining. SLOWLY. Blue or orange port? I tested the charging process twice, curious about whether choosing the blue or orange ports on the new Aquarium Co-Op charger plug that came with the pump would make a difference in charging time. It made no difference. So this will work. But for how long? Here's where it gets interesting. TEST TWO: HOW LONG DOES IT LAST? I charged it up to 100% while connected to the pump (about 3-4 hours), and then unplugged everything from the wall to simulate a power failure. The pump continued to run for 60 HOURS. That's two and a half days! Not much more to be said there. It's quite an effective backup power source! TEST THREE: OKAY, BUT HOW LONG DOES IT REALLY LAST? On the theory that it will not last as long when it's under a load and actually powering a real airstone in water pressure, I connected it to a never-clog airstone on 24" of airline tubing that had already been running for several months in 12" of water depth. The runtime result was another round number: 50 HOURS on a full charge. So this means that the pump was powered for about 17% less time while under a basic load. Logically, I'd assume that as the airstone becomes more clogged, its capacity for backup time will be diminished even more. Mounting? The battery pack is not terribly heavy, so it can be mounted with some double-sided foam tape to the back or side of the aquarium, or any other flat surface so that it doesn't dangle. CONCLUSION The combination of 2+ days' power, always-ready pass-through powering, and the compact size makes this a huge winner. I'm buying one of these for every one of my USB Nano Pumps. Yes, $22 can add up fast, but for me, it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind. When the power goes out, I will have oxygenated water for days! Even if I were to lose most of the beneficial bacteria, the bacteria that remains in proximity to the moving water caused by the bubbles (on the glass, rocks, gravel, and decorations) will serve as a seed population for a new colony. But that's a moot point if the pump is powering a sponge filter! What more is there to say? Spread the word: USB battery backups aren't just for phones!
Extending the USB Nano Pump: Solar Power As my second test for the Aquarium Co-Op USB Nano Air pump, I have decided to start writing before the test is done, and to kick things off today. I'm hoping a few tests will come of this, but an "instant fail" is just as valuable. I'm hoping what may come of this will be some numbers (mAh in, hours per day, etc.) that can be used in later selections of solar powered batteries for this pump. I hope to answer this question: Is there a low-cost solar-powered battery by which I can run the USB nano pump indefinitely? Failure is defined as the power running out or the battery otherwise failing by other means. SELECTING THE SOLAR-POWERED BACKUP BATTERY In making my choice of backup battery, I listed the following criteria that needed to be satisfied: 1. It has to be water-resistant. 2. It has to be reasonably sized (not too large). 3. It has to be affordable. Not too much. The whole trick was to find something that is a balance between power and price. I settled on this IEsafy Solar Charger 26800mAh, Outdoor Solar Power Bank with 4 Foldable Solar Panels and 2 High-Speed Charging Ports for Smartphones, Tablets, Samsung, iPhone, etc, with Waterproof LED Flashlight from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08611FQKT (non-affiliate link) It cost $27.50 when I bought it last week, but seems to have risen to $40. A quick search of Amazon and the internet suggests that if you're resourceful, you can find one in the $30 range with these specs. But I still don't yet know if these specs are sufficient. A WORD ABOUT LOCATION AND TIME OF YEAR This test is going to be a bit less useful around the world; access to sunlight matters a lot. I live in north San Diego county, California, and it is currently July (middle of summer). It stands to reason that if I pick my spot correctly, I will get direct sunlight for much of the day. If I can figure out how many hours of direct sunlight I'll need each day, in theory I can move the charger around as needed. But in winter months and in locations farther from the equator, this may be more difficult. THE SETUP THE FIRST THING I DID WAS CHARGE THE BACKUP BATTERY BY PLUGGING IT IN. This has to be done first before expecting to make use of solar power at all. It took several hours to charge fully. I am combining this test with another project: A small daphnia culture in a 17-gallon tub. These tubs are $5 at Walmart, so there's no excuse not to have several! I filled the tub with well-used greenish water from my small pond, added extra mulm for good measure, dropped in a medium sponge filter from Aquarium Co-Op, and connected it to the USB nano pump. The pump is hanging from a hole I drilled in the lip of the tub. Then I connected the pump's power cable to the backup battery, which I placed on an empty Amazon box. I placed this entire rig in a spot where I expect it to get much sunlight all day. (I know that the sponge filter is not necessary daphnia, and many folks keep daphnia in still water even. But I HATE mosquitoes and want to stabilize things as much as possible. Also, I won't be ordering daphnia for several weeks, as I want the water to get much greener from the direct sunlight; I'll be feeding it a steady diet of grass clippings as needed.) TEST ONE: IS THIS REMOTELY VIABLE AT ALL? Today is lightly cloudy, but the clouds are seeming to burn off. The sun hit the charger at 9am this morning, so we are off and running! UPDATE 7/20/2020: This test has been canceled, for reasons outlined below. New test coming soon! Bill