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Author Topic: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor  (Read 28517 times)

John Canfield

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New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« on: April 15, 2011, 05:22:08 PM »
Others have gone before me, but I will attempt to make a detailed how-to for those of you still putting up with the not particularly useful standard Winnebago tank monitoring system (obviously it will be specific to the Vectra/Horizon, but the basics should be the same across many models.) 

Let me back up a bit.  If you are a weekender with your RV or you travel primarily from campground to campground with full hookups, the standard Winnebago tank monitor system is quite adequate.  If you want to boondock for a week or two where you are measuring every quart of water coming out of the fresh water tank and going into gray/black, then the standard system is completely inadequate.

This is another project I have put off for several years, but now is the time since we are planning on doing some boondocking this summer.  I'll give the 'Cliff's Notes' version of the project here, but post a more detailed write-up on our web site.

I was dreading gaining access to the tanks, but as I discovered this afternoon, access to the gray and black tanks is quite easy (once you figure out which screws to remove); access to the fresh water tank is not going to be too easy.  There will not be enough room to get my hand along side the 16" high tank to stick on the new sensor strip, so I will have to get creative by making a device that I can use to position the new sensor and apply force to the tank wall to stick it down adequately.

If you read Garnet's literature, they specify two inches of clearance between the sensor and any metal which would be a bit difficult to accomplish in my situation.  I talked to Garnet today and the very helpful gentleman I spoke with told me in his experience, if you have 1/2" of clearance, the system will work fine.

The height of our fresh water tank is 16" (perfect for a 16" tall sensor strip), and the height of the gray/black is 7.5" - a 12" sensor strip will work fine (you can cut them to length as I recall.)

The Garnet (model 709) display is a diminutive 4" wide and 3" tall and you can run two (or more maybe?) displays from the sensors.  The new sensors (model 709 again) use two wires so all of the hard wiring work is already done by the Winnebago factory.  I'll install two monitors, one in the OnePlace inside, and one in the plumbing bay to replace the standard one there.

Haven't ordered the system as yet - today was survey day to figure out how high the tanks are; I'll get the SeeLevel ordered sometime this weekend.

Here's a few pictures of the survey results.  Yes, there is rust on the plumbing bay sheet steel - look around the screw holes.  This looks like a great excuse to buy a cheap Chinese shear and a brake and make some replacement panels from aluminum (ooh - more tools  ;D.)
« Last Edit: April 15, 2011, 05:24:28 PM by John Canfield »
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NY_Dutch

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2011, 07:45:37 PM »
Keep in mind, John, you'll only need one pair of wires going to the displays to connect all three sensors. And if you frame ground the negative wire locally at the tanks, then you'll only need one wire connected to the three positive leads going to the displays. Fortunately, Winnebago gave you lots of wires to pick from.  ;D
Dutch
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John Canfield

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2011, 08:36:40 PM »
One pair of wires for three discrete sensors (not including the propane sender) - that does not compute. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you?

Edit:

The 709 system with two displays was ordered this evening for about $285.  The included 12" sensor strip will have to work for the 16" tall water tank.  Not enough room to stack on another sensor - the minimum height for a cut-down sensor strip is 4.5".  For the water tank I'll install the sensor strip near the bottom of the tank; downside - it will tale a little while for the FW tank to come off of full.  Garnet wants you to install the strip about 3/8-3/4" from the bottom to avoid reading the bottom of the plastic tank.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2011, 08:48:46 PM by John Canfield »
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NY_Dutch

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2011, 10:23:59 PM »
You're not misunderstanding me at all, John. Each sensor gets an "identity" by snipping or not snipping a set of jumper traces on the end of the flexible sensor circuit board. The display sends a digital code that is recognized by the corresponding tank sensor when you press the panel button for each tank, causing it to send back a digital signal with the level info. Here's a link to the shop manual for the 709/709PH that explains the wiring configuration: SeeLevel II 709/709PH Shop Manual
Dutch
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SargeW

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2011, 11:23:53 PM »
My SeeLevel that I installed in my 06' Meridian instructed that all sensors could be wired with only 2 wires. A black common, and a hot for all the positive wires.  Surprisingly when I got the new SeeLevel system for the new rig, the instructions had changed.  Now they instruct that each sensor has it's own set of wires.  Not sure why there was a change in the wiring, but it didn't much matter. 

I just used the same set of wires that Winne supplied for their senders since they all ran to the correct location for me. I mounted my readout panel on the wall next to the One Place panel.  The only other wire I had to rough in was the extra wires from the fresh tank to the SeeLevel  readout in the water bay.  Not a big deal since all of the access panels were off already. 

The new system is in and working wonderfully. 

As an aside, I didn't order the Seelevel panel with the LPG readout this time.  I found that the LPG readout on the One Place panel was plenty sufficient for me.  We use very little propane and often go 6 months or more to get down to 1/2 tank of propane.  The 1/3 increment sender for the propane is acceptable. And it was one less set of wires I had to hook up. 

Sarge
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2011, 08:00:18 AM »
Yup - hey, how about that.  The sensors have some intelligence - wiring will be even simpler than I first thought  :D.  We already have a readout in the plumbing bay, so I don't need to add any wiring there.

The 1/3rd increment drives me crazy on the propane >:( as well as the other tanks, especially if you don't notice when it just dropped below 1/3 - then it reads empty even though you really have almost 1/3 of a tank left.  I'll be delighted to kiss the 1/3rds away!
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cbeierl

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2011, 08:38:51 AM »
... The included 12" sensor strip will have to work for the 16" tall water tank.  Not enough room to stack on another sensor - the minimum height for a cut-down sensor strip is 4.5".  For the water tank I'll install the sensor strip near the bottom of the tank; downside - it will tale a little while for the FW tank to come off of full.  Garnet wants you to install the strip about 3/8-3/4" from the bottom to avoid reading the bottom of the plastic tank.

Are you only allowed to trim the top strip, or could you trim two strips each to about 8" and thus get a 16" sensor?
Chris Beierl
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John Canfield

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2011, 09:00:13 AM »
Chris - I was just looking at using two strips as a matter of fact.  I could buy another 12" strip and cut both of them to 7.5", Garnet wants stacked strips to be equal length.  That would give me 15" of coverage however the full water fill level is about three inches down from the top, so a 12" strip might work fine - I need to take another look-see.
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SargeW

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2011, 10:49:49 AM »
You can trim two strips if you wanted. The sensor will adjust for the correct length.  You just can't trim the top of the strip.  On the fresh water tank you are better getting the strip as close to the bottom of the tank as possible.  Having a fresh tank read full a little longer is no big deal.  What you really want to know is when it is getting critically close to empty. 

Then just the opposite on the black and grey tanks. Empty is not a big deal but full really is a huge deal. 
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2011, 01:34:18 PM »
Having a fresh tank read full a little longer is no big deal.  What you really want to know is when it is getting critically close to empty. 

Then just the opposite on the black and grey tanks. Empty is not a big deal but full really is a huge deal.

Exactly!
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NY_Dutch

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2011, 01:47:50 PM »
Exactly is right! I have my fresh sensor favoring the bottom of the tank, and my waste sensors favoring the top.  ;D
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mrschwarz

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2011, 08:09:40 PM »
how big a challenge is getting at the fresh tank?
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2011, 09:12:40 PM »
Michael - I suspect that has a lot to do with the particular model.  In our situation, access to the tank is very easy, however there is not enough room to get a hand between the side of the tank and the steel surrounding it.  But I don't anticipate this being a much of a problem since I can place the strip in position with the help of a mirror and then use something fairly still yet flexible to press the strip against the tank wall.

At this point, I'm thinking this project will be fairly easy; getting the strip against the FW tank should the the trickiest part, but not that difficult.

I'm getting all quivery and excited thinking about our new tank monitor  ;D.
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SargeW

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2011, 09:15:26 PM »
John, do you have the 2" of foam between the tank and the metal wall? 
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2011, 09:19:13 PM »
Marty - yes, the first picture in the first post shows the Styrofoam board.  It looks about 3/4" or maybe a inch thick.
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SargeW

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2011, 09:30:24 PM »
I had similar Styrofoam insulation in the Journey. There was no way to get the tank monitor placed properly with the foam in there.  The sticky side of the sensor strip is SUPER sticky, and removing even a part of it if it gets misplaced will probably destroy it.  I opted to remove a chunk of the insulation against the side of the tank to make the install easier.  It came out in two big chunks.

I placed the sensor strip by only peeling the backing off of the top inch of the strip to start.  I marked the tank with a straight line using a small level and a sharpie. When I got the sensor mounted in the right position and plumbed with the straight line, I pressed the top 1" against the tank.  Then grasping the piece of backing that I started to peel the backing off the sensor while pressing the sensor against the tank wall.  Perfect fit. 

After hooking up the wires, I tested the sensor and then replaced the foam pieces and taped them in place with sturdy packing tape.  Reinstall the tank door and screws and move on. The fresh tank sensor took the most planning and care.  The grey and black tanks were simple.  I still used the same mounting technique for the sensors though.
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2011, 10:09:42 PM »
I'll make a test run of some positioning ideas.  First idea is to use a little double sticky tape to stick the outside part of the sensor to a rectangle of cardboard or 1/8" luan plywood, position the bottom of the holder at the bottom of the tank next to the tank (I'll have the sensor strip up about 1/2" from the bottom of the luan), and then angle the assembly toward the tank.  I can find something to press against the sensor strip that won't damage it to get it good and tight against the tank wall.

Once I start playing with different positioning techniques, one will pop out as the best, thanks for your ideas!

Yeah, gray and black tanks will be easy.
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2011, 10:52:19 PM »
You might want to test your tanks for "stick to it ness" before you attach the sensors. I used pieces of masking tape to make sure it would adhere well to the tank walls, and the waste tanks were fine. The fresh tank though, seemed to have a slick feel to it that the tape didn't adhere to very well, and an alcohol wipe didn't cut it. I think it's probably a silicone based parting fluid used in the molding process. A light sanding with some 400 grit paper in the area where the sensor would go followed by another alcohol wipe  took care of the problem.
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2011, 12:52:18 PM »
I assisted a friend with the same type of installation for the fresh water tank...same access problem.  After carefully positioning the strip, we used a small foam paint roller with the long handle.  After rolling over it several times it was stuck really well.
Good luck on yours.
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John Canfield

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2011, 04:38:31 PM »
Dutch and Harvey - wow - great ideas!  I especially like the foam roller idea!

No word yet on shipping  :(
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John Canfield

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2011, 04:21:53 PM »
Wow - the parts are here!  The SeeLevel was drop shipped from Granbury, TX and that is probably a UPS one-day delivery area from us.  Never got a notice from RV Upgrades about anything - I was surprised.

I took a look at where 12.5" would be in relation to a full FW tank (12" strip 1/2" from the bottom), and I will be not measuring about 2.5" of tank wall.  The geek in me says that is completely unacceptable  ::), but $85 bucks for another strip to catch 2.5" of tank - not sure about that.

The major issue for me I think is when filling the tank - I could not depend on the gauge to tell me when I have crammed every last drop of water in the tank.  Now, I open the basement door when we get close to full and watch the water level in the tank for the last bit.

All of the major Rubicon upgrades are now complete (here's the build thread on Rubicon Owner's Forum for those of you interested), so I can get hoppin' on this project.
--John
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2011, 06:30:03 PM »
John, I like having the fresh sensor a little down from the top. I can sit inside having a cold one and watching the tube, and when the display says 100%, I still have time to stroll around to the fill port and watch the last few gallons go in.  ;D
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John Canfield

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2011, 06:37:21 PM »
Dutch - LOL - roger that!

Dear Wife helped me decide that one strip was enough and I've bought in to the idea  :).
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Harry B

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2011, 08:32:20 PM »
Hi John, I see you are getting ready tackle this issue as well.

Because of the tank height,  I installed the Seelevel Model 712-TT. It can measure up to 17" in height on a single strip and has better accuracy (2% increments). I was out of town for a while and I just started reading your post today . Sorry I didn't check in sooner to sound in as to how I resolved the FW tank height issue.

I used the temperature sensor that comes with the 712 system to monitor the water bay temperatures for days that we encounter frost. 
Harry - (Central FL)

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John Canfield

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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2011, 09:13:21 PM »
Hi Harry!

The 2% resolution would be really nice but that dude is pricey!  The 12" strip will be fine but the 2.5" that is not read will bug me  ;)
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #25 on: April 20, 2011, 10:05:43 PM »
John tell your wife to look the other way while you order the extra sensor.

This is one project that I will be doing sometime late summer or early fall.  Have got to get my washer done first. All this info is great.
John & Carol
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #26 on: April 21, 2011, 12:57:06 AM »
Hey John, I've got an extra 12" sensor that I don't need. You want it? 
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #27 on: April 21, 2011, 07:44:23 AM »
PM sent
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #28 on: April 21, 2011, 11:56:04 AM »
Got it, back at ya.
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Re: New project - installing a Garnet SeeLevel tank monitor
« Reply #29 on: April 21, 2011, 12:26:02 PM »
John tell your wife to look the other way while you order the extra sensor.

Problem solved thanks to Sarge!  :D :D

Made a bezel for the outside display from 1/8" birch plywood and painted it with clear epoxy - that will make it impervious to water damage.  Current plan for the inside display is to remove the existing monitor push buttons, and use a Dremel tool to make a cut out right over top of the old monitor.  I made a paper template of the new display and I'll see how well that will work when I overlay it.
--John
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