# How to measure water level in a tank?

1. Jan 30, 2010

### dk99

how to measure water level in a tank??

How to measure water level in tank in the cheapest way????
The first thing that came to my mind is pressure sensor..... but it's ruled out because it's expensive.
Can somebody suggest a cheaper mechanism??????
And it is preferred to have a low power mechanism.....

2. Jan 30, 2010

### FredGarvin

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

A stick.

3. Jan 30, 2010

### brewnog

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

Can't beat Fred for simplicity, but may I suggest a sight gauge?

4. Feb 1, 2010

### minger

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

haha, the first thing I thought of was a ruler.

5. Feb 4, 2010

### S_Happens

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

The best method depends on a few things. How big is the tank? What type of tank is it? Does it need to be a permanent real-time indication, or only at intervals (we have some inventory tanks that we only check once a month, so a simple tape measure with weight is sufficient)? There are more questions, but hopefully you get the picture that it's all in the details.

Like mentioned there are different types of direct level indication such as a dipstick/floating gauge, sight glass, etc. which are much cheaper than a sensor/transmitter.

6. Feb 4, 2010

### Gokul43201

Staff Emeritus
Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

A suggestion from a complete outsider to this field (therefore more of a question to the insiders): if you needed real time, continuous monitoring of the level (rather than just spot checks, which could be done with a measuring stick taped to the inside wall of the tank), how about a simple cylindrical capacitor built out of copper tubes sitting vertically inside the tank, whose capacitance is naturally a function of the amount of dielectric (water) filling the space between the electrodes?

Or for a discreet solution (depending on the accuracy required, this could be more than sufficient), I suppose a series of magnetic floats would work just fine.

7. Feb 4, 2010

### FredGarvin

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

Both of those are pretty standard from my experience. The discrete sensors can get you into a little bit of trouble if you are not careful with how you deal with levels in between sensors. We had a test cell tank overflow because of that reason (coupled with some control logic that had issues).

8. Feb 4, 2010

### minger

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

The OP hasn't gotten back to us yet; maybe we're thinking of the wrong kind of tank. Perhaps he's thinking of a military tank going through some body of water, in which case I would say the best measurement tool is the wetness of my socks.

9. Feb 4, 2010

### dr dodge

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

it is real hard to beat pressure sensors for long term reliability, accuracy, and ease of installation. our depth sensors just hang in the fluid. there may be simpler ways (stick) but the stick looses its cheapness, when the stick reader is attached. there is also the possible risk to the stick reader faiiling in, and if he needs to read said stick multiple times a day, climbs an top of a tank, has to monitor deadly chemicals, or gets paid $30 an hour, then the pressure sensor gets more cost effective pretty quickly. real time stick reading over short distance is pretty cheap (shouting reading) compared to cabling, but they are only good for ear-shout distance (unless shout-repeaters are used). float assemblies and any other products that have moving parts need to be cleaned and maintained, where the presssure sensor just sits there and reads. in deep or irregular tanks the design and installation is simpler than a float system. the variable capacitance idea will have problems where the fluid is not consistantly homogenous, or is dirty or corrosive. the pressure sensor is much more forgiving. with the good old 4-20ma sensors, ease and accuracy of calibration is pretty hard to beat, too many people are replacing various other systems with depth sensors because their economy proves themself in the long run I am a little biased because we make them but I can also see the merits of the stick and sight tube dr 10. Feb 4, 2010 ### Doug Huffman Re: how to measure water level in a tank?? Tap the tank wall and listen for the change in the sound. 11. Feb 4, 2010 ### dr dodge Re: how to measure water level in a tank?? watch for sweat on the tank dr 12. Feb 4, 2010 ### Doug Huffman Re: how to measure water level in a tank?? Hat tip to Dr. Dodge. 13. Feb 4, 2010 ### S_Happens Re: how to measure water level in a tank?? Pressure (or most likely differential pressure) sensing is by far the most common way of monitoring levels in industry. Dr Dodge brings up a lot of good points, although the$30/hr technician (even if he does "strap" a tank) is doing much more than a single level measurment.

Like I said, it depends on the size, type, and application of the tank and whether the level indication needs to be monitored remotely or locally. I've dealt with everything from a simple "sight glass" rigged up from plastic tubing all the way to radar (and nuclear sources, but not in any water service).

14. Feb 5, 2010

### dr dodge

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

differential pressure is actually more correct.
but then there is no such thing as "non-differential" pressure, because it always has a reference
weither its absolute (ref'd to 0 pressure) gauge or negative gauge (ref'd to atm), or high line delta P, its always got to refer back to "defined zero"
This is the hardest thing to get across to people during training
example of actual phone conversation, repeated at least once a month:
customer:I need to go to -14.7 psi
but your atmospheric pressure is 14.5 so you can't do it
do I need a bigger vacumn pump?

(dr dodge picks up hammer and starts beating himself in head until hammer is broke)

dr

15. Feb 5, 2010

### dk99

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

I'm sorry for replying so late..... the major problems involved are that the tank is pretty small..... and i the content of the tank is not always water so i couldn't consider the option of using that water as a dielectric...(because the contents are different.... and i'm only concerned with the level in the tank). The reason for not considering conventional options is...... we don't want to power the mechanism continuously......... lots of stuff involved.... that's why i wanted to know if there is a general mechanism..... which could be modified according to our needs :)

16. Feb 5, 2010

### FredGarvin

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

Is the tank pressurized or is it an open tank? Have you thought of a basic float lever system?

17. Feb 5, 2010

### S_Happens

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

If you don't give any details then you won't get a good answer.

By "not always water" what do you mean? Will the density be significantly different? If so, then you're limited to a direct level measurement that will be unaffected by changing composition (like a float as mentioned or sight glass). Again, does it need to be remotely monitored and a signal sent somewhere or can it be a completely unpowered indication that somebody can simply look at. What size is small and what is the tank being used for? Luckily Fred already repeated my question about type of tank and hopefully it will be answered.

Semantical, but when I say differential pressure I'm talking about a sensor with an actual DP cell that is referenced back to another point in the process/equipment not simply the calibration range (which is certainly important) of a single pressure sensor. We typically use DP sensors for levels because our references are almost never atmospheric or constant.

18. Feb 5, 2010

### sophiecentaur

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

There are systems using sound.
Take a vertical tube, open at the top and extending to the bottom of the liquid. The column of air will resonate at a fundamental frequency (easily measured) depending on the level of liquid. Or you can measure the time for an ultrasonic pulse to bounce back from the liquid surface. I think you can buy systems based on these methods.
It depends on how much money you want to spend.
You can have a float on a string wrapped round a shaft. The shaft can turn a potentiometer or optical encoder - or just work a needle on the end of the shaft.
It really depends on the actual application - as do all engineering solutions.

19. Feb 16, 2010

### zgozvrm

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

You say the tank is "pretty small." Depending on how small it is, you could mount it on a scale and determine the volume by weight (assuming you know the density of the liquid).

20. Feb 20, 2010

### MThornton

Re: how to measure water level in a tank??

run a small air-compressor into the tank vent for a specific time (ie 10 sec). The air-pressure rise over that time will be inversely proportional to the volume of the air-space in the tank, and directly proportional to the fluid volume.