Enolgas USA Inc., a subsidiary of Italy’s Enolgas Bonomi S.p.A., is a leading provider of quality valves and actuators and an emerging player in the “smart home” automation market. Enolgas designs, engineers, and manufactures high-quality products for HVAC&R and building-automation industries.
For homeowners and condo associations, water consumption and waste are increasingly important issues – ones that merit a closer look. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, due solely to leaks, the average household loses 10,000 gallons of water annually – equal to a stunning 1 trillion gallons. As many as 10% of all household water systems have slow leaks that average 90 gallons of water each day caused by problems such as faulty toilet flappers. Then there are the sudden disruptions of burst, clogged, or frozen pipes as well as faucets left on and other common issues.
According to Vittorio Bonomi, president of Enolgas USA, the market was hungry for a solution. “We knew that homeowners were eager to address this challenge,” he said. “Homeowners want to save as much money as possible on their water bills, but the slow leaks can create a silent drain on the wallet. And if it’s a second home, the owner might not be on the premises for extended periods of time, which translates into a significant risk of water damage that can go undetected for weeks or months. Those owners want a security device to monitor water usage and even shut it off remotely. In condos and apartments, condo associations and landlords typically can’t meter each resident’s water usage – it’s usually billed in an evenly divided flat fee, which discourages conservation efforts.”
A Smarter Way to Monitor and Manage Water
To capitalize on the opportunity, Enolgas created the Water Security System™, a patented flow-based device and application to monitor an entire residence’s actual water consumption and patterns, detect leaks or unusual water flows, remotely shut off water sources on demand, and notify the homeowner via email or text message.
“We envisioned a smart IoT device that could monitor water consumption in the residence, notify the owner of anomalies, and close valves to prevent losses and damage," said Bonomi. "And we realized that, in addition to the water sensor and electric actuator, the communication component of the solution would be critically important.”
Enolgas selected the Digi XBee S2C 802.15.4 RF module to provide the easy, low-cost connectivity between the water sensor and the cloud. The Digi XBee 802.15.4 RF module is ideal for applications like the Water Security System that require low latency and predictable communication timing. Providing quick, robust communication in point-to-point, peer-to-peer, and multipoint/star configurations, Digi XBee 802.15.4 products enable robust end-point connectivity with ease. The updated Digi XBee S2C 802.15.4 module is built with the Silicon Labs EM357 SoC and offers improved power consumption, support for over-the-air firmware updates, and an upgrade path to DigiMesh® or Zigbee® mesh protocols if desired.
Saving Water, Saving Money
“We’re using the DigiMesh network protocol as our primary communication,” said Bonomi, “and we use the home or condo association’s Wi-Fi. When that Wi-Fi isn’t strong enough or consistent enough, we have the mesh network as a backup method. If the Wi-Fi is down or the power is out, our battery-powered device can send the alarm through the mesh network and to the cloud using our gateway. And Digi’s product is pre-certified, which we really liked. It works around the world and is fully certified, which makes it easy for us to install almost anywhere.”
Bonomi reports that the savings associated with implementation can be substantial. “Our value proposition is simple,” he said. “This device saves money and prevents water damage. Just like using a smart thermostat, a user can control water usage remotely and reduce costs significantly.” He added that once property owners see the consumption patterns, they can fairly quickly identify and correct the leaks.
“One of our first customers was a condominium association. In the first month after installing the Water Security System, their water consumption decreased 150,000 gallons. Some of our customers operate very old buildings with hundreds of apartments, and in the first year, water savings can easily reach 20%. In fact, one of our customers saved $36,000 on water consumption in the first year." He added that the mobile app can meter each resident’s water usage and bill them accordingly. When water fees are no longer included with rent and are billed separately, it encourages residents to conserve even further.
“For individual homeowners – especially owners of vacation homes, our solution gives added peace of mind. They can get a text message immediately alerting them about any sudden increase in water consumption, which would be consistent with a leak. They can immediately shut off water service from their phone and prevent catastrophic damage. That can even reduce the costs of flood insurance and homeowners’ insurance.”
Bonomi stressed the importance of reliability in their product, which required high quality components. “Our product has a five-year warranty, so we needed reliable components going into it. That was another key reason for choosing Digi. We can’t afford mistakes and lapses – and with Digi, we know we’re offering a high-quality solution.”