Smart Buildings Need Smart Water Monitoring
Connecting Your Building Management System (BMS) to Your Water Usage Data Is Easier Than Ever
By Travis Merrill, Inside Sales, Ti-SALES.
Sustainability is more important than ever to the public, and that means – among other things – that smart buildings are here to stay. As Building Management Systems (BMS) and devices become increasingly common, building owners and occupants have more and more data and tools at their fingers to make smart decisions that conserve resources and lower operational costs. These decisions can even be automated for new heights of efficiency. So far, the main drive has been on lowering energy usage; however, building owners and users are increasingly looking for ways to conserve an arguably even more precious resource: WATER.
Note: The term BMS is often used interchangeably with EMS (Energy Management Systems) or FMS (Facility Management Systems).
Why Monitor Building Water Usage?
Facility managers and building owners have several reasons to take an interest in building water usage beyond the obvious desire to appropriately bill tenants:
- Water efficiency is one of the primary categories used to evaluate buildings to obtain a coveted US Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
- Water usage costs money, both for the water itself and the energy costs of pumping and treatment.
- Advanced water usage data can detect continuous low-flow, which can indicate a leak or other need for maintenance.
- Data on usage trends, including seasonal changes, can inform a facility’s preventative maintenance planning as well as its budget.
While just about any building owner or manager would appreciate BMS water leak detection functionality, not to mention the other benefits, robust building water usage data has historically been difficult to obtain. Modern water meters routinely collect incredibly detailed use data, which is then communicated to water utilities; however, translating that data into a format that can be fed into a BMS is a technically complex process.
Generating 4-20mA & Pulse Outputs from Encoder-Type Meters
A method to directly read the encoder register from a water meter and translate that data into a BMS-compatible format – while still passing that data seamlessly to the water utility – has been the missing piece to implementing a robust BMS Smart Water capability.
Happily, the industry has finally caught up: SCADAmetrics, founded by Jim Mimlitz, has developed that missing piece. The Signalizer™ is an electronic signal generator for water meters that provides a 4-20 milliamp (flow) output and a dry contact pulse (per volume) output while still maintaining the meter’s ability to be co-connected to an AMI/AMR endpoint. Crucially, this pass-through/co-connection is always functional, even in the case of a power loss – a feature that benefits both building owners/managers and water utilities.
Using the Signalizer to directly read building water usage information ensures that the water meter will be communicating the same data and method to the BMS system that the water utility uses to generate their billing. This eliminates discrepancies that are sometimes present in other devices used for this application; it also obviates the need to install a redundant water meter downstream from the utility’s meter.
Beyond BMS: Other Uses for Remote Water Monitoring
This technology’s ability to help BMSes save money and optimize water use has made the Signalizer a popular solution for building or property management customers, but its functionality doesn’t stop there.
- Highly precise flow data can be used to automate water treatment processes by adjusting chemical feed rate in proportion to the amount of water moving through the meter.
- When paired with a remote monitoring device such as the Ayyeka Wavelet or a cellular-based system, users can monitor meters installed in remote or otherwise inaccessible locations.
As more and more building owners and users – not to mention municipal water treatment operators – make the efficient building water usage a priority, we foresee an even greater demand for technology, like the Signalizer, that allows a direct and dynamic link between users and the data that informs their water decisions.
Please reach out with any questions; our expert team is here to help you connect the dots and achieve your Smart Water goals.
Travis Merrill is an Inside Sales associate for Ti-SALES, a leading distributor of water and wastewater supplies including a full line of SCADAmetrics solutions and other vital instruments for the metering industry.