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    Detecting low water level in a water cooler

    Hey guys,

    I would like to get a warning system for low water level in a water cooler. Does anyone have something like this in place? I've searched the forum and the closest one might be the sonar system to monitor the salt level for water softener system. But that's not applicable here, since the water container needs to stay sterile and it gets replaced all the time.

    Picture of a typical water cooler:



    Maybe something that monitors the weight?
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    #2
    Maybe a digital flow meter and some sort of reset switch? Water does only flow in one direction in said device pictured.

    Note the attached picture was a quick google of a digital flow meter. You have to come up with the cloud widget for your phone though LeoS.

    I have had in place a similiar dispenser of water at home before. I just look at the bottle personally when the water is low. (never a desire to automate it) I still have a few glass ones around as they are sort of antiqi?

    That said I could see automating these dispensers in an office environment; well geeze why not connect them to the "cloud".

    Thinking here too they just shipped a gravity less Expresso maker to the space station recently. (personally into Expresso coffee every morning). Wondering how they are keeping track of the fluid levels of the Expresso maker. It would be a sort of PITA depending on how you frame it.

    The International Space Station is to have an Italian espresso maker so astronauts can have a break from instant coffee to 'boost spirits'
    SpaceX is scheduled to launch its unmanned rocket with the espresso maker — and 4,000 pounds of food, science research and other equipment — on Monday afternoon. The experimental espresso machine is intended for International Space Station astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy.
    Personally I thought that they had already done this months ago; maybe they were only talking about it or beta testing one for space?

    My personal breakfast Expresso thing has me at 7 shots to one cup (?) once a day in my coffee cup (a bit oversized). All of the new makers only make 1-2 cups at a shot so I manually brew my 7 shots here. I did try though and mothballed two new expresso makers (WAF space thing?)



    Unrelated to water but more related to Expresso Coffee is a thread here relating to my interest back (ages ago) in November, 2014.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by Pete; April 14, 2015, 08:31 AM.
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      #3
      I know what you mean. It's just that usually we notice the low water during the off-hour and then we have to wait til morning to do the replacement. If we can have an early notice, then I can have the water on standby for replacement

      Using flow meter is definitely accurate, but it seems that the installation may be a little intrusive and you need to reset the counter after every change? I'm looking for something simpler... so far I'm thinking of 2 methods

      1). Use a light-based sensor and put a buoy of some sort that floats on the water level. The buoy should block the sensor when it's low enough.

      2). Use a load sensor (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10245) that would just turn on a virtual HS device when it's below a certain threshold. I think at 110lb limit, this can be installed under the dispenser itself, making it a zero-maintenance install.
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        #4
        Yeah a digital scale might make it more solid state than a flow meter eh?

        The counter would have to have a switch maybe attached to the base for auto reset which would be a PITA. A buoy inside of the bottle is obtrusive and getting away from the solid state.

        You want to build it in or have some little widget trinket you can attach to the dispenser without changing its function (of sorts eh?).

        The wiki

        An espresso machine brews coffee by forcing pressurized water near boiling point through a "puck" of ground coffee and a filter in order to produce a thick, concentrated coffee called espresso. The first machine for making espresso was built and patented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo of Turin, Italy. An improved design was patented in 1901, which was bought by the founder of the "La Pavoni" company which from 1905 produced espresso machines commercially on a small scale in Milan. Multiple machine designs have been created to produce espresso. Several machines share some common elements, such as a grouphead and a portafilter. An espresso machine may also have a steam wand which is used to steam and froth liquids, to include milk, for coffee drinks such as cappuccino and latte. Espresso machines may be steam-driven, piston-driven, pump-driven, or air-pump-driven. Machines may be manual or automatic.

        Here is a quickie granular detailed engineering visio drawing of my espresso coffee venture. Here already had a small brewer (2 cups) and purchased a larger one.

        Here is an el cheapo water flow sensor.....
        Attached Files
        Last edited by Pete; April 14, 2015, 09:50 AM.
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          #5
          lol, quick go buy the domain Pete. Don't want any squatters holding it ransom.
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            #6
            That would probably happen; then history would be reinvented via the name and some legacy thoughts document...

            thinking here of the race to patent the technologies used in automation today...in a me first fashion (re-inventing via shiny things).

            IE: the residential thermostat was not invented by the Nest folks...
            Last edited by Pete; April 14, 2015, 09:45 AM.
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              #7
              Could you use a WebCam and simply keep an eye on the level?
              -Rupp
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                #8
                I would probably use a low pressure gauge inline with the plumbing of the water cooler at the base. It would need to be a very low pressure gauge, a few PSI or in inches of water. As the tank becomes empty, the pressure will drop.

                Some sort of small laser with detector on the other side might work as well. The water should shift the light some compared to when there is no water.

                The weighing idea is good, but it might be difficult to find the right kind of scale to make it all work over time and engineer it into the setup.

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                  #9
                  Found this googling....

                  A Dozen Ways to Measure Fluid Level and How They Work

                  December 1, 2004 By: Kevin Hambrice, K-TEK Corp., Henry Hopper, K-TEK Corp.

                  The demands of sophisticated automated processing systems, the need for ever-tighter process control, and an increasingly stringent regulatory environment drive process engineers to seek more precise and reliable level measurement systems. Improved level measurement accuracy makes it possible to reduce chemical-process variability, resulting in higher product quality, reduced cost, and less waste. Regulations, especially those governing electronic records, set stringent requirements for accuracy, reliability, and electronic reporting. The newer level measurement technologies help meet these requirements.

                  Level Measurement Technology in Transition

                  The simplest and oldest industrial level measuring device is, of course, the sight glass. A manual approach to measurement, sight glasses have always had a number of limitations. The material used for its transparency can suffer catastrophic failure, with ensuing environmental insult, hazardous conditions for personnel, and/or fire and explosion. Seals are prone to leak, and buildup, if present, obscures the visible level. It can be stated without reservation that conventional sight glasses are the weakest link of any installation. They are therefore being rapidly replaced by more advanced technologies.

                  Other level-detection devices include those based on specific gravity, the physical property most commonly used to sense the level surface. A simple float having a specific gravity between those of the process fluid and the headspace vapor will float at the surface, accurately following its rises and falls. Hydrostatic head measurements have also been widely used to infer level.

                  When more complex physical principles are involved, emerging technologies often use computers to perform the calculations. This requires sending data in a machine-readable format from the sensor to the control or monitoring system. Useful transducer output signal formats for computer automation are current loops, analog voltages, and digital signals. Analog voltages are simple to set up and deal with, but may have serious noise and interference issues. 4-20 mA current loops (where the loop current varies with the level measurement) are the most common output mechanism today. Current loops can carry signals over longer distances with less degradation. Digital signals coded in any of a number of protocols (e.g., Foundation Fieldbus, Hart, Honeywell DE, Profibus, and RS-232) are the most robust, but the older technologies such as RS-232 can handle only limited distances. New wireless capabilities can be found in the latest transmitters' signals, allowing them to be sent over tremendous distances with virtually no degradation.

                  As for the more advanced measurement technologies (e.g., ultrasonic, radar, and laser), the more sophisticated digital encoding formats require digital computer intelligence to format the codes. Combining this requirement with the need for advanced communication capabilities and digital calibration schemes explains the trend toward embedding microprocessor-based computers in virtually all level measurement products.

                  Established Level-Sensing Technologies

                  1 - Floats
                  2 - Hydrostatic Devices
                  3 - Load Cell
                  4 - Magnetic Level Guages
                  5 - Magnetostrictive Level Transmitters
                  6 - Ultrasonic Level Transmitters
                  7 - Laser Level Transmitters
                  8 - Radar level transmitters

                  Summary

                  General trends across different measurement technologies reflect market drivers. Refined digital electronics are making level sensors and other measurement devices more user-friendly, more reliable, easier to set up, and less expensive. Improved communication interfaces feed level measurement data into a company's existing control and/or information system.

                  Today's level sensors incorporate an increasing variety of materials and alloys to combat harsh environments such as oils, acids, and extremes of temperature and pressure. New materials help process instruments fulfill specialized requirements as well, such as assemblies made of PTFE-jacketed material for corrosive applications and electro-polished 316 stainless steel for cleanliness requirements. Probes made of these new materials allow contact transmitters to be used in virtually any application.

                  The trend today is to replace mechanical and pressure-based measurement tools with systems that measure the distance to the fluid surface by a timing measurement. Magnetostrictive, ultrasonic, guided-wave radar, and laser transmitters are among the most versatile technologies available. Such systems use the sharp change of some physical parameter (density, dielectric constant, and sonic or light reflection) at the process-fluid surface to identify the level.

                  These emerging technologies make use of the latest electronic techniques and incorporate embedded microprocessor-based digital computers for control, analysis, and communication functions.

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by Rupp View Post
                    Could you use a WebCam and simply keep an eye on the level?
                    Rupp: Yes, but where's the fun in that Unless you're talking about using some visual algorithm to identify the water level... maybe combined with the buoy idea.

                    At any rate, I'm planning to link the water level to HSM-200's colored LED as the visual indicator.

                    Originally posted by Automated View Post
                    I would probably use a low pressure gauge inline with the plumbing of the water cooler at the base. It would need to be a very low pressure gauge, a few PSI or in inches of water. As the tank becomes empty, the pressure will drop.
                    Do you have links to the parts usable for this? Will it need multiple parts if there are 3 water paths (hot, cold and room temp) I'm partial to the weight idea since it's the least intrusive and due to the sanitation concern.

                    The weighing idea is good, but it might be difficult to find the right kind of scale to make it all work over time and engineer it into the setup.
                    The weight parity is quite big. A full tank weighs more than 40lbs and the low level would probably be around 5% of the total weight. (plus the dispenser's own weight, since it's probably easier to install the system under the whole unit).

                    Originally posted by Pete View Post
                    Found this googling....

                    A Dozen Ways to Measure Fluid Level and How They Work

                    December 1, 2004 By: Kevin Hambrice, K-TEK Corp., Henry Hopper, K-TEK Corp.
                    Thanks Pete.
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                      #11
                      Yup, the article is a few years old now...that said I do not think you are looking to re invent the wheel in your new endeavor...eh?
                      - Pete

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                        #12
                        How about a Withings Scale that would through IFTTT turn on/off a virtual device in HS? You could then trigger an event to change the color on the HSM200 based on a change in the virtual device.

                        Cheers
                        Al
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                          #13
                          Originally posted by Pete View Post
                          Yup, the article is a few years old now...that said I do not think you are looking to re invent the wheel in your new endeavor...eh?
                          Defnitely no.. I think those are actually too high-tech and has a much higher accuracy than I need. They look like techs needed for process control in manufacturing or high volume liquid processing

                          Originally posted by sparkman View Post
                          How about a Withings Scale that would through IFTTT turn on/off a virtual device in HS? You could then trigger an event to change the color on the HSM200 based on a change in the virtual device.

                          Cheers
                          Al
                          Good idea... and I actually have one in my bathroom... if it works, then I just need to fashion some sort of adapter to slide the weight under the whole system (and cringe at the cost). But one issue that comes to mind, is the trigger. AFAIK Withing scales need to reset to 0kg before it measures the weight and uploads the data via WIFI.
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                            #14
                            Another way would be to get a strain/pressure gauge under one of the feet and hook them up to an Arduino and use either the Arduino or MySensors plugin to get the data back into HS. Something like: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11207 or http://www.ebay.com/itm/371239933046.

                            Cheers
                            Al
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                              #15
                              Defnitely no.. I think those are actually too high-tech and has a much higher accuracy than I need. They look like techs needed for process control in manufacturing or high volume liquid processing
                              Historically here in the US we have the "water cooler jokes". That said none will be posted here well because its too much of a segway.

                              I did though witness an entire design engineering office once go willy nilly one afternoon.

                              I should have taken a picture as folks were wondering aimlessly around holding coffee cups (tea cups) asking about the missing (or lack of en masse) creme for their afternoon tea.

                              It was better than watching TV and provided some afternoon office entertainment that day.
                              Last edited by Pete; April 14, 2015, 11:55 AM.
                              - Pete

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