October 30, 2019

Smart Oil Detection Makes for a More Intelligent Elevator Pit Pump System

IntelliOil Detecting Control System

The importance of a sump pump can’t be overstated. Anyone who has experienced a pump failure or a water issue will agree with that statement without hesitation. Water needs to be ejected dependably and without a second thought as to whether the pump is on and functioning as planned. However, it’s not quite that simple. At Metropolitan, our number one priority is to ensure proper operation of our pumps rain or shine, but we’re also concerned with what is actually being pumped. More specifically, if you need to be pumping water, the last thing anyone wants is for oil from an elevator or other hydraulic system to work its way into the sewer system.

Those who oversee maintenance in areas such as elevator sump pits, electrical utilities (including substations and underground vaults), manufacturing facilities across industries, and anywhere else hydrocarbons are present know it’s necessary to prevent these materials from being pumped into the normal discharge area. These same people also know how challenging and time-consuming it can be to monitor this situation. Because overcoming this challenge hasn’t always been as straightforward as it should be, we decided to change that with a more intelligent system: Metropolitan’s IntelliOil Intelligent Oil-Sensing Control System.

The Case Against Oil

There are two primary reasons for wanting to keep oil from pumping out with the water discharge. The first is environmental. In addition to hydrocarbons being harmful to the environment in myriad ways, companies found to be pumping out these substances may be in violation of environmental regulations or restrictions.

The second concern is, of course, the equipment itself. Water pumps are designed and built to last for decades pumping one thing: Water. Pumping oil through the system can degrade system components and lead to increased repair costs or even a shorter overall lifespan for the equipment.

Oil sensing is of particularly high value to high-rise buildings and other facilities with elevators. It’s essential to keep water out of the elevator pit to maintain proper operation and, due to the hydraulic and mechanical systems required to keep elevators running, hydrocarbons can more readily work their way into the pit. A system like the IntelliOil can keep an “eye” on the situation and provides an alert when there’s an issue without members of the maintenance team having to check the area. It also prevents the pump from running when oil is sensed with the conductivity probe.

A Combined Approach

The IntelliOil was designed to operate like a typical three float pumping system with OFF, ON, and HIGH-level float switches. These switches keep the system running as needed and alert the user when levels in the pit become too high. However, the IntelliOil system takes things one step further by making the OFF float switch serve a dual purpose. In this system, the switch itself is paired with a conductivity sensing probe to sense the presence of hydrocarbon materials. This combination makes installation easier compared to using a separate probe and float.

Rendering of Smart Oil Detecting and Control System Installation

Rendering of a typical IntelliOil installation.

Water Only Operation

In this normal operating condition, the OFF float closes as the water level rises and, as it continues to rise, the ON float closes and turns on the pump. As the water is pumped out and the level in the pit decreases, both the ON and OFF floats open once again, causing the pump to turn off. This is all fairly standard, but the IntelliOil really shines when hydrocarbons make their way into the water.

Oil Detection

If oil enters the pit and overtakes the water, the conductivity sensing probe kicks into action. In this operating condition, the system may be operating as it does under normal condition, but if the oil sensing probes lose contact with the water (meaning the probes are submerged in oil) and the OFF float is still closed, the system turns the pump off. When this condition occurs, the audible alarm sounds, and the “oil in pit” light turns on. A dry contact is included as well and can be tied into a Building Automation System (BAS). To ease problem detection and resolution, this is different than the high level alarm. When the HIGH level float switch closes, caused by extreme flow conditions or pump failure, the same audible alarm will sound, but the “high level” alarm light will turn on. In both situations, the “silence” button will only silence the alarm, but the light will remain on until the issue is resolved.

Most maintenance crews don’t need another item added to their to-do lists, so instead IntelliOil helps cross something off that list and delivers something extra: peace of mind. Technically, peace of mind isn’t a product Metropolitan offers, but it comes with every product we produce, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is Your Elevator Pit In Need of an Oil Detecting Upgrade?

We’d love to learn about your application specifications and how the IntelliOil Intelligent Oil-Sensing Control System can be integrated into your elevator pit or vault system.

Getting in touch with our pump control system experts is only a couple of clicks or a phone call away.

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