June 29th, 2021—
As most homeowners with a basement will tell you, keeping track of the sump pump is an important part of maintenance, as neglecting it can lead to the basement turning into a swimming pool. This is the exact predicament that a recent element14 Build Inside the Box winner, Mike Moore, ran into with his house because freezing pipes and an unreliable pump often became problematic. He went with multiple approaches to solve this, including water level detection, temperature monitoring, and even checking if the pump has ceased working.
The first component used was a TCST1103 photo interrupter, and its job is to send a signal if a bobbing piece of plastic gets between its emitter and receiver, which would indicate the water level has risen too high. For more granular and continuous measurements, Moore also implemented a VL53L0X time-of-flight sensor that sends a laser beam towards the water and waits for a reflection. Because water can distort this reading, a couple of readings get taken and then averaged together. Temperatures are read by a simple MCP9701 IC that was placed inside of a plastic tube and stuck to the side of the pit. Finally, detecting if the pump is running is handled by an MCP604 IC.
All these sensors are controlled with an Arduino MKR Zero that can sound an alarm if something’s wrong, and power is provided via a portable high-capacity battery bank. In the future, Moore plans to add SD card logging so he can view long-term trends in the data readings.
To see more about his project, you can view the element14 Presents video below and check out Moore’s write-up here.