Reliable readings, safer systems with TLX Fire & Security

May 7, 2024

Patrick Schwobe, Principal Engineer, Advanced Product Development at TLX Fire & Security, introduces the Liquid Level Sensor, which is setting new benchmarks in fire safety technology

TLX Fire & Security, a key player in the fire safety and suppression industry, has recently expanded its portfolio with the introduction of the Liquid Level Sensor.

This device represents an evolution in their technological offerings, catering to a market that increasingly values precision and reliability in fire suppression systems.

TLX has a well-established reputation for developing sophisticated fire safety solutions that enhance operational safety and efficiency across various environments.

The Liquid Level Sensor is designed to monitor the quantity of fire-suppressive agents within containment tanks.

Unlike traditional methods, which often rely on manual measurements such as dip tapes, TLX’s sensor provides a digital solution that reduces human error and increases measurement accuracy.

By detecting the position of the float and the ambient temperature inside the tank, the sensor is able to calculate the exact weight of the suppressant agent.

This sensitivity allows for prompt intervention, potentially averting emergencies or system failures.

A critical innovation of this sensor lies in its ability to distinguish between actual agent loss and fluctuations caused by temperature changes—a common source of false alarms in legacy systems.

This differentiation is vital in environments where temperature can vary significantly, as it ensures that the system’s responses are both accurate and reliable.

The introduction of the Liquid Level Sensor into TLX’s lineup complements its existing range of fire suppression accessories whilst setting a new standard in the industry.

It offers a technological advancement over the rudimentary dip tape method by providing consistent, objective data.

This shift enhances the integrity of data collected, thereby ensuring better maintenance and fewer operational disruptions for customers.

Moreover, TLX’s sensor facilitates ongoing surveillance and proactive management of fire suppression systems.

It can be configured for continuous monitoring or periodic checks, integrating seamlessly into digital dashboards that provide comprehensive insights into system health.

This capability marks a significant step forward from the reactive, manual checks traditionally used, which could occur as infrequently as every six months.

The reception to TLX’s Liquid Level Sensor has been extremely positive, with many users highlighting the peace of mind it brings in knowing their systems are fully operational and ready for immediate action in case of fire.

This product not only meets current market demands but is also paving the way for future enhancements in fire suppression technology.

To find out more about TLX’s Liquid Level Sensor and the team behind it, FSJA Editor Iain Hoey sat down with Patrick Schwobe, Principal Engineer, Advanced Product Development at TLX Fire & Security, to find out about the solution, his role in its development, and what’s coming up next for TLX.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role at TLX Fire & Security?

My degree is in mechanical engineering, and I’ve been working in the field for about 20 years.

I’ve been with TLX for nearly 10 years, and my past roles included design and project management.

Right now, my role is working on advanced product development for the fire protection market.

My main task is to fulfill TLX Fire & Security’s commitment to bring new and innovative products to our fire protection customers to help make their systems safer and more reliable.

What inspired the development of the Liquid Level Sensor?

TLX is well known in the fire suppression market for the variety of innovative supervised latching actuators that we provide.

Through organic discussions with a particular customer that purchases these actuators, we were asked if we could provide a more advanced method to determine the weight of the clean agent in a tank.

This discussion only happened because we have a reputation with this customer for delivering innovative and quality products.

Could you give us a technical rundown of how the Liquid Level Sensor operates?

The Liquid Level Sensor is designed to be used in clean agent fire suppression systems.

It is constructed of a rigid tube assembly that is designed to be installed into a clean agent tank through a welded port.

On the exterior of the tube assembly is a float that follows the height of the liquid level of the agent in the tank.

Inside the tube assembly is a secondary float that magnetically moves up and down with the exterior float.

A sensor monitors the position of the interior float to determine the height of the agent in the tank.

As part of the sensor package of the Liquid Level Sensor, there is also a thermocouple.

Using the float position, temperature, and dimensions of the tank, an accurate agent weight is automatically calculated by a microcontroller.

How does the sensor tackle common issues such as false alarms due to temperature-induced liquid level variations?

Because the sensor package of the Liquid Level Sensor includes a thermocouple, the device can automatically compensate for thermal expansion and contraction when determining the weight of the clean agent throughout the full temperature range specified for the system.

The built-in thermal compensation avoids costly false alarms that are typically seen when weight determination is performed by maintenance personnel using a dip tape type of level indicator in conjunction with an inaccurate manual temperature reading.

How does the Liquid Level Sensor complement and enhance TLX’s existing portfolio?

TLX’s actuation technologies for fire suppression have an integrated supervisory feature that continuously monitors the installation status of the actuator, giving our customers the confidence of knowing that the actuator is correctly installed and is capable of firing the system.

The Liquid Level Sensor continuously monitors the amount of clean agent in the tank.

This gives our customers an additional level of confidence that the fire suppression system is armed and ready to put out a fire.

Can you explain the sensor’s ability to detect micro leaks and its significance for maintenance and operational efficiency?

Since the Liquid Level Sensor can continuously monitor agent weight, any loss of agent can be identified much earlier than what otherwise might only be found during a biannual inspection.

This early leak detection means that system or tank maintenance can be performed in a more expedited fashion.

This can lower maintenance costs by potentially mitigating the need to decommission an entire tank, which can be costly to the manufacturer or end user.

How does the Liquid Level Sensor meet the increasing demand for continuous monitoring?

The current methods for determining the weight of the clean agent in a tank require maintenance personnel to use manual, highly subjective processes.

The Liquid Level Sensor removes the guesswork, and the weight can be reported on a continuous basis instead of a typical biannual inspection schedule.

In addition to the Liquid Level Sensor being able to continuously report and record the agent weight, it can also provide a feedback signal to a control panel when a minimum threshold level is broken.

The control panel can then send out an alert, even if the fire suppression system is in a remote location, that maintenance needs to be performed on the system.

What has been the market’s response to the sensor?

The market’s response has been very positive.

Customers like that the Liquid Level Sensor can lead to lower maintenance costs and continuously monitor systems, especially those located in remote areas.

This type of technology seems to fit well with where our customers see their systems advancing in the near future.

How do you see technologies like the Liquid Level Sensor evolving?

I believe that over the next several years, the fire protection market will start to heavily adopt devices such as the Liquid Level Sensor because they provide additional interconnectivity as well as increased levels of reliability, safety, and security.

Are there any other TLX Fire & Security products in development you’d like to talk about?

In addition to the Liquid Level Sensor that is used for clean agents, we also have two weighing systems that can be used on CO2 systems to monitor the weight of the tanks.

These systems are able to detect a 100-gram change in weight, which again allows for early detection and notification, ultimately resulting in safer, more reliable systems while reducing maintenance costs.

Another innovative product that TLX recently developed is the Explosion Proof Actuator with Supervision.

It’s a top-mounted linear actuator that doesn’t act as a pressure vessel on the discharge valve.

This helps to reduce the number of potential leak points in the system.

It also acts as its own enclosure, making the actuator easy to install.

This article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of Fire & Safety Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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