Water Level Sensor with Arduino Ethernet

This project implements a network connected water level sensor, measuring the level in the sump pit of my house. It’s connected to the home network and reports the water level by broadcasting UDP packets so that any computer can receive it and take action, such as sending out an alert or storing statistics.

The Arduino Ethernet and the Power Supply installed and connected

Important note
Before we go any further, let me just point out that the pressure sensor, MPX2010DP, used in this project exists in another version, MPX5010DP, that has an output voltage interval much better suited for this project. If only I had checked that I wouldn’t have needed to build any circuits or use any extra components at all.

The pressure sensor MPX2010DP measures the pressure difference between two inputs, from 0 to 10 kPa and outputs between 0 and 25 mV on it’s two output pins. (The MPX5010DP gives you between 0 and 4.7 V output, ideal for direct connection to the analog inputs on Arduino.) This means that we can use it to reliably measure the water level in a tank or pit, without being troubled by changes in air pressure The only thing we need to do is connect input 1 to a hose leading to the bottom of the pit and leave input 2 hanging in the air.

The MPX2010DP operates anywhere between 0 and 16 V and draws less than 10 mA, which means we can run it directly off the 5 V pin on the Arduino. (MPX5010DP operates between 4.7 V and 5.25 V with about the same current draw, so in that case it’s even more ideal) It’s also possible to run the amplifier circuit from the Arduino, if you decide to go down that road. All this also means that you can run a long cable (I used shielded 4-wire telephone cable, but any 3-wire cable should be fine) from your Arduino to your sump pit or water tank.

Circuits and PCBs

Bottom layer of PCB with pads, as PDF

Eagle files

The schematics for the amplifier circuit. Pin assignments for SV1 are identical with those on the MPX2010DP pressure sensor

 

The amplifier circuit takes the input from the pressure sensor and amplifies the 25 mV maximum output to something more useful, like 5 V. Initially I used the circuit from Practical Arduino, and it worked fine when supplied with 12 V. When powering it with only 5 V it wouldn’t give me enough gain, so I had to rework the resistor values. I also scrapped the fourth amplifier as it didn’t really do anything for me. In the end what I had was an instrumentation amplifier.

There is one trim potentiometer. It can be used to adjust the amplification, i.e. the sensitivity of the sensor, so that you get a good high reading for when the water level is high, and a good resolution in between.

The PCB layout for the amplifier circuit. The lines and pads are a bit on the small side for manual drilling and soldering, but it's worked out well.

For the second sensor – I have two sump pits – I created a PCB. It’s the first PCB ever that I designed myself and the second ever that I made myself, so it’s not exactly perfect. Most notably I didn’t change the size of anything on the board so all lines and connectors are very small, making it a pain to drill and solder.

Arduino Sketch

Arduino sketch WaterLevelSensorUdp_110912

Simple UDP Server to receive data from the Arduino WaterTank sketch – brelovich.se

The program for the Arduino is pretty simple. I read the value from the analog input A0 and send it out as a broadcast UDP message. This allows me to receive the results on any computer in the house and do whatever I like with the results. So far I’m just monitoring the values.

Of course I couldn’t leave it at that. For one thing, I need a way to calibrate the system and I don’t feel like modifying and uploading a new sketch for that, so I decided to create a serial port command line interface, allowing me to modify and read the trigger levels. I also made sure that the values are stored to the EEPROM and read back from there whenever the program starts, so that I won’t have to redo it whenever I need to reset the Arduino.

Simple Java UDP Server displaying the output from the Arduino. If you keep it running it will remember the highest and lowest levels recorded.

Power Supply

The Arduino and the sensors don’t draw a lot of current so any 5V (or higher) power source will do. I decided to a computer power supply from a disused Pico ITX case. I’m using the standby 5V rail to power the Arduino and sensors. This leaves me an assortment of 3.3V, 5V and 12V rails that I can use for future projects. Computer power supplies are nice as you can run your Arduino from the 5V standby rail and power power it on and off  through software. (Pull one of the digital outputs high, connect the green wire to it and then pull the pin low to turn on the power supply. Pull the pin high again to turn it off.)

Putting it all together

The pressure sensor and amplifier circuit, mounted in a splash-proof box. The two green hoses are for the air pressure (upper) and water pressure (lower)

I used small and really cheap, although water resistant electrical connection boxes for the sensor and the electronics that live in the sump pit. For the Arduino I  got a slightly smaller box to hold it and the power supply. I opted for one with a transparent lid so that I can see the electronics. I also got a case with some extra height to leave room for future shield extensions.

Arduino Ethernet and Pico-PSU mounted side by side on a plexi glass shield, fastened in the connection box.

Future plans

The first thing is to get yet another level sensor, for the second sump pit, wired up and to extend the sketch for that. Then there are all kinds of ideas for further sensors, maybe checking the temperature in and outside of the house and why not monitor the fridge and freezer?

I’m also thinking of connecting it to a mobile phone and enable the system to send me a text message whenever something unusual happens, such as the water rising above a specified level.

For now, however, I’ll be quite happy to get both sensors installed and calibrated and have my web server presenting the results. That should just be a few weeks off.

Questions?

I may very well have missed something here. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll answer as soon as possible.


14 Comments on “Water Level Sensor with Arduino Ethernet”

  1. Colin says:

    Hi, Nice project. I have had a play with the same circuit. Quick question, do you get varied readings ie up and down as much 399 – 405 etc with no change in the water level or have I got something wired wrong. Regards Colin (Auckland NZ).

    • brelovich says:

      Colin,

      Nice to hear from you!

      Yes, I do get some variation in the readings for a constant water level, so that’s probably normal.

      In fact, over time I get much more variation than that, but I suspect that’s due to changes in weather. The sensor is supposed to be differential and compensating for that but since it’s all closed-in I’m not sure how that’s working out.

      It doesn’t seem to be drifting at least, it’s just that the high level, where the pump starts, seems to be varying quite a lot.

      Right now I’m thinking about trying out an ultrasonic sensor for my second install. I’ll try putting a 75 mm pipe down the pit and then stick the ultrasonic sensor at the top. If that works out I should be able to measure the level in centimeters, making calibration a lot easier.

      Also, I’m planning a new program for the Arduino, based on the 1.0 release candidate.

      Watch this space for updates.

  2. [...] Water Level Sensor has been upgraded quite a bit. I added another sensor, for the second sump pit, but the biggest [...]

  3. ian says:

    hallo..

    excellent article ..

    Do you have an example of using ATMega 32 or AVR?

    can share with us ..

    I want to learn ..

    thank you

    fungkyking01@gmail.com

  4. Sheri says:

    Hi Brelovich, I was just about to order all the supplies for the amplifier circuit described in Practical Arduino but came upon your post here talking about the more ideal pressure sensor. Are you saying that no amplifier circuit is needed when using the MPX5010DP?

    How would you go about hooking the sensor directly to the analogue input? Would the -Vout from Pin 4 be the key to this?

    Thanks for any advice you can offer! I am trying to put together a water level logger for my research…I am a biologist hopelessly floundering in the world of electronics!

  5. Osmi says:

    Hi!
    Could you answer on above question?
    Im also try to do this with MPX5050DP
    Thanks!

  6. Craiggles says:

    Hey, I bought a pressure sensor to measure the tire pressure inside cars and I was wondering if you could help me understand why there are two holes? Like, the datasheet says to use a “vacuum” for the other end (MPX5500) and I was wondering if just…. air could be the other side?

    • brelovich says:

      There are two holes, because the sensor measures the pressure difference. The ‘vacuum’ side is for the lower pressure. In this case you would leave it open to the outside air and connect the other hole to the tire.

  7. andi says:

    hi brelovich, how about if i use mpx5100gp to make pressure water gauge with arduino ethernet??

  8. Tom says:

    Brelovich,

    This project is really great !!!

    I have been trying to monitor my sump pumps with every different kind of arduino circuit and sensor. I used the MPX5010dp and it is working great. I post my data to Xively and have a high warning that sends me a Prowl notification. Thanks !!!

    Check it out at https://xively.com/feeds/42219

    Tom

  9. Patrik Åkerfeldt says:

    Did you try out the idea with a ultra sonic sensor and a 75mm pipe? I’m trying to figure out the volume in a water tank. The entrance hole to the ~1800 litre tank is a 400mm pipe down the ground approx. 900mm. My initial attempt was with a ultra sonic sensor and it works fairly well but as the water level decreases, I do get more and more read errors due to echoing down the pipe. One idea is to isolate the sensor inside a pipe for less distraction but I haven’t tried it out yet.

    Thats when I started looking for alternative solutions like a pressure sensor. It disappoints me a bit that you had troubles as well and were thinking of a ultra sonic sensor instead.

    I would happily discuss this further if you have the interest and time.

    Thanks

  10. Patrik Åkerfeldt says:

    Oh,just saw that post about the ultra sonic sensor. You seem to experience the same problem as me.

    How do you deal with varations in pressure? Does it vary a lot?

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