Brian Skelly, Specification Manager at Danfoss, looks at the benefits of specifying and installing water leak prevention systems to protect the fabric of buildings and their contents.
Water is essential for our daily lives and through a lattice of pipework it is distributed throughout our homes and buildings unnoticed. Yet when water escapes through a leaking pipe or overflowing basin it becomes a very destructive force that can destroy electrical items, bring down ceilings, damage furniture and, if left unchecked, damage the building structure itself. As well as the risk to commercial and public buildings, a leak in a residential block can cause damage not only to the apartment in which the leak has occurred but also to the homes that are adjacent and below.
Generally speaking, leaks give no visible signs or warnings and many happen whilst a building is empty, giving time for the water to build up and do serious damage. However, how often are steps taken when leaving a building unoccupied for any length of time to stop anything untoward happening, such as closing the main water inlet valve to the property? During the pandemic many commercial premises have been unoccupied while staff work from home, leaving buildings without a leak detection system vulnerable to water damage. Such systems can also react to people within an occupied building. So whenever a leak occurs, and whatever the cause, the system will automatically act to protect the property.
Leak prevention and protection systems have been around for some time but what is new is the option for wireless point-to-point control. This provides the ability to have all the isolation valves and sensors linked together wirelessly in order to form the best configuration to suit the building and its occupants. Wireless communication is part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and, if required, alarms and data can be made accessible on a mobile phone or the phone of the building’s maintenance manager. Action is taken as soon as the wireless leak sensor is activated, closing the water valve and shutting off the water supply.
Working in conjunction with our partner WES Products Ltd, a specialist in washroom efficiency services, Danfoss can now offer a simple solution that meets BREEAM requirements for the control of the flow of water to washrooms, including optional water leak detection capabilities. Available from WES products, this latest development helps to manage water consumption and reduces the risk of flooding caused by running taps or leaking pipes in washrooms. Featuring fully approved Danfoss solenoid valves the system can be either hard-wired or wireless, using various communications from standard wired or wireless PIR sensors to energy harvesting technology for both switches and sensors. The PIR sensors detect when a person enters the room and communicates with the installed Danfoss solenoid valves to open and turn the water supply on for a pre-set length of time. Once the room is vacated the power is cut off, closing the valve and avoiding potential water wastage and damage due to overflows.
The use of wireless technology also allows light switches to be installed without any wires, including water detection sensors without mains power. Removing mains voltage electrical fittings from high potential leak areas, such as washrooms, also avoids the risk of electrocution. Low voltage leak detection sensors pose no threat to life as they only require enough energy to send a sufficient signal for sensing and switching purposes only.
Wireless systems for water leakage control are easily installed since wiring is kept to an absolute minimum, making them an easy retrofit solution. It also means there is no need for cutting channels and running cables, thereby reducing cost and disruption and an ideal option when specifying this vital protection for heritage buildings, for example. The only mains supply power required is to the isolation valves. The system is also easy to set up, all that’s required is the simple pairing of the installed devices to provide a complete leak prevention and protection system.
This type of system can benefit significantly from a locally fitted PIR sensor that allows the isolation valve to remain closed when the area is unoccupied, only opening when a person enters the space. This PIR sensor can also be linked through a wireless system to the lighting system and be operated in absence or presence mode. A key benefit of a wireless point-to-point system is that, once installed, it can be checked by either the landlord or tenant to ensure it is providing the specified leak protection. This can be done by running the water supply (tap) and testing the sensor to trigger the leak detector. The valve will close and the running water from the tap will stop.
Although this type of system won’t stop a leak from occurring due to acts of vandalism or accidental damage, it will reduce any damage caused by the leak. The detection system has the advantage of knowing where the isolation valve is located and acts fast without the need of any complicated controller or thought. The isolation valve will remain closed until it is deemed safe to re-open.
Investing in a water leak prevention and protection system benefits the property owner/tenant, helping to avoid flood damage, manage water consumption, and even reduce insurance premiums. And now on top these benefits, a new wireless solution developed by Danfoss and WES Products offers specifiers and installers a system that is simple and cost-effective to install in either new or retrofit situations, and which is easy to commission and maintain.