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I am making a water feature that will involve a stream fed by the basin of a fountain with a pump at the end sending water back into the fountain. To control the water flow rate through the stream and prevent flooding, I intend to use this valve controlled by an Arduino connected to a water level sensor. The nice thing about motorized ball valves is that they have very little head loss and can be left in a partially open position to throttle fluid flow.

For safety, I would like the valve to be able to fully shut from fully open in the event of a power loss. US Solid makes a variant of this valve with exactly this capability, unfortunately it does not have the ability to remain half open. Their documentation says the auto-return valves store energy in a capacitor that is used to shut the valve when power is cut off, but they don't give specifics on the size. I'd like to do my own custom set-up with the 3-wire version and my own capacitor, and I'm figuring out what size I need.

Their specs say it can operate in the 9 to 24 volt range, takes 3-5 seconds to close, and can draw up to 2 watts. Taking the worst case, 5 seconds at 2 watts, I need to be able to deliver 10 joules of energy between 9 and 24 volts. Taking stored energy as 1/2CV^2, I calculate that if I'm going from 24 volts to 9 volts, I need 1.3F of capacitance, or if going from 12V to 9V, I need 6.7F. A supercapacitor might work for this, but the closest I have been able to find with anything close to these specs that is not a complete beast is something like this one from Kemet. That one sells for $62, and given that the auto-return valve itself is only $45, I doubt that's what they're using.

Can anyone give me some guidance on selecting the right capacitor for this valve? Alternatively, I suppose I could use a rechargeable 9V battery as the backup power source, but then I would need to build a battery charger into my circuit, and that adds a whole other layer of complication as well.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered a second on-off ball valve with a spring return? It would act as a fail-safe and should be cheap. \$\endgroup\$ – Transistor Mar 30 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you @Transistor, that's actually a really good suggestion. I'm worried about adding extra head loss with two valves thought, as this is a gravity feed system. I can definitely do that if I can't figure out the capacitor though. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Croteau Mar 30 at 20:21
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I'm not exactly sure what I was doing wrong with my math before, but my calculations were way off. On re-calculating, assuming the worst case of drawing 2 watts for 5 seconds, the valve would need about 300 mF. Having actually gotten the valve and measured the current draw through it, it was actually drawing 30-40mA at 13V for about 5 seconds to close, and could continue to operate down to about 5V. I selected a 15V power supply, and assuming it could go down to 9V and would draw 40mA at 13V for 5 seconds, I calculated needing a 36 mF capacitor.

To be on the safe side, I ordered a 68,000 μF 16V electrolytic capacitor. This, when charged to 12.5V, could take the valve from fully open to fully closed, back to fully open again, and about 90% of the way to fully closed before quitting.

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