Vortex Filter DIY – Organic Fertilizer on Demand
transcription of “Vortex Filter DIY — Organic Fertilizer on Demand” video..by The Urban Farming Guys..
These guys right here are our vortex filters. Retail, they’d be about $4,000 apiece…DIY version, about $100..You might be able to do it for cheaper. We’ve got a 55-gallon drum, with a cone built into it, down into a shower drain. Out here, you can pull off your fertilizer every day for your garden. I’ll show you about that.
We’re pulling off a pretty incredible fertilizer. We had it tested at the University of Columbia. 10-6-2 fertilizer with a ton of micro-nutrients. Right here, is our aquaponics system with IBC totes. We’re gonna be focusing on the four cylinders on the backside of the system. These are our vortex filters; we’re gonna show you how to build them from scratch. We have a pretty intense system so we built some really intense filtration. But, you’ll wanna think about these processes.
Stage One, you wanna settle out as much of the solids as you can before you send it to your mechanical filter so you don’t have to change your filter pads all the time. So, we built this vortex filter where the water spins real slow, the solids settle to the bottom, we pull them off as fertilizer every day.
Stage Two, whatever solids sneak by get caught in four filter pads so that the only thing left to filter now is the ammonia.
Stage Three, is the biological filter. It’s where you create a lot of surface area for bacteria to grow. Ours is a bead filter. You might do a sand filter or a trickle filter. After stage three, the ammonia is turned into nitrate. It’s pumped up to the plants.
Stage Four, the plants use the nitrates & send it back clean. & you can do this on a much simpler level. We wouldn’t even need the vortex filters if we just had 100 fish instead of 1,000. The rocks & the grow bed would do most of the biological filtration & we’d just to have to clean it out, whatever solids got caught up in there. But, we are on a mission to create organic fertilizer & harvest it. So, how did we build it?
Alright, we make our vortex filters out of 55-gallon drums. You’re gonna have to pick up one of these 55-gallon drums. This one here had vanilla in it. You wanna make sure it’s food grade. We picked it up for $15, got four of them for $60. & first thing you do, is plumb in this shower drain right here. So, we thought, we’ll drill a 3-inch hole. Come to find out, you run into all sorts of problems..When you drill in, here’s what we drilled out..it’s got a humongous bump in it. It’s anything but flat, so if you’re trying to plumb that shower drain in, you’re gonna leak. You’re gonna leak real bad, cuz it’s just not a flat surface. So, we had to figure out a way..What do we do? So, we went to go buy some new drums..Looked & looked; went to four or five different places & could not find a single one that was flat..found some that were more flat, but still it was rough & wavy. I guess it’s just part of the plastic process. So, I racked my brain. I went up to the metal shop, looking for a giant, 8-foot C clamp & couldn’t find it. So, I thought, man, I’ve gotta make my own tool to iron this plastic out, heat it up. It was a total theory; I halfway believed it would work. & I found these two metal plates right here. They were just plain metal plates. & I thought, man, if I get these holes drilled in it & weld on some bolts, tighten it down, put it together. You know, while I’m tightening it & heating it with the torch, it’ll iron that plastic out. & so, I went down to the machine shop, paid them $20, he drilled me perfect three holes right here in the middle of this circle I drew for him, & boom, we got a plastic vice..& it worked.
Okay, what we’re doing now, is heating up these plates, which we’re gonna use to flatten out the bottom of these 55-gallon drums. Kinda like what we’ve done over here on these.. So, I’ve drilled some holes to put the plate on both sides..getting the plates real hot. I’m gonna flatten out these barrels so we can plumb the bottom of them in. Now, we’re tightening this up, one by one. Don’t tighten any one of them up too tight before you go to the next one, just get it snug, snug, snug, snug. Keep going around. He’s heating it from the inside. We’re looking for it to start melting around this edge. But, it happens really fast, so you wanna pull off before the whole thing melts through & you ruin your drum.
Then, you’re gonna keep heating it..Switching back between tightening it up, heating it, tightening up til you get that bead of melted plastic around the edge. Then, you might have to run outside & hose it down before it melts all the way through. Okay, I’m starting to get a little bead, probably can’t see it in the video..Right there, that little clear, plastic bead. & there might be a better way of doing this, I don’t know..I’m just kinda shooting from the hip here. But, we’re about completely flat here..I’ve been tightening it up & heating it up, & you can go too far really fast. So, I better pay attention. See that bead, bubbling out on the edges there. This is where we wanna stop..
Next thing you’re gonna wanna do after you flatten the bottom of your barrel out, is drill a hole with a hole saw. We’re using a 3 1/4 inch hole saw…gotta make sure it’s real sharp. You want that shower drain to just fit through there, not too tight, but not loose. You want as much sealing surface area as you can. So, you’ll drill that hole, you’ll plumb your shower drain in. You make sure you have that gasket underneath the barrel..you might put one on top, but definitely one underneath. Use a bunch of pipe dope. You’ll put pipe dope on all these threads. Plumb that thing in there, & then put your tank up on blocks. Put your 55-gallon barrel up on blocks, throw a plug in there. Pick up one of these plugs for $2. You have to check it to make sure it doesn’t leak before you throw a bunch of concrete in there & waste your barrel. Fill it full of water, check it out, make sure it doesn’t leak, & then you’ll be ready to move forward.
So, this is what your cone is gonna look like before you rivet it together. Every cone is gonna be different. Every barrel is different. So, you got your upper diameter & your lower diameter for your shower drain. It’s a crazy equation. We got it from this guy; he used to build rocket bodies for the U.S. Army & he had to figure out how to cone down from a bigger cylinder to a smaller cylinder. So, hit up the wiki. We got the cone calculator. Alls you gotta do is type in the upper diameter & the lower diameter & the heighth of your cone. Make sure you got at least a 45 degree angle coming down so that the solids will fall.. It’s on our website: theurbanfarmingguys.com. Hit up the knowledge base & don’t give yourself a headache trying to figure out the cone all by yourself.
Next, we built a wood stand for our filter to sit on. It’s just four legs made out of 4x4s, a plywood top with a hole cut out for the shower drain to come through. Then, we plumbed off of that a valve. We made the whole thing high enough for a five-gallon bucket to go underneath it to pull the fish waste off. Next, drop your cone right into the barrel & center it over the drain hole. Then, take a Sharpie marker & trace around the top of the cone. You’ll use this mark as a guide when you’re putting down the cement base. Then, pull your cone out & mix up your cement. When your cement perlite mix is ready, cut a PVC pipe to the length of your cone wall & use it to form your base. Then, after it’s nice & cone-shaped, let it set for 3 days to dry. Come back, mix up some thinset mortar, spread it all over the cone, set your cone in, push down til the mortar squeezes all around the sides, clean it up, & let it sit for three more days. Then, come back, caulk it, wait for the caulk to dry, & you’ve got a cone-bottom filter.
So, here’s our inlet & outlet pipe. This whole thing’s been made possible by these magical uniseals. Instead of spending $100 bucks on a bulkhead fitting, we’re able to use these rubber uniseals, $5 apiece. Our inlet pipe is plumbed on..It’s on a rule of thirds here. This is the top of the cone, we come up a third from there, then come down a third & this is our outlet pipe here. You wanna get hard-turn 90s, this is as hard as I can find…& make them low-profile, cutting them down so they’ll turn inside your filter here. Let me show you. & you don’t need to use any kind of glue. Actually, I’m gonna drain this & cut it even shorter. & real soon, we’re start to get a vortex here & it’ll start to turn.
So, here’s what the finished product looks like. You can see the pipe coming in at the top is the outlet pipe. You can see the little tornado above it, the little vortex, it shows it’s working. This is where the water exits the tank. The pipe right above it is the inlet pipe. That’s where the water comes in, takes a hard right, & starts slowly spinning in the tank. The solids settle out & the clean water at the top is pulled off & sent to the second filter.
So, rewind a little bit, we’re gonna show you how to install the uniseal in the practice barrel. Before you drill your hole, you’re gonna wanna stick a support board in there. Like so, & drill right next to it..right there. Right now, we’re putting a beveled edge on the edge of these PVC pipes so that they’ll be able to slide through the uniseals. Then, you just pop the uniseal in the hole, push the pipe through, you gotta lubricate it a little bit with some WD-40. If you go too far, it’s one-directional, you gotta go all the way through, start again & push it to where you need it. Just enough to get our elbow in there, & we’re gonna put one up higher for the outlet pipe.
There you go, vortex technology is now in your hands. If you need a parts list, come check out the wiki on the web page. Stay tuned for part two where we build a mechanical filter & a bead filter. & come ask questions on the forum. We are here for you.