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For many building owners and facility managers, frozen pipes can be one of the most dreaded problems that can arise during the winter months.
Most of you might think that frozen pipes is a limited problem but an insurance industry study reveals that the water damage caused by broken and frozen pipes rank second, behind hurricanes in the insurance claim costs. The damage is estimated to be approximately $500 million every year.
According to the Institute of Home and Business Safety (IBHS), a one-eighth inch (3-millimeter) crack in a pipe can spew out more than 250 gallons of water per day, destroying floors, furniture, appliances and personal items.
What causes pipe bursts?
- Frozen pipes: Pipe bursts usually occur when exposed to cold air below 32°F and remain cold for an extended period of time. You will not only have no supply of water but also pay huge costs for repair and restoration of the burst pipes.
- Excessive weight: Increased traffic running over a water pipe can sometimes trigger a pipe burst.
- Water pressure: Tuberculationis a form of internal corrosion and biofilm contamination that develops in iron pipes through chemical reactions. This can cause high-pressure pockets in some areas of pipe, because water that’s under pressure may not be able to easily move beyond the area of buildup and hence leads to the pipes to burst.
- Corrosion: Corrosion is another reason that pipes can rupture. Corrosion may cause breaks or leaks because acidic conditions can cause pitting or holes in a metallic pipe.
It is your responsibility as a property owner to protect these pipes from damage. This means that preventing frozen and leaky pipe bursts this winter have to be on the top of your mind and apply techniques that really work.
What are IoT solutions and how they can help?
With the advent of cheap and lower prices of sensors, we are now able to connect more and more things through the power of the Internet. These range from desktops to laptops, wearable devices, smartphones, vehicles and buildings. By 2020, more than 50 billion things are expected to be interconnected. This phenomenon called the Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly being used in buildings and facilities to manage and operate them.
Technology using IoT for buildings is called Smart buildings and is used by building owners and facility managers for management of utilities like electricity, humidity, air-coolers and water. They are also used for building equipment maintenance, security, and space utilization and to improve sustainability.
Internet of things offers new and improved solutions to manage and maximize the use of water and prevent leakage that can potentially lead to dangerous pipe bursts during winter.
Water management is complex and complicated due to slower adoption of technology and aging infrastructure. IoT solutions can significantly improve the management of water in your building.
Here we take a look at five different ways you can use IoT solutions to prevent pipe bursts.
- Notifications about temperature drop: Since lower temperatures are one of the causes of pipe bursts, temperature sensors can be employed as the IoT solution to maintain an optimal temperature around plumbing. They can be set to send text alerts, voice calls or emails based on the ideal levels of the ambient temperature. These can be customized to your threshold. You can also set an audible alarm that alerts you when temperatures dip below your preset threshold. This will afford you maximum time to take action when temperatures are getting dangerously cold, making pipes susceptible to freezing.
- Alerts about leakages: A water flow IoT sensor can detect pipe flow rates ranging from 0.15 to 60 liters/minute. The system can report pipe flow measurement data regularly, as well as send automatic alerts if water use is outside of an expected normal range. This allows you to identify the location of leaking pipes and prioritize repairs based on the amount of water loss that could be prevented. There are sensors that can be used to detect the liquid presence on the floor or various parts of the building. There are other IoT solutions that can detect leakages in pipes using soil moisture measurement and the way ground absorbs water from pipe leakages.
- Preventive maintenance: Since it is better to be preventive than reactive, IoT solutions can be used for preventive maintenance of pipes – whether they are above the ground or below the ground. This data is then processed in the cloud and sent to you, the building owner or facility manager to take action before any disruption occurs. According to a report by IBM, a preventive maintenance system, which uses sensor data to constantly monitor the way an asset responds to regular use, can eliminate breakdowns by up to 70%, reduce downtime by up to 50%, and reduce scheduled repairs by up to 12%.
- Data Analytics: With IoT and smart water systems data like volume of water, flow, temperature, pressure, vibrations, humidity etc. can be collected regularly at intervals that can be custom defined. This allows for real-time monitoring, analysis and control of the water systems, which prevent pipes from bursting due to unforeseen circumstances. This data can also be hooked to an autonomous control system that can automatically shut off the water in case of a breach or a pipe burst. Another advantage of these IoT systems are that you can monitor it remotely, 24/7 as well as reduce the manual maintenance costs.
- Smart meters: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1 trillion gallons of clean, treated water are lost annuallyto water infrastructure leaks, costing water providers $2.6B. A lot of this loss can be attributed to antiquated metering systems. Smart meters remotely record and report metering of your water utilities. They can be controlled by a smart phone app and you would be able to see your water usage history, state of the water valves and pipes , temperature and more. It is usually configurable for your desired settings for alerts, notifications and in-depth monitoring. You can also get custom reports about your daily water consumption, monthly tenant consumption and leak alerts.
In conclusion, pipe bursts occur due to multiple reasons like water leakage, increased pressure, cold weather etc. Since pipe bursts are expensive to repair and replace, it is recommended to use a state-of-art IoT solution.
You can use multiple IoT solutions to minimize the risk of a burst pipe, economic loss and to conserve water. Utilization of temperature or leakage sensors can help detect an issue beforehand. IoT solutions can also help with preventive maintenance since they alert you about an upcoming issue. They can in turn be integrated to an autonomous control system to shut down your water supply. Using data analytics, you can monitor and report your water utilization, prevent leaks and predict potential issues with accuracy. Smart meters can help with loss of water due to leakage.