Intelligent temperature monitoring

Richard Braid of Cistermiser and Keraflo discusses the pivotal role that Intelligent Temperature Monitoring Units (TMUs) are now playing in the water management arena.

Lockdowns across the UK have posed a demanding challenge for us all, but it is now abundantly clear that planning to return to something approaching “business as usual” presents innumerable challenges for anyone involved in recommissioning / repurposing buildings, or those who look after building occupants. These challenges are especially evident when it comes to the water systems in buildings.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many buildings had to close to protect public health and reduce the spread of the virus. But now, as businesses and organisations start to get back to normal as restrictions are lifted, it is important to ensure that public health continues to be protected.

Legionella is one of the most prominent health risks here, with the bacteria developing in water systems that have not been used during the lockdown periods, or that have been underutilised due to lower and flexing building demand. As such, buildings should have a risk assessment and a Water Safety Plan in place.

All aspects of a buildings’ water systems need to be reviewed before re-opening fully or in part. In some cases, these reviews will be carried out by teams of people on the ground. But for some more forward-thinking organisations, this critical work is being carried out by state-of-the-art cloud driven solutions, including Remote Temperature Monitoring, which is being deployed in numerous commercial, housing and healthcare facilities across the UK.

TMU water monitoring

Intelligent Temperature Monitoring Units (TMUs) are able to deliver automatic wireless monitoring, providing real-time temperature readings on a computer screen, in order to track and monitor hot and cold water temperatures in pipework systems which are critical to risk assessments.

A connected TMU can be retrofittable, and is typically fitted onto water outlet pipework, distribution pipework including risers, calorifiers, cold water storage tanks and many other sentinel points across a building’s water system.

Each TMU takes a reading every ten seconds and then sends temperature and flow event data to a cloud-based portal on an hourly basis. Recorded data includes maximum, minimum and average temperatures. The sensor also records any flow events, such as outlets being utilised. The data readings are analysed by the device’s inbuilt software, batched and sent up back to the cloud, and then on to the user’s preferred interface, which might be a phone, tablet or PC. The powerful data delivered by installed TMUs can help to show where sections of a building’s water system have remained safe and are operating to specified parameters (and therefore do not need excessive flushing) and flag areas that may require specific attention.

In premises where TMUs have been installed, constant real-time IoT monitoring will show if flushing has been carried out correctly and appropriate hot and cold temperatures are being reached. Over-stretched technical resources can then be deployed selectively to address defined issues that may be identified. Building owners, FMs and Estates Facilities Management teams can both benefit greatly from increased visibility, as well as added peace of mind that they are doing the best possible to reduce legionella risk.

The power of data

The combination of cloud-based data storage and analysis technology with robust, specialist hardware for remote sensing and monitoring of water temperatures and outlet usage can ease the burden on time and labour, save money and eliminate the potential for human error. However, it’s the power of the data where the system truly comes into its own.

Connected systems can offer previously inaccessible information in real time, and for those who want to really maximise use of the data, reports can be set up to indicate how water is (or isn’t) being used in specific rooms and extrapolating this one step further, can profile user behaviour and deploy optimal resource solutions.

For example, if a report shows that most of the activations of a particular TMV are early in the morning or early evening, this may give an estates manager a good idea on when to send cleaners in or schedule water quality sampling at appropriate times. Automatic temperature monitoring facilities not only detect temperatures which could lead to Legionella colonisation, but also those that might pose a scalding risk, or, conversely, a risk of pipes freezing. It can also help users identify under-used outlets or, for example, taps or showers left running.

Despite its critical function, water management has traditionally been perceived as a problem-child, approached in a fragmented and sometimes inconsistent way across the sector. It’s time this changes for good.

Richard Braid is managing director of Cistermiser and Keraflo