Water feature water level

So, my first water feature I made the mistake of underestimating the rate of evaporation and didnt install a water supply into the resevoir, now I have to fill this thing almost every day!. Im making a new one soon and this time im adding a 1/2" pvc water line. The water will be controlled by an esp32 and 12v solenoid.

My question is if anyone has experience with these IR optical sensors? Bench testing them, they do well and I like them but once theyre installed I wont have much access to mess with them or replace them if they fail.

Its eirher IR optical sensors or a common float switch with a flow sensor to traxk water usage and prevent water from accidentally turned on or left on, so if more than 10gal flows then the solenoid will kill the water supply…

Yes I had the same problem on my bottom wild pond. If I turn on the water pump waterfall, the pond level drops rapidly. Everybody thinks it is a leak in the liner but my suspicion is evaporation. I haven’t got around to solving it as I cant put fresh chlorinated water into it.

Even though everything I run is electronic(!) I would probably look at a combination of mechanical ball valve (cistern); used since time immemorial for agricultural water troughs and easy to repair replace. I am not sure whether they come small enough. You might need to hack one into the right size. I would use a flow meter in the incoming supply. It would then be super easy to use time and/or amount flowing as triggers to turn off the “master” valve in case of run away water.

I do this for my rainwater harvesting tank; the irrigation pump needs an emergency off for uncontrolled leaks or if the tank is empty. Question is find a small enough mechanical ball valve?

Edit 1: sorry I do not have experience of IR sensors. My suspicion is that optical devices are rubbish with water splashing around

Edit 2: What do you know. There are loads of small ball valves available for this very use! Well at least my side of the pond!

Ya, i thought for sure I had a leak at first too. I tore it down to check and it was bone dry underneath the liner. With only a 7gal resevoir it drys up fast especially now that summer is starting.

Theyre not sensors I see used regularly but, as far as being around water them, thats what they are made for, theyre for use monitoring water/liquids and like I said. The bench testing I did with them in water went great. My main concern is durability/longevity because access will be extremely limited or none at all.

I originally was going to use a 12v ball valve but, after thinking about it I think im going to use a 12v solenoid for the simple reason that a solenoid will overheat and shut off if left on to long so its another safety feaure I can use. I cant imagine needing more than 5-10 seconds at a time so a solenoid will work just fine, the resevoir is only 8gal.

Perhaps key is what will be easy to replace and service. Ball valve will be super simple. Mentioning the irrigation type solenoids perhaps latching type would be best to avoid running juice to keep it open.

Ball valve or solenoid are both super simple. Pretty much all solenoids are non-latching while ball valves typically can latch but like Ive said twice now, the solenoid has an overheat shut-off which a ball valve doesnt, again to fill an 8gal resevoir is a matter of turning the solenoid on for less than 1 minute so, were not talking about a lot of juice here. The other factor is a 12v ball valve is about 3x more expensive than a 12v solenoid so, it would be silly to pay 50$ for a valve thats overkill for what I need here.

Perhaps it is a language thing and we are talking at cross purposes.

You can purchase irrigation solenoids which are latching. I think normally used where solar/ battery powered where reduction of current is a priority

A mechanical small ball valve is around £4. No voltage. Just good old mechanical wear and tear. I would keep the voltage bit to a flow meter which would monitor incoming supply.

I think you have a plan and sounds as though you have thought about it and more developed than anything I can now offer. Good luck. Let us know how it works as I have this now on my list of things!

Justin I realize in my first post my language was incorrect. I was referring to a float ball valve. One of these. I used them in large fish tanks … sorry for causing confusion and for muddying the waters!!!

I already have a smart switch/plug attached to my fountain that also measures power. The power draw drops consistently and significantly when the water level gets low and the pump doesn’t get its normal flow; I then have an automation to fill it as well as shut the whole thing off/send me a notification if for some reason that doesn’t work. Been working great for years and no extra hardware.

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Apologie denied, sir. I misunderstood, thats my fault. A float ball valve makes more sense now. I really hadnt picked out a float valve/switch, the one I linked to was just for reference or an example but yes, I agree. They cone in lots of variations, I was leaning towards a float switch that just sends out a digital signal High/Low and from that I would have an automation turn on the water. A mechanical valve that opens/closes automatically makes me nervous and my luck id come home to a flooded front yard…

There are at least 10 different economic sensor types to sense water levels. Optical,ultrasonic,capasitive,conductive,float,optical distance etc. You can always use time limit as backup.

Yes I agree with you. Any valve may fail at some point particularly if it is exposed to low freezing temperatures or debris in the water supply (irrigation solenoids come apart easily to allow regular debris removal). I would need, for my piece of mind, a low voltage flow sensor right back at the source of the water supply which would allow you to monitor time and flow of water. If the flow is greater than two minutes or say 1 gallon then I would turn it off the master valve for 24 hours?

I think the reason I would use a mechanical ball float and valve (ballcock) is that it is so common and used in billions of tanks / cisterns / toilets. They are easily replaced and accessible.

So many ways to do these jobs!