Apex Alarm Control: Master Class

Discussion in 'Equipment: Setup and Discussion' started by RSnodgrass, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. RSnodgrass

    RSnodgrass TCMAS President
    BOD Lifetime Member Event Committee Meeting Host 2018 Meeting Host 2019

    Apr 7, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Lynd, MN, United States
    Updated as of 11/10/19

    It's taken me awhile to find the best methods (that work) for maximum Apex timing control & manipulation of alarms. Additional ideas for other types of useful alarms and planning can be added by other qualified members below. Hopefully this helps folks looking to achieve the number one benefit of a Apex for me... useful alarms

    Key items I wanted to achieve:
    1. Each alarm would act independently of each other as opposed to one big bucket.
    2. I control the how, when, & frequency.
    3. Major alarms can wake me from a dead sleep.
    4. Better clarity on phone messages so I can differentiate what alarm is sounding.
    5. Highest priority alarms show first even if multiple alarms are triggered and at overlapping times.
    Expanded knowledge you will find below:
    1. How to change the frequency of your master alarm.
    2. Settings on your smartphone.
    3. What a virtual outlet is & setting up.
    4. How to pre-test alarms.
    5. Programming.
    6. Patience... needed.
    Changing the Master Alarm Frequency Delay:

    Others prefer to use the standard 1 hour or to extend it even longer. For me I changed it to have a default repeat every 5 min. If I did it for an even shorter period I'd break my phone, if longer, I might not wake up fast enough. I want my critical alarms to happen appropriately often.

    Doing it this way also means any alarm will be programmed using a consistent format (only programming delays and not speeding up) resulting in fewer errors. More reasons are listed under programming.

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    Smartphone Settings:

    This is important, if set up improperly you will either miss critical alarms, interrupt meetings, or fail to interrupt meetings.
    • You will need to force an alarm via the test function, shown below.
    • Add the Apex message to your phone contacts.
    • Set a custom sound for the Apex contact and test alarm again to verify sound. Sometimes it's customized through the text messaging app, sometimes directly through the contact.
    • Different notification sounds can be at a higher volume then normal. Referred to as the bitrate this is the same reason commercials are so loud. Generally a notification app for loud noises is best. I used "Super Loud Ring tones" HERE
    • Unfortunately there is no way currently to assign a different sound to different alarms so pick one that will wake you up but not make your spouse or roommate break your phone.
    • Set the Apex contact to favorites and/or set to bypass the Do Not Disturb feature if you use it, you should. The notification volume usually defaults to the ring/notification volume you were using prior to the DND turning on. Test your phone and don't accidentally leave phone on vibrate/silent over night use the DND instead!
    • Turning phone to vibrate or to completely silent often applies to this text alert. Useful in a meeting but not when you're phone is somewhere else or sleeping. Test again to know your phone.
    • With the app you may be able to customize the push notification sound for a singular app (Apex), I cannot.
    • For travelers, consider changing the alerts to a tank sitter and giving Apex access.
    What is a Virtual Outlet & Purpose:

    A method used to monitor a switch or piece of equipment and what state it's in. Then relay that information for a specific purpose, in this case to your alarm tile in a controlled way.

    VO's allow more characters in the name (12) vs a normal switch (6). Helps with better clarity on an alarm because the name of the VO will be used in the alarm instead of the actual switch or equipment. Also, a tank sitter is less likely to be confused.

    Ex: Stating Leak_1 or Leak_2 is not as clear as Leak_RODI or Leak_Skimmer.

    How to create a virtual outlet.

    How to Pre-Test Alarms and Set Notifications:



    With multiple overlapping alarms the last listed on the list is what you will be notified of... FALSE. This is a common misleading statement.

    The last true statement is the one that the Apex makes it's decision on. In the case of overlapping alarms it 'runs home to mama' by defaulting to the first alarm triggered which takes priority until the next master default alarm cycle. If you only relied on the default 1 hr repeat cycle and a high pH alarm sounded 10 min before a leak detection occurred three things would happen.
    1. You would not get the leak alarm until 50 min later assuming it's listed in a position after pH in the alarm program.
    2. If your leak is set to reset every 5 min it won't matter because the pH alarm is already activated and is deferring to the master alarm cycle in this example so it still won't reset for 50 more min and will stay on a 1 hr default cycle until the pH alarm clears, not the shorter 5 min leak cycle you created!
    3. If you had a master default alarm set to 5 min it would only take, at most, 5 min before the highest priority alarm shows on your phone instead of a previous lower priority alarm. There are other ways to fix these issues, this left the least room for errors in my mind.
    How to prioritize, most important listed goes last.
    • The "Set OFF" is a critical statement that will allow the alarm to reset once an alarm clears.
    • Some also use a Defer statement to prevent false alarms. "Don't sound the alarm until it's real for 1min". I prefer to place Defer statements directly on the Virtual Outlet for things such as a pH alarm.
    #1 RSnodgrass, Jan 10, 2019
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2019
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  2. OP

    RSnodgrass TCMAS President
    BOD Lifetime Member Event Committee Meeting Host 2018 Meeting Host 2019

    Apr 7, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Lynd, MN, United States
    How to program a custom alarm schedule for each individual alarm:

    For clarity this is my skimmer sensor and open means it's full, closed means it's not full (opposite of what you may expect).

    This first method allows you to use alarms at pre-determined times of the day, in this case 8am and 6pm. I want to know when I show up to work and before I leave if the skimmer is full, not during the day.

    • A second similar alarm would be set for 8:02am and 6:02pm, reasons below and in previous post.
    • The "Set OFF" is a critical statement or the alarm will never stop, it turns it off when no other statement is true. This specific schedule ensures that my alarm will only sound once.
    • Limiting it to one min in length also keeps the alarm system open to more urgent Leak alarms with minimal delays (due to short default alarm schedule, see prior post) should they occur shortly after.
    This second method allows you to set an alarm for a reoccurring pattern throughout the day. Varying the pattern from other alarms will help eliminate overlap and lack of being notified of multiple alarms. This is because you are only able to be notified of one alarm at a time presently.
    • The OSC line attempts to turn on the Variable Outlet for 1 min every 4 hr. (you really only need 5 sec, but 1 min is easy to work with; the goal is simply to try to turn on the VO briefly)
    • The "If Time" line keeps the VO off during the night or other unwanted periods.
    • The last line keeps the VO off if the skimmate locker switch is closed (not full).
    • There is not a "Set OFF" statement because the goal of this alarm is to repeat all day until the time block turns it off. It starts over once the time block is over.

    Done incorrectly you can easily have missed alarms, duplicate alarms, overlapping alarms, alarms that don't repeat and should, excessive VO use, inconsistent programming, more opportunities for user error, etc.

    Make adjustments to the parameters to verify they work properly and notify you properly at different times of the day.
    #2 RSnodgrass, Jan 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2019
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  3. Flounder

    Flounder BRS Reef Squad!
    TCMAS Sponsor TCMAS Supporter

    Feb 26, 2007
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    Wow! Very good info.
    Thanks for making it easy to understand
  4. Ben Nicholls

    Ben Nicholls TCMAS Old Timer
    Lifetime Member Meeting Host 2018 Meeting Host 2019

    Feb 22, 2007
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    Apple Valley, MN, USA
    Here's my dual heater program. The idea is each heater runs as primary for 12 hours, then they switch. That way the heaters get equal use and you always know both are working. Whichever heater is playing backup is set to come on at 0.3 degrees below the set temp (78) so it can provide extra heat in case the primary is not keeping up. I then have a virtual outlet which triggers an alert if both heaters are running longer than 30 minutes. The heaters are sized so the primary one runs almost continually. On my 180 that is 400w for the midnight to noon night shift and 300w for the noon to midnight day shift.

    You can switch the Fallback to ON if you trust the temp control of the heater itself. Fallback is what happens if the Apex head unit is offline.
    The second and 3rd lines set your heat range. This will turn on the heater at 77.8 and off at 78.2.
    The "Time" line turns off the heater when it is not its turn to run.
    The next line turns on the heater anyway if it is needed for backup heat at 77.6.
    The last two lines are safeties. The 80 is if for some reason something is coded wrong and the tank gets too hot. The 60 is in case the Apex temp probe goes bad and starts reading an impossibly low temp.

    Fallback OFF
    If Tmp < 77.9 Then ON
    If Tmp > 78.1 Then OFF
    If Time 00:00 to 11:59 Then OFF
    If Tmp < 77.7 Then ON
    If Tmp > 80.0 Then OFF
    If Tmp < 60.0 Then OFF

    Fallback OFF
    If Tmp < 77.9 Then ON
    If Tmp > 78.1 Then OFF
    If Time 12:00 to 23:59 Then OFF
    If Tmp < 77.7 Then ON
    If Tmp > 80.0 Then OFF
    If Tmp < 60.0 Then OFF

    This is a virtual outlet. It would only go on if both heaters are running. The defer is set to 30 minutes to allow the occasional time when the backup heater needs to give a quick boost. You can adjust that to whatever is appropriate for you tank.

    Set OFF
    If Output Heat1 = ON Then ON
    If Output Heat2 = OFF Then OFF
    Defer 030:00 Then ON

    Then add this line to your alerts. I also have a max and min temp alert set on the temperature probe.

    If Output Heat-Err = ON Then ON
    #4 Ben Nicholls, Apr 2, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2019
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  5. OP

    RSnodgrass TCMAS President
    BOD Lifetime Member Event Committee Meeting Host 2018 Meeting Host 2019

    Apr 7, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Lynd, MN, United States
    Apex Power Failure Alarms
    1. Apex Heartbeat
    2. Power loss to PowerBar or individual outlets.
    3. Call your IT friend and pay them to set up a backup alert system for power failures such as a GFI/GFCI failure.
    Apex Heartbeat:
    • Periodically checks for a network connection. If you loose a network connection you have potentially lost all power.
    • Typically takes 30-40min to notify you to avoid temporary network loss notifications.
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    Power loss:
    • Your PowerBar or individual outlet will eventually fail and loose power.
    • Being alerted of the PowerBar failure is important, individual outlets are optional.
    • Individual outlets fail on or off, there is no way to predict which. This only helps if it fails off and if you program the individual outlet you will get a notification anytime that outlet is off, not just a failure.
    • Add the line of code to your alarms as a final failsafe and should be in the lowest position to take priority BUT BEFORE A LEAK ALARM. If a leak caused the failure a leak is more important!
    • Verify the name of your PowerBar.
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    • Program the alarm:
    For individual outlets you name the device instead of the PowerBar.

    Call your IT friend: you can get master power monitoring to let you know if a GFI/GFCI has tripped.

    Credit to @Nickz for letting me know of this alarm.
  6. OP

    RSnodgrass TCMAS President
    BOD Lifetime Member Event Committee Meeting Host 2018 Meeting Host 2019

    Apr 7, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Lynd, MN, United States
    Programming forced switch into manual off position
    1. How can you program a switch to go into a manual off position.
    2. How you can be alerted to it being in a manual off position when it shouldn't be.
    How to Program:
    You can set up statements on a device to fully turn it off in the event it runs outside the intended run time.

    Ex: my ATO typically runs for less than 2 min. or my RO production runs for 2 hrs normally.
    • Use the "When" statement, in this case when it runs longer than 5 min 10 sec it forces the switch to a permanent off position and will not turn on without my doing so.
    • Caution: this can be a dangerous code if you are not using it, or your phone isn't set up correctly to wake you up. It can easily be as dangerous if you fail to set the alarm to coincide with it!!!

    How to Program Corresponding Alert:

    Alert if a switch has turned permanently off as a result of your program failsafes, now what?

    There are 2 methods:
    1. Use a virtual outlet (see first post) to control when the alarm will sound and frequency.
    2. Program alert directly into master alarm section using very specific language.
    To program directly into alarm type:
    • Keep in mind when in the master alarm section it defaults to the repeat frequency you are using as a default (see above post).
    • Keep in mind the prioritizing of alarms (see above post).
  7. Nezw0001

    Nezw0001 I contributed!
    Lifetime Member Event Committee Meeting Host 2018 Meeting Host 2019

    Jun 16, 2012
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    west central MN
    When minor alarms go off I have my radions programmed to go all RED

    When major alarms go off I have an outlets with a siren turn ON

    I don't sleep with my phone so I needed a way to alert me to a problem without my phone. Works great, caught a basement flood before it even started. Flood was due to a sump pump problem, not the tank.
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