By Emmanuel Onsomu
Electronic plumbing continues to take style and comfort a notch higher. It is now only fitting to have sensor-operated fixtures in public facilities what with their contribution to improved sanitation levels and minimal maintenance requirements. Of utmost importance, is their water-saving ability which allows for negligible fresh water use.
Sensor activated products allow the product to turn “on” and then shut off for specifically programmed amounts of time, dispersing only specified amounts of water. Ending customer misuse and conserving large amounts of water as a result. Further, in the light of this new technology, today’s plumbing engineer is faced with the challenge of speaking the language of integration and has acquired a new role as an “electronic engineer.”
Understanding the Sensor
Martin Laverty Jr., Director of Engineering at Delany Products informs that whilst the microprocessor is the brains behind the functioning of many machines in our lives, there remains a need for a set of eyes; a function fulfilled by the sensor.
Advanced patented battery-powered microprocessor controlled sensor technology, the use of SMT (surface mount technology), and remotely controlled communication allow plumbing products to be controlled more easily and are more reliable than even conventional systems. Infrared light sensors activate the bathroom product once a presence is detected. Some examples of this new and more reliable technology can be found in plumbing products such as flush valves, faucets, drinking fountains, and water coolers.
He tells that once an individual approaches a sensor activated electronic devise, a sensor’s infrared light is designed to detect his/her presence. Automatically, a microprocessor begins to operate the device such as in the case of a faucet or water cooler. In the case of a flush valve, the microprocessor signals the product to go into a “hold” mode until the user leaves the sensors’ viewing area.
The sensor uses infrared light-emitting diodes (“LED”) to send out pulses of light energy. These pulses are controlled by a custom designed algorithm. A current-regulating circuit is used to control the amount of energy so that the output power of the LEDs remains constant throughout the life of the battery. This sampling of intervals based customer traffic allows for power conservation in order that battery is not drained excessively.
Next Mr. Laverty explains, a transmitter emits pulses of infrared light, which when it reflects off an individual returns to a receiver. This receiver is a photo diode based devise, which is specifically designed to be sensitive to the infrared portion of the light spectrum. Within the infrared light received by the photo diode receiver is an encoded signal recognized by only that receiver.
The distance or range at which an object is detected is controlled by the settings within the sensor. Often in the case of flush valves, the infrared signal can be weak due to dark cotton clothing. For such a case, an amplifier is used. In addition, a digital potentiometer is built into the circuitry in order to set sensitivity for the signal strength. This setting, or range, can be set by the installer of the device by adjusting a single-turn potentiometer located in the unit, or by via infrared communications of a hand held remote control unit. The usable range varies from 12 to 52 inches.
Once an individual is detected, a microprocessor sends a signal to a solenoid valve to tell it to open, Martin continues. The amount of time the microprocessor communicates for the solenoid valve stay open is determined by an adjustment to a binary coded decimal switch that is connected to the inputs of the microprocessor. This switch can also be adjusted via remote control. The microprocessor via the decimal switch can be programmed to hold the solenoid open any where from 800 milliseconds to several minutes, thus completely controlling the amount of water to be used when the product is activated.
Delta Faucet’s Proximity™ Sensing Technology
Launched in 2009, Delta Faucet’s Proximity™ Sensing Technology, a hands-free technology in two contemporary styled electronic faucets, is a unique sensing technology enables easy operation of the faucet by forming a 4” field around the body of the faucet. When the user’s hand enters the field, the faucet is turned on. When the user removes their hands from the water stream, the faucet turns off within 2 seconds. The designs, free of optics and infrared, are easy to maintain due to their clean lines and are able to fit into a variety of designed spaces.
Proximity Sensing Technology can be found on two of the Delta brand’s most popular faucet styles: Arzo® and Grail®. Both faucet bodies are constructed of solid brass and have a smart, modern design that continues to be a highly sought after style for public facilities. Installation of the technology is very user friendly whereby the product is designed to self-calibrate once it has been installed. Additionally, the surface mount control box makes it easy to access the controls for installation and routine facility maintenance.
The BASIC Series Waterless Composting Toilets from GII
Cognizant of the fact that today’s fresh water supply continues to decrease; a third of the world’s population lives in areas that have a moderate or severe water shortage, Global Inventive Industries (GII) waterless composting toilets that make up the BASIC series cannot be more relevant. Global Inventive Industries (GII) is the exclusive manufacturer of ECOJOHN toilets.
What’s more with the estimated amount of water available to each individual to be cut in half over the next 25 years and remembering that only three percent of the world’s water is fresh; the same water that we today use in our regular toilets, ECOJOHN is at the forefront of a worldwide push to save our planet’s most precious resource – water.
The BASIC Series consists of two models; one that operates on 12V DC and one that operates on 120V AC. These waterless toilets are equipped with a separating, and drying feature, which is the first step in the composting process. The solid waste is collected in a special environmental box inside the toilet. The liquid waste is separated from the toilet through a special liquid waste hose. Underneath the waste box, there is a heating plate that dries out the waste material in the box; the heating plate is thermostatically controlled and it reaches a temperature where most bacteria die.
When the box is full, one can easily open the toilet and remove the entire waste box with its waste bag, or only take out the waste bag itself and then add the entire box or bag to a composting pile; after a few months, the waste and bag will decompose.
The liquid waste is separated away in the front of the toilet bowl. By using gravity the liquid waste gets drained outside the rear of the unit. The liquid waste is collected with a domestic wastewater system, or guided to a drain pit or to a container. By mixing 1 part of liquid waste with 8 parts of water, it can be used as a fertilizer.
Bradley Corp: Driving Commercial Restroom Innovation
Bradley Corp., headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wis., USA, designs and manufactures commercial plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, partitions, emergency fixtures and solid plastic lockers. An industry leader for 90 years, Bradley’s history began with the invention of the washfountain – a revolutionary group handwashing fixture designed to save water and time. Since then, Bradley has developed a number of innovative restroom products and technologies to help architects, specifiers, engineers and end-users meet their building goals.
One of Bradley’s newest product developments, the VergeTM Lavatory System, is characterized by its durability and low-maintenance features, in addition to a sleek and modern design, as it incorporates a beautifully sculpted elongated basin with a hidden drain. Made with Bradley’s EveroTM Natural Quartz Material, a resilient natural composite material – the only molded natural quartz material available in the industry – the Verge stands up well to high-traffic and everyday usage while creating a distinctive restroom space in high-end establishments, such as high-end retail environments, restaurants, hotels, museums, universities and more.
The Advocate™ Lavatory System – a personal handwashing station – exemplifies all the features that make Bradley a true innovator of user-friendly green restroom products. The Advocate provides an all-in-one handwashing experience, since access to water, soap and hand dryer are available within the user’s space, minimizing dripping water and eliminating wasted paper towels. It also incorporates materials with recycled content, a 0.38 gpm faucet and a low-energy consumption high-efficiency hand dryer.
Another example of Bradley’s handwashing innovation is the Aerix™ hand dryer – the only adjustable speed hand dryer available in the U.S. Multiple speeds allow facility managers to turn up for fast drying or turn down for quiet operations. The dryer is a green solution since it uses 80 percent less electricity than other dryers, and does not contribute to pollution or deforestation.
In addition, Bradley’s new Diplomat TM Washroom Accessories Series offers an innovative curved stainless steel design complemented by the use of renewable energy in its manufacturing process. Made from at least 25% post-consumer and 35% pre-consumer stainless steel, Diplomat’s fifty-plus product models offer architects unmatched sustainable design flexibility. Diplomat Accessories offer an elegant, yet highly durable, sustainable restroom solution.
Living up to its reputation as a sustainable manufacturer, Bradley offers a variety of other green restroom products, such as ndite™ technology, which powers lavatories without electricity or batteries, and is the first handwashing fixture of its kind.
Ultimate Plumbing Control through Smarter Electronics: L.W. Gemmell’s WARDEN
Specialized plumbing products company L.W. Gemmell similarly recognizes that the future of plumbing lies in water and energy conserving products.
The firm’s Warden Multi-Function Electronic Plumbing Control System is a 4 I/O electronic control for ultimate water conservation and plumbing security; controlling the use of plumbing fixtures in commercial buildings.
Warden allows the designer to choose what is to be controlled. Any of the 4 I/O’s can be used to control whatever you want it to whether toilet flushing, showers and basins.
To operate the system one must press a switch to start water flow and press it again to stop. If the switch is not pressed for a second time, water stops after the pre-set run time. When the run time is reached, a lock out time prevents further use. Run times and lock out times are chosen by the specifier (with assistance from L.W. Gemmell) at time of order placement. Optional times are built into each Warden to allow for some on-site adjustment if necessary.
As Warden is a multipurpose product it is generally programmed to suit each application. It consists of 3 main items; Warden electronic control with 230V – 24V transformer, solenoid valves and Piezo switch plates.
Features of Warden include vandal resistance, water proof sensors, simple plug to plug connections, can be remotely overridden for exterior control, diagnostic LED lights and low voltage for safety. In addition the company has Warden 4, an electronic water management system featuring multi purpose plumbing control for; multi shower, multi WC flushing, multi urinal, multi basin control and combination for prison cells.
Warden 4 uses piezo electric switches to activate low voltage industry standard solenoid valves on plumbing fixtures. Warden 4 can be used for high security applications such as prison cells, police stations and courthouses allowing control over plumbing fixtures where vandalism, self injury, excessive water use and drug concealment can be major problems. Warden 4 can also be used in schools, gymnasiums, camp grounds and swimming pools offering water saving features and vandal resistance to showers, basins, WCs, and urinals in fact any plumbing product where control over use is required.
Warden 4 consists of a warden controller, solenoid valves, cabling and piezo switch plates.
To operate the system, one must press a piezo switch which initiates a solenoid to open for a specific time. At the end of the “run time” Warden 4 will lock out that fixture for a “dead time”. The run and dead times are programmed into Warden 4 to suit the model specified. Where Warden 4 is to be installed in high security applications, often clients have special requirements and the Warden 4 will be specifically programmed to suit.
Encore Hands-Free Electronic Faucet Adapter and SideKick Electronic Faucet
Also passionate about water conservation is Encore®, a division of Component Hardware Group, Inc. (CHG), leading designer, manufacturer and distributor of premium plumbing and hardware products. The company’s Hands-Free Electronic Faucet Adapter helps prevent cross-contamination and conserve on water consumption. This low cost adapter is ideal for post-construction hand sink applications in food service, healthcare and other commercial environments.
The Encore Hands-Free Electronic Faucet Adapter can help reduce water consumption by up to 70 percent by utilizing a reliable infrared sensor that instantly stops water flow when not in use. A manual on/off over-ride button provides instant flow to fill any container, while a preset three-minute automatic time-out feature minimizes the chance of overflow.
The Adapter is easy to operate as the faucet turns on by simply placing hands underneath, even when both hands are full. Converting any existing faucet into an automatic hands-free faucet takes less than five minutes, and the adapter fits on most standard faucets with aerators using a simple screw-on installation.
The Hands-Free Electronic Faucet Adapter, model number K12-0100, has an adjustable 2-to-10-inch sensor range based on sink type and illumination. The adapter functions under working pressures from 10-125 PSI and is supplied with a 2.2 GPM aerator, although CHG is currently working on a 1.5 GPM model for additional water savings. The unit operates on four standard AAA 1.5V batteries.
Also utilizing sensor technology is the company’s SideKick Electronic Faucet; one no longer has to keep their hands beneath the faucet to keep the water running.
Featuring water and energy-saving wave on-wave off technology with an automatic time-out feature to prevent accidental sink overflow, the SideKick hands-free hygienic faucet is ideal for foodservice, institutional and medical hand sink applications. The side-mounted sensor reduces soap residue interference for improved reliability. The SideKick is available in AC and DC models for new construction or retro-fit applications.
List of Contributors
Director of Engineering
Component Hardware Group (CHG)