Potter: New flow switch a first

The self-testing device for wet sprinkler systems saves water, eliminates pollution and reduces corrosion, company says
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ST. LOUIS—Potter Electric Signal Co. recently introduced what it says is an industry first: a self-testing flow switch for wet sprinkler systems that requires no discharge of water.

Mike Henke, sprinkler product manager for Potter, which is based here, said the company developed its new VSR-AT flow switch with auto test feature because of industry demand. He said the VSR helps “conserve water, reduce corrosion and eliminate any pollution concerns that are associated with discharging sprinkler water.”

He said Potter had customer inquiries about developing a product “to have the ability to test a water flow switch without actually having to discharge water.”

That conserves water and means a smaller water bills for building owners, Henke noted. Also, he said, “some places around the country treat sprinkler system discharge as a pollutant.” Such jurisdictions can have costly regulations such as mandating the water discharge go into a sanitary sewer instead of a storm sewer or that it be treated before it can be discharged, he said.

In addition, he said, “always introducing fresh water and oxygen into steel piping can lead to corrosion.” So, Henke said, “by being able to test a flow switch without having to actually flow water through the system … we’re conserving water, reducing pollution concerns and limiting corrosion.”

The VSR-AT, which is UL listed and FM approved, also saves on labor, he said. “It makes it a lot easier for the technician that has to go around and test the system,” Henke said. Typically, he said, in a multistory building, the technician does the testing in the building’s stairwells. “[You have] somebody climbing the stairs with a stepladder and they have to go up the stepladder, open a valve, flow water until he hears a bell ring, close that, climb down off his ladder, pull the ladder up, climb up to the next flight of stairs and do this all over again.”

By contrast, the VSR-AT allows for remote testing, he said. “With this, we have a little key-operated test switch, or you can just use anybody’s addressable fire alarm panel so all the flow switches can be tested from one location,” he said. “If they have fire command center, the person there can turn on the key to activate the button, press the button, test flow switch No. 1, flow switch No. 2 and so on, or do it through their addressable fire alarm panel.”

He continued, “This is the only flow switch out there like it. We just took our standard flow switch that we’ve been making for decades and we replaced the pneumatic retard with an electronic retard with some special software in order to do this.”

He said the VSR-AT is ideal for such applications as college campuses and high-rise apartment buildings.

“If you have a high-rise building that’s got 50 flow switches in it and every time you test it, you’re flowing 100 gallons for each flow switch, it ends up being a lot of water that they’re using. And if you’re paying for that water or paying to capture and treat that water, [the VSR-AT] can end up paying for itself in a short period of time,” he said.