Innovation and technology have changed how we do things. Improvements in water treatment technology make life easier, but more importantly, provides ways to achieve better and more accurate results.
The Evolution of Water Treatment Controllers
Technology in the water treatment industry has changed considerably over the last 50 years. Prior to automation, daily water testing, conductivity control, and chemical addition were all done manually. Computer technology, more sophisticated controllers, networking, better sensing technology and other innovations have evolved and made the automation of these daily routines a reality. These advancements have not only made automation possible, they have also allowed more opportunity to protect and conserve one of our most precious resources, water.
Electromechanical relay output devices were the first to automate the chemical feed process. They allowed a feed pump's run time to be triggered by the flow of water through a contacting water meter. As a specific volume of water passes through the meter, the metering pump would run for a pre-determined run time.
Bleed and Feed controllers were commonly used for Conductivity control. When conductivity exceeds the desired level or trip point, a bleed off solenoid valve would be activated which would allow make up water to refill the system, diluting the recirculation water. Once the bleed cycle was complete, an adjustable lockout timer limits the chemical pump operation to a set length of time, protecting from over feeding chemicals.
Pros: Simple, inexpensive and reliable.
Cons: Settings did not account for changes in load, provide any tracking/data logging of events, or have any type of failure protection.
Eventually, automated blowdown controls were developed for conductivity control. Most of the first gen controllers were analog and only had the capability of monitoring a single conductivity probe with no connection or control of the chemical feed.
Pros: Allowed automation of conductivity control.
Cons: A controller was needed for each system, calibration was needed frequently, no tracking/data logging of events or any type of failure protection.
Microprocessor Based Water Treatment Controllers
Microprocessors reduced long term operating costs through efficient management of chemical additions and bleed off water. Digital displays allowed settings, readings and operations to be performed with repeatable accuracy. Calibrations, set points, timer settings and all programmable capabilities can now be entered using the touch screen LED code and data display.
The Microprocessor based controllers then went on to include communications and data acquisition. This allowed users to access the controller's “History” which gave water treaters the ability to look back and troubleshoot a system. Communications allowed the system to be monitored from a remote site as well as provide a vehicle for historical data transmission. This was accomplished via telephone connection through a dial up modem.
The Impact of the Internet
The internet became publicly available in 1991, making the possibilities for controllers seemingly endless. Providing the ability to “Communicate” and provide water treaters and customers with real time data about the overall health of their water system. Although groundbreaking, in the early days, the data collected was confusing and challenging to apply in a way that was really meaningful.
21st Century Controllers
Today’s version of the water treatment controller offers the same functions and capabilities as the controllers of the past but on a more user-friendly interface.
- Large touch screen with icons are easier to view, navigate and program.
- Local display and web interface provide customizable screens and graphs that allow system views more quickly and identify the root cause of failures.
- Email and text communication provide reports and alarms as needed to correct problems quickly.
- A wide variety of inputs and outputs allow for advanced control options that make systems more efficient and user friendly.
- Remote access via the internet, provides the ability to make adjustments and respond to alarms without being on site.
The intuitive interface in conjunction with remote monitoring capabilities allows easy navigation to menus from a computer, tablet or cell phone. It allows users to check system parameters, turn on a pump, open a valve, or make system changes from virtually anywhere, all in real time. System alarm conditions are reported via text or email as they are happening, making corrective actions happen sooner rather than later.
The evolution of the controller over the past few decades has improved convenience, repeatability and accessibility, but more importantly has resulted in real savings for the end user.
Pros: Complete automation of a chemical program for boilers or cooling towers, multiple input/output capabilities for endless options, tracking/data-logging of all events, failure protection on all outputs, immediate notification of alarm conditions, a variety of remote communication options.
Cons: Initial upfront costs are higher – but the ROI is short with the benefits they provide. Communications need to be established, but with multiple options – this is rarely an issue.
Compared to years past, automation allows facility managers and water system operators to be more efficient. With automated processes, remote monitoring, and control, focus can be on key activities and an understanding of how to make the program better. In addition to utility cost savings, facilities save on the intangible costs of preventing an emergency situation that could shut down a facility for a day, a week, or for good.
When is the right time for an equipment upgrade?
If you would like more convenience and better access to your system’s data, an equipment upgrade can be an investment that pays for itself. Automating your facility’s water system is easy and cost effective. It allows better visibility to save time and money.
If you would like a system survey or information about equipment solutions that might make sense for your organization, please reach out to Watertech at 414-425-3339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
||By Dave Kerr, Applications Specialist
Dave Kerr has been part of the Watertech Applications Team for over 5 years, providing equipment design, build out, and support. He has over 20 years experience in the water treatment industry.