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Uponor JV Phyn remote monitor helps keep pipes from freezing

Las Vegas — Phyn LLC is taking on winter.

The joint venture company of pipe maker Uponor Oyj and consumer electronics company Belkin International Inc. is offering a new sensor and alert program in its Phyn Plus technology that can alert homeowners if their pipes are about to freeze during extreme cold.

The new alert joins Phyn's original technology that detects leaks and can shut off water.

Uponor put the product's new capability in the spotlight at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas Feb. 19-21.

Phyn Plus monitors both the temperature and pressure in the plumbing system to determine if there could be trouble ahead, Phyn CEO Ryan Kim told Plastics News. When the temperature drops, ice crystals form in the pipes. That constricts water flow, which builds up pressure that can increase to dangerous levels. Phyn Plus detects the change. The device sends the homeowner or property manager an alert with the time, baseline and current pipe pressures, outside temperature and water temperature.

"They get to choose whether to shut off the water or not," Kim said. "If the problem is big enough and the person doesn't respond, the system will automatically shut the water off as a precaution."

Kim said other leak detectors on the market use only temperature sensors that track how cold the water is where the device is located. Property owners don't get much time to take steps to prevent burst pipes.

"Other solutions send you a frozen pipe alert but it's too late. The pipes are frozen, the pressure is building up and its dangerous," Kim said. "With our pressure technology, we can tell you an hour or more before that. You get a pipe-freeze-warning alert that conditions likely to cause a pipe freeze have been detected."

"We're the only company in the world that can do that," Kim added. "We have thousands of hours into research to make sure that can happen."

The Phyn Plus app also walks homeowners through the steps of what to do when pipes freeze, starting with turning on indoor faucets and shower heads to a slow drip to relieve pressure.

Phyn Plus analyzes data from pressure, flow and temperature sensors 240 times a second using Belkin's patented algorithms to determine if water use is normal or if there's a problem. In addition to freeze alerts, other new features, like a B2B web portal and Amazon Alexa voice commands, will be added this spring.

Uponor says the portal, called Phyn Dashboard, will help builders, homeowners associations, property management companies and insurance providers understand water use, reduce losses from leaks and address water conservation and sustainability mandates. Property managers also can minimize leak damage by shutting off water remotely until maintenance staff arrives.

Phyn Plus also now works with smart home digital assistant Amazon Alexa, with Google Home devices set to be integrated in the second quarter of 2019. Homeowners can use their assistant to provide updates on water consumumption and turn water on or off just by asking.

Phyn Plus is sold, installed and serviced by a U.S. network of plumbers called Uponor Pro Squad. The device launches in Europe this spring.

Uponor Oyj Phyn Plus sends an alert to homeowners' phones if it detects conditions that would lead to frozen pipes. More competition

Meanwhile, the competition is heating up. Next to IBS, at the adjoining Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, faucet manufacturer Moen Inc. introduced Flo by Moen, which is a smart home water monitoring and leak detection system it developed with a company called Flo Technologies.

Household leaks waste nearly 1 trillion gallons of water a year in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has declared March 18-24 Fix a Leak Week.

"From the beginning of man, we've either settled near water or had to move water from the source to where we are," Kim said. "Ever since then, leaks have been a problem, and for the first time ever technology is able to identify and resolve it before it becomes a giant problem."

For water conservation reasons, Kim said he welcomes Phyn Plus's competition.

"Water scarcity around the world is a big issue," he added. "The general public isn't aware of it beyond drought conditions in California or Australia. It's going to take a lot more megaphones than Phyn."

Phyn Plus is "Uponor's first truly connected offering," according to the 2018 annual report released Feb. 22 by Vaanta, Finland-based company. The report describes the product as one of its "options for future growth."

Uponor sales were up 2.2 percent to $1.19 billion in 2018. The company operates three business units with two focused on building solutions for Europe and North American and the third on infrastructure.

Uponor North America produces cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipe for plumbing, radiant heating and cooling, fire sprinkler systems and hydronic distribution. The business unit reported 2018 sales of $401.5 million, which is an increase of 7.6 percent compared to $373.2 million in 2017.

Based on sales, Uponor ranks No.11 among North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.

Uponor also is out with two new sizes of copper adapters for hybrid PEX-to-copper connections. The products are the only copper press adapters available in 2 ½-inch and 3-inch sizes. A patented design eliminates the need for a stainless-steel ring.

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» Publication Date: 07/03/2019

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