Ever wonder how many hours of grilling are left in a tank of propane? Makers Frank Vigilante and Brendan Glunz built a prototype device that can be attached to the standard brass valve between a propane tank and grill to measure the internal pressure—and sends the data to an app, so you can check your grill’s fuel level on your phone, in real time.
“We believe that our solution will not only be a great addition to any residential gas barbecue, but will also serve the needs of many other markets including RV systems, propane home heating systems, commercial filling stations, [and] propane export terminals,” wrote Vigilante and Glunz, who submitted their creation to the ongoing Pitch Your Prototype challenge. “Based on our research, we believe that our approach to the remote monitoring of gas levels in finite storage systems will be the lowest cost and most accurate solution in the market.”
For their first prototype, Vigilante and Glunz connected a digital pressure sensor to an Arduino Uno, which they set up to transmit readings to a custom app over Bluetooth. In a second iteration, they used an Adafruit CC3000 to send data over wifi instead of Bluetooth. The third generation of the project, which they’re still working on, will use a custom circuit board with an ATmega328 chip and an ESP8266 module.
The finished version will switch to sleep mode when the grill is not in use, include “leak detection capabilities” and conform to all regulatory standards, Vigilante and Glunz said.
“Our approach to measuring propane usage is completely different than other solutions because a remotely located central database will receive and analyze the sensor readings and output the fuel level to the user’s smart phone,” Vigilate and Glunz wrote. “We would utilize the proceeds of this challenge to aid in the development of the database, mobile app, and hardware.”
There are lower-tech solutions, it should be noted, to the same problem. Food blog Chow posted a simple, if approximate, method of estimating how much propane is left in a tank using only a glass of water.
There’s only a month left to submit your own project to the Pitch Your Prototype challenge, a collaboration between Make: magazine and Cornell University with the goal of digging up promising prototypes from the Maker community. The individual or team that wins the challenge will be awarded $5,000 and have the opportunity appear onstage at MakerCon New York.