An Ultrasonic Leak Detector Helps a Fire Marshal With a Dry Sprinkler System

A dry sprinkler system? How will that help in a fire? The fire marshal snickered as he told me that this type of system was designed for cold weather fire protection.  Most sprinkler systems that we see in the ceiling are designed with water in the lines.  But, if you have areas that get below 40 deg. F (4 deg. C), the fire department will have you install a dry sprinkler system.  It uses compressed air to hold a valve shut to not allow the water to be inside the cold pipes. So, if you have an unheated crawl space, uninsulated attics, or an outside storage facility, you won’t have to worry about the water freezing and bursting your pipes or sprinkler heads.

The reason that the fire marshal contacted me was to help find a leak in a dry sprinkler system. A facility in his jurisdiction noticed that the air compressor that was assigned to the dry sprinkling system was cycling more often.  This was an indication of a leak, and just like any compressed air system, leaks occur over time at the connection points.  This facility had their pipes located in a crawl space, and there wasn’t much room for maneuvering.  Typically the normal protocol for a leak would be to go to each joint and spray it with soapy water.  If they saw bubbles, then they would fix that connection.  With the small space and the number of connections, he had to find a better way.

Model 9061

Whenever a leak occurs, it will generate an ultrasonic noise. The model 9061 Ultrasonic Leak Detector can pick up these high frequencies in the range of 20 Khz to 100 Khz, above human hearing.  This device makes the inaudible leaks, audible.  With three sensitivity ranges and LED display, you can find very small leaks, and with the two attachments, it can locate them up to 20 feet (6.1 meters) away.  When he started using it, he was amazed with the performance.  The Ultrasonic Leak Detector cut his time in the field and ensured that all the leaks were found.  In this instance, he was able to use the parabola attachment to locate the area of the leak from a distance.  He then crawled to that area and used the tube attachment to locate the exact location.  He found the leak and had it fixed.  If he did not have the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, he would have to maneuver his way throughout the small crawl space and spray soapy water on each fitting.

If you ever get stuck with a huge task with your compressed air system, like our fire marshal above, you can contact an Application Engineer at EXAIR to see if we can improve your situation.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

Lost In The Din? Not With An Ultrasonic Leak Detector!

Have you ever found yourself in a noisy environment, trying to hear what someone is saying to you? They could speak up, but sometimes that’s not enough. You might find yourself cupping your hand to your ear…this does two things:

*It blocks a lot of the noise from the environment.  This could also be called “filtering” – more on that in a minute.
*It focuses the sound of the speaker’s voice towards your ear.

“What? They’re ALL still RIGHT behind me?”

Now, this isn’t a perfect solution, but you’ll likely have much better luck with this in a busy restaurant than, say, at a rock concert. Especially if it’s The Who…those guys are LOUD (vintage loud). If you’re at one of their concerts, whatever your friend has to say can probably wait.

You know what else can be loud?  Industrial workplaces.  Heavy machinery, compressed air leaks, cranes, forklifts, power tools, cranky supervisors/personnel…there are lots of unpleasant but necessary (mostly) sources of sound and noise, right here, where we work.

In the middle of all this, your supervisor might just task you with finding – and eliminating – compressed air leaks…like the person I talked to on the phone this morning.  This is where our Ultrasonic Leak Detector comes in: in places with high noise levels, it could be difficult (if not downright impossible) to hear air leaks.

Most of that noise from the machinery, cranes, etc., is in the “audible” range, which simply means that it’s of a frequency that our ears can pick up.  In a quiet room, you could likely hear an air leak…all but the very smallest ones will make a certain amount of noise…but when a compressed fluid makes its way out of a tortuous path to atmospheric pressure, gets turbulent, and creates an ultrasonic sound it is a frequency that our ears CAN’T pick up on.

Not only does the Ultrasonic Leak Detector pick up on this ultrasonic sound, it can also block (or “filter”) the audible sound out.  It comes with a parabola and a tubular extension so you can hone right in on the area, and then the exact location, of the leak.

If you’d like to find out more about compressed air leak detection, how much you might be able to save by fixing leaks, or how this could make your supervisor a bit less cranky (no guarantees on that last one,) give us a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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IMG_1339 courtesy of Rich Hanley  Creative Commons License

The Cost of a Leak

Leaks can be costly. If you have a leak in one of your vehicle’s tires, it can cost you more in gas…if you’re lucky. That leak can lead to a blowout, which could cost you your car, or maybe your life. Don’t drive on a leaky tire.

If you have a dripping faucet, it may not bankrupt you – it might be adding a buck or two to your water & sewer bill. It might cost you some sleep, if you can hear it at night…just the thought of it puts an Edgar Allan Poe tale in my head. Most of the time you can fix it with basic hand tools and an o-ring or washer that you can find at any hardware store.

Leaky toilet tanks, on the other hand, can really set you back. A continuous leak into the bowl can set you back $10 a month, or more. Not to sound like a bad prank phone call, but if your toilet’s running, you better catch it, and quick.

Compressed air leaks can be especially costly, because compressing air is an expensive operation. If you have a large leak, you may be able to hear, or even see it. You have to fix those, and you know it. Small leaks are harder to find. Good news is, individually, they’re not costing much. Bad news is, they add up…quickly. Worse news is, they don’t fix themselves. Or find themselves.

If you’re ready for some more good news, here it is: no matter how small a compressed air leak is, it’s producing ultrasonic sound waves. See, during a leak, a fluid moves from high pressure (inside the system) to low pressure (the atmosphere.) As it passes through the leak site, a turbulent flow is generated. This turbulence has strong ultrasonic components, and, usually, the larger the leak, the greater the ultrasound level. “Ultrasonic” simply means that these sound waves are higher in frequency than our ears can hear. However, there are devices that can not only detect these ultrasonic sound waves, but discern them from the industrial din that surrounds them. And we have such a device: the EXAIR Ultrasonic Leak Detector.

I recently had the pleasure of working with a gentleman who was installing a refrigeration system in an ice rink floor. As you can probably imagine, it takes miles of refrigerant tubing to make enough ice to play hockey on. Regardless of the skills and attention to detail of the installers, the sheer number of joints means that there’s a good chance a leak will develop somewhere. This was on the caller’s mind, so he wanted to know if this might be a good application for our Ultrasonic Leak Detector. After I explained the theory behind the device, he agreed to give it a try. All construction leaks were detected when they applied test pressure (air) to the system. After fixing these initial construction leaks, the system was filled with refrigerant, and was started up, leak-free.

Leaks can be costly – do the math.  Or better yet, EXAIR Corporation President Bryan Peters already has.  Whatever’s leaking- steam, pressurized gas, refrigerant, or compressed air – it can be easily located with the Ultrasonic Leak Detector, even in noisy industrial environments.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
(513)671-3322 local
(800)923-9247 toll free
(513)671-3363 fax