Ideas Needed: Remote well pump monitoring

A friend and customer called today and asked a simple question -
could he put in a remote camera to watch the water flow out of a few
water wells refilling a lake, to make sure they are running properly?
(Not sucking air.) One well head is down in a manhole, and it's a
royal pain to get down there twice a day just to monitor the flow.
And I'm thinking, with an IP connection (DSL or cable-modem) and
power easily available at each location I can do better than that with
the right gear. Rig an interface to start or stop the pump contactor
remotely, have a pulse counter on the output flow water meter, a low
oil float switch on the oil dripper tank, an alarm if the phase
monitor or overloads stop the pump, and a color Webcam aimed at the
pump motor to catch the next spectacular motor failure.
I would have loved to have a recorder rolling - they just had a U.S.
Motors 60-HP 480V 3ph vertical well pump motor blow right as he hit
the Start button, with nice gouts of flame spouting 20 feet out all
the vents. Of course Carl wasn't too thrilled, seeing as he was only
5 feet from the motor at the time he pushed said Start button -
luckily the vents pointed the other way...
Somebody out there has done this before and has the slick PLC or
mini-controller all scoped out. Or a ruggedized PC/laptop that can
live in a manhole or a curb-side pedestal box without AC, and a
PCAnywhere style interface...
And the best part, Carl's willing to pay the freight as needed, no
charity. ;-) He's tired of climbing into that manhole every day just
to look at a stupid water meter, and I don't blame him. Ideas?
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman
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Simple question, complex solution? This must be _really_ moring climbing down the hole, that he is willing to spend so much time!
Few questions: How far is the hole away? Is it really worth digging in cables for a network? Spend $$$ for electronics that will fail when used in the outside? Or can he easily reach the hole/the holes? If yes, why not simply connect a cable to the sensors and connect some light bulbs to them, so he can see the status without climbing down?
Nick, fan of the KISS-principle
Reply to
Nick Müller
If you want to monitor something, why not the amps being drawn? Will be a lot lower if the pump is sucking air.
Adam Smith Midland, ON
Reply to
Adam Smith
There is a whole universe of control equipment that will monitor/protect the pumps from sucking air. One system reads the change in current when the pump sucks air and shuts it down. Simple float switches or level probes will monitor the water level and trigger alarms and shutdown devices. Contact an industrial well supplier and they will give you catalogues for any type of control application limited only by the $$$ you want to spend. Bugs
Reply to
Since I'm a computer geek I can think of several solutions that involve some programming and some external controls. Is it possible to monitor and control all of this remotely. YES, is it possible to have the system send an emergency email if the system fails in some manner? YES. BUT how much money do you want to tie up in hardware and then programming?
Hardware for each hole 1 computer + $500 for controls + networking (Wireless?)
What about using a GMRS Modem / Cell Phone and computer to update and check the system every 30 min etc... Screw bringing in high speed. You could just send the computer an email with new instructions and have the computer send out an email every 15 - 30 minutes. DONE all with some Visual Basic and Outlook....
Reply to
Well, the State Water Resources people need them to keep records of how much water is going into the lake, and automating that will make it easier and more accurate.
And it's a safety concern more than anything else, between wrestling with a cast iron manhole lid and climbing down and back up. Do it often enough, and someone's bound to get hurt.
(And then there are the nosy kids falling in the unguarded hole as they go "What'cha doing down there, Mister?" That's more things I need to get them, a manhole cage and a ring.)
The wells are in a residential neighborhood, so phone and cable TV lines (data line sources) are right there - one has the pedestals practically on top of it. A direct radio solution would be expensive, we're talking two miles plus back to their office at the dam, and NOT line of sight - but a repeater/cellular might work...
For the one down in the vault, we only need a little curbside box for the computer, dig down and place conduits to get a power line up and the control leads down to the vault. Or get a ruggedized computer and stick the whole thing down there.
I like KISS too, but the light bulbs means he still has to go to each well and look.
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman
If you are looking for a tough computer check out the Panasonic tough book. Honestly you may get away with using a Pocket PC (IPAQ) running Windows CE though I'm not familiar with any external devices that you could control using the Pocket PC. As far as communication goes you might actually get away with wireless internet, two miles is do able if you have line of site. Actually I've even heard of "Boosted" blue tooth connections going almost a mile.
IF I were you I'd get some cheap used PC's and make a good case for them and then just use the power down by the pump to run the computer and a GMRS modem. All of the information could be sent in emails or logged to a server.
Reply to
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I thought it is much simpler and all is on a farm in the outback ...
Disregarding my complete ignorance what the industry has to offer as tailored stuff (for wells), I would use a MicroContoller. If that's to much work to start from scratch, I would use something like the basic-tiger
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. They do have TCP with UDP, POP etc. and are quite cheap. Kiddies won't steal them, 'cause there is no Intel inside[tm]
Thinking about a "real computer" (running windoze: shrugg!) I see the poor man rebooting the PCs once a day.
Reply to
Nick Müller
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Reply to
R. O'Brian
This is hardly a unique requirement, why reinvent the wheel? There are multiple companies making this kind of equipment. I recall sitting next to someone on an airplane years ago who was in that business, (remote sensing), a company from Wyoming. Oil fields have very similar requirements. Serious google searching seems like a good investment in time.
R. O'Brian wrote:
Reply to
Richard Ferguson
Check out the Grundfos CU 3 controller.
Install/Operate Manual download at:
I've only used its little brother the CU300, which relies on "X-10" type communication with electronics inside certain Grundfos intelligent pumps. Built-in functions to handle flow/pulse count, external analog or digital I/O, various dry-run strategies, even soft-start.
As I understand it, the CU3 is able to provide similar control over any pump motor up to 400A, 3ph. Either one provides RS-232 and RS-485 communication via "GeniBus", their proprietary (but publicly documented) communication protocol. The 232 port is designed to connect directly to a standard dialup modem, or can connect to a computer or ethernet adapter if you want to go the IP route. They provide Windows software to communicate with the CU 3 or CU 300, or (with serious dedication) you can write your own like I have.
Reply to
Loren Amelang
I have an Internet buddy who owns a company that does well monitoring similar to your interests. You can look at his site. I'll gladly get you in contact with Sven
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Reply to
Jerry Martes
Looks promising.
True - but I tried Googling, and quickly found that it was going to take a while to figure out how to ask the question to get an answer that is useful...
The whole idea of asking here was that someone has dealt with the same problem, and goes "Here - this works great, I use it." Much simpler and more effective.
Reply to
Bruce L. Bergman
Enough money and you can do just about anything.
Reply to
Try this mob. They've done some good stuff for me in the past. AND its cheap. They have a number of specialized controller that they don't advertise on the web site. I think they made one for bump control so you might want to contact them. The Aussie dollar is about $.75 US so its even cheaper over there.
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Reply to
Tom Miller

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