Replacing Our RV’s Monitor Panel – With SeeLevel!


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A lot of RVers like the “all in one” monitor panels.  These panels are typically touch-screen, have cute graphics, and attempt to integrate all the monitoring and control functions in your RV into one screen.  Those that like them say it reduces control clutter and provides a cleaner look.  I’m not one of those people.

Call me a retro-grouch, but I like single-function controls and tactile feedback.  When I want to turn something on, I want to turn it on NOW.  I don’t want to wake up displays and navigate through several layers of menus.  And when I’m done with it, I don’t want a screen that remains lit up.

And now you know the real reason behind this project.

 

To properly replace the monitor panel, I had to replace all of the functions of the panel.  In this case, that meant:

  • Adding a new pump switch to the galley.
  • Replacing the tank level monitors on the fresh and grey tanks.
  • Coach and Chassis battery monitoring.
  • And temperature monitoring for the fresh and grey tanks – which I decided we could do without.

 

I was able to replace all of these functions with a switch, and a SeeLevel 709-4 panel.  The pump switch was actually pretty easy to do, and I explain that in the first 4 minutes of the video.  Since I was able to run that wire pretty quickly, it suckered me in to thinking that running the wires for the SeeLevel control panel would be similarly easy.

It wasn’t.  We had to pull the fridge and the microwave to run the wire, and that burned up most of the first day on this project.  The other thing that took quite a bit of time was actually finding suitable and accessible locations on the tanks in which to mount the SeeLevel sending units.

A Word About SeeLevel Sensors

For those of you who might not be familiar with them, SeeLevel sensors work differently than the regular RV probe type sensors.  The SeeLevel system is mounted on the outside of the tank, and uses electrical capacitance to measure the level of liquid in the tank.  The system consists of sending units (which are strips of repeating circuitry that are stuck to the outside of your tank) and a display panel which gives tank level readings in fairly precise percentages.

Over ten years and several rigs, we’ve found the SeeLevel system to be accurate and much better than the “guess gauges” that come standard on many RVs.  Since the sensors are mounted outside the tanks, it’s a fairly easy retrofit if you can access the tanks.  Often, folks are able to re-use the wiring from their old sensors when adding SeeLevel.  (Sadly, that wasn’t the case with this install…)

 

Stuff I Used That Folks Might Ask About

As far as the switch I used for the water pump… I actually had that in my boxes of spare RV parts that I’ve accumulated over the years.  But if you had to buy a new switch, this lighted momentary switch should work out.

The SeeLevel 709-4 system is what I used, directly out of the box.  No extra long or extra short sending units were required.

The Inline Fuse Holder I used is actually this one.  There are a lot of fuse holders you can get on Amazon, but I’d think twice about a fuse holder that comes with 14 gauge wiring and a 30 amp fuse…  Go with a name brand.

This is the 14/4 wire that I used for the pump switch.

And this is the 18/4 wire that I used for the SeeLevel panel.

 

Well, that’s it for now, but I am ready to answer any questions you might have about this project, so sound off in the comments below!

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    29 thoughts on “Replacing Our RV’s Monitor Panel – With SeeLevel!

    1. Richard

      James, someone just posted on the Ekko Wannabe Facebook site the removal of the garages back panel to reveal what’s behind it. Looks like there’s easy access to the water tank there. Thoughts on installing the sensor you use here to the far drivers side? Is the water tank angled is someway towards the driver side where I think the water outlet is. I’m still a wannabe awaiting his Ekko, but I have many of your projects on the list of mods and this is one of them.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I haven’t seen that, but it sounds interesting.
        The water tanks aren’t angled. They’re reasonably regular. Accessing them from the back would certainly be easier.
        The only consideration about where to install the sensors is just that you’ll need to be conscious of where the sensor is and which way your rig is leaning. But that’s true no matter where you install the sensors.

        Reply
    2. David Anderson

      You always amaze me how no task is too difficult to complete. I have a truck camper with fresh, gray, and black tanks in 10 inch tall space in the basement. Consequently my tanks our long and wide but about 10 inches tall. Do you have any experience with the accuracy of the Sea Level monitors used on such low profile tanks?
      And in an unrelated topic, how do you like the Truma VarioHeat? Is it as efficient in both electrical and propane consumption as Truma claims?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        First – yes, the VarioHeat is really pretty darn efficient.
        SeeLevel makes several different models of sender strips. Some of them are only 6 inches tall, and are designed for smaller tanks. I think if you poke around the different sender models, you’d find something that will work well.

        Reply
    3. Doug

      The SeeLevel tank monitor system is the best there is. I’ve been using it since 2011.
      Curious why you don’t allow comments on your YouTube channel? Allowing comments on YouTube channels helps with the algorithm. More Engagement on YT means YT displays your video to more potential viewers.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        We ran a test, and tried enabling comments for a few videos. We didn’t find that it helped with viewership at all.

        We don’t allow comments on YouTube because both Stef and I have real jobs too. This is just a hobby.
        Besides YouTube, we also maintain Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter presences, and most importantly: this web site. Constantly monitoring comments across multiple platforms was too much work. Something had to go.

        Every video we post has an associated article on our web site. I suspect that’s how you found this page.
        You can always find the link in the description, and we do encourage comments there. You can also ask questions on our Facebook page.

        We find that people who are willing to click over generally are willing to leave constructive comments, and the discussion is much better than the typical YouTube video.

        Cheers!

        Reply
        1. Doug

          Thanks for following up with answering my questions.

          I can totally understand how it would be a chore to monitor multiple platforms.
          I occasionally also see pointless / rude comments left on my videos, so I can relate to that aspect of it as well.

          When I sold my RV that I put the SeeLevel system on back in 2011, I kept the monitor panel and used it, along with a new set of sensors in my current RV.
          They really are the best tank monitor system there is.

    4. William Deardorff

      Hi James – Great video and quite an involved project. Would you mind posting a link to the momentary switch you used. I have found 5 pin and 7 pin. I do like that type of switch for the pump but I might try and find an easer place to mount it. I also like the See Level system but I don’t have the skill to run it to your location and completely switch out the other panel. I don’t have my EKKO yet but wondering if the See Level panel could be mounted on the wall outside the bathroom door (to the left). Would that make the wire run easier? I would run both the See Level and the WGO supplied system concurrently and not fool with the original panel. I assume the See Level just needs power and the wire run to the sensors. TIA for any info.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I don’t have a link to my switch specifically. The link I provided above is the closest I could find. My switch just came out of my box of RV parts. I think I removed it from some RV in the past.

        You could certainly mount the SeeLevel where you describe, and it might well be easier than what I did. That would work.

        Reply
    5. Alan Olson

      I’ve enjoyed all your videos. Great job filming and editing.

      Non SeeLevel questions…
      – What is the ‘Nimble’ control panel used for?
      – Do you plan to install leveling jacks?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The Nimble panel is our pet monitor, that keeps tabs on the temperature for Mel when we’re not in the rig. It’ll send us alerts if we need to head back and take action.

        We will be getting leveling jacks eventually. The ones I want are European, and lining that up is proving to be difficult. I may eventually break down and get the Bigfoot system or something.

        Reply
    6. Steve Worsfold

      Nice work, James! In your video at the 20:55 mark, I noticed a small black box on the door for the toilet cassette. What is it??

      Reply
    7. Graham Smith

      1) I do prefer that water switch (I installed 2 extra in my Travato) but running the wire to that location is way too much like work.
      2) I’m experimenting with a straight version of those Wago connectors. Bench test OK so far but they are kind of cheaply made knock-offs.
      3) I’ll see your drilling a finger and raise you a heavy duty stapler. Lot’s of blood with that one.
      4) OOOhhh… Magnetic finger. I had one and it was loaned out – I need to get another.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The magnetic finger is the coolest!
        I’ve seen those straight Wagos… Let me know what you think of them.

        Reply
        1. Kevin Scarbel

          Al on Home Improvement is exactly what I was thinking……the voice of reason in James’ never-ending quest for more power.

    8. Rich

      Nice overview with f the install. Definitely some wow factor when you had to remove the refrigerator. Was that a simple, removal of easy to see/ find screws? Looked heavy? I’ll have to check their website, any Bluetooth and app available so you can check from your phon3? And it’s been a couple of videos now and I see the Induction Cooktop has been installed. I assume a video is coming? Thanks for all your amazing videos. They really help lower the fear factor of attempting these types and f modifications. Any comment on the Ekko Recall for the shower leak?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Lots of questions there. Let’s see if I can answer them all.
        Removing the refrigerator was pretty straight forward as far as finding the screws. There is a retaining cable (which I think is standard for all RV refrigerators). But you can’t get to the retaining cable until it’s part-way out. So it’s definitely a lot easier with 2 people. Wasn’t terribly heavy though.
        SeeLevel does have some bluetooth models available. I just didn’t get one of them.
        I think I’ll make the induction video next. If you thought this one was involved…
        We’re waiting on an official fix for the shower drain recall along with everyone else. We’re lucky in that our shower drain has never had an issue – it’s always worked fine, so we continue to use it and monitor it. Also, due to our 20k remodel, our inverter is no longer directly in the path of any potential spill. Still, we would like to implement the final fix, but I’ll likely have to do it myself.

        Reply
        1. Bart Costello

          Amazing mods. Humbling to us wannabe be fix-it guys.
          James, is Winnebago paying attention so they can incorporate your thoughful mods in their next model year?
          Bart from Boulder

    9. Artem

      I would love to have this system, but for sure not going to go through the install process on my own… too afraid of screwing something up.
      Hence the question: When is the James Shop opening up? 😀

      Reply

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