Mechanical pump switch’s days are numbered thanks to a new product called the Ion® Digital Level Control launched by Romeoville, Ill.,-based Metropolitan Industries that replaces mechanical switch operation with intelligent microprocessor technology.
Under development for several years, the patent-pending Ion® Digital Level Controller eliminates moving parts, which are the detriment of most mechanical switches and replaces it with solid-state sensing technology resulting in over 1.5 million cycles which is approximately triple the life of a mechanical switch.
“The problem was never the pump because they are generally built to last. The problem has always been the switch responsible for the critical task of turning the pump on and off,” says John Kochan, Jr., Metropolitan Industries President who developed the idea for the new product by utilizing solid state components and applying them to switch technology.
While mechanical switches are useful and function properly over a period of time, they are always subject to failure. “Mechanical switches use moving parts and wear and tear in a sump pit environment will always break those components down over time,” says Kochan, Jr.
Switch failures translate into non-running pumps, which can result in flooded commercial, industrial and residential locations.
With the demand for reliable switches evident with recent recalls put forth by some of the largest pump manufacturers during the last decade, Metropolitan began work over a period of three years to develop a product that can outperform mechanical switches in longevity and dependability.
How it works
The Ion® Digital Level Controller is a technologically advanced device that senses water level/pressure through the use of a proprietary sensor and microprocessor driven digital control. The microprocessor within the digital float sensor samples analog data from proprietary sensor, which electro-mechanically converts the water pressure to an electrical resistance. Because water pressure is directly proportional to the water height, the electrical resistance of the proprietary sensor is also proportional to the water height. The resistance of the proprietary sensor is measured by means of a resistive bridge network before passing into the microprocessors analog to digital converter.
Traditionally, sump and sewage pumps often have been started by means of a mechanical switch. The mechanical switch design often uses a set of electrical contacts which close under a given water height scenario, thereby activating the sump pump. Due to the alternating nature of the electrical voltage source from the utility, large voltage differentials could possibly be present across the mechanical switch contacts prior to turning on a pump. When a pump is suddenly turned on under these conditions, large transient current surges could be expected as the motor begins to rotate. These transient surges often cause heating of the electrical contacts which, over time, effectively reduce the lifetime of the switch. This condition is further amplified when a mechanical switch attempts to open and turn off the pump.
When a mechanical switch suddenly opens an inductive motor load, the time rate of change of the current flow can be very large. This value, multiplied by the motors internal inductance, induces a large voltage transient across the mechanical switch contacts. This transient often causes arcing of the contacts which, over time, can cause the switch to wear and ultimately fail. It is well known in the sump pump industry that the cause of most pumping failures occurs when the pumps switch fails.
The embodiments of the ION Switch effectively eliminate the problem of switching transients and contact arcing by incorporating both a solid state switching device in parallel with an electrical relay. When a pump is called for, the turn on cycle begins by enabling the solid state device, or triac. The nature of the triac in our design is to switch on a load under low voltage conditions. By starting the pump motor from a low voltage potential, both radiated and conducted electrical noise have been dramatically reduced.
The Ion Digital Level Control is universal and can be used in almost any pumping application dependent of level control as well as effluent sump and sewage. To customize operation, the Ion® Digital Level Control has standard differential heights of 6 inches for standard sump applications and 10 inches for sewage applications and is inverter rated for use with most battery back up systems. The Ion® can be programmed for custom applications as well.
“We feel the Ion® Digital Level Controller will transform the plumbing industry much the way battery back up systems did in the 1980s because we figured the way to eliminate the moving parts associated with most switch failures,” says Kochan, Jr.
“As wholesalers and plumbers realize there is a product available that can eliminate the problems associated with mechanical switches, it will only be a matter of time until mechanical switches are replaced entirely,” he added.
For further information about the Ion® Digital Level Controller visit www.IonNation.us.