Repairing My Aqua Rite PCB (GLX-PCB-RITE) that was Damaged by Lightning
Posted by Russell Wright on August 23, 2009
Note: I’ve had many requests asking if I have any of the parts (thermistor/Ametherm SL32 2R025 BigAMP current inrush limiter and the Littlefuse V150LA2P varistor) required for this fix. I now have some! They are currently listed on Craigslist and Webstore (I took the listing off eBay because it gets prohibitively expensive for an inexpensive item such as this). I bought several and will ship them in the U.S. via first class mail for free. If the links above don’t work, search for “Ametherm.” You should find the listing. By the way, I don’t repair pools for a living (I’m a computer geek) and I don’t make my living trying to sell current inrush limiters. I’m simply doing this to help others out.
We have one of those salt water chlorination systems on our swimming pool that works pretty well. It does need some help in the summer when it gets really hot here in Texas, because our pool is almost 40,000 gallons (Texas sized)! This summer (2009) we’ve been having some real problems with algae, especially the black kind. If you’ve never had black algae, it’s bad stuff. Once it gets started, it attaches itself to the plaster and begins to eat it away. Besides treating the pool, you have to manually scrub, dig, sand, pick or chisel the algae out of the pores of the plaster. When you do remove it, you’ll see pitting from where it’s been attached. Bad stuff.
We’ve been fighting this all summer and, one morning I went out to visit the outside Aqua Rite controller and found that the green “generating” light was not lit. In fact, there was only one light on…I think it was the power light and, if I remember correctly, it was red instead of green. I may be wrong on this, but I do remember there was just one light on and I said, “Dang, now I know why we’ve been fighting having enough chlorine in the pool all summer!” Yeah, the thing’s been busted all summer long. Probably happened in the spring during one of our thunderstorms.
I called technical support at Goldline Controls (now part of Hayward) @ 908-355-7995. The helpful rep walked me through pushing the little test button to the left of the LCD display and I read him the readings it displayed. One of them was 0.0. I think that was the one that immediately made him say, “You’ve got a bad board.” I called the local repair facility and nearly had a heart attack when they told me it would cost $360+ to replace the board. Ouch. Doing some checking on eBay, I found that one could be had for a mere $180…about half the cost. I thought it was worth a try to attempt a repair (okay, I’m cheap).
Being an electrical engineer, I immediately opened the case and removed the front panel to expose the innards. It’s easy to get inside. Just remove the two screws on the front panel and grab the top of the panel in the hole provided. Of course, you should do this with the power off!
When I removed the cover I looked carefully around and noticed that there was a brown spot on the printed circuit board in the upper right corner near a big, black disc. From what I’ve seen (and done) in the past, it looked like a component had fried on the board. So, I proceeded to remove the board. All you need to do is remove all the connectors attached to the board and, if you have an Aqua Link, unscrew the four wires that provide the communication to the Aqua Link. Don’t forget the little RJ-11 (telephone) connector at the bottom of the board that is plugged in on the outside of the box. Not a big deal, as all the connections are conveniently identified by color on the PCB (printed circuit board). In this photo I have the power on…you should, of course, have the power off when you remove the board!
As I did some research, I found that others have had similar problems to mine. It turns out that the big black disc is a varistor. A varistor is normally used as a protection device that, at a certain voltage, changes its resistance to a low value. It essentially “shorts out” voltage spikes. The idea is to protect from things like power surges caused by lightning strikes and the like. Turns out this one had given its life for the protection of the PCB. My hat’s off to you, Mr. Varistor! You saved my board. I’d gladly give you my Bud.
Additional research (i.e. Googling) was done to locate the the part number of the varistors…yes, there are more than one! However, in my case, there was only one that was a problem. The other two are much smaller. The large one is an SL32-2R025-B made by Ametherm. The smaller ones (that I didn’t replace) are V150LA2P made by Littelfuse. They are the little red discs that flank both sides of the black terminal strip on the lower left of the PCB. I ordered the SL32-2R025-B from eBay from STI_Trade for the whopping price of $1.99 (plus shipping). I ordered two, but actually got four, because they came two to a package. I think the whole thing came to $7.08. So, I have some extras. I might just give one or two of them away if someone asks me for them (and proves that someone is reading my blog)!
When I removed the varistor from the board with a soldering iron, it literally fell apart in pieces. Installing it was not a big deal if you’re familiar with soldering…a 15 minute job. The moment of truth was when I re-installed the board and powered it all back up. Worked like a hose!
I told my wife I saved $360 – $7.08 = $352.92. That qualifies me for some brownie points!
I found a post on how to calibrate the Aqua Rite. If you have a Jandy Aqua Link system, make sure it is in service mode before attempting this procedure, else it won’t really do much!
Move the switch to the Auto position. If the switch is already in the Auto or Super Chlorinate position, move it to Off then back to Auto.
Wait for the relay to click, then push the diagnostics button 5 times to the instant salt level with the minus sign in front.
Wait for the instant salt level to stop moving lower, make sure it is within the range of 2700-3400, then move the switch up to Super Chlorinate then back down to Auto. This saves the instant salt level reading as the new default which, in effect, recalibrates the unit to be able to run normally and chlorinate the pool.
The values on the display for each press of the button to the left of the display are:
Here are some more pictures.