Look back at the development of detection of Water Leaks in the Computer & Server Room
Water leak detection appeared in the late 70s when the computer room was still a baby. The computer room as it is today, contains air conditioning that contains water for moisturizers and sometimes cold water for cooling. Because of the large number of electrical cables, data cables, and water pipes needed in the room, the raised floors are still used to hide all services. Unfortunately, the water leaking under the elevated floor will not be found until the power / data connection is dipped in water and the computer stops working.
Until the mid 80’s water was detected using a sensor probe. These units will consist of engraved PCBs or two metal electrodes. Sensing for water is done by using a DC voltage in one sensor while looking for a reverse signal in another. If there is no reverse signal visible on the back sensor, there is no water. The problem with using this type of system is sensor erosion due to electrolysis and limited detection of water, water can flow away from the sensor and not be detected until it’s too late.
During the mid 80’s water detection cables were developed. The advantage of this type of sensing is that water is detected along the cable. This allows the area or equipment containing water to be surrounded to ensure that no leak is found in what direction the water flows.
From the mid-80s to date progress has mainly occurred with alarm panels and water leak reporting. Today you can send SMS, Email, receive phone calls, record it on the building management system or just have a simple bell and lights.
My involvement in water detection
I was first asked to design a water detection system in the late 70s while working as a Vikingshaw Products Ltd. Our parent company Vikingshaw Ltd at that time built computer rooms throughout the country and Vinkshaw Products supplied them with Power Distribution Units etc. The first simple system there is a DC-based design with PCBS for sensors and control units with simple bells and lights. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before I discovered that DC is not the right way to detect water because our copper sensors will disappear if left in water for several hours. From this point I used the AC signal on the sensor to stop it eroding. In the early 80’s I formed a partnership and started a company called Wayscale Ltd.
During the 80s, 90s I developed a process to produce water detection cables and alarm systems to display water leaks from one to 128 different areas or zones. The top of the multi-zone range control unit uses a station that can be addressed with four independent water detection zones and a 24 numeric alpha screen to notify the location of water leaks in words and numbers. In 2003 and with mutual agreement, my partner and I decided to stop trading and closing factories. As part of the Wayscale split, I brought with me the product design rights including the manufacture of water detection cables and started CMR electrical Ltd with my two sons. From 2003 to the present, developments have largely occurred with alarm controllers due to improvements in electronics. Over the past three decades I have been responsible for the design of thousands of water detection systems that have been installed in every application that can be imagined from large government security buildings to small server rooms in the UK and abroad.
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 can cause the system not to detect water when asked to do so.
1) The use of alternating current (AC) instead of direct current (DC) in the sensor. Direct current will erode the sensor if left in water for a long time so the system cannot be used for the next alarm.
2) Adjustment of sensitivity to allow moist areas or condensed water from the AC unit to be ignored, but still allow large leaks to be detected.
3) Cross zone talks that lead to false alarms or wrong locations caused by a signal from one zone that uses Earth (floor jacks, channels, etc.) Interferes with other zones that cause one or both zones to enter the alarm without water.
4) Fast sensor recovery after water leakage. Detection cables and spot probes must be able to be removed and wiped with cloth or tissue paper to remove water which allows the zone to quickly reset.
5) Sensitivity of the sensor, electrodes that are too close to each other on both the water detection cable and the spot probe will cause false alarms due to condensation or water droplets.
Using alternating current stops electrolysis which causes the sensor to disintegrate and the system cannot detect water. The use of alternating current also allows the sensor to continuously monitor the water even when immersed in water. This allows the system to automatically set itself automatically once water has been released to the sensor without further action by the operator to return the system to normal operation.
Where does our system go
We have provided a system to look for water leaks in computer rooms, server rooms, plant rooms, UPS rooms, office shower rooms, office tea areas, vending machines, high-level metal beams in ice rinks, high-level water pipes, underfloor heating office pipe, waste overflow, water tank, wall space, drip tray inside and below the air conditioning unit and the bundle area for the tank. Our customers range from one of the largest online betting companies, one of the largest and most well-known centers of storage space in London, Jersey Telecom, various major office blocks in London and many small server rooms in the UK and Ireland.