While there might not be flying cars for all yet, we have evolved to the point where machines, including water treatment equipment, can now communicate with humans as soon as a malfunction or service need arises. Environmental concerns, water conservation and cost savings are at the forefront of this trend toward smarter equipment. From leak detection to status updates from your water softener, today’s water-related systems are saving your customers time, money and frustration.
Further, according to Arti Lyde, vice president, marketing and aftermarket for EcoWater Systems LLC, dealers are benefitting from smart equipment as well. “The benefits extend well beyond the homeowner,” she asserts. “By being able to receive alerts and messages from the customer’s system, [a dealer] can provide increased levels of service.”
According to Don Weinstein, business owner of Tec Innovators Water Control Products LLC, there are numerous leak detection technologies available in the market with different features and price points.
“Some systems monitor average water use and when a certain programmed limit is crossed, they will actuate a shutoff valve to stop the main water supply,” educates Weinstein. “Most of these high-end systems are wireless, as some have cell phone alert capability with an app you can add to your cell phone along with I/O that can interface with a house alarm system.”
Weinstein explains the pros and cons of some common smart leak detection systems available:
- Audio alarm only
- Pros: Inexpensive; can be installed at any water supplied device; no need for AC outlet; and battery-powered with low battery warning.
- Cons: Does not shutoff any supply and must be home to mitigate leak.
- Reactive (will shut off the municipal water supply using a shutoff valve)
- Pros: Moderate expense; sensors are usually wireless; multiple sensors available; cell phone text capability; and I/O for house alarm options.
- Cons: Valve must be installed and exercised every six months due to sediment corrosion; 120 VAC outlet plug needed to power the system; some wireless systems have limited signal range.
- Reactive (will monitor average water use and when exceeding a set limit the system will shut off the supply with a valve)
- Pros: No sensors needed; battery backup; and I/O for house alarm option.
- Cons: Expensive; valve must be installed and exercised every six months due to sediment corrosion; and 120 VAC outlet plug needed.
- Reactive (will shutoff the well water supply by switching the pump power off)
- Pros: Moderately priced; designed for well water; no valves or plumbing; no external power 120 VAC needed; system is powered from the well pump; can be used for either pressure switch controlled systems or constant pressure systems; and I/O for house alarm option.
- Cons: Sensors are wired.
“If using a shutoff valve type system on a well pump system, you will not be completely protected from catastrophic flooding or well pump burnout,” adds Weinstein. “Either condition can happen because of the placement of the shutoff valve. If the shutoff is installed between the pressure switch and the well pump, the pump will continuously run and build pressure without shutting off.”
If the valve is installed after the pressure switch, continues Weinstein, and the well system components develop a leak, the pump will still run causing a flood.
Wi-fi and water softeners
Although advanced system communications technologies have been prevalent in commercial and industrial settings, these technologies are just now starting to gain popularity in the residential space. As electronics and mobile technology have advanced and become cheaper, smaller applications are now possible. As a result, says Lyde, customers are sleeping better at night.
“By having off-site communication technology available, it is giving customers peace of mind,” notes Lyde. Speaking specifically about water softener equipment, which her company manufacturers and recently released a Wi-Fi web-based technology feature for its equipment, Lyde discusses the need for understanding and accessing critical system performance information.
“Some water softener systems are in people’s basements and often go unnoticed because they run on their own, they are out of sight and they are fairly efficient. [Some new] Wi-Fi enabled softeners let consumers view their water usage at a glance, get email or text alerts when their salt is low, detect a possible issue, and even send a service alert ensuring their softener is running optimally,” she says, adding that the majority of Americans now have smartphones and this trend will continue to grow.
Lyde concludes with two important messages and reminders. First, the goal today should be using data to operate water treatment equipment in the most efficient ways possible. Secondly, she adds, is mitigating potential problems, such as excess water usage, before they become costly problems. Smarter systems are helping advance these important messages.