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Any Ideas For A Water Hose Flowmeter?
Old 07-13-2011, 11:56 PM   #1
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Any Ideas For A Water Hose Flowmeter?

I have no idea how much water I am using or putting down with soaker hoses. To try to get a somewhat linear water output over their length, I only turn on the faucet around 1/4 turn.

I thought I could find a simple mechanical-based flowmeter and put it in series with a soaker hose to see how much water flows versus valve position over some amount of time. I'm thinking that it would need to be able to measure down to about 1 gallon per minute on the low end.

I found this: Amazon.com: Melnor/Gardena 101 Flowmeter Water Timer: Patio, Lawn & Garden

It's a flow TIMER, but I guess I could do trial timer settings of XX Gallons Per Hour with it to get a feel of the flowrate. But reading the reviews of it, it's a piece of crap.

I also saw this: Amazon.com: TOM Aquarium Flow Meter (measures 50gph to 250gph flow rate): Home & Garden
but I don't know how it works, or whether it could take the back pressure caused by the restriction of a soaker hose. I would also have to build adapters or adapter hose sections for both ends of it (which I could do if needed). With the small picture, I can't really figure out anything about it. It would be nice to have something that wouldn't be position-sensitive. If it has to stand upright to work properly, that can be a problem with hose sections attached, flopping it over.

I know we have some folks here that are real good on ferreting out unusual products, so, any ideas for a water flowmeter?
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:16 AM   #2
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I prefer the simplest solutions. Throw the hose in a container and open it 1/4 turn for a set amount of time. A minute would be great, if you could.

Calculate gallons per minute used. Then buy an orifice flow controller of that size. It will be a simple, (no moving parts to mess up) device that will give you the flow you need.
If the hole is too small it could plug by sand/calcium breaking off in the line.
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:33 AM   #3
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Throw the hose in a container and open it 1/4 turn for a set amount of time. A minute would be great, if you could.
I had thought of that, but I could do that only with a new hose, maybe by forcing it into a 5 gallon bucket.

We live in the wonderful expansive clay soil area, so the major use of soaker hoses is around box beam slab foundations. The soaker hoses are under mulch, under/between bushes, vines have grown over them, etc. etc. They are also of different ages, and of different manufacturers. So a new hose would only be representative of a new hose like it... and I really don't want to try to lay another whole set down where they are. It's also 100+ degrees every day, and the mornings have been starting out with a low in the low 80's. If I have to replace all of them, well that's a winter project, along with a 100 other winter projects
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:45 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Telly View Post
I have no idea how much water I am using or putting down with soaker hoses. To try to get a somewhat linear water output over their length, I only turn on the faucet around 1/4 turn.
I know we have some folks here that are real good on ferreting out unusual products, so, any ideas for a water flowmeter?
You might be ready for an industrial-size irrigation or plumbing supply store in your area where you can browse the gear and talk to the staff. If you don't buy from them that'd at least simplify the online search.

If you're really over-engineering the solution you could connect a regular ol' flowmeter to the spigot, put a manifold on the outlet, and have all your soaker hoses connected to the spigot with individual ball-valve shutoffs.

I keep tinkering with a flowmeter idea every time I fix an irrigation valve controller. But our water portion of our sewer bill is only about $25/month, and the sewage portion is 3x that. Not that I care to have a sewage flow meter...
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Old 07-14-2011, 06:36 AM   #5
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How accurate are the water meters? Can you do a before and after reading on your own and let the water company do the calcs? This may work if you are on city water.

The water and sewage are nearly the same. What goes in, also goes out.
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Old 07-14-2011, 07:18 AM   #6
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As devans0 suggests, make sure no water is running, read your meter, turn on your system, let it run for 10 minutes or so, read your meter, then do the math.
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Old 07-14-2011, 10:19 AM   #7
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As devans0 suggests, make sure no water is running, read your meter, turn on your system, let it run for 10 minutes or so, read your meter, then do the math.
Exactly what I did when I want to figure out the water consumption of our landscape irrigation. As a timer, I used the automatic sprinkler system timer as my duration timer.
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Old 07-14-2011, 11:07 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Telly View Post
To try to get a somewhat linear water output over their length, I only turn on the faucet around 1/4 turn.
I have 50 feet of sprinkler hose, and yesterday I was looking at how long the sprays of water were near the head of the hose (sprays are around 2 feet) versus near it's tail (around 3 inches). That's an inconvenient difference, so I turned down the flow control at the head (with a Gilmore Y-valve connector), and now there seems much less difference in length of spray. I realize this is irrelevant to your question, but I mention it just to support your observation that reducing the flow makes the water output more even over the hose length.

I also have a couple of soaker- (not sprinkler-) hoses, and my impression is that they are fairly even throughout their length.

As to the question itself, well, a very crude approach would be to keep track of the bar heights on your water bill, if you get a month-by-month graph with your bill, as I do. Then the monthly variations as you vary your watering or install more soaker hose might give you some idea of soaker water consumption.
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Old 07-15-2011, 12:29 AM   #9
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I could probably use the water meter, but due to the distance away, it is very inconvenient to do so. And the fire ants would have to agree to let me use it.

I'd really like to have a portable in-line flowmeter so I could put it right by the faucets and see immediate results on faucet opening amount and Y-branch valve settings. I have at least 10 soaker hoses, which is many hundreds of feet of soaker hose of different lengths, all custom cut.
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Old 07-15-2011, 06:53 PM   #10
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Telly - That 2nd one in your original post looks like it will work. Yes - it looks like you have to keep it upright, and yes you will need adapters. You should be able to get adapters from a Home Depot, Lowes, Menards. I got pipe thread/hose thread adapters for a heat exchanger on my brewing rig, and all is well. I don't think the back pressure would affect the meter because there should always positive flow as long as the faucet is on.

I'm looking for something similar, but my situation is simpler. I water 1 flower bed 4 gal per day, 1 flower bed 2 gal per day, and 3 containers 2 gal per day total. I need to hook up a timer and soaker hoses or mini sprays to water all this while we're gone. I plan on doing this out of my rain barrel or sprinkling system or a combination thereof. I'm going to get a flow meter (probably your second listed one) to run checks to see how long each line needs to run to achieve the same amount of gallons that I water manually.
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Old 07-15-2011, 09:26 PM   #11
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Try checking pool supply stores for a 2-10 GPM flowmeter. Here's one, although the design of this one requires it to be installed in a certain size pipe...you could get the right size PVC and install it with adapters in line to your hose, but not sure if that will throw the reading off.

http://www.poolpartsonline.com/p-333-flow-meters-blue-white-top-mount-f-300-series.aspx
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Old 07-15-2011, 10:12 PM   #12
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Telly,
I'm disappointed. You want to buy a flowmeter? This is a great chance for a project. I see some type of homebrew setup with the water flow turning a vane which spins a little motor/generator and the volt readout converts to gpm. Or some type of manometer whereby the water passing a venturi lowers the pressure--the height of the ball in a vertical standpipe shows the pressure drop = gpm. I'll have to think about how to compensate for changing water pressure in the hose, which will throw off the pressure drop readings.
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Old 07-15-2011, 10:29 PM   #13
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I was going to suggest using the house water meter then do the conversion from cubic feet to gallons, but I see you have already thought of that route.
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Old 07-16-2011, 11:41 PM   #14
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Ronstar, you inspired me to do some research. I then found wiki's flowmeter page, and a class of flowmeters called Variable Area. Here is a link to a description Rotameter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Knowing that, and then looking again at the aquarium flowmeter:



The outer tube tapers to be larger at the top than the bottom, the inner tube has straight walls, and there looks like a ring on the lower end of the inner tube. So I think the water comes in from the inlet, comes up between the inner and outer tubes at the bottom, dragging the ring upwards against gravity, until it's drag/lift is countered by gravity, as the flow rate per unit area for a given inlet rate decreases due to the expanding tube diameter. The ring reaches an equilibrium point. The water reaches the top, where it then flows down the inner tube, and on to the outlet fitting.

So it looks like it will work, will just have to mount it on something to keep it upright. As long as the threaded connections are IPS, I should be able to put PVC female IPS adapters on it, then solvent weld a short length of pipe, then solvent weld PCV pipe to hose thread adapters to each. Will have to make sure to put the right sex hose adapters on the proper ends!

Samclem... STOP IT! I am forcing myself to just go buy something and do a minimal adaptation.
Otherwise... I would be trying to acquire a chunk of suitable plastic, and trying to bore out passages (without a milling machine, urk), and a place for some kind of paddlewheel such that the paddlewheel is near positive-displacement in operation, then have a top lid with a gasket, and screw top and main body together. The paddlewheel would have the shaft vertical, so the top bearing point would be in the underside of the lid. The paddlewheel would have a small magnet on it, and a Hall-effect sensor or pickup coil of wire would be mounted on top of the lid.
Then the output of the pickup would be fed to an Op Amp gain stage, then on to a peak detector/half-wave rectifier consisting of a series diode, a parallel cap, and a high-value parallel bleed resistor across the cap. A following Op Amp stage could be a voltage follower, or a tweakable amp which would output a current to drive a microamp or milliamp meter, whichever I can find lying around here. Then calibrate the meter movement to GPM using the bucket/time method.

The continuous 100+ degree days, mornings starting out in the 80's @ sun up, and the garage starting the day out in 90's will all help me keep focused on NOT doing that!

So unless we can find something better at a reasonable price, I'll probably end up going with it.
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Old 07-17-2011, 05:53 AM   #15
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Telly - Great research!

If you find anything else, or when you get it installed, please report in with your findings!
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Old 07-17-2011, 10:54 AM   #16
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Will that aquarium gauge hold up to pressure? Aquarium pumps create flow, but very little pressure. Maybe your sprinkler is open enough so that there is little back pressure at the point you want to mount this, but be careful. If there is a shutoff downstream of this, I'm pretty sure the line pressure will blow it!

It's a clever design though, very interesting.

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Old 07-17-2011, 03:37 PM   #17
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Will that aquarium gauge hold up to pressure? Aquarium pumps create flow, but very little pressure. Maybe your sprinkler is open enough so that there is little back pressure at the point you want to mount this, but be careful. If there is a shutoff downstream of this, I'm pretty sure the line pressure will blow it!

It's a clever design though, very interesting.

-ERD50
Good points! In my case, I can throttle down the pressure through the hose bib connected to my sprinkler line. Thanks for tip - I'll make sure I only open it slightly so I don't blow the flowmeter into oblivion.
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Old 07-19-2011, 09:25 AM   #18
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Yeah, from my first post I had concerns about the aquarium flowmeter's ability to handle the pressure to atmosphere with the restriction (backpressure) of the soaker hose. The pressure from inside the flowmeter to the outside world would depend on how far open the faucet was, and the actual restriction of the soaker hose at that resulting water pressure. I had no idea what it might be.

So I conducted an experiment this morning. From a Y fitting on one of the outside faucets I would be using: One side of the Y went to a hose, which went on to a soaker hose that has been in use, this soaker hose is about 25' long. The other side of the Y went to a pressure gauge I was able to rummage around and find... it looks like it came from a steamship's boiler room, a big surface-mount gauge with some brass on it.

With faucet opened 1/4 turn, about the amount I have been using for soaker hoses, I measured 15-17 PSI.
With 1/2 turn open, which is beyond what I have used, it was 35 PSI.
Then I turned off the soaker hose end of the Y to measure maximum water pressure with no flow... was 80 PSI. At this time of day water pressure is probably higher than evening when more people are irrigating, and more people are home using water.

I think there is NO WAY that flowmeter would survive with 80 PSI on it! That would happen if I were to use the flowmeter inline on a regular hose, with a nozzle on the end, and then turn off the nozzle.

But for my soaker hose application, it might hold up with 15 PSI on it. If I cranked the faucet open too far and got up to 35 PSI, I don't know, I tend to think it might blow considering the amount of surface area the gauge has on the clear plastic part, or its connection to the black plastic body.

I'll need to think about this.
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Old 09-12-2011, 01:58 PM   #19
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UPDATE - It's working Great!

I went ahead and got the "aquarium" flowmeter:
Amazon.com: TOM Aquarium Flow Meter (measures 50gph to 250gph flow rate): Home & Garden

I'm glad I did. I was totally wrong about it's construction. It is really heavy-duty. Made of heavy plastic and glass. Both the instructions and the printing on the cylinder say Maximum Pressure 210 PSI! And the corresponding value in Metric.

That must be one heck of an aquarium that would use something like this!

The outside cylinder has text in units of 50 for 50 to 250 Gallons per hour, and rule marks every 10 GPH in between. It also has a Metric scale. The yellow thing I thought might be a seal sticking out, is not. It is a flexible marker that you can move up or down the cylinder to use as a reminder of a flow rate.

It came with barbed fittings on it for large-diameter tubing. I unscrewed those, not using them. The flowmeter itself has 3/4" male IPS on each end. I made adapters for each end:
Input has a PVC female hose thread adapter to solvent weld, to a stub of 3/4" PVC pipe, to a solvent weld to female 3/4" IPS coupler.
Output I made up a female 3/4" IPS coupler to solvent weld, to stub of 3/4" pipe, to solvent weld to 3/4" Male hose thread adapter.
So regular hoses can fit on each end.
I mounted the flowmeter on a scrap of 2 x 6 to keep it upright.

In use with existing soaker hoses, I needed short flexible sections of hose to splice it into existing runs for measurement. Did that by using two old rubber washing machine hoses I had laying around. As they are female hose-thread on each end, I made two simple all-screwed-together adapters by using two PVC male hose thread nipples that have 3/4" male IPS on the other end, and connecting both male IPS ends together with a female coupling that has 3/4" IPS on both sides. So that made two shorter hoses that are very flexible, with the opposite fittings on each end.

The first thing I found out in operation was that soaker hoses were flowing a lot more water than I thought! I am now opening the faucet only 1/6 turn or so. I also found out that one or two of my faucets seem to have expanding compression washers in them. Turn on faucet, set to rate desired. Seems stable. Check back 15 mins. later, rate is noticeably lower. Seems the faucet washer was taking a compression set when the faucet is off, and expanding when it is on.
So now I have a handle on how much water I am putting down per hour.

Have played with it with lawn sprinklers too. It's a neat toy.
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Old 09-12-2011, 11:01 PM   #20
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UPDATE - It's working Great!

I went ahead and got the "aquarium" flowmeter:
Amazon.com: TOM Aquarium Flow Meter (measures 50gph to 250gph flow rate): Home & Garden

I'm glad I did. I was totally wrong about it's construction. It is really heavy-duty. Made of heavy plastic and glass. Both the instructions and the printing on the cylinder say Maximum Pressure 210 PSI!
Glad it worked out. It does sound kinda neat, but I can't think of any reason I would need one. Surprising it is rated for that much pressure.

It strikes me as very odd that sellers don't include some of these specs on the web page (or a link to them). It's the internet for gosh sakes, not like it would cost them anything to include it.

-ERD50
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