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Old 04-13-2006, 06:38 AM   #1
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Like most RV owners I had become frustrated by the typical 1/3, 2/3, Full LED lights that are supposed to indicate volume in the fresh water, LP and holding tanks on our RV. Not only do the systems sometimes provide false readings due to contamination on the tank walls, they are inherently inaccurate due to the design. As we all know, as soon as the water in the freshwater tank drops a fraction below a sensor, the tank drops to the next lower reading. For our system, as soon as we would use any water, our tank monitor would drop from full to 2/3 when in reality, I still had nearly a full tank. This became really frustrating when dry camping. When that 1/3 light went off, and the empty light was lit, I never really knew was the tank empty, or was it just a hair below 1/3. Often times we would go into ultra conserve mode on the water only to find out later we had nearly 1/3 of our tank left.

Well no more of that frustration! I purchased the SeeLevel Model 709 system from RV Upgrades for monitoring our tanks.

Garnet Industries has a great system that provides a digital display of the actual percentage of liquid in the tanks. The readout displays a numerical number between 0 and 100 percent for tank readouts as well as battery voltage and LP tank capacity. I just recently installed the system in our Winnebago Journey and added an external display as well. Having the external display eliminates the effort of running inside and outside the coach to see when the tank was getting full when refilling with freshwater. It's also handy to have when flushing the tanks to know the tank status.

The 709 system comes complete with sensors, display panel, and display wiring harness. The 709 also can be purchased with optional switches to control the water heater and water pump, but since I was installing the system into a unit where I already had those switches I purchased the less expensive 709 without the options.


Installing the system is really simple 3 step process: installing the display panel(s), installing the sensors, and finally connecting the wiring.

Since all the sensors and the display panels are wired in parallel, there is very little wiring that needs to be done. The display and sensors come with short pigtail type harness and are designed to reuse the existing wiring going to each holding tank. In this manner there is no need to fish wires through the RV. In my case, I decided to leave the original holding tank system intact as a redundant system, so I ran new wiring, but normally you can reuse the existing wiring.

Step 1 is to install the displays. Since Winnebago uses the "One Place" display, I removed their entire panel and shortened it so that I could mount the new SeeLevel panel above the Winnebago panel. Installing in this manner did require me to rebuild the wood cabinetry that the One Place panel mounts on, but I felt if gave a cleaner installation.





The exterior panel can be mounted anywhere near the holding tanks or freshwater fill areas. In my case, it was real convenient to mount it near the tanks. My holding tanks are accessible from a wide open bay that provides a good location for mounting the display.



Rather than mount the exterior display directly to the motorhome, I fabricated a bezel to mount the display into to provide some rigidity to it. This way, when pressing a button, the unit would feel solidly mounted. The bezel then screwed to a supporting bracket underneath my holding tanks and the display mounted into the bezel.



After mounting the displays, attaching the tank sensors is the next step. The sensors are thin flexible printed circuit boards with an adhesive backing material. The sensors come 12 inches long which is sufficient to measure the liquid level inside a 13" tall tank. For shorter tanks, the sensors are simply cut down to size with scissors. For larger tanks, two sensors are stacked allowing measuring of very tall tanks. Since my gray and black water holding tanks were 7 inches tall, I cut my sensors to 6 inches to allow a half inch above and below the sensor. This half inch is to allow for variations in tank surface thickness and unevenness of the top and bottom. Once the sensors are cut to length, the backing material is peeled off and they are stuck to the tank. Here again, you can see the two holding tank sensors attached to the black and gray tanks.



Mounting my fresh water tank was a little more challenging. Because our freshwater tank is mounted underneath the motorhome between the frame rails, it is completely enclosed in a metal housing. When I removed an access panel in the housing, I was pleasantly surprised to find the tank is incased in 1-1/2 inches of Styrofoam insulation. Good for insulation, but I did have to take a few minutes to remove a bit of the thickness of the insulation in the area where I wanted to apply the sensors. The freshwater tank also measured 19 inches in height requiring me to use 2 stacked sensors. Stacking the sensors isn't difficult and the instructions are clear about how to set them up properly.

Wiring is the final step and again is pretty straightforward. Each sensor has a black wire and a blue wire. The black wires are grounded together either at each tank location or just connected together and can be grounded at a central location. The blue wires from all the sensors are connected together and connect to the blue wire of the panel. You can reuse the existing wiring from your old style holding tank monitor for the wiring if you desire. The only other connections are to the panel for a ground, and positive 12 volt power. The existing LP tank sender wire is also connected to the display panel pigtail and provides the input for the LP display.

The finished system works great. The external and internal displays accurately display the holding tanks and LP status as well as battery voltage. The displays both inside and out are easily readable with variable intensity of the LED displays. One has the option of pressing the button once for a 5 second display of the tank status, or pressing it twice for a constant display which stays on for 5 minutes. The constant display is nice for filling the freshwater tank as you can actually see its progress when filling.



So far I've filled and dumped my tanks several times and the system works like charm. The built in diagnostic capabilities of it would also come in handy should there be any difficulty during the installation or down the road. It's a great system, and I highly recommend it. Double thumbs up!!
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Old 04-13-2006, 08:54 AM   #2
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This is the best post I've read in some time. Thanks for the info. I know what my next purchase is going to be! This is way over due.
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Old 04-13-2006, 08:55 AM   #3
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OK, Joe. You've inspired me. I was waiting for your review of the system before I got it and installed.

Looks like you moved everything down in the One Place panel to accomodate the See Level display at the top?? How difficult was it to route the wires back to the panel? I would plan to also leave the OEM system.

Excellent review. Thanks.
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Old 04-13-2006, 10:04 AM   #4
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Ace,

Thanks for the comment. You'll like the system.

Gary,

Originally I had held back on buying the system for a little while as I wasn't sure on where to do the installation. As all the Winnie owners know, the one place panel designs differ slightly based on what unit we have and the locations of some of the switches. The display can be installed anyplace that you have access to tank wiring or the ability to run new wiring to the tanks.

I did decided to move everything down in the One Place panel. I removed the large panel as well as the inverter control panel and the thermostat and made a new back board for everything to mount on. I should have taken a picture of the original setup, but forgot. By moving everything closer, I gained enough space to install the SeeLevel display.

As far as running wires to the tank, in our rigs, the holding tanks are directly below the OnePlace panel, so I simply dropped new wiring down to the tanks. Once you remove the wood frame around the OnePlace, there is a huge wiring chase there. You can easily see the black and grey tanks.

The fresh water tank of course would be very simple to install if you reuse the wiring but since you want to maintain the OEM in place as I did, you do need to run a new wire. The path I use is to feed the wire across the motorhome above the grey tank. You can then access the wire from the panel underneath the shower. Once you get it under the show, you feed it forward under the refridgerator and down into the passenger side storage bay following the gravity fill hose for the freshwater. By fastening it to the gravity fill hose, you can follow it right down to the freshwater tank.

Sort of sounds complicated, but it's a pretty easy route to follow. A electrician fish wire does come in handy.
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Old 04-13-2006, 11:21 AM   #5
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Good job Joe!!
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Old 04-13-2006, 12:18 PM   #6
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Joe,

Thanks for a great review of the product and your installation. Very well done.

One question - you did not say very much about attaching the sensor strip to the LP tank. Is thatjust a mater of picking out a good place, cleaning it real good and sticking the sensor strip to the tank?

Thanks
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Old 04-13-2006, 12:47 PM   #7
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Good question about the LP tank sensor. The stick-on sensors that come with the SeeLevel are for the liquid holding tanks only. The LP measurement indicated by the SeeLevel is from signal generated by the original sender inside the LP tank.

The LP tank already has a sender in it that varies it's output from 0 to 12 volts based on the level of LP in the tank. Simplifying it, the old 3 LED style display simply lit one LED if the voltage was 4 volts, two Leds for 8 volts and all 3 of them for 12 volt output from the sender. Again, like the tank sensors, it wasn't very accurate.

The sender already is capable of outputing a continuously variable output, analog signal of 0-12volts but the the display couldn't display it. The SeeLevel simply converts that analog voltage to a percentage readout so you get an accurate reading.

To connect the LP signal to the new gauge, I did disconnect the wire feeding the LP gauge signal to the old gauge and connect it to the green wire on the new display harness. The old LP gauge will no longer work since it is disconnected. Since the SeeLevel uses new senders for the liquid tanks those systems are redundant, however the LP reuses the old sender therefore the old one will not work.

Another item I can mention is that there is a calibration procedure for the LP readout which you can do when you fill your LP tank. I havn't done it yet, but I think what it does is to set the gauge to read 100 percent at whatever level the LP tank fills to. It's my understanding that since the LP tank only fills to 80%, the calibration will probably cause the display to read 100 percent at that level. I havn't filled the LP tank since I installed the system, so I havn't tried it but right now the gauge is reading 55% and the mechanical gauge outside indicates a little over half so it's accurate.

If I don't calibrate, when I fill my LP tank, I anticipate the display will read 80% which will again correspond to the mechanical gauge outside reading 80 percent. But...since 80% is full or actually 100% percent of the tanks designed capacity, we could calibrate it to read 100% on the gauge. In either case, the 80% or the 100% will slowly drop to 0 as the tank empties.

I think I answered your question, but I know I confused myself with that 80% means 100% stuff
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Old 04-13-2006, 01:05 PM   #8
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Ummmmmm......yeah sure Joe!!
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Old 04-13-2006, 01:41 PM   #9
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I understood it Joe. Thanks for the explanation.
When can I bring my coach to PA?
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Old 04-14-2006, 04:21 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by ichn2go:

When can I bring my coach to PA?
Hey, Bring it on but bring some of that VA weather with ya
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Old 04-14-2006, 06:27 AM   #11
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I just finished installing my system a couple of weeks ago, but used the existing wiring. I built an aluminum box which fits over the old indicators and holds the new indicator panel. I removed one of the push switches to provide a hole for the wires. The old system is not visible or usable. The gray, black and fresh water sensor wires are tied together at the new panel. Everything is simple except for mounting the fresh water sensors. I do not have a monitor in the dump area yet. Joe has described the installation and its problems extremely well. I had an out-of-box failure for one of the fresh water sensors it was replaced by Garnet in a very timely matter.

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Old 04-14-2006, 07:00 AM   #12
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I like the Sea Level system but 2005 and later Winnebago products come with external sensors. Mine have worked extremely well but I only have the MT 1/3 2/3 FULL indications.

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Old 04-14-2006, 07:13 AM   #13
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Joe K: Outstanding feature, you should contact Motorhome Magazine and publish the article.

Wayne: You refered to an aluminum box that fits over the old panel. Is this a trim piece or a fabricated box? I'm planning to install the same system, not sure if I'll build a new backing board like Joe or use your idea. Thanks guys...
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Old 04-14-2006, 10:52 AM   #14
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Gary

It is a self fabricated aluminum box. For my previous MH, I made one out of laminate flooring material. It works just as good and a lot easier to work with. Nice looking and matched the floor also.
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