Remote sensing of water holding tank levels (measuring contraption)

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Having recently and unexpectedly run out of water in my holding tanks, I now see the value in some kind of remote warning system that can be seen inside the house.
Do you know of a good idea for remote sensing of holding tank water levels?
Presently, there is a chlorox bottle floating in the steel tank which is roped to a red wooden block that moves up when the water level goes down (and vice versa).
The problem with this manual method is you have to walk almost to the water tanks to 'see' the level of the block.
It would be nice to have an indicator in the house that showed the water level of the tanks, about 100 or 200 feet away and about 20 feet above the level of the house.
Any ideas for remote sensing of water level?
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On 8/18/11 5:03 PM, SF Man wrote:

There are probably plenty of remote liquid level sensors online. My first thought, being cheap, errr frugal, would be binoculars. Old farm chemical tanks used just a clear plastic hose mounted vertically outside the tank. There were openings on the side at the top and bottom of the tanks. A couple street Ls pointed at each other with hose barbs provided a way to connect the hose. One could rig up a larger hose with a bright colored floating ball in the hose. That wouldn't be much better than what you have though.
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How much do you want to spend? There are loads of commercial solutions - just Google. My favorite is the solar power satellite transmitter that sends you a text message.
Seriously. Well, that it exists - it's not may favorite. There's some slightly less expensive radio setups with a range of a few hundred feet.
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Not sure what all is out there, but if power is available near the tank, that would enable him to put in any off the shelf wireless access point networking solution to get ethernet connectivity from the tank to the house. Then he would need some ethernet compatible water level sensor.
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On Thu, 18 Aug 2011 16:34:15 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Interesting concept.
There 'is' electricity since the booster pump is righ next to the tanks. I don't know if that's 220 or 110 but the point is there is electricity at the tanks.
I like the idea of tying into the existing wireless network ...
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On 8/18/11 7:18 PM, SF Man wrote:

Would some sort of remote camera be workable?
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On Thu, 18 Aug 2011 19:40:59 -0500, Dean Hoffman wrote:

Actually, that's an idea I would never have thought of.
I was thinking electronics, with LEDs and the like ... but ... since the visual works just fine if you can just see it ... a camera would be the most direct remote sensing.
What I love about this camera idea is that it won't require modification of the tank sensing mechanism at all!
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SF Man wrote:

Hi, RVs have warwe level monitor for water tanks. May be try RV paerts dept.?
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SF Man wrote:

Connect a vertical pvc pipe to the bottom of the tank, put a magnet inside the pipe, floating on something, then put reed relays along the pipe, which switch a row of say 10-20 leds. That should give you a nice display, and the reed relays are safe from water.
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On Fri, 19 Aug 2011 05:00:57 +0200, Sjouke Burry wrote:

I'm amazed at the ingenuity of the suggestions!
This idea seems elegant.
A pipe with a floating magnet (either inside the pipe or a ring outside the pipe).
As the magnet moves up and down, differnet switches are turned on or off.
Are you suggesting that the one switch which is 'active' would be the water level?
I guess that would take a lot of reed switches ... to cover about 5 feet of water level travel ... but the result 'would' be an interesting display in the kitchen!
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I'm sure you can find some kind of ethernet compatible I/O widget that has basic contact inputs that you could connect to this arrangement. Then you could hook that up to a wireless bridge, etc to connect to your home LAN.
How many switches it takes depends on what resolution you want. But it's also not as simple as the magnet keeping the switch closed. The magnet will trigger a switch while it's next to it. At that point, you need something on the other end, eg PC software program that keeps track of the last switch that was triggered. Then you know the water level is somewhere between the two switches on either side of the last one tripped. Would require quite a few switches to get any accuracy.
I would think a pressure sensor would be the easiest. One sensor does it. Not sure how easy it is to find one that covers the necessary range and is reasonable cost.
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On Fri, 19 Aug 2011 05:23:14 -0700 (PDT), snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

I was wondering about that!

That's an interesting idea.
I presume we lower a weighted pressure sensor on the inside bottom of the tank, and, it simply senses the weight of the water on top of it.
From scuba, I remember every 33 feet was 15 pounds of pressure, so these tanks, being (roughly) 8 or 9 feet tall should have 1/4th that, or about 4 pounds of difference, empty to full.
Does that seem about the right calibration points?
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On 8/20/11 6:32 PM, SF Man wrote:

One foot of head in water equals about 2.3 pounds of pressure. Chart here: http://tinyurl.com/4ymr9uw
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I would put the pressure sensor on a fitting on the bottom of the tank. Usually tanks have multiple outlets with some of them not used and plugged. Use one of those. I would not put it on the pipe feeding the house, as when the house pump kicks on it's going to effect the pressure, giving a false reading while it's running.

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SF Man wrote:

Here is how pro's do it:
http://www.winland.com/waterbugalert.html
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On Fri, 19 Aug 2011 08:17:46 -0500, G. Morgan wrote:

Interesting.
The Waterbug WB200 or WB350 seems to fit the bill, on initial inspection.
Since a well holding tank has got to be wet inside, key to operation is the sentence "Will not alarm due to condensation or humidity".
Seems to me, I screw the six sensors onto a weighted panel (or pipe) the depth of the holdin tank ... and then just lower that pipe into the tank and secure somehow.
The specs note that the wires can be 100 feet long, so that should be fine if I strategically place the main unit.
One intriguing sentence (on the Waterbug WB200) was "Can be used to detect ABSENSE of water (emphasis mine).
Seems to me, the absense of water is more interesting, to me, than the presence of water ... so I would think that WB200 unit would be the first to explore!
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SF Man wrote:

Why 6 sensors? You would just need two on each tank, like how limit switches work in garage door openers. Or are you going for greater resolution?
You can use the sensors to trigger the timer to start a 'run' cycle when it gets below the lower switch (sensor). The top sensor would be a 'full' indicator, and shunt the pumps.

Are you going to use their annunciation unit? The sensors can be hooked to anything, like an alarm/home automation panel or PLC controller.

Yup, I've installed dozens. You can get really creative with them, they are versatile. I've used them to detect any water on the floor in a university chemical-storage vault. Some of that stuff in there was explosive if it reacted w/H2O.
I'm was surprised the head of chem.. dept. let me install the sensors all day alone in there. He said he was the only one with access and students are never allowed unattended. He gave me all kinds of warnings about keeping the door locked and the alarm on if I left, but ZERO instructions on what to do if I knocked a shelf full of volatile chemicals on the ground.
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On Sat, 20 Aug 2011 19:11:12 -0500, G. Morgan wrote:

I do have a home alarm system with many zones ... some of which (I think) are free ... so that's a possibility.
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On Sat, 20 Aug 2011 19:11:12 -0500, G. Morgan wrote:

Seems to me, if the work is going to be done to fit sensors, one may as well measure with greater granularity, than less.
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I don't see how they fit the bill at all. They are alarms that trigger when a sensor gets wet. You can hook like 6 sensors up to them, but they will just sound an alarm when it reaches any one of them. They are intended for applications like putting several sensors around your basement floor, so that if any one of them gets wet the alarm sounds.
Another big problem. Those sensors are intended for areas that are dry and rarely get wet. The inside of a tank is going to be wet with condensation, etc and even if you had 6 of them in there, they would probably all be wet enough to trigger the alarm.

I wouldn;t count on taking it to the extreme of the inside of the tank. I would take it to mean the condensation or humidity you would find on a basement floor or a laundry room.

And if one sensor is wet, it triggers an output or sounds the internal alarm. All that tells you is that at least one sensor is wet, not which one.

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