A look back at the development of Water Leak detection in Computer & Machine Rooms
Water leak detection came into being in the late 70’s when personal computer rooms were in there infancy. Personal computer rooms as today, contain air cooling which contains water for humidifiers and sometimes chilled water for cooling. Because of the large amount of power wires, data cables and water plumbing needed in the room, a raised ground was and is still used to conceal all services. Unfortunately, any drinking water leaking under this raised floor would not be discovered until power/data connections were immersed in water and the computer stopped working.
Up to the mid 80’s water was recognized using spot probe sensors. These units would consist of either a good etched PCB or two metallic electrodes. Sensing for water has been done using a DC voltage in one sensor whilst looking for a return transmission in the other. Providing no return signal was seen in the return sensor, no water was present. The problem using this type of system was erosion of the sensors due to electrolyses as well as the limited area of water detection, water could flow away from the detectors and not be detected until too late.
During the mid 80’s water detection cable was developed. The advantage of this type of sensing being that water is recognized along the entire length of cable.
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This allowed areas or equipment that contains water to be surrounded insuring that will leaks were found no mater what direction the water flowed.
From the mid 80’s through to today advancements have mainly been with the alarm panels and the reporting of drinking water leaks. Today you can be Texted, Emailed, receive a phone call, record it on the building management system or just possess the simple buzzer and lamp.
The involvement in water detection
I used to be first asked to design a water detection system in the late 70’s whilst working as for Vikingshaw Products Ltd. Our Mother company Vikingshaw Ltd at that time built computer rooms around the country and Vinkshaw Products supplied them with Power Distribution Products etc . The first systems were easy in there design being DC centered with PCBS for sensors and control units with a simple buzzer and lamp. Unfortunately it was not long before I discovered that DC was not the correct way to detect water because our sensor copper tracks might disappear if left in drinking water for a few hours. It was from this point that I used an AC signal within the sensors to stop them eroding away. In the Early 80’s I went into partnership and started a company called Wayscale Ltd.
During the 80’s, 90’s I developed a process to produce water detection cable and alarm systems to display water leaks from to 128 different areas or areas and specific zones. The top of the range multi area control unit used addressable outstations with four independent water detection zones and a 24 alpha numeric display to advise of the drinking water leak location in words plus numbers. In 2003 and by shared consent both my partner and myself decided to stop trading and closed down the factory. As part of the separation of Wayscale, I took with me the product design rights including the manufacture of the water detection cable and started CMR electrical Ltd along with two of my sons. Through 2003 to the present, developments have primarily been with the alarm controller due to the improvements in electronics. During the past 30 years I have been responsible for the design of thousands of water detection systems which have been installed in every application imaginable from large government security buildings through to little server rooms in the UK and overseas.
Considerations when designing a water detection system
A number of factors need to be taken into account when designing a water diction system. Failure to do so could lead to systems not detecting water when required to do so.
1) The uses of an alternating electric current (AC) not direct current (DC) in the sensors. Direct Current can erode the sensors if still left in water for long periods departing the system unusable for any subsequent alerts.
2) Sensitivity adjustment to allow damp areas or condensed water through AC units to be ignored, but still enable large leaks to be detected.
3) Zone cross talk leading to fake alarms or wrong location caused by one signal from one zone using Earth (floor jacks, conduit and so forth ) to interfere with other zone causing one or both zones to go into alarm without the presents associated with any water.
4) Quick messfühler recovery after a water leak. Detection cables and spot probes should be capable of being removed and easily wiped with a cloth or tissue paper to remove water allowing the zone to quickly reset.
5) Awareness of the sensors, electrodes too close to each other in both water detection wire and spot probes will cause fake alarms due to condensation or drinking water droplets.
Using an alternating current stops electrolyses which causes the sensors to break down and the system unable to detect drinking water. The use of alternating current also allows the particular sensors to continually monitor for water even when submersed in drinking water. This allows the system to quickly immediately self reset once water continues to be removed for the sensor with no more action by an operator in order to reinstate the system back to normal operation.