Introduction: Monitor Heating Oil Tank Gallons With Email, SMS, and Pushbullet Alerting

Picture of Monitor Heating Oil Tank Gallons With Email, SMS, and Pushbullet Alerting

SAFETY INFORMATION: In case anyone wants to know if "this is safe to build/install" -- I have taken this to 2 different Oil companies for feedback/safety considerations, and I have run this by the fire department's Fire Prevention Deputy Chief. Per all 3 - the device is considered completely safe with norisk of fire or explosion. That said, I cannot control your individual environment/what you do with it, so please assume your own risk when installing it. Per the oil companies - electric sparks/open flames will not ignite the oil, so there is no possibility of catching fire/explosion/etc. Nothing compresses/creates a vacuum/creates air pressure to cause an explosion. My favorite quote was "even if you flick lit matches in your oil tank, it will not catch on fire."


This is a very quick and easy DIY build for a system that lets you monitor your home oil tank level (in *exact* gallons - down to the 10th of a gallon) remotely, and alert on different levels via Email/SMS/Pushbullet, etc.

The entire build is meant to be quick, clean, and less than $40!

The key parts are a Particle Photon for the "intelligence", a HC-SR04 for the "sound pulse" which will be used to measure the distance to the oil and using some data charts calculate the exact number of gallons avaiable, and a nice PVC shell for an easy build which can be directly screwed in into the tank.

I've made sure to provide a lot of images (especially of a few gotcha's) in order to make this as easy as possible.

For more information, background, and code (and feedback/comments), please go to my blog:

http://blog.vpetkov.net/2017/11/12/diy-monitor-heating-oil-tank-gallons-with-pushbullet-sms-and-email-alerting

Step 1: PARTS NEEDED

Picture of PARTS NEEDED

1.) You need about $4-5 worth of 2" PVC:

a.) 2" Male Adapter (left side)
b.) 2" Female Adapter (right side)
c.) 2" Cleanout Plug (bottom/middle)

2.) You need a rubber gasket "sheet" that's ~3x3 or bigger. This is ~$1.25-1.50

3.) You need a HC-SR04 sensor. You can get 5-6 of them for $8-10 (don't pay more than $2/each).
This is essentially a "trigger"/"echo" supersonic module..

4.) You need a Particle Photon (wifi) - $20
(alternatively, if you don't have WIFI access, you can get the Particle Electron - more expensive, and uses SIM card that's $3/month)

5.) Cables -- Jumper cables (female-to-female), and MicroUSB cable+usbpower (not pictured - could be replaced w/ battery)

Step 2: Mark the Circle and Cut It Out

Picture of Mark the Circle and Cut It Out

Mark the circle size and cut it out. This will be used as a seal/barrier between the chambers. It will also protect your electronic components, prevent oil fumes, and add other safety solutions.

Don't worry about exact size for now. Make sure it's bigger rather than smaller -- you will trim it down eventually to fit perfectly.

Step 3: Rubber Cement Male and Female PVC Together

Picture of Rubber Cement Male and Female PVC Together

Rubber Cement Male and Female PVC together as pictured.

The idea is two fold - create a secure PVC structure that has enough space to keep all of the components + keep any potential oil fumes out.

Step 4: Mark HC-SR04 Sensor, Cut It Out, Fit It In

Picture of Mark HC-SR04 Sensor, Cut It Out, Fit It In

1.) You want to mark the sensor in the center of your disk.

2.) Cut +'s (PLUS/Xs), but do NOT cut out the holes yet. (it helps with the bending/accuracy to wait for this until the disk is the right size).

I've broken this into many images to show the problems you might run into:

a.) The FIRST problem you will probably run into is the folds (see image tags for examples). You don't want this. If you run into this, take it out, size the rubber disk down a little, and try again. Once it fits, take it out and then cut out the circles.

b.) The SECOND problem you might run into is the rubber gasket not being pushed all the way. You really want it to fit into the "lip" that's left between the male and female adapters. This is the PERFECT place to "tuck in" the rubber gasket. You can see it in one of the images.

c.) After you get a good fit (see images), take it out, and THEN cut it -- but make sure the circles are slightly smaller than the markings. You want a tighter fit.

d.) At last, rubber cement the edges.

Step 5: Insert the HC-SR04 and Rubber Cement It From the Outside

Picture of Insert the HC-SR04 and Rubber Cement It From the Outside

The next step is to carefully bend the pins on the sensor so that they stick up. This will make it easier to connect to it when you have it inserted.

Insert the HC-SR04 sensor, and then push it all the way through.

Once that's done, use the rubber cement to "glue" the surrounding edges around the holes.

Step 6: Connect Header Cables, and Add the Photon

Picture of Connect Header Cables, and Add the Photon

Connect the female-to-female header cables to the HC-SR04. You need 4 of them.

1.) WHITE - to the VCC (5v)

2.) BLACK - to the GND (Ground)

3.) Purple - TRIGGER (D01 on Photon)

4.) Grey - ECHO (D02 on Photon)

You will want to connect a microUSB cable to power the photon. Ideally, you can route it through the square cap (the Cleanout Plug).

Step 7: You Are DONE - Here's the Code

Picture of You Are DONE - Here's the Code

Final Product - you now just need to find one of the 2" `bungholes` on your tank, and unscrew the metal cap and screw in this.

The code for the Particle Photon, and some background can be found here:

https://blog.vpetkov.net/2017/11/12/diy-monitor-heating-oil-tank-gallons-with-pushbullet-sms-and-email-alerting/

If you have any comments/questions/feedback, please post a comment on my blog. I'll try to answer/help with anything that I can.

Comments

ventz (author)2017-11-20

SAFETY INFORMATION: In case anyone wants to know if "this is safe to build/install" -- I have taken this to 2 different Oil companies for feedback/safety considerations, and I have run this by the fire department's Fire Prevention Deputy Chief. Per all 3 - the device is considered completely safewith norisk of fire or explosion. That said, I cannot control your individual environment/what you do with it, so please assume your own risk when installing it. Per the oil companies - electric sparks/open flames will not ignite the oil, so there is no possibility of catching fire/explosion/etc. Nothing compresses/creates a vacuum/creates air pressure to cause an explosion. My favorite quote was "even if you flick lit matches in your oil tank, it will not catch on fire."

Railes (author)2017-11-16

Great Project, would recommend a few changes.

1. your gasket materials are all viton, which is just a normal rubber, Recommend updating to a Buna style rubber to prevent longterm exposure of the fuel from degrading the gasket.

2, your sensor isnt enviromentally sealed and may cause your fuel to explode if you have enough Oxygen inside your cap. Would suggest updating and using a MAXbotics enviromentally sealed unit.

ventz (author)Railes2017-11-16

Railes,

Thanks.

#1 - I was wondering about the same thing (even though the fuel is not touching the gasket), what years and years of "oil fumes" would do to the rubber gasket. Thanks for the recommendation. It seems the Buna style rubber is pretty expensive, but if 1/16th of an inch is thick enough, this might do well: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0075DYR8Q/ref=biss_dp_t...

#2 - I might be missing something, but there's no oxygen pressure build up anywhere. That is, the bottom "chamber" really just isolates the "fuel fumes" from entering to the top (and protect the electronics from the oil), but the top "chamber" (where the electronics are) is no way air tight. Also, there's no air pressure buildup in a home heating tank. I would never use this sensor for anything commercial/large industrial (I have seen those sensors at $200+ just for the sensor, and they are usually steel made). Am I missing something here/can you provide me some more info. If there are any concerns, I would love to fix them. (I actually checked with our Oil company before putting this on here just to make sure it was "safe" :))

matthewstoops (author)2017-11-14

Ventz,

I'm curious about the gasket and the male/female adapters. You glue the male and female adapters together first, and then work the gasket in. I'm wondering if you've tried putting the gasket into the male coupling first, gluing it in, _then_ gluing the female on top of that. Seems that would make for an easier process, and makes sure the gasket is truly sandwiched in, instead of trying to fit it in after the couplings are connected.

Thank you for the great project.

ventz (author)matthewstoops2017-11-14

Hi Matthew,

That's a great idea!
I am going to give it a try on the next build and comment back on how it works. (I've been also meaning on adding pictures of the cables and a bit more around the Photon for people who have not used it).

My reason for adding the gasket later was because I wanted the "inside" (top part) to be flipped up to really create a seal. But if you can wedge it, and cement both sides, that should be better technically.

One other thing I've learned out of building a few of these now -- you really want to cover the bottom end 100% (everything except the ultrasonic "ears") in rubber cement and use more rather than less. This completely prevents the oil smell.

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2017-11-12

Nice monitoring system. I could use an alert system like this to keep track of a number of things around my house.

Thanks. Yea - the design with the Photon is really great for just about anything else I have a webhook called "Alert" which pushes Pushbullet alerts, and then I have these sensors with motion detection, temperature, moisture/water leaks (basement and near laundry machine), etc. This is a very simple and cheap way to automate and get information about things around your house. They could easily be added to a servo and used to open/shut your shades too :)

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