# Water leakage sensor ideas

E

#### ehsjr

Jan 1, 1970
0
My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next
two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in
'78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs).

It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats).

I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs.
Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose? I have two
ideas (but they are not necessarily the best):
1) two pieces of aluminum screening separated by a piece of
thin cardboard. Connections via stainless screws & nuts.
2) Piece of PC board etched to have a bunch of parallel
traces.

The circuit is trivial and I'll use a wall wart - the question
is what's the simplest effective sensor. The tank sits on the
floor, so the sensor can't be directly underneath.

Thanks,
Ed

S

#### [email protected]

Jan 1, 1970
0
ehsjr said:
My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next
two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in
'78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs).

It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats).

I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs.
Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose? I have two
ideas (but they are not necessarily the best):
1) two pieces of aluminum screening separated by a piece of
thin cardboard. Connections via stainless screws & nuts.
2) Piece of PC board etched to have a bunch of parallel
traces.

The circuit is trivial and I'll use a wall wart - the question
is what's the simplest effective sensor. The tank sits on the
floor, so the sensor can't be directly underneath.

Thanks,
Ed

Try this thingy for $80. Kills the water for you. http://www.home-technology-store.com/detail.aspx?ID=1904&iorb=4764 Or, you could replace the heater now and avoid the mess. GG J #### John Larkin Jan 1, 1970 0 My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in '78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs). It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats). I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs. Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose? I have two ideas (but they are not necessarily the best): 1) two pieces of aluminum screening separated by a piece of thin cardboard. Connections via stainless screws & nuts. 2) Piece of PC board etched to have a bunch of parallel traces. The circuit is trivial and I'll use a wall wart - the question is what's the simplest effective sensor. The tank sits on the floor, so the sensor can't be directly underneath. Thanks, Ed Classic solution: a clothespin, a couple of pennies, and an aspirin tablet. John J #### John G Jan 1, 1970 0 ehsjr said: My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in '78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs). It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats). I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs. Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose? I have two ideas (but they are not necessarily the best): 1) two pieces of aluminum screening separated by a piece of thin cardboard. Connections via stainless screws & nuts. 2) Piece of PC board etched to have a bunch of parallel traces. The circuit is trivial and I'll use a wall wart - the question is what's the simplest effective sensor. The tank sits on the floor, so the sensor can't be directly underneath. Thanks, Ed My heater stands on concrete outside the house (temperate Australia) and leaks are very apparent and not messy. D #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 Neither copper or aluminum are good for this application. You need gold. I was planning on trying a gold plated header strip for this. I will place multiple sensors at strategic places in the basement and the detection circuit will drive a relay which will disconnect the well pump. R #### Rich Grise Jan 1, 1970 0 Classic solution: a clothespin, a couple of pennies, and an aspirin tablet. John I saw a helpful hint on this - don't clamp the tablet between the pennies - actually, you should use brass screws through the clampy part of the clothespin, but then put the aspirin edgewise in that little clothesline notch in the clothespin, so there's no aspirin-stuff between the electrodes. Cheers! Rich J #### Jasen Betts Jan 1, 1970 0 My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in '78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs). Replace the electrode. Most water heaters have a zinc or is it magnesium electrode down their centre which stops them from rusting out, when the electrode becomes depleted they start to rust. It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats). I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs. Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose? I have two ideas (but they are not necessarily the best): 1) two pieces of aluminum screening separated by a piece of thin cardboard. Connections via stainless screws & nuts. 2) Piece of PC board etched to have a bunch of parallel traces. The circuit is trivial and I'll use a wall wart - the question is what's the simplest effective sensor. The tank sits on the floor, so the sensor can't be directly underneath. Either of those will do. but if the floor's wooden i'd go with s ring of thumbtacks with wires soldered to alternate ones. Or could you drain it and slide a tray under it? Bye. Jasen J #### John Fields Jan 1, 1970 0 My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in '78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs). It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats). I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs. Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose? I have two ideas (but they are not necessarily the best): 1) two pieces of aluminum screening separated by a piece of thin cardboard. Connections via stainless screws & nuts. 2) Piece of PC board etched to have a bunch of parallel traces. The circuit is trivial and I'll use a wall wart - the question is what's the simplest effective sensor. The tank sits on the floor, so the sensor can't be directly underneath. --- I'd cut up a sponge into little blocks and then thread two stainless steel wires through them long enough to surround the base of the heater, then bend the affair around the base of the heater and hook the like ends together to keep them in place. Or, make a bunch of individual sensors (one sponge block and two wires per sensor) like that and wire them up in parallel around the base of the heater. R #### Rich Grise Jan 1, 1970 0 --- I'd cut up a sponge into little blocks and then thread two stainless steel wires through them long enough to surround the base of the heater, then bend the affair around the base of the heater and hook the like ends together to keep them in place. Or, make a bunch of individual sensors (one sponge block and two wires per sensor) like that and wire them up in parallel around the base of the heater. Soak the sponge blocks in brine, and let them dry in the sun or something. For that matter, you could use blotter paper and a couple of alligator clips, but don't forget the brine! Cheers! Rich D #### Dan Akers Jan 1, 1970 0 "My gas water heater (50 gallon) will spring a leak in the next two years, if past history is a reliable indicater (Replaced in '78, '88, and '98, neighbors also get ~ 10 years out of theirs). It will leak slowly, at first (again, if history repeats). I want to detect that and replace the thing at the first signs. Has anyone brewed up a sensor for that purpose?" _____________________________________ Re; I just built one for my hot water heater about a year ago. My heater sits in a small closet and I was concerned not only about "wet" leaks but also leaks that evaporate before puddling that would go unidentified. So, my leak detector has two simple sensors; one to detect liquid water in the pan the water heater sits in and one to detect high relative humidity in the closet. My wet leak detector simply consists of a discarded 6V wall wart cord with one of those concentric male plugs on the end; you know center positive, sleeve negative or vise-versa. My high humidity detector consists of a piece of cotton string, suspended between two stainless steel wires, that has been soaked in a nearly saturated sodium chloride (table salt) solution and allowed to dry. When dry the string does not conduct electricity, but when the relative humidity reaches 75%, the NaCl deliquesces and the string conducts. This "sensor" is simply mounted on the circuit board ( the string is has about 2" clearance from the board surface, to get a fair sample of the ambient air) and electrically parallels the "wet puddle" sensor which has it's cord to allow the remote location of the wet "sensor" in the water heater pan. I epoxied a magnet onto the circuit board so I could stick it on the side of the heater. It operates on a single, circuit board mounted, 9V battery and has near zero idle current. A piezo buzzer sounds when the wet probe gets wet or when the closet RH goes above 75%. Dan Akers J #### John Fields Jan 1, 1970 0 Soak the sponge blocks in brine, and let them dry in the sun or something. For that matter, you could use blotter paper and a couple of alligator clips, but don't forget the brine! --- Frayed knot... NaCl is hygroscopic. Haven't you ever seen saltshakers with rice in them? E #### ehsjr Jan 1, 1970 0 Neither copper or aluminum are good for this application. You need gold. I was planning on trying a gold plated header strip for this. I will place multiple sensors at strategic places in the basement and the detection circuit will drive a relay which will disconnect the well pump. I have to ask - why gold instead of copper or aluminum? Thanks, Ed E #### ehsjr Jan 1, 1970 0 Thanks to all who have replied. Some interesting ideas! Here's one from E that didn't make the board. Paraphrasing: Sink a stainless steel bolt into the concrete floor if it's on concrete (they usually are), and use it as one half of the sensor with the heater the other half. When the concrete gets wet the resistance will drop. Anyone know anything about that? If nothing else, it's an interesting experiment I could try using a cinder block. I wouldn't use the body of the heater - hafta scrape the paint off to do that. I don't think the circuit connection would cause electrolysis (guessing a few micro amps) - but bare metal on concrete isn't something I want to do. But two bolts might be worth considering. The advantage is that (if viable) it detects without a puddle - the water doesn't have to reach some minimum puddle height to touch the sensor. Ed D #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 Aluminum oxide does not conduct and copper will tarnish badly at basement floor level. Neither will make a particularly good sensor. Stainless steel or almost any other off the shelf plated connector would be better e.g. nickel, tin, phosphor bronze are also common M #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 FloodStopper Providing 24x7 Protection Against Flooding Due To Internal Plumbing Failures and Accidental Overflows Now Available at The-FloodStopper-Store on The FloodStopper™ System is a patented, high-tech water leak detection system that provides 24x7 protections against flooding due to internal plumbing failures and accidental overflows by automatically shutting-off the water supply instantly upon detection of a leak. The FloodStopper System is designed for use in Residential, Commercial, and Industrial buildings and is available in valve sizes from ¾" to 10". Insurance Industry records for 2002 indicate a total "Water Damage" Claims Payout of$11,500,000,000.00. They also state that 68% or
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R

#### Ross Mac

Jan 1, 1970
0
Jasen Betts said:
Replace the electrode.
Most water heaters have a zinc or is it magnesium electrode down their
centre which stops them from rusting out, when the electrode becomes
depleted they start to rust.

Either of those will do. but if the floor's wooden i'd go with s ring of
thumbtacks with wires soldered to alternate ones.

Or could you drain it and slide a tray under it?

Bye.
Jasen

This was my first thought....the sacrificial anode has disolved and your
water heater becomes the new anode and then leaks. Change your anode rod
every 5 years or so (just a guess based on your 10 year time period). Is
your plumbing all copper, galvanized (my guess) or plastic? The least noble
metal will plate out and that is where the leak will start. Perhaps you need
luck, Ross

E

#### ehsjr

Jan 1, 1970
0
Ross said:
This was my first thought....the sacrificial anode has disolved and your
water heater becomes the new anode and then leaks. Change your anode rod
every 5 years or so (just a guess based on your 10 year time period). Is
your plumbing all copper, galvanized (my guess) or plastic? The least noble
metal will plate out and that is where the leak will start. Perhaps you need
luck, Ross

Thanks. Actually I'm not trying to solve the "problem"
of the heater leaking. My assumption, right or wrong,
has been that these appliances have a life expectancy
of ~ ten years in this area. It would be interesting
to discover what the average life expectancy is, or
should be. That said, I will investigate the idea of
replacing the anode. I suspect it will turn out to be
impractical, but I don't know. The reason I say impractical
has to do with clearance above the heater. It may be
that the thing has to be "uninstalled" to get at the
the defective, uninstalled unit, and can go through
removing the old one and then replaceing it (pretending
it is new) just to see what's involved.

there is no mess when it leaks. It sits on concrete
in a cinder block room - part of the garage - and drains
outdoors if it leaks. You don't see the leak in the
garage, so it is only by happenstance you might discover
it. The reason I want to detect it at first sign of
the leak is to (possibly) avoid unscheduled emergency
replacement or an unexpected cold shower.

I appreciate the interest and replies. While some things
may not apply to my situation - like the dielectric union
or the mess avoidance - they are certainly valid in other
circumstances, and belong in the thread.

Ed

R

#### Rich Grise

Jan 1, 1970
0
Ross Mac wrote:

Thanks. Actually I'm not trying to solve the "problem" of the heater
leaking. My assumption, right or wrong, has been that these appliances
have a life expectancy of ~ ten years in this area. It would be
interesting to discover what the average life expectancy is, or should
be. That said, I will investigate the idea of replacing the anode. I
suspect it will turn out to be impractical, but I don't know. The
reason I say impractical has to do with clearance above the heater. It
may be that the thing has to be "uninstalled" to get at the anode. When
uninstalled unit, and can go through removing the old one and then
replaceing it (pretending it is new) just to see what's involved.

Then you should go ahead and swap out the water heater, and plan on
replacing the anode in maybe 5 years. First, see what's involved
in swapping out the anode - there's a possibility that it'd be
fairly simple to disconnect the water pipes (like, use unions)
and tilt the drained heater to slide the anode out:

Also, be sure to drain the sediment out periodically.

Have Fun!
Rich

E

#### ehsjr

Jan 1, 1970
0
Rich said:
Then you should go ahead and swap out the water heater,

Thanks.
You're the second person to say that, and I'm puzzled by the
idea. I'd be throwing away 20% of the thing's life, if the
ten year figure holds true. Am I missing something?

The maintenance you mention below may extend the life
considerably - I don't know - but at least I "get"
that idea.

and plan on
replacing the anode in maybe 5 years. First, see what's involved
in swapping out the anode - there's a possibility that it'd be
fairly simple to disconnect the water pipes (like, use unions)
and tilt the drained heater to slide the anode out:

Thanks again,
Ed

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