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Old 07/18/2010, 09:39 AM   #1
GlassReef
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New automated skimmer cleaner - a review

I recently ordered a new piece of equipment - an automatic skimmer neck cleaner from Avast Marine Works. We all know how much grunge collects on the inside of the neck on a well functioning skimmer - and how much work it is to keep it clean. I have gotten in to a routine of cleaning my skimmer's neck with a soft toilet brush every three days, or so. This cleans the neck of gunk and "oil" without making it "squeaky clean". The result of not over cleaning the neck is that no break-in period is required after cleaning. This is a definite plus point, as skimmer efficiency can be negatively effected for days after a thorough cleaning.

I have been following the development of various automated neck cleaners for a number of years. Basically, there have been two directions these developments have taken: No. 1. a continuous laminar flow of water is produced that "washes down" the inside of the riser tube - IMHO, these designs have proven very difficult to set up correctly (perfectly level, etc.) and just weren't that good at keeping the tube clean, No. 2. a low RPM motor drives a brush or squeegee, at intervals, along the inside of the riser tube, cleaning away gunk as it goes. Of the two main design directions, this seemed to be the most promising.

I have been keeping a close watch on the various efforts to perfect such a device as, due to the way they function, they fall into the category of producing a clean, but (and this is important) not too clean, result. Up until now I found that they were always either not very good at cleaning or so expensive as to be unaffordable.

Recently, I became aware of Avast Marine Works' (AMW) new skimmer cleaner. The device uses a windshield wiper like squeegee to automatically remove the buildup from a skimmer neck! The "Swabbie", as AMW has named their product, consists of a round top that replaces the skimmer's normal*skimmate cup cover, a high torque low RPM motor, a drive rod (to which the squeegee is attached), and the squeegee, itself.

My "Swabbie", arrived quickly, and was well packaged. The entire thing was first covered in many layers of stretch wrap, and then placed inside a sturdy cardboard box. No chance of anything being damaged:



The Swabbie looks to be very well made - and engineered. The top, which is machined from 3/8" solid PVC stock, serves as the mount for the squeegee's drive motor and, as befits skimmers the size of mine, is foreseen with twelve approx. 3/8" holes for air escape.



The motor is centered on the top and enclosed - almost hermetically sealed - in PVC. It raises the total height of the skimmer by approx. 2 inches. There are three screw clamps located around the edge of the top, they serve to center it exactly over the middle of the neck of the skimmer - this is vital to the correct functioning of the Swabbie. There is a deep groove machined on the bottom of the cover (it can be seen in the pic, below). The groove is dimensioned to provide a seat for the upper edge of the skimmate cup, with a little room for adjustment. This extra room provides the means of assuring that the Swabbie can always be adjusted dead center over the skimmer's neck:



The drive rod, which holds the squeegee, protrudes from the bottom of the cover and is affixed to the motor's drive shaft using a stainless steel set screw. There are a number of threaded holes spaced evenly along the shaft - these provide the means of attaching the squeegee to the rod with a nylon screw:



As already mentioned, it is important that the rod is centered exactly in the middle of the skimmer's neck so that equal pressure is brought to bear on the entire circumference of the neck. This assures effective cleaning and, as mentioned earlier is achieved using the three screw clamps.

The squeegee, itself, looks to be made of a good grade of orange neoprene:



The attaching of the squeegee to the drive rod is the only assembly required, and took all of 30 seconds:



I proceeded to initially adjust the size of the squeegee's "circle of neck contact" by measuring the inside diameter of the skimmer's neck. I then set the squeegee's position on the drive rod so that the total circumference of the squeegee, as it turns, would be approx. 1/8" larger than the inside diameter of the neck. This proved to be a little too loose, so I moved the squeegee out a little by loosening the nylon screw and adjusting the squeegee's holder accordingly. This position seemed perfect. The squeegee moved around the inside of the neck smoothly and after a couple adjustments of the positioning clamps, contacted the neck all around it's swing.

I set up the Swabbie as a controlled device on my Neptune Apex. I programmed the controller so that the Swabbie comes on for 1 minute every 4hours. Seems to be just right, judging from the clean neck I'm now seeing.

I haven't had the Swabbie installed long enough to fully evaluate whether or not it functions as advertised, but initial results are encouraging. It'll be another week or so before I can give an unqualified evaluation. Until then, I can show you one of the plus points about the Swabbie:



Customer service at Avast Marine Works seems to be first class. They have standard model Swabbies, as well as the possibility of ordering a custom unit. I run Reeflo Orca 250 Pro skimmers so my Swabbie would have quite a job cut out for it. I spent some time communicating with Justin Casp, of Avast, and he was very helpful with answering all my questions and making sure I received a Swabbie that fit my large skimmers perfectly. It was very clear that he was genuinely interested in assuring that I was satisfied with my experience with his company.

So stand by, I'll be reporting back with a final evaluation, as soon as I get a little more experience with this interesting and very promising device...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

...well, I've had my Swabbie running for almost two weeks now. It runs for exactly six minutes a day (that's one minute at a time, six times a day) and during that time, I have had zero problems with the unit. Most important, the inside of the skimmer neck has remained nice and clean.

Local reefers that know about my trial of the Swabbie have ask if it makes my skimmer more efficient. The answer is yes and no. No, because when I have cleaned my skimmers, they are very efficient and the Swabbie cannot make them more so. Yes, and this is the important part, because it keeps the skimmer clean 24 hours a day - and that means the skimmer is always running at top efficiency, which is not the case if I have to keep them clean manually.

To sum up, the Swabbie has proven to be a definite work saver for me. During the short time it has been running, I normally would have had to clean the skimmer's neck three or four times to keep it at top output. The Swabbie has successfully eliminated that need. As mentioned, I run two identical skimmers, so I'll be ordering a second unit.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Please note that I do not have, nor have I ever had, a personal or financial interest in Avast Marine Works.


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Old 07/18/2010, 10:50 AM   #2
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Damn that is cool.


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Old 07/18/2010, 02:27 PM   #3
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I have been wanting one of these for years too but the price was always outrageous. Avast hit a Homerun because they look great and the price is by far the lowest I have seen to date. I ordered one last night and can not wait to try it out.


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Old 07/18/2010, 02:51 PM   #4
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I have been wanting one of these for years too but the price was always outrageous. Avast hit a Homerun because they look great and the price is by far the lowest I have seen to date. I ordered one last night and can not wait to try it out.
Yup, the price-to-functionality ratio is just right!


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Old 07/18/2010, 07:15 PM   #5
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Wow Tom , super nice looking neck cleaner , and a Awesome wright up . I hate cleaning my skimmer cup , and neck . It looks like the Swabbie is very well made , and it is not priced out of reach .


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Old 07/19/2010, 06:33 AM   #6
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Wow Tom , super nice looking neck cleaner , and a Awesome wright up . I hate cleaning my skimmer cup , and neck . It looks like the Swabbie is very well made , and it is not priced out of reach .
Ted
It would sure fit in perfectly with your i-Tech monster and it's grey PVC parts! You'd think it came out of the box that way.


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Old 07/19/2010, 07:20 PM   #7
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Nice write up Tom. Thats an interesting new piece of equipment. I wonder how well it will hold up over time.
Regards,
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Old 07/20/2010, 07:09 AM   #8
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Nice write up Tom. Thats an interesting new piece of equipment. I wonder how well it will hold up over time.
Regards,
Doug
Thanks, Doug. Well, judging from the materials used, I would say it's working liftime should be quite good.


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Old 07/20/2010, 07:21 AM   #9
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i just checked out the site, i think i will be ordering one too, that is really reasonable!


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Old 07/20/2010, 10:55 AM   #10
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The only question I have (and it might be stupid) is wouldnt this device get in the way of the foam rising up the neck. Or even disrupt or break up the bubbles?


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Old 07/20/2010, 10:58 AM   #11
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most public aquariums have it, and I suppose this will make ure skimmer run more efficiently.

what's the price range of these


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Old 07/20/2010, 02:25 PM   #12
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The only question I have (and it might be stupid) is wouldnt this device get in the way of the foam rising up the neck. Or even disrupt or break up the bubbles?
First - my daddy always said: "Th'aint no such thing as a stupid question".

It's difficult to run totally accurate tests on skimmer efficiency. I can say positively that I can tell when my skimmer are clean as well as when they need to be cleaned, by the amount of skimmate being produced. With the Swabbie in play, the production remains that of a clean skimmer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allmost View Post
most public aquariums have it, and I suppose this will make ure skimmer run more efficiently. what's the price range of these
They run from around $135 for a stock model to around $175 if you need a custom made model for a monster smimmer.


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Old 09/11/2010, 06:47 AM   #13
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Tom - how about an update on this product? Still like it? functionality? Durability? Any questions/issues with it?
Thanks,
T


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Old 09/11/2010, 07:11 AM   #14
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How about sludge build up on the squegee itself- is that an issue at all?


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Old 09/11/2010, 07:24 AM   #15
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My Swabbie is going strong! I'm very satisfied with it's performance. No issues, at all. As a matter of fact I have been intending to order another one (have two identical skimmers) for the past week, but haven't gotten around to it because I've been so busy.

BTW - I was at MACNA last weekend and met Justin Casp, the manufacturer. Really nice guy - obviously interested in well satisfied customers. Says he's working on an Ozone reactor - something I'd really be interested in.

A number of you have PMed me about how I have programmed my Swabbie's run times. Here's what I am running on my Apex:

Fallback OFF
Set OFF
OSC 239:00/001:00/000:00 Then ON

This turns the Swabbie on for 1 minute every 4 hours. Works great.


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Old 09/11/2010, 07:40 AM   #16
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How about sludge build up on the squegee itself- is that an issue at all?
It should be cleaned every once in a while. With my skimmers (Reeflo Orca 250 Pros) there is a lot of crude involved. I've cleaned my Swabbie twice since I stated using it - so about once a month. I could probably go six to eight weeks, if I wanted, but it only takes 3 or 4 minutes to clean it - it's a very simple process.


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Old 09/16/2010, 01:42 PM   #17
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Where does all the skimmate go? I'm assuming y'all have a drain on the cup and it drains into another reservoir, but what do you do about that smell?


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Old 09/16/2010, 02:18 PM   #18
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Where does all the skimmate go? I'm assuming y'all have a drain on the cup and it drains into another reservoir, but what do you do about that smell?
Yes, I employ a cup drain. The gunk runs into a covered receptacle with a small GAC plugged vent. No smell, at all.


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Old 09/16/2010, 07:45 PM   #19
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Funny I just postmarked they're site last night I thought it would go good with my I-Tech 200, both made in Florida I believe. Question Does the skimmer shut down making skimmate due to a too clean neck, it takes my skimmer at least a day to recover so I usually clean it sparenly.


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Old 09/16/2010, 10:44 PM   #20
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Funny I just postmarked they're site last night I thought it would go good with my I-Tech 200, both made in Florida I believe. Question Does the skimmer shut down making skimmate due to a too clean neck, it takes my skimmer at least a day to recover so I usually clean it sparenly.
I think most would agree that skimmers need to be "broken in" after they've been thoroughly cleaned. That kind of cleaning removes the thin "fatty" film that builds up and actually promotes good skimming. After the film has been removed, it has to be built up again before the skimmer can really do its thing. I think that's what we're calling the break-in period - the build-up of that film. The Swabbie keeps the neck so clean that it looks clear - you can't see anything on it. But that important film must still be there, because the neck remains clear and skimmer just keeps on chuggin' away.

As I once explained in my build thread, here on RC, (before I started using the Swabbie) I never washed the neck of my skimmers. I just used a soft wet toilet brush to remove the gunk. I would brush the neck until it was perfectly clear, but there was never a break-in period necessary after a cleaning, so the brush wasn't removing the film. For whatever reason - I obviously don't know the physics behind what's going on - this seams to be whats happening with the Avast skimmer neck cleaner.


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Old 09/17/2010, 10:03 AM   #21
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the other plus for the swabbie is that it's built by avast...good guys who run the company who remain hobbyists first.


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Old 09/17/2010, 11:16 AM   #22
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the other plus for the swabbie is that it's built by avast...good guys who run the company who remain hobbyists first.
Good customer service is always important...


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Old 09/17/2010, 11:40 AM   #23
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Hi All,

Please forgive me for being so dense, but I still don't get what happens to the skimate after it is wiped from the skimmer wall. From what I understand, some sticks to the wiper, and the rest falls back into the skimmer. Isn't it possible that it could escape the skimmer,
and be reintroduced into the water column?


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Old 09/17/2010, 11:53 AM   #24
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Please forgive me for being so dense, but I still don't get what happens to the skimate after it is wiped from the skimmer wall. From what I understand, some sticks to the wiper, and the rest falls back into the skimmer. Isn't it possible that it could escape the skimmer,
and be reintroduced into the water column?
Before you install a device like the Swabbie, you should clean the neck of the skimmer. Then ensure that the Swabbie runs for about a minute, a number of times a day - in my case I use my Apex controller to turn the Swabbie on for 1 minute, six times every 24 hours. This ensures that the amount of "gunk" being removed by the Swabbie from the skimmer's neck is never enough to cause any problems. My observations indicate that, in a well adjusted skimmer, the film that is removed immediately becomes part of the skimmate.


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Old 09/17/2010, 12:23 PM   #25
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Thanks guys. I kept thinking about how mine looks after a few days, and the skimmate on the neck is thick. With a wipe every 4 hours or so, the skimmate cannot build up, thus it would exit as normal.


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