Acoustic leak detection delivered from day one

 

Acoustic leak detection, Non-Revenue Water, Improved efficiency

Söderhamn Nära went from a costly and time-consuming hit-and-miss approach to leak detection to a targeted effort with their new acoustic leak detection solution. While part of a 4-year plan towards hourly values and analytics, the new solution literally delivered from day one and learnings increase steadily.

 
 
 
 
soderhanm utility using ald
soderhanm utility using ald

Every year, 400,000 m3 of water disappears on its way to Söderhamn Nära’s customers – the equivalent of a 20% water loss. In an effort to bring that number down, the utility started rolling out a new smart metering solution that makes it possible to detect leaks in pipes via acoustic leak detection. 

According to Robin Lindberg, project manager for Söderhamn Nära AB, leak detection so far has been a laborious and lengthy task. If they suspect a leak, they go from valve to valve to listen for it, shutting off areas one by one to verify their assumption. Particularly areas with plastic pipes are particularly problematic. “In plastic pipes, you can’t hear the leak with our traditional equipment so unless it comes up to the surface it’s almost impossible to find.” Water loss is especially challenging in the city. Leaks here mainly occur in the bigger pipes and can be as much as 30 m3 per hour. “Finding a leak can take anywhere from days to years,” says Henrik Inancsi, Meter Manager for Söderhamn Nära AB.   

Today, they use their new smart meters, flowIQ® 2200 combined with the analytics tool, Leak Detector, to identify the most relevant addresses and then go there to verify the potential leaks. As a result, their efforts are now a lot more targeted, which ensures an efficient use of resources.

 

Daily operations tool

Robin Lindberg and Henrik Inancsi both experienced a steep learning curve working with Leak Detector, which is now a part of their daily operations. They currently have 15-20 addresses on their watch list where they follow developments in noise levels closely. “We have learned to tell apart the different noises curves. In the beginning we went out to check all meters that detected a unexpected noise. Now we can see from the noise pattern if it is an actual leak or something else.” In several cases, the culprit turned out to be a heating pump or even a dehumidifier in a washing room. 

At 5-10 litres in hour, one leak in a toilet was too small to be picked up by the normal leak alarm in the meter. But because the acoustic leak detection in the new meters is very sensitive, the leak was found and the utility could inform the customer. At the other end of the scale, the water consumption at one address suddenly went from 0 to around 5,000 litres per hour one Saturday evening. The customer was informed Monday morning and subsequently discovered an open valve that had resulted in 300 m3 lost in 1½ days.

 

Local heroes

The new meters have found about 100 leaks inside homes and properties in Söderhamn according to Henrik Inancsi. “So far we’ve made 50-60 calls about incidents like leaks, running toilets and garden hoses that have been left on. They are all based on info codes from READy or noise patterns in Leak Detector.” He says that some customers are suspicious at first because they have not noticed anything out of the ordinary but once they have checked they often call back and are very grateful. “Not only do we prevent potential collateral damage from a long-lasting leak. They also avoid paying for water they don’t use. This is the basis for great customer relations, which is so important to us.”

The new solution has also attracted a great deal of positive attention from colleagues in the Swedish utility business and media. “A lot more people are talking about it and asking questions now than 6 months ago – and we’re happy to share our experience, because we know this works,” says Robin Lindberg.

 
 

First leak found after one hour

 
A leak found at Granitvågen is a good example of the improved leak detection. A leak was found here after working with Leak Detector for just one hour, and a visit to the address confirmed what the solution had indicated. “We listened to the valve, and when we closed it off, the sound disappeared. According to the correlator the leak was 4 meters from the wall,” explains Robin Lindberg. The exact size of the leak is unknown but could be substantial as it is in the middle of the city and close to the water reservoir where the water pressure is high.
 

Suspected leak in challenging area

 
Another example is Tremyravägen, where there has been an increasing problem with a leak that is still unresolved. “We believe there is a leak but have not been able to verify it. The customer has not been home and we have been unable to find the valve.” The case is challenging because the property is one of 10-15 houses in an area that is difficult to access with machines, as it is very steep and swampy, but Robin Lindberg remains confident: “The noise levels point us in the right direction. We just have to try again.”
 

On the right track

For Söderhamn Nära, focus right now is on replacing the last of the meters, which is the next step on their way to the goal they expect to reach within 3-4 years. “Our goal is to have hourly measurements from all meters and to add district meters as well so that we can implement more analytics in a few years,” says Robin Lindberg.

When all meters deliver hourly data, the enormous amount of data will provide a much better basis not just for leak detection and customer service but also for maintenance and asset management investments. “The more meters we install, the more we’ll know about trends and seasonal variations and the more effective the system will be. That is when we will see the full value of our data. We’re a small utility so we have to take it step by step, but we’re definitely on the right track.”

 

About the project:

  • Timeline: From August 1st 2019 and ongoing

  • Metering points: 6,000. Approx. 1,600 are Kamstrup smart water meters
    – 800 of which are flowIQ®2200 with integrated acoustic leak detection

  • Solution: READy Fixed Network with hourly values and drive-by. Hosted by Kamstrup

  • Analytics: Leak Detector
 
 

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