Web Based Water Metering With IoBridge





Introduction: Web Based Water Metering With IoBridge

After the real-time power meter project I did back in January, the next logical step seemed to be an ioBridge based water meter. Lets face it, power conservation isn't going to save the planet on it's own. There are plenty of resources besides electrical power that each of us use on a daily basis. All these resources have a measurable impact on the environment and our bank accounts. Reducing consumption benefits us all.

I grew up in the country where our water was supplied by a well. Conservation was easy back then: if we used too much water, the well ran dry. These days my water comes from city. The water doesn't run out if I shower too long, but I still want to save water (and save money) when I can.

This project was a little easier than the power meter in terms of technical skills but it did require some basic plumbing know-how. The concept is simple enough: I installed a water meter on my home's incoming water line which flips a switch for each gallon of water traveling thought it. The switch creates electrical pulses that are are counted by an ioBridge module. The data is tracked by ioBridge.com using their free web based data logging service.

My plan was to do this over a weekend, but it only really took about an hour or two. I think I spent more time at the hardware store picking out the proper fittings and adapters than actually installing the stuff.

Hardware and Tools required:

DLJSJ75C Water Meter
IO-204 ioBridge Module
teflon plumbing tape
assorted plumbing fittings
2-conduction wire, about 20 ft.
PVC primer and cement
hacksaw (for cutting the pipe)
soldering Iron

Step 1: Figuring Out Where to Put the Water Meter

My house is in a flood plain (more specifically, it's in a Florida swamp). Therefore, my house is built on stilts. This made it incredible easy to access the water main. It was fastened to one of the cinder-block posts supporting the house. All I needed was a straight section after the main water shut-off valve to install the new meter. After removing a bit of insulation, I had my straight section to work with.

Step 2: Figuring Out What Plumbing Fittings to Use

The water meter came with two coupling adapters to make installation easier. However, I still needed to get from 3/4" NPT threaded end to PVC pipe. Not that this is difficult. There are just soooo many plumbing fittings to choose from in a big box hardware store. It took a little while to figure out exactly what I needed. I also wanted to include a hose connection. Not a big deal, just another couple of fittings to figure out and I was ready to go.

Step 3: Assembling the Water Meter Section

Because I didn't want to shut off the water and then get stuck half way through the project, I did as much as I could without actually cutting the main water line. This meant assembling the different fittings and connection pipes ahead of time. All of this was very simple. It required a little teflon tape for the threaded connections and some PVC cement for the pipe fittings. Now I had a solid section that could be installed quickly.

Step 4: Marking the Water Line for Cutting

Since the water meter section was already assembled, I knew exactly how much pipe to remove from the main water pipe. I just held the assembly up to the pipe where I wanted to install it, then made a mark .75 inches from the end on each side. The .75 inch extra is needed because the main water pipe fits into the water meter assembly ends by that much.

Step 5: Cutting the Water Main

After I turned off the main water shut-off valve, I cut the water pipe where I had marked earlier. A gallon or so of water came out of the pipe from what was trapped in the plumbing above. I mopped up the water with a towel and dried the area the best I could.

Step 6: Water Meter Installation

I unscrewed the threaded couplers from both ends of the water meter and glued them onto the cut ends of the pipe. After the PVC cement was set, I just reconnected the meter to the couplers and tightened them down. All very, very easy.

Step 7: Check for Leaks

I slowly turned the main valve back on and checked for leaks. Fortunately, I didn't have any.

Step 8: Running the Signal Wire

Nothing special for this part. The water meter comes with a 6 ft section of cable. My ioBridge module was in my house above. I drilled a tiny hole in the floor and ran a long section on 2-conductor wire from my ioBridge module, through the hole in the floor, to the water meter. I just soldered the wires, covered them with heat-shrink tubing and tucked the wires behind the water line to keep them from getting exposed to the elements.

Step 9: Connection to IoBridge

This is super simple as well. Using a screw terminal board, I just connected one wire to ground and the other to a digital input. The water meter contains a reed relay contact switch. As the meter reads each gallon of water, it connects and disconnects the switch. All ioBridge needs to do is read the numbers of times the switch closes to get the number of gallons used. The latest revision ioBridge modules have built in pull-up resistors, so I didn't even need to add them myself (as done here with the Twittering Toaster)

If you aren't familiar with ioBridge, check out there website here. Basically, they sell a little box that allows you go control/monitor things from the internet.

Step 10: IoBridge Configuration

ioBridge recently added a free data-logging service to their long list of features. The cool thing about data-logging is that I don't need to have a web page up to record the data. The ioBridge module sends the meter pulse counts to the ioBridge server and they keep track of all the data for me. This means I'm not running a computer 24/7 just to log the data. To configure my setup for logging the number of pulses, I signed into my ioBridge account and set the I/O channel to send data when there was a digital input state change. This way data only gets sent when the contact switch in the water meter is tripped. I then went to the "modules" tab and clicked "add log". On the next screen, I was presented with a few options for data logging. I chose "Digital Input Counting", then I went on to select the module and channel number. For the "States to Count", I picked "On State" and I used 15 minutes for the frequency. The frequency basically sets up how the plot will look. Choosing 15 minutes means the plot will be divided into 15 minute chunks. Finally, I clicked create log and that was it. It took about 15 minutes for my first data point to show up, but I've been collecting data since!

That's it, only 10 steps! Now when I log into my ioBridge account, I can view the past day, week or month of water usage down to the gallon in 15 minute windows. The plots are interactive and allow zooming, panning, etc. ioBridge also gives the option of downloading the data in a CSV file. This feature will come in handy when I need to import the data into Excel and do a little analysis.

And before someone asks... I don't plan on connecting my water meter to twitter. Although I'm sure there is already a Tweet-a-Liter in the works out there somewhere.



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    25 Discussions

    Can this be done using ThingSpeak as it operates today. I have a existing water meter equipped with reed switch output for every gallon of flow. Also have an unused Aurdino with Ethernet shield which I assume can be used to emulate the old IO Bridge digital out module. My coding skills are very limited to adapting existing code. Seems simple enough. The only thing I will need is some guidance in finding the best "bounce" code to eliminate noise from the switch reed relay and code to accumulate pulses to 5 minute state changes. Then plot as you did.

    Suggestions anyone?


    are you still using this and do have a suggestion on compatible software to get alert on cell phone???

    I want to monitor flow at main so as to detect leaks. I could use this device if there was an ioBridge API available. Using the API I can email to myself if flow goes above a threshold. So is there an ioBridge API I could use ?

    i like the idea of water conservation. Reading your water meter greatly assist in water meter conservation and we all know Florida is low on water supply in the winter months.


    Does anyone know of a source for a more sophisticated gadget/widget that could support the iobridge digital count log and provide more of the features in the Google power meter gadget?

    This instructable got me started on water and electricity monitoring - first I got a TED5000 for electricity (added powermeter gadget to my igoogle page) Then got the iobridge and started logging my water usage (the digital meter had been installed while implementing a whole house shutoff valve).  Today I added my iobridge widget added to my igoogle page as a gadget.  Sitting above the Google power meter it suffers badly by comparison.

    Meter Gadgets.jpg
    2 replies

    The water chart is a bar graph with wide bars for the histogram. The chart is also all JavaScript, no flash. So this means it works on smartphones like the iPhone and Android rather well. To me, although biased, it looks good.

    What do want updated?

    I don't know what (if any) parts of the Google Powermeter are not Java-script but I would love to see a time scale on the x-axis (with a vertical grid too) and the ability to switch from a day to a week or month view. 

    I can't believe the Google guys haven't cloned their powermeter into a watermeter.  Perhaps a collaboration with iobrigde and Google could yield some fruit.  I know the TED meter guys have something worked out so that their device can feed data to Google's Powermeter.

    And on a side note - why can't an end consumer get a device that reads the counts from our existing meters that already contain radio transmitters - all very proprietary. - just me grousing :-)

    I suppose you could figure out how to log data points with any microcontroller.  Although, most microcontrollers lack an easy way to push data to a database for archiving or use that data to embed charts in web pages.  I used ioBridge because it allowed me to put the project together in an hour instead of spending weeks writing code for an ethernet shield.  I guess it's all in what you're comfortable with, how much time you want to put in and what parts you have lying around. 

    That's true. I'm just hesitant to plop down more money on another mcu. I should have read up more on the ioBridge first, it's definitely a more capable system for this type of project.

    I just got my setup up and running. Does anyone know how I can make the IOBridge log/graph available without having to log into the website each time? I would like to be able to share the data but I don't want to have to share my login.

    This is an excellent project. I live in central Iowa and we pay for water on a tiered schedule. The first 3,000 is $42 then $7 per 1,000. If you use less than the 3,000 you loose it as there is no carry over to the next month. By using this kind of device you can keep track of your usage or lack there of. As to IG-88's comment on a government entity, it is already being done thru our pocket books. What better way to get immediate public response. Not only do we save money but, it is also a GREEN item that folks can see in real time their impact.

    7 replies

    Oh, I agree that on a technical sense it's a pretty cool project. But seeings as I don't buy into this whole "Green" or "Save the Planet" FAD, I disagree with that part of it. Explain how it's done thru our pocketbooks? I like the idea about being away from the house and able to monitor it. But then again if your worried about it just shut it off. And If you want to save money on your water bill, don't use as much :P

    IG-if we don't work at saving our water for the next generation who will? Check out my product that can show you how you can save water and it will show in your pocketbook. This device can be installed on any standard toilet and costs 10% of what the new toilets are selling for. Check us out at www.greenflush.net.

    IG - Another aspect of the project is roof rainwater collection. The biggest benefit is it's FREE. It is also relatively unpolluted and it is "Soft Water" no minerals. Some states counties and cities, in the west I think, will fine you for doing this as you are diverting water from the water table. Give me a break! As the the "Green" or "Save the Planet" items I have seen on PBS for example suggest that humans are having a negative effect. I will grant you that according to ice core samples warming and cooling seem to be cyclical. I think that we can do better. I really take exception to the first Presiden Bush when he termed it as "Voo-Doo Science". If we, humanity as a whole does nothing, at what point of gasping for a clean breath of air does humanity do anything? Personally I have more confidence in the men and women of science, who are not paid off in some way, devoting their lives to a project than to politicians we elect every 4 to 6 years who devote their lives to the taking advantage of the general public.

    I've often wondered about collecting rain off the roof. Most roofs are made of asphalt tho, not to mention bird or other animal droppings. How "clean" could it be?? Good for the garden maybe but not potable....

    Hello IG You are correct about the contamination with bird and other animal droppings, asphalt shingles are another issue. The most likely best roof would be a galvanized or color iodized metal roof. The idea here is if you are in a rain cycle of a few days let the rain from the first day wash the roof, then start collection. The water can be sterilized by boiling then aeration to restore fresh taste and also filtering thru charcoal, not the processed kind that has lighter fluid in it. The idea here is to have no chemicals in it. Charcoal chunks or pieces are usually not processed with any lighting fluids. When filtering thru charcoal it is like a Brita Water filter. Initially take a 5 gallon plastic bucket fill with charcoal chunks. Have a drain in the bucket and section off the bucket so that the water is forced to pass thru the charcoal. Run about 5 - 10 gallons thru it initially it will charcoal particles at first and then get cleaner. The water should have a really clean taste.

    I hate to say it, but I'm more interested in saving money. Although, I am happy that by conserving resources I'm helping rather than hurting. You may think that a Florida swamp is the last place to be concerned about water conservation. We have droughts here too. As a matter of fact, during the winter months, it rarely rains at all. Florida, Georgia and Alabama are locked in a struggle for the limited supply of freshwater in the southeast. Florida needs the water, but Georgia doesn't want to give up too much because they need it too.

    I'm using the water readings to get a better understanding of how much water is really needed for my vegetable garden. I'm trying to balance out saving money by growing my own food versus the added expense of the water.

    Jason - Another area you might try is collection of rain water via roof down spouts. (In some states, be sure to check yours, believe it or not the cities, counties, or the state will fine you for divertion of water from the water table.) The benefit of the collection is...IT'S FREE, next...IT'S UNPOLLUTED unless someone decides to do a nuclear bomb test.

    We have just recieved our patent-pending on a new toilet system that can flush your toilet using only one gallon of water. This not only saves water but can save on your septic system and if you use a well pump can save on your electric bill. This is a new product and although the website is still being built you can visit us at www.greenflush.net. This product is guaranteed to save you water on your next water bill and pay for itself in just a short time. This product is for sale now. Please check out our website. Have a great day!!