Technology Reduces Water Waste and Prevents Damage

May 11, 2005
Communicating wirelessly, system continuously monitors for overflows and leaks in homes as well as in hotels, apartments and hospitals

Providing leading technology for innovative water leakage and overflow monitoring systems, Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) announced that AquaOne Technologies Incorporated will begin shipping their latest H2ORB system using TI's MSP430 platform of microcontrollers (MCU) and radio frequency identification (RFID) devices. Ultra-low power MCUs from TI allow the H2ORB control unit to operate for over five years from just one standard coin cell battery while TI-RFid technology allows continuous communication between the control unit and wireless, remote sensors enabling the system to remotely monitor for water leakage or overflow in water appliances such as toilets. Detecting a problem, the H2ORB system automatically sends an alert or shuts off the water supply before significant water loss or overflow occurs, helping reduce or prevent costly property damage, cleanup, water waste and higher utility bills, and other problems associated with water overflow.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA) estimates that one out of every five toilets in the U.S. leaks. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a lavatory with a silent leak may waste between 30 to 500 gal. of water per day while one with a stuck open flapper can waste more than 4,000 gal. per day. The Personal Insurance Federation of California (PIFC) also estimates that the average repair cost from overflow damage is $33,000, not including any mold remediation that may be required. To prevent these types of losses, AquaOne designed the H2ORB to work with standard shut-off values or angle stops found on tank type toilets. The three-inch H2ORB main unit with separate wireless bowl and tank sensors detects everything from major tank failures to the smallest leak, alerts users to the existence of a problem and, if desired, shuts off the water supply immediately to prevent major damage or loss.

"Eliminating the health risks caused by overflows is an enormous benefit to our patients and to the hospital," said Jim Parkhurst, CEO, Newport Bay hospital, California. "The H2ORB system has also helped us improve patient health and helped us avoid the subsequent damage and repair costs, too."

The H2ORB main unit uses TI's MSP430F413 MCU, a member of the industry's lowest power MSP430 MCU platform, as well as a proprietary TI-RFid device to monitor inputs from the external tank and bowl sensors. The tank sensor detects faults such as slow leaks or a stuck open flapper while the bowl sensor detects when the water level reaches imminent overflow. Each sensor wirelessly signals the main unit when a fault is detected. The main unit will then respond according to the particular fault and user-defined response by alerting the user or shutting off the water supply. Each remote sensor consists of an MSP430F2101 MCU and a proprietary TI-Rfid transponder.

Previous designs developed by Aqua One used wired bowl and tank sensors and required battery replacement after just 12 months. By adopting the MSP430 ultra-power MCU and proprietary TI-RFid platform, the H2ORB system life has increased to an estimated five. TI's MSP430F413 MCU, with integrated 8 KB of flash memory and 96-segment LCD driver, has a standby power requirement of only 0.7 microamps and can wake up from sleep mode to highest processing speed in an industry best six microseconds. "TI's MSP430 MCU platform and RFID technology helped us implement a wireless system that lasts five times longer, is smaller and has more programmable features than any competitive system available," said Richard Quintana, CEO, AquaOne.

After initial testing, some local water authorities in California will be offering user rebates for AquaOne's devices based on the projected water savings.

Source: Texas Instruments Incorporated