Pressure can spike or drop without warning. Changes occur from a slew of outside factors — improperly sized pipes, a broken pipe, peak demand on the system or a drop in the city’s mains, gravity, static or any vacuum-like force. Most of these, if not all, are out of your control.
No matter the culprit, time is not your friend. Connected plumbing solutions, such as backflow preventers, remove the barrier of not knowing until after the event. Real-time alerts and insights help keep building owners and facility managers from playing detective against a ticking clock and demanding task list.
Much like smart building solutions already in place, such as occupancy sensors, energy management or even conveyance, connected backflow preventers monitor what’s not always in plain sight. It’s not just pressure either, connected backflow preventers monitor flow and relief valve discharge too, on top of other performance metrics.
First, there’s the alert aspect of IoT-enabled connected products. Then, there are data analytics. Both deliver incredible value. We’ll cover what alerts and insights are achievable from specifying connecting backflow preventers, how the technology works behind the scenes and what capabilities make sense for your customers’ particular operations.
Wouldn’t it be nice if your backflow preventer could tell your customers the moment it needs attention, as well as what is going on? Even if you had the magical availability to constantly check in, you have no idea if there’s a problem besides what you can physically see. Connected backflow preventers peel the onion and function as a sidekick; they self-monitor. Building owners and maintenance teams receive an alert once there’s a pressure change, unusual water usage and severe relief valve discharge.
Here’s where you enter as the hero to guide the trusty sidekick to solutions. These products can be programmed to alert around parameters that make sense for the customer’s operation. The customer can opt into text, email and/or push notifications. Building owners can even grant permissions based on their team’s functions. It’s supposed to be smart! No scenario should be one-size-fits-all. If that’s what you’re offered, it may not be worth the investment.
Now, your ‘partner in real-time’ is set up for success. As soon as the customer receives an alert, they know if it’s a change in pressure or water flow or severe relief valve discharge. They’re now acting instead of reacting and skipping the troubleshooting step in the process.
If pressure changes, the customer is examining sensitive areas within their building. If water flow gets disrupted, they are making sure the check isn’t clogged and identifying if there’s a leak. If there’s a rapid discharge, the system will automatically shut off at the exact threshold that was set and tell the customer on their mobile device. All averted thanks to alerts!
Avoiding major problems can feel like a lifesaver, but optimizing overall performance is a game changer. Connected backflow preventers do that through collecting, organizing and essentially learning data. Ideally, all connected plumbing products should be housed within a single secure portal. That way, customers can zero in on individual product performance, compare and contrast month to month and look at the big picture.
The dashboard is digestible and easy to navigate. For example, let’s say a customer is trying to prove LEED points. He or she would want to pull water saving data across their entire building. The portal offers that insight. If customers wants to get granular, they can dive deeper by canvasing each backflow preventer or plumbing fixture for trends.
Specifically for backflow preventers, the portal tracks water consumption, pressure change, flow rate and more. So why does this matter? Is it necessary to have this data, on top of alerts? In short, yes. Product to product, month over month, the portal continuously learns the restroom environment to identify key performance indicators. Even if patterns change, it can detect and adapt to help your customer discover outliers.
Furthermore, building owners and facility managers can dig deeper to uncover efficiency opportunities, such as peak hours or demand and make decisions around that. They’ll catch things faster, too. If water usage is higher than usual, they’ll be able to set budget aside before the water bill comes and remedy it sooner.
Insights go beyond data. The portal automates a maintenance calendar for the building facility team. They know what’s scheduled, when and who’s taking care of it — that’s more predictability into the day ahead and visibility across your customer’s team. And since your customer is not replacing parts prematurely — or worse, too late — it saves costs over the lifespan. Your customer’s team will be able to check their tasks and add tasks — all from their own mobile devices.
How it works
There are various technologies that are considered smart. Today’s connected products rely on sensors to monitor, detect and capture performance data. The data collected gets communicated from the sensor to a gateway. From there, the LAN or LTE connection transports the product data to a secure Cloud. The secure Cloud analyzes the data to deliver real-time alerts and insights via the portal.
Before all this data appears on a mobile device or computer, each connected product must be registered. Then, users log into their portal to view their dashboard. The product-to-portal communication gathers, analyzes, structures and delivers the data in an intuitive format.
Customers will find any active alerts when they first log in and spot performance summaries at a glance. From there, they can explore their full product portfolio and pull up visual analytics, such as graphs, trajectories and maintenance calendars.
Choose connected capabilities
The very first deciding factor when choosing connected isn’t what data you want. It’s what solution suits the environment. Here are questions you can answer to narrow down your selection, respectively.
Most importantly, does your customer’s backflow preventer reside inside a building? If your answer is yes, you’ll want flood control. If it’s no, you don’t necessarily need this feature. However, it is valuable for irrigation systems that would be affected by catastrophic flooding. If remote shutoff is an appealing feature, get flood control for the backflow preventer.
Okay, next question: Is the customer trying to control costs and water usage? If this is the case, you’ll want to include flow rate metering. This option benefits virtually every industry, since it is a responsible measure and can help businesses manage their water bills.
Is the customer a hospital or would prefer to proactively respond to pressure drop? Pressure monitoring gives most operations an advantage with both alerts and insights.
Finally, would your customers be more compelled to connect if they could for free? No-cost upgrade opportunities exist, depending on the backflow preventer they’re purchasing or already have in place. Make sure to ask.
To learn more or discuss available solutions, go to zurn.com/connected-backflow.