Old water treatment guys like me remember when the mechanical meter blasted onto the scene to usher in the end of the life (as we knew it) for the time-clock control. It was suddenly cool to make a softener more efficient. Even if salt was cheap, someone still needed to carry those heavy bags to the brine tank. That was also about the same time those sneaky computer boxes replaced ignition points in my car in favor of some senseless technology called solid-state ignition. We knew they would never last and soon we could crawl back under the hood to put the points and condenser back where they belonged. Wow! We could have never imagined what was to come when you consider a modern car that has dozens of computers all connected via a data highway network that removes miles of current-carrying wires reducing weight, cost and maintenance.
In addition to computers, modern cars are also filled with sensors that monitor everything from impact for air-bag deployment, tire pressure, collision avoidance, a multitude of engine sensors and many more. All the different sensors and system computers report to a data coordinator that stores history for the diagnostic output or powers a big touch-screen HMI (human/machine interface) that lives where my cool cassette player once lived, to command every accessory. Who took my buttons? This change paved the way for countless new features such as GPS, integrated hands-free phones, backup cameras and many new features to come that add value to the consumer.
Over the years, we have seen water treatment industry leaders replace mechanical controls with clever electronics that use program routines to add even more efficiency with innovative brining techniques. Multiplex units work together to eliminate capacity reserves and improved, high-capacity resins push exchange performance toward theoretical limits. As technology advances, forward-thinking professional dealers are always looking to expand their services to raise the bar and add even more value for their customers. A few water treatment companies now offer connected smart softener/filter units that can connect to the home Wi-Fi and report service conditions (such as low salt) or allow you to initiate regeneration and adjust settings remotely.
Like the technology race in the auto industry, this new connected platform is where water treatment equipment manufacturers will work to constantly add new features to add more value for the consumer. With these new connected products in place, dealers will have a greatly improved method of servicing their customers. The products will send out notices of problems enabling the dealer to fix some problems before they happen. When they are notified of a problem, dealers can connect to the system in each home to diagnose problems from their offices, so a dispatched service tech arrives informed with the required parts; some problems may even be resolved with a few key strokes from their desk.
Recently, dealers have learned that there is another water product that homeowners and businesses need in the form of leak and burst protection. Water damage in homes due to leaks ranks as the second most frequent claim category reported by insurance companies annually.(1) Most people either have experience with water damage or know someone who has. Several companies now manufacture smart network-controlled motorized valves that either monitor flow to look for anomalous flows to detect leaks or use moisture detectors placed in probable leak areas to sense a problem. These products have proven to be a good way for water treatment professionals to expand their businesses and provide more value to their customers. Some of these new products promote that insurance companies offer rate reductions when leak protection is installed, which can translate into an ROI where the equipment pays for itself.
A more integrated platform combines all the benefits of modern water treatment equipment with the added ability for the homeowner to remotely bypass their treatment system or shut off the water to the home (also remotely) using an app. When these next-generation systems are connected to other smart products using the IOT (Internet of Things) or through a local area network, professional dealers can expand their companies into high-tech home automation providers, giving homeowners protection from contaminated water, damages caused by water leaks, as well as new levels of conservation that saves money and is great for the environment.
Using these products, homeowners will be more informed, by seeing graphical displays of how their home water systems work and learning ways to take convenient conservation measures. Much like the way modern cars provide real-time data of fuel economy or the concept of Fitbit’s 10,000 steps per day, to use less water requires the consumer to be informed of how much water they are using. Once this automation platform is embedded into a home, the dealer has a constant contact link to introduce future connected modules to run and monitor POU devices, pumps, sump-pump level control, water heaters…just about anything that can be connected: a home water-management system.
In time, this expandable home water-management architecture puts in place the ability to manage the sensors required to bring the home up to speed with the car. A lot of the products in modern homes have their own independent sensors—there’s just nothing tying them together and ensuring they are working together.
When you look back on those old cars and cut through the nostalgia, you realize they were gas-guzzling, rough-running, high-maintenance machines that have been tuned like a fine Swiss watch through a network of computers. This same evolution has happened with many products over the years, including the old timer-controlled mechanical water softener. Just like the evolution of the auto, new technology is changing the water treatment industry in a profound way. The water treatment dealers of the future will surely be less about hauling salt and more about bringing customer value by using the technology that everyone carries in their pocket to tune their homes beyond what could have only been imagined 10 years ago.
- Facts + Statistics: Homeowners and renters insurance. https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-homeowners-and-renters-insurance (accessed on Apr 4, 2018).
- US Patent No. 9714715, Piston valve with annular passages.
About the author
Bill Chandler is President of Chandler Systems Inc. in Ashland, OH, a manufacturer of water treatment equipment focused on continual innovation. He has 38 years of experience in the water treatment industry and 25 years of experience in electrical/electronic controls. Chandler can be reached at (419) 281-6829 ext. 124 or by email at [email protected]
About the technology
DROP is a new smart water-management system built for the home. DROP provides all the benefits available in modern water treatment products and uses smart technology to notify of water leaks and inefficiencies wherever you are. Beyond notifications, DROP has the patented ability to use its control valve to turn off water to the home. When paired with DROP leak detectors and the meter in the control valve, DROP offers unmatched home leak protection. To learn more, visit dropconnect.com