New technology eases networking controllers for commercial installers
Networking for water treatment installers may no longer be a
matter of who you know, but rather a matter of who has the newest technology.
The commercial and industrial (C&I) markets are driving the need for more
simplified solutions that will cover everything from simple commercial
softeners to high-purity process water. Here is a technology that may ease an
Introduced earlier this year, the 3200NT Network Controller
from Fleck Controls allows up to four commercial valves--specifically, any
combination of Fleck valves--to be linked together using standard,
off-the-shelf telephone cables. On-board communication capability allows the
valves to function as a unified system, communicating with each other.
Field configurable for any system type and flow meter size,
the controller is designed to fit the standard environmental powerheads and
uses a simplified wiring harness for easy servicing. Additional controller
features include a programmable auxiliary relay (fused), remote start input,
remote lockout input and variable reserve.
According to Albin Erhart, marketing manager for Pentair
Water Treatment, the new network controller offers many advantages. "With
only four valves and four meters in stock, our OEM customers can provide any
system type off the shelf. Stocking all system types each with their own wiring
package was not economical for our customers because of the large inventory
required. Now, they can ship any system configuration from stock while maintaining
minimal inventory," he said. "Installers like it because they are
able to program the system type they need on site, and they can reconfigure the
system type if the customer's requirements change and the system needs to be
Erhart expanded on the specific advantages of the 3200NT
need to stock special wiring, creating a shorter lead time. Prior to the
3200NT, valves had to be individually wired for specific system types and valve
position (lead, middle, lag). Installers had to hire electricians to complete
field wiring, which differed depending on system type. Now the same 3200NT
controller equipped valves and electronic meters can be used to configure any
system type, completely eliminating the need to stock special wired systems.
(See Figure 1.)
programming. 3200NT controller equipped valves can be field programmed for all
standard system types through simple < keypad programming.
installation. Improved functionality means customers can use the same
electronic controller for multiple systems. This not only simplifies
installation, it lowers the customer's total cost by eliminating hard wiring of
meters and valve interlocks in the field.
installation time. Plug-in wiring harnesses, meters and communication cables
makes for an easier installation.
installation cost. Field wiring is limited to low voltage 24 VAC power wiring,
electronic meter cables and standard telephone cables. This eliminates the need
for the installer to hire an electrician or pull an electrical permit to wire
the system (in most areas), significantly reducing the cost, complexity and
time for field wiring.
Erhart cites the breadth, depth and complexity of the
C&I water treatment market as the reason for the 3200NT. "Applications
for the control valves can range from simple water softeners for restaurants
and apartment buildings to boiler feed water and high-purity process water.
Because of this wide range of applications, a wide range of product solutions
is necessary," he said. "In addition, the need for improved
efficiency and lower costs increases application complexity."
The need for remote monitoring and communications capability
also is increasing as a way to reduce the overall cost of monitoring and
operating water treatment systems at peak efficiency. A future enhancement of
controllers could be the ability to communicate with external devices such as a
PC or PDA. "Once the NT controller can communicate externally, the OEM and
end user will be able to link their water treatment system to building
automation systems and networked process controls," Erhart said.
Modern networking technology is the secret to how the valves
communicate. A circuit board with communication capability was added to each
valve, allowing all of the controllers to communicate through a simple RJ 45
phone cable. The circuit board provides built-in functionality that was
previously available only from expensive external controllers. This enhanced
capability will allow the NT network control system to replace the mechanical
Erhart believes that the 3200NT controller represents the
technology of the future for water treatment. He said, "The NT Network
concept is a basic control package that can be used as a building block for
improved products in the future that are faster to market and compatible with
existing market technology."