Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SeeLevel Monitoring Systems

The standard tank and systems monitor installed by Lazy Daze is not a very reliable system, and many LD'ers choose to replace it with a more accurate system, such as SeeLevel or Horst. The See-Level seems to be the most popular, for it provides a much more accurate display of tank contents. The Horst merely replaces the tank sensors, but uses the same imprecise readout display. The SeeLevel adds a new set of sensors and a new panel. It provides a read-out for each tank in a percentage, changing every 4 percentage points (0-4-8-12%, etc.)

SeeLevel has proven customer service. They certainly appear to be long-lasting - many who have installed a system report that it is still working as advertised 6-7 years later.

The SeeLevel II gauge system reads out not only black and gray, but also fresh water and propane levels and battery voltage with the same accuracy and precision. It sells for about $210 total (model #711).

Probably the hardest part of installing a SeeLevel system is running the wires. It is possible to install it using the existing wiring, but trouble-shooting will be easier if you run new wires.

The Garnet SeeLevel II sensor strips are only usable with SeaLevel II display panels. The sensors won't work with any other readout system, whether Lazy Daze's or another RV manufacturer's.

The reason the SeeLevel II system works so well is that the strips sense the fluid level through the tank wall, convert the information to digital format, and send encoded digital signals to the display panel. Only the SeeLevel II panel can understand those codes. So you must buy both the SeeLevel II sensors and the SeeLevel display in order to have a usable system.

Can you use the existing sensor wiring? Yes, but personally I think it's a better idea to leave the old system intact "just in case," and run new wires (you only need two). Running the new wires is not a big deal. The hardest part of installing the SeeLevel II system is mounting the display panel, which requires a cutout with a couple inches of depth behind it.

Note that the SeeLevel sensors are NOT compatible with the LED readout display panel installed by Lazy Daze. You can use the existing wires, but they need to be disconnected at both ends and reconnected to the new sensors on the tanks and the SeeLevel Panel inside the rig.

Installation: Here are a few installation reports:

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- The key to the whole thing was the removal of the microwave, probably the easiest task, unplug, 4 screws, lift up and out. This reveals the wire harness for the sensors on the range exhaust hood, and also made possible for us to make a 3"x 1-5/8" cutout to the right of the range hood, adjacent to the sink, for the face plate. There are a couple of small struts in this area after you do the cutout, but they can be shaved back slightly with a razor knife to make a perfect fit for the display panel's installation at the finish of the job.

We used a tap splice to connect the green wire from the Sea Level sensor to the green wire for the propane sensor which was bundled with the now visible wire harness from the exhaust hood. Other than that, we kept our wiring independent of the factory installed sensors.

Installing the senders on the black and grey tanks has been covered and is pretty straight forward as per the instructions that come with the kit. We did lots of splicing with Butt connectors. We bought 25' of blue # 16 wire at Home Depot (they were out of #18 which was recommended for the job). We were able to get #18 black for the ground.

Wear safety glasses, as this is dirty work. The hardest sender to install was the one on the fresh water tank, next to the water pump behind the lowest drawer. Empty the cabinet below the sink. Remove all the drawers and for more working space,and the wooden cover over the water inlets at the rear of the sink. The fresh water tank is taller (19") and would seem to need an extra sender. However, the people at Garnet Industries convinced me that I shouldn't buy another sender strip for $70, but rather put the one that came with the kit on the bottom of the fresh water tank. It will read 100% most of the time, but when it falls to 90% that would represent a half tank, and to do the math from there, which is what we did.

Andy's trick of coming up through the sealant where the wire harness enters from below the floor put us next to the water pump and allowed us to connect the wires from the black and grey tanks to the fresh water tank inside. It was a nasty job in limited area.

Then we brought all the joined tank wires up through the vent pipe that runs behind the sink by drilling one hole into the pipe directly underneath the counter and another in the cabinet space made visible by the removal of the microwave. (Note - this vent is for the black water tank. Make very sure that the drilled holes are well sealed when you are done! Also, you do not need to fish all the wires separately. You need one blue and one black, run from all the sensors to the panel. Editor) As we were by the Home Depot we managed to waste time and energy by buying a fish tape to try to come down directly through the wall. We returned the fish tape device and after some trial and error, we put a string with a screw taped on with electrical tape down the pipe and fished it out with a hooked dental tool. Then we taped our tank wires to the string and pulled them up and re-fished with no problem.

After testing with a multimeter we used the hot and ground wires in the micro cabinet, connected the sender wires to the Sea Level II wire harness, including the green LP wire mentioned above. We tested again. Voila! Everything worked. We went back and removed the temporary masking tape installation recommended by Garnet, pulled off the backing and stuck the senders on permanently. We screwed the face plate on and tapped a cool one. Beverly
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- I decided to mount the Seelevel monitor display above the propane detector because it would eliminate the need to route wires through the walls or put a hole in the cabinets. One easy to cut hole in the paneling was all it took. No complicated wiring routes. No disturbing the existing wiring either. Installing it here did not make it look like it was installed as an after thought.

Not wanting to drill a hole in the floor of the rig to run wires, I poked a hole in the sealant surrounding the sensor wires LD had used. I actually used half of a plastic ball point pen as a small conduit in that hole so I could easily push and pull wires through that area. After all wiring was done, I used some sealant to seal the end of the pen/conduit. BTW, by routing the wires through that area and mounting the display above the propane detector, it was a simple process to connect all the wires, at least in the mid-bath floor plan.

By having the Seelevel monitor display above the propane detector, I could easily tap into power from either the water pump or the propane detector circuit. It was also easy to connect to the water tank sensor.

I have not connected Seelevel to the propane tank so far. I was not concerned with monitoring the propane since I did leave the factory monitor intact and it is easy to check the tank's gauge.

Once you decide where and how to install this system, it is not complicated if you install it like I did. Yes, we need to bend over to push the button to read the display but it is not something we do constantly. Steve Kocan
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-I wanted to have my indicator in the cabinet wall above the microwave. I removed the microwave (4 screws, and unplug it) to get access and room to work. Before cutting any holes in the paneling, I wanted to be sure I could get the wiring into position.

The gauges require that two wires run from the sensors on the tanks to the display. It did not occur to me to use the wire passage through the floor by pushing a tool through the glop of sealant from LD. Instead, I used a piece of 1/4" rubber tube and placed it into a hole drilled through the floor alongside the steel frame. That took some careful measurement to get it right. Before pushing the tube down into the hole, I shot some Great Stuff expanding foam into the hole. I pushed the tube through and about 6" beyond the floor. I let the Great Stuff harden, then cut off most of the excess underneath. I used more of the foam alongside the hole in the bottom to fully seal it. I now had a hole from underneath into the space next to my water pump.

I next drilled 2 1/4" holes in the black tank vent pipe, the first under the sink and the second next to the microwave. I fished the two wires from the top hole to the lower hole and pulled through plenty of excess. I put grommets on each hole and glopped caulk over each hole to fully seal them.

In the lower compartment, I attached the first sensor to the water tank. Underneath, I spliced a 2 conductor wire to each of the sensors and attached then to the tanks. I then spliced the wires together, feeding the resulting 2 conductor lead up through the floor using the tube. I then injected caulk under pressure into the tube until it came out the other end, thoroughly sealing it while protecting the wires.

I now had two wires from the fresh water tank, two wires from the grey and black water tanks, and two wires from the area by the microwave, all in one place - by the water pump. I spliced them together and closed the access panel by the water pump.

Above the microwave, I tapped into the wires for my power feed and the propane sensor. I temporarily connected the panel to be sure all was working. It was. I cut the hole in the cabinet paneling above the microwave, mounted, and connected the display panel. I again checked all splices, wire tied the wiring in place, and added some more caulk over the holes in the vent tube, then closed everything up.

It was a two person job that took us a few hours, but the result was worth it. I had a very convenient location for the panel. The installation looks very clean. Ken Fears
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- Garnet's installation instructions say "The sender needs to be grounded to a single ground wire from the display." Now, in theory, separately grounding both the sender and the display *should* work... but if I were you, I'd run a ground wire directly between the two, the way the instructions say to do.

Using the existing wiring:

Should you choose to use the existing LD wiring for your sensors, the big challenge is identifying the right wire. Ken Fears offers this advice (Note - this applies only if you are disconnecting the factory sensors and using those wires for the SeeLevel signal. - Editor):

The three sending units require a total of ONE signal wire (tied to the blue) and ONE ground wire (tied to the black. that goes up to the panel. The three sensors have identifiers in them to tell the panel where the signal originates. So, you need to find two wires to use.

If I were you, I would disconnect two of the wires from one of your tanks and read their color code. I would then go behind the panel and find the two wires with those codes. Get hold of a continuity tester/voltmeter. Push a straight pin through the insulation on one of the wires and check continuity from there to the disconnected end by the tank. You should get a reading indicating that there is continuity. Then check voltage between the pin and a ground. Check it without closing the switch that lights the indicator lights as well as when pressing the panel switch to activate the tank indicator lights. Do that with each of the two wires. If you read voltage it is coming from the indicator light panel. I expect that you WILL find voltage there, and that is what is probably causing your problems.

You can't just splice into those wires because they carry voltage for the tank indicator lights. You need a clean signal from the tanks to the SeeLevel display, uncontaminated by other ground or voltage. I would try to disconnect the two wires from the indicator lights. All else failing, if I have voltage and continuity, and I cannot disconnect from the indicator lights, I would cut and cap the wires leading to the indicator lights. On the cut wires, I would again check continuity and voltage. If you have continuity but no voltage, you should be good to go, as that would indicate to me that the wires are now isolated and continuous from the tanks up to behind the panel.

If, on the other hand, you still have voltage on the cut wires OR you lose continuity on the cut wires, then something strange that I do not understand is going on. In that case, splice the cut wires back together.

Assuming that you are good to go, to the two cut ends, connect a blue and a black wire (color is important only to help you remember what you did in the future), and connect them to the SeeLevel panel. Below the rig, connect the blue and black sensor wires to the appropriate disconnected wires.

Rod Michaelson recently installed a See Level II 709PH monitor in his '97 26.5 MB and has posted a great set of photos of his project.

Trouble-Shooting

Problem: "OPn" message displayed on read-out

In the booklet under Chapter 7 troubleshooting guide.

"If a sender is unresponsive or there is an open circuit in the wiring so that the sender is not connected, the display will indicate an open circuit by showing "OPn" on the LED display." Check the tank "sender" wire connection. That's the green circuit board attached to the tank - check the wire connections there. Check all wire splices - a faulty or corroded crimp may be the problem. Also - don't forget to check ground connections.

Problem: Gauge reading of zero volts

Although the readings appear normal, the gauge indicates a reading of zero volts. According to Garnet Industries, the monitor needs to be calibrated. Here's how:

- Unplug the display panel and then re-plug it while holding the BATT button down.

- This may give you a correct reading for the battery voltage, but hang up the system with the battery voltage displayed and giving no readings on the other buttons.

- Repeat the above step - it should then be showing everything normally.

Contributors: Larry Wade, Andy Baird, Beverly, Steve Kocan, Ken Fears, Ed Abrams, Art. Rod Michaelson, Barry Barnes

Revised 30 Mar 12

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