Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

Pipe Piper’s project is to design a leak detection system for residential homes. Current leak detection systems on the market are too expensive or focus only on localized leaks. Pipe Piper looks to provide a whole home plumbing system defense at a reasonable cost. The system will detect leaks within the home’s plumbing system and shut off the main water supply to prevent water waste and damage. To detect leaks, flow meters will be utilized to determine if water has been flowing for an abnormal period of time, signifying a leak. Moisture sensors placed strategically near high-risk leak areas, such as washer machines, toilets, and sinks, providing a second method to detect leaks. The leak detection system will abide to the many health and safety regulations associated with home plumbing products. Pipe Piper’s system will be easily integrated in-line to the home’s main water supply line during a home construction and will be less than twelve inches to ensure that it can be installed between structural studs within the home.

Pipe Piper’s product belongs primarily in the plumbing industry for new homes that are currently still being constructed. The competition is tough but fair. Since most consumers are looking for the best deal possible, companies look for making the best product for the lowest cost and selling those products to consumers. Since most housing projects are constructed in bulk by construction companies, a lot of plumbing companies seek to sell to these construction teams wholesale. Pipe Piper is a sponsored team from LSP, who is already well integrated into this industry and, thus, the product will be sold by a fully implemented sales team in a similar manner as previously stated. While there are many plumbing solutions companies out there, Pipe Piper’s main competitors will be those who currently sell automatic water shut off valves and other comparable products. Such companies include Flologic and Delta. The main buying pattern is from specific surplus ordering from customers. Those orders are then fulfilled normally at wholesale prices and sold in bulk. The distribution pattern includes sending the product from a central warehouse directly to the customers along logistic routes crafted by an analytical team.


Proof of Concept

The core principle that Pipe Piper is trying to demonstrate with the proof of concept design is that a housing unit being run by an Arduino installed within a traditional plumbing system is able to detect a water leak and shut off the flow at the main water source when an abnormality is detected. The Arduino will be installed in conjunction with a flow meter, more specifically a pinwheel flow meter. These two components will be responsible for detecting a flow abnormality. A solenoid valve will be installed within the single pipe system to close off the system from flowing water. Should the proof of concept be successful in trial runs, then the single flow system can be expanded into a network which can adequately safeguard a residential home plumbing system. The proof of concept is needed to provide evidence that the main housing unit of the leak detection system can shut off the main water valve, which is the basic requirement of a leak detection system used to prevent water damage from broken pipes. By having proof that the components within the system can effectively work with each other to shut off water in the presence of a water leak, Pipe Piper can confidently move forward with the concept design.



Final design

The design specifications for Pipe Piper’s leak detection system were quite varied with a single goal. It narrowed down to having an inline leak detection system that could detect leaks in a standard residential home. If a leak were to be detected, then the system would be able to turn itself off to prevent any further damage to the house. With this overall goal, the system was to also meet the following requirements: be sized to fit in-between studs, be easily accessible and programmable, have a visual indicator to alert the user a leak had been detected, a manual override, and be applicable for a NSF 61 compliance.

The final design for the leak detection system was the combined concepts from each team member and the sponsor for the project, LSP Products Group INC. Pipe piper believes that the final prototype succeeds in all the design specifications. The entire unit is compact and can fit between normal stud spacing in a typical house. The final dimensions for the system is 10.5 in. by 9 in. by 3.5 in.

The system is contained within a housing unit that is secured by two screws; one in the top right corner and the other in the bottom left corner of the system. This is to protect it against any elements if it were installed outside, as well as keeping the system self-contained. The design of the inside of the housing unit was also taken into major consideration. As shown in Figure 2 on the next page, Pipe Piper has designed the entire system to be compact. There was also design consideration into keeping the electronic components and piping separate, in the unlikely even that a water leak would occur inside the box.

The system itself has two major areas design; the piping and the electronics. The piping was designed to have the water flow through a paddle wheel flow sensor. This is followed by 5 inches of general piping, inclusive of the L-shaped bend and a solenoid valve. The valve needs a small amount of electricity to stay open, at the loss of that power it shuts off the flow of the water.

The electronic portion is made up of an Arduino Feather controller and the power management system. The Arduino controls the power input to the valve and sensor. It determines if a leak has occurred based off the data provided by the sensor, in which case the power being supplied to the valve is removed transferring it to the off configuration.

As stated previously, the purpose of this project is to prevent water damage in residential homes caused by major leaks in the water lines. Since, Pipe Piper’s leak detection system is easy to use and is primarily self-sufficient, it is a small system that can only benefit the consumers livelihood. Since it is installed directly into the consumers home, they do not need to worry about house leaks occurring randomly or while away on vacation. This system makes it very difficult for a house to be flooded and is therefore a valuable product.




To fabricate Pipe Piper’s automatic Water Leak Shutoff Valve prototype, Pipe Piper first took a look at the components that were needed. These components included an enclosure, Arduino components, a solenoid valve, wiring etc. Since, these components were going to be used to construct an initial prototype, many of the components were bought at retail/after-market suppliers. However, the enclosure as well as a the flow meter pipe fitting were custom made. The enclosure consisted of two parts; the lid and the main box. Bothe were 3D printed from PLA with a Raise 3D N2+ Dual Extruder 3D printed. The main difference between the two was that the lid was printed with clear filament for aesthetic as well as demonstration purposes. The flow meter pipe fitting was 3D printed with a Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D Printer as it was a threaded part and needed a higher degree of accuracy.

To begin the manufacturing and assembly of the products; first Pipe Piper cut lengths of PVC to connect each of the components. Once all of the internal piping and flow components are glued or screwed together, they were placed and secured within the main enclosure by the glue insertion of exterior piping. Next, the electronic components are wired to the flowmeter and the solenoid valve and are also secured within the enclosure. Finally, the lid is secured on with screws and the device is connected to PEX piping for installation.

The actual final product that Pipe Piper’s sponsor, LSP Products Group, INC., will construct will likely be all in house manufactured with bulk buying of purchased products and may vary slightly from Pipe Piper’s initial prototype deliverable.


Testing and Results

Testing and Results:


To test their prototype, Pipe Piper highlighted two specific features to test: the accuracy of the detected flow speed in feet per second in a 1 in. diameter system, and the capability of the system to shut off the solenoid water valve if a leak was detected. To test the product, it was determined that there would be multiple trials run with flowing water through the piping system while the Omega flow meter was being controlled by the Arduino chipset. For the purposes of testing, the piping system with the Arduino controller and Omega flow rate sensor were connected to a source of water. The water used throughout the trials was recycled as the fluid flowed from a reservoir through the leak detection system back into the same reservoir. The water was pumped throughout the system using a KEDSUM 1500. The water pump allowed Pipe Piper to conduct the same testing as the POC without using much water.


At the offset of testing, Pipe Piper elected to run eight individual trials to calculate a calibration factor for the controller code. The calibration factor was used to convert the frequency measured from the Omega sensor into feet per second. To perform the calibration test and all subsequent tests, water was allowed to flow through the system from a reservoir and fill a one-gallon bucket. The time elapsed for the bucket to be filled to a gallon was also recorded. As soon as the gallon bucket was full, a ball control valve located on the water outlet was closed to conclude that individual trial run. The trial runs were necessary as the initial calibration factor was off by a large margin, and the detected flow rates listed on the controller interface were much higher than the realistic values recorded by manually timing the period it took for the gallon bucket to be filled. It should be noted that the team did expect the calibration factor to have an initial error, and were ready to perform additional calibration tests to achieve the correct factor. The results for the calibration runs can be found in Table 1.





Table 1: The leak detection system was first tested to find the correct calibration factor.
Time (s) Volume (gal) Actual Measured Flow Rate (fps) Average Flow Rate Recorded by the Arduino (fps)
Baseline Testing Calibration Factor: 3.443585 22.27 1 1.10 8.48
21.97 1 1.12 8.35
21.6 1 1.13 8.35
22.27 1 1.10 8.14
22.35 1 1.10 8.28
23.91 1 1.03 8.28
27.32 1 0.90 6.14
30.27 1 0.81 5.87
Linear Fit y = 0.1333x
New Calibration Factor 0.45903


Following the results of trial set one, Pipe Piper ran an additional thirteen trials to test the flow rate resolution. The goal of the first nine trials listed in Table 2 were to examine how accurate the controller was in comparison to empirical data. The controller itself was generally very accurate, with an average error under 10%. It should be noted that for trials seven, eight, and nine, the control valve was slightly closed to see if the controller could still detect the lower flow rates. For the last four trials, the control valve was restricted to the maximum closure possible before there was no leak detected. The accuracy for these trials declined, however values could still be detected. Due to the average accuracy across these thirteen trials, Pipe Piper determined that the resolution of the controller was within acceptable ranges.












Table 2: The accuracy of the flow rate measurement of the leak detection system was verified through testing different flow rates.
Time (s) Volume (gal) Actual Measured Flow Rate (fps) Average Flow Rate Recorded by the Arduino (fps) Percent Error
22.4 1 1.09 1.02 6.6
23.23 1 1.06 1.01 4.3
23.17 1 1.06 1.07 1.3
25.67 1 0.95 0.93 2.9
25.14 1 0.97 0.99 2.1
25.42 1 0.96 0.96 0.4
33.22 1 0.74 0.72 2.4
33.57 1 0.73 0.67 8.8
34.26 1 0.72 0.65 9.7
43.28 1 0.57 0.45 21.3
38.71 1 0.63 0.48 23.5
38.19 1 0.64 0.59 8.7
36.38 1 0.67 0.56 17.6
Average Percent Error 9.0


Finally, Pipe Piper tested the actual shut-off system with four trial runs that are detailed in Table 3. A value of 0.8 FPS was used as the critical value before the valve should close, and in all four cases that value was detected and the system successfully closed the valve. To simulate different scenarios, the control valve was first at a moderate rate, twice at a rapid rate or a sudden opening, and finally once at a very slow rate. With the success of these four trials, Pipe Piper was satisfied that the prototype was able to achieve all goals set during product design.


The leak detection system was created to detect catastrophic failures within a home’s water supply system, and the prototype was indeed able to detect flow rates that would correlate to these scenarios, or a value of roughly 0.8 GPM. The product will be able to ensure homeowners peace of mind from major water damage to their major investments: their homes and the objects inside. From talking to homeowners, it was clear that many individuals would like a leak detection system that could ensure safety to their belongings. Pipe Piper feels confident that the leak detection prototype has demonstrated the ability to detect larger leaks and consistently activate a fail-safe system to shut off a main water valve.




Meet the Team


Born and raised in Reno, Nevada, Peter Chin will be graduating in May of 2018 with a major in mechanical engineering. Peter has worked as an intern at SSR Manufacturing Corporation at the Tesla Gigafactory within the product flow department for Panasonic. He has also joined as an undergraduate research assistant regarding Micro/Nano scale heat transfer and phonon-electron/phonon-phonon interactions with Dr. Yan Wang in the mechanical engineering department. Peter plans on working in the engineering industry for a few years before pursuing graduate school after obtaining his undergraduate degree.



Shawn is currently a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is enrolled in the School of Engineering where his discipline is Mechanical Engineering. He is from Hayward, California originally but lived in the Tahoe region for the majority of his childhood. Shawn moved to Reno, Nevada in fall 2008 and has enjoyed the great outdoors Nevada has to offer. Shawn is an aircraft mechanic at the Nevada Air National Guard. He is also currently employed by Click Bond Inc. as a Quality Engineer intern. His problem-solving skills learned from multiple engineering courses has allowed him to develop multiple new programs and revamping old programs at work. Shawn plans on commissioning in the Air National Guard and continuing his employment with Click Bond, either as a Quality Engineer or Manufacturing Engineer.




Sam Frost grew up in Gardnerville, NV and now lives in Reno. During his time at the University of Nevada-Reno, Sam has been on the Dean’s List six times while having the opportunity to work as a mechanical design intern and undergraduate researcher. Sam has been in his current internship for around three years, which has given him the opportunity to contribute to projects for NASA and the US Navy. He counts researching concepts for a commercial surveying drone among the most challenging projects that he has been fortunate enough to work on. While working on a project for Dr. Tung as part of the special projects course, ME 499, Sam used a very preliminary fatigue analysis and design for manufacturability to ensure that a material would meet the demands of the project. His current goals are to finish his bachelors with long-term career goals to work in aerospace research and development.



Kory is from Las Vegas, Nevada and moved to Reno in 2014 to attend UNR. His most challenging engineering project was one where he designed a new kind of camera to go inside of VR headsets to reduce motion sickness that is common with using the technology. Kory currently has an internship at LSP where he designs, analyzes, and determines manufacturing methods of new parts for the company. After graduation, he plans on pursuing a career in the entertainment engineering industry to design innovative attractions for theme parks. Kory graduates in May 2018 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Minor in Mathematics.





Spenser Buchholz is senior in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno. Spenser grew up in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He currently works at the ME Manufacturing Lab. There he utilizes the skills and theories learned during his academic career to manufacture research and design projects for faculty and students. Outside of school he is an avid motorsports fan which led to his initial interest in Mechanical Engineering. Spenser plans on graduating in May of 2018 and pursuing a career in Mechanical Engineering in the manufacturing industry.