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House Water Leak Detector and Auto Shutoff?

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by velvetfoot, Oct 14, 2009.

  1. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I ordered a a watercop system.
    It's probably more of a gadget than anything else.

    Any tips on getting a leak free connection?

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  2. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    If it's a threaded NPT type connection, I haven't found anything yet that beats the "Dope-rope-dope" approach... Clean the threads w/ a wire brush if needed, put on a layer of pipe dope (I use Rector-seal), 2-3 wraps of teflon tape (make sure to put it on in the proper direction) and a second layer of dope over the teflon. Screw the fittings together to "hand snug" then put the wrenches on it for 3 full turns additional. If you have to line up with another connection, I want at least 2.75 turns, preferably more than 3, and ideally want to tighten into lining up, so that the fitting is never allowed to turn in the loosen direction... It can be a bit messy, but I've never had a fitting put together that way leak...

    Gooserider
  3. ROBERT F

    ROBERT F Minister of Fire

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    Just a thought, but how about a series of sensor prongs (exposed wire ends) around perimeter of basement. Those could be used to control a low amperage relay wich in turn controlled a high amp relay to control a motorized shut off. Seen 12" piping in refineries that can be slammed shut in milli seconds if a leak is detected. They use a non arcing sensor but the "probes" should serve the same purpose. Just bouncing ideas of the crowd. Of course a powerfailure resulting in heating failure resulting in pipe freeze/burst would just leave you with a really cool wast of time!!!
  4. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Thanks. It is an NPT thread. Rope-a-Dope, lol.

    How about a coupling? The motor operator isn't that heavy.

    It'd be nice to extend the usefulness of the rather expensive sensors by stringing together some sensors. The transmitter with 2 probes is, like, 57 bucks.

    I was originally thinking some kind of normally closed solenoid valve - it does require power but it would shut down in event of a power failure.
    There must be a reason why ball valves are used though - full flow?.

    I don't know much but what I read is that there are electronic vs electric actuators ball valve actuators. The watercop valve has an electronic actuator, meant for computer control.

    Alas it is powered by 120 volts.

    There'll be a manual switch by the door to shut things off when leaving as well.
    It's just that with the electronic actuator, there's cat5 cable running to the switch and it needs some kind of timed momentary/toggle, so I guess you need the switch they provide.
    I still think hooking up a timer to it might be good, but I don't know with the electronic controls.
  5. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Not sure what you mean by "coupling" - if you are talking about a pipe union, that isn't a bad idea, at least on one side so that you can disassemble and replace the valve if it were to fail at some point...

    Presumably ball valves are used for full flow, and the fact that they are very simple and reliable.

    If your watercop valve is intended for computer control, I'd expect that in addition to the 120v line, it should have some kind of data signal input as well, possibly as simple as a serial line, or maybe something more complex like a USB port... Presumably it uses the 120v line for the actuator motor, and would need some sort of relay or other interface to control that. Also is there any documentation on what it does if the 120 line fails? I know some hydronic zone valves and the like will automatically return to a rest state (NO or NC depending on the valve) when power is removed...

    Gooserider
  6. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Yes, I meant union.
    True, I'd only need one.
    Are they pretty easy to get waterproof?
    They don't get any pipe dope on the sealing surfaces, do they?

    Those zone valves are solenoid valves with springs - no springs here.
  7. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    A union should not have ANY form of sealant or other stuff applied to it's junction surfaces, which do need to be kept clean and undamaged... They are generally pretty easy to get water tight, essentially the tactic is known as "crank em till they stop dripping". Traditionally they seal based on metal-metal contact between the machined surfaces, and many still do. There are some that use o-rings or gaskets that are claimed to be easier to tighten up, and / or seal better - however when using them it is important to have spare gaskets / o-rings on hand as you will need to replace if taking them apart....

    As to the zone valves and such, some are solenoids, others are small, very low power electric motors with springs on them. The motor turns on and opens the valve, and remains on to hold it open. When the power cuts off the spring pulls the valve back shut again. Taco is now making a series of zone valves that has a micro-motor and a big capacitor in them. When the valve gets power, it opens and the cap charges up. The motor shuts off when it reaches end of travel, and the valve sits there with voltage applied, but not drawing any power. When the power goes away, the cap discharges back through the motor, running it backwards and closing the valve...

    Don't know if anybody is doing something like that with a ball valve... (Oh yes, one of the other reasons ball valves are nice, besides the full flow, is that they tend to offer a very positive shutoff)

    Gooserider
  8. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I would just say thanks but the board doesn't allow me.
    So, thanks!
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Well it doesn't leak, lol.
    The unit doesn't seem to be built that well. The actuator wasn't aligned correctly so that the valve was partially, not fully open. There is no adjustment of the limit switch. I wound up taking it apart and moving the switch and reinstalling it, which mostly worked. The hardware inside is held onto the case by screws that rest right on plastic. I don't know, it doesn't seem that well built.

    I'm not finished putting in the 3 sensors I got or the on/off switch, which is connected by cat5 cable that goes in the plug. on the front of the switch.

    I tested it, and it worked. Thing is, turnoff isn't instantaneous: the water that is in the pipes above still goes through the leak.

    [​IMG]
  10. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    No way you're going to get "instant shutoff" - all they can do is stop NEW water from entering the plumbing system - anything that's in the system past the shutoff isn't going to know or care that the valve has closed, and will go out the leak if it has a chance... (i.e. it's above the leak and there is an air vent...)

    Still this isn't a bad thing - plumbing doesn't hold that much volume, so your worst case leak is only going to be a few gallons, compared to the essentially unlimited amount possible w/out the shutoff...

    Gooserider
  11. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, and that's not counting the time the water takes to reach one of them pricey sensors.

    On another note, I spoke to soon. One of the unions does leak. I've done a couple go-rounds of cranking on it with a couple of Crescent wrenches, but not sure how much more I'll be able to crank. Oh well, hoping for the best.
  12. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    Well, I added another option: I hardwired a power switch so the well pump can be switched off in the kitchen when leaving the house. This would protect from a leak upstream from the WaterCop. It would also keep a quantity of water in the well tank under pressure that could maybe feed boiler makeup, but I'm not sure that's really a factor. Anyway, a few more sensors and I'll be done.

    I'm sure I'll forget to turn anything off when leaving anyway, but at least I'll have the option.
    Borderline obsessive? Yeah, I guess.

    Pump switch on left, WaterCop switch on right:

    Attached Files:

  13. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    So, my wife was watering the plants a little this evening, and all of a sudden the water stopped running. The Water Cop red light was on, so the valve closed. It turned out condensation around some uninsulated water pipe and whole house filter leaked in the area of a sensor. I don't think it was beeping like it was supposed to, but the batteries haven't been changed out for at least a year.

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