Technology

A Reason To Revisit Flow Sensors

WeatherTRAK FlowLink Valve Box WeatherTRAK FlowLink

Smart controllers are making a positive impact on water management. What makes a controller smart?  There are several reasons and right at the top of the list is the ability to sense flow.  Flow sensors are affordable devices that can be installed to detect and automatically shut down the irrigation system when breaks, malfunctions or vandalism occur.  Flow sensing should be part of any large irrigation system.  Flow sensors are set to memorize the normal flow of your system.

Most manufacturers recommend two full irrigation cycles as a minimum to learn what is normal flow. The operator is able to program the controller to shut the master valve off if the flow is a certain percentage (to be determined by operator) over the memorized amount.  Some controllers allow the same feature for too little flow.  Operators are notified when there is a shut down in the system.  Typically the system will shut down for a period of time (say 10 minutes) and then open the master valve again.

For example, you have a break in zone one that was detected within the first two minutes of operation.  Watering time for zone one this day is 15 minutes.  The master valve would come on again after 10 minutes; high flow would be detected again, and the valve would be shut off again for 10 minutes.  When the master valve comes back on, zone one will have passed its water time. The valve will be shut and additional zones will be watered.  You will conserve water and save your property lots of money.

Why don’t we see flow sensors on every property?

Flow sensors are not applicable to all irrigation systems.  For example if you have one meter that supplies water to the interior and exterior of a building a flow sensor will not work because there is typically not a normal flow of water inside a building.  You should check with an irrigation professional to see if flow sensing will work for your property.  The other significant reason we don’t see flow sensors on every property is because most flow sensors have to be wired directly to the controller.  In retrofit situations this often results in having to cut through concrete or asphalt to create a trench for the wire and the trench for the wires becomes too expensive for the water savings benefit.

Solution – Wireless flow sensors

Wireless flow sensors have been around for many years now, but often the price of the wireless flow sensors has been too high for most managers or property managers move forward with a project. HydroPoint Data Systems, Inc., just released the WeatherTRAK Flowlink that uses existing field wires and minimal trenching to pair a field transceiver and controller transceiver with flow sensors and a WeatherTRAK ET Pro commercial smart irrigation controller. This solution leverages the full flow management capabilities built into the controller and WeatherTRAK Central to monitor five independent flow functions along with master valves, station level flow rates, thresholds and run times. WeatherTRAK Central users can immediately address high flow rates, shut off broken sprinkler heads and make remote changes to station-level controller flow settings and configurations via any internet-enabled computer, Smartphone or tablet. The FlowLink retail price is $2500 and you will still have some installation charges in addition, but compared to the price of trenching and repaving, it could be thousands less than a directly wired flow sensor.

This is not the only wireless flow sensor available and I encourage you to share any addition information you have about wireless flow sensors in the comments area of this post.  Having the ability to shut down a system automatically when there is a break will save us thousands and thousands of gallons of water.  The price of water continues to climb while the price of technology declines.  The perfect positive storm for those of us interested in saving water.  Let’s be sure we take advantage of this optimal situation.

 

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Richard Restuccia

Richard Restuccia is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. Currently he serves on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. As a board member, Richard serves in a variety of capacities, including government/public affairs. He is the liaison between the board and its marketing committee on the best ways to promote water efficiency and educate industry professionals on new technologies, products and services. Richard is also a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.

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COMMENTS (16)

  1. Tuesday, 3:44 Hank McCarrick

    Good article Richard, You are right that these are not appropriate for all sites as it can get quite expensive to place flow sensors at all zones. Plus this technology integrates strictly with irrigation controllers that have flow sensing capability. Retrofitting an existing system with controllers that can’t take flow measurement is not possible. That’s why we approach flow sensing and water management from a different perspective. Which is, intelligent metering that works independent of the irrigation system yet still provides the attributes of flow measurement, leak detection, and master valve control described in your article.

  2. Tuesday, 4:38 Chris Husband

    Another great write-up, Richard.

    I’ve been doing this a long time, and have always been burned by wireless technology. Does it work, YES, but the labor hours making it work, and maintaining it…Not worth it (older technology, not the one mentioned in the article) especially when wired technology can be done for a fraction of the cost. I have installed a couple of Tucor’s new 3D devices to read flow of existing wires. We’ve been installing hydrometers, and running wires from the closest existing valve over to it. Installing a decoder, and thats about it. It was new to me and my crew but had it installed and operational in less than 30 minutes. I was pleasantly surprised. Check it out. Works on all types of smart controllers like Hydropoint.

    I’ll look into the wireless for those applications without an irrigation valve around. Thanks

  3. Wednesday, 8:22 Richard Restuccia

    Hank, intelligent metering. Does that give you the ability to track water use real time, from a computer? Let me know and thanks for joining the conversation.

  4. Wednesday, 8:26 Richard Restuccia

    Chris, thanks for joining the conversation and yes you have been doing this a while and I would add successfully. Thanks for sharing your method with our readers. I know I am going to give it a try and l will let you know what I think. Keep us posted on your experiences with wireless technology.

  5. Wednesday, 12:57 Hank McCarrick

    Yes Richard. Our intelligent metering and valve control products are immediately online when they are installed. Our approach is a bit different in that we provide a personalized water management platform for our B2B partners. This platform will be used to manage water at their customer sites. The platform is designed so that service companies can hone their business models with realtime water budget management.

  6. Thursday, 6:30 Bill Sullivan

    Richard,

    Here is another approach for monitor water usage. The Spire ultrasonic flow meter which can transmit water flows info both wired and wirelessly.

    Using the wired system a single pair of wires can carry the data of multiple meters to a concentrator which plug into a modem or directly into a computer. Energy to power the meters flows thru the same pair of wires in the opposite direction resulting in very long battery life.

    The beauty of the ultrasonic flowmeter is there are no moving parts so any settlement in the pipe will not fowl the meter. Please view the link below for a more detailed description and/or contact me with any questions.

    http://energyroi.net/energyROI/280W-D.html

  7. Thursday, 11:39 Richard Restuccia

    Thanks for the additional information Hank. I can’t wait to learn more about the product.

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  9. Sunday, 10:23 Brad Smith

    At my “real” job, I have a 400+ acre campus that has had flow sensors for over 25 years! When water restrictions are imposed based on historic water use, having been “ahead of the curve” all this time gets passed over but a 10% reduction to us is a completely different situation than for the university that installs flow sensors NOW in order to save water. There were no records kept on landscape water use back then not to mention how the campus has changed over the years. I would never allow anything to be installed anymore w/o flow sensors even on a residential job.

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  14. Thursday, 1:13 social media site

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites every day. It’s always interesting to read through content from other authors and practice something from their web sites.

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