Greetings GWE community! Today I learned a very important lesson on how to use my ActiveAqua water chiller and I wanted to share it with the community in case anyone else gets one.

First, choose the right size chiller for your setup. For 10-50 gallon applications you can use the 1/10 HP model which is what I have. Once you've unpacked your chiller let it sit upright for several hours to ensure the refrigerant can settle after shipping. This will ensure your system works properly. Once the refrigerant is settled, you will want to connect the chiller to your reservoir. This part is pretty straight forward but I would like to add a few notes that may help make everything easier.

When adding a chiller, you may want to add a way to drain the chiller (using the pump in your reservoir) so that when you change your water you also get the stuff mostly out of the chiller. This will prevent you from over dosing your plants and also messing with the pH. For my system, I am using 1/2 inch tubing from my pump so I bought a 1/2 barb 3-way selector valve and installed it on my OUT line of the chiller (Fig. 1). So basically, you'll have your line coming from the pump to the IN port on the chiller and then a tube coming from the OUT port going to the 3-way selector valve. From there, you install one line that will go back to your reservoir and then another line that will be for draining purposes. Most of the time, the flag will be turned so that the water flows back to the reservoir but during water changes, you can turn the flag and run it to the drain tube allowing the entire system to empty. I would also advise taking some plain, pH'ed water (with Hydroguard) and filling your reservoir about half way, then repeating the process of draining. That way the only thing left in your chiller is plain, pH'ed water (with Hydroguard) and not nutrient rich water that could cause issues.

Fig. 1: 3-way selector valve installed on the chiller's OUT port (available here:
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So now you have your lines mostly run but there is one more VERY IMPORTANT step to take to make sure your chiller actually chills the water! Typically, you run your pump to a drip manifold which slowly drips the water into the roots of your plants. This is great for feeding the roots but terrible for circulating the water in your system so to fix this, you must add a way for the excess water (the water that is too much for the drip to dispense) to get back to the reservoir rather than just sitting in the chiller. Otherwise, you'll have the issue I had and see cool temps on the chiller but warm temps in your reservoir. For my setup, I installed a 3-way splitter inline with my return line (Fig. 2). One end went to the drip manifold while the other went to a piece of 1/2 tube that drains back into the reservoir. To ensure that you have both flow to the return line AND the drip, you will also need to add a way to buffer just how much water flows back into the reservoir. A simple on/off valve works fine. Just install it in line and turn it on about half way and you'll have good flow to your reservoir AND your manifold.

Fig 2: 3-way splitter and on/off valve to reservoir
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If you follow these few tips, you can easily keep your water cool no matter what the air around it is like. I hope this post helped you and if you have any questions regarding using a water chiller, please feel free to ask. Thanks and happy growing!