SplashValves vs Conventional Water Switches

In the last several decades, a number of key technological innovations have enabled new and exciting features and capabilities in fountains and water features. 

From fast-acting robotic fountain movers to 3D water projection screens, the range of innovative products and solutions available today ensure there are virtually no limits to what fountain designers and programmers can achieve.

One area in which technological innovation continues to extend the capabilities of modern fountain and water feature design is flow control. Iterating on the widely popular water switch, the SplashValve from SplashBotix takes advantage of technology commonly found in high-precision robotic applications to facilitate more exciting, less costly and lower maintenance water features.

The Conventional Water Switch

For more than two decades, water switches have been among the most popular and widely used flow control solutions for producing interactive and dancing effects in manifold-based fountains and water features.

Mounted with a nozzle and typically installed in series on a common manifold, water switches are 3-way valves that take in water from the manifold through an inlet port, and switch the flow of the water, using a pilot valve, between two paths. One path channels water from the inlet port to the nozzle, while the other channels water to a bypass port that sends water back into the fountain basin.

Capable of rapidly switching the water’s flow path between the nozzle port and bypass port, water switches can be programmed to create fast-acting dancing fountain effects and choreographies. Unlike other flow control devices, such as solenoid valves, water switches are also favored for their ability to maintain near-constant pressure in the manifold. Because water switches don’t stop the flow of water, but merely change its direction, they allow water to flow through the system at a near-constant rate, eliminating any potential for hydraulic shock or water hammer.

The SplashValve – A New Water Switch Built for Modern Water Features

Designed and developed by SplashBotix, the SplashValve is an entirely new kind of water switch that allows for both binary flow control (nozzle, bypass) and complete, nozzle-level variable height control. This allows fountain programmers to achieve a much broader range of effects and choreographies than a conventional water switch, using only a fraction of the infrastructure typically required of a distributed VFD pump system. SplashValves also offer an overall improvement in hydraulic loss over conventional water switches, enabling it to function more consistently over a range of pump speeds and ensuring that the performance of one SplashValve doesn’t impact the performance of every other SplashValve mounted on the same manifold.

Rather than a pilot valve, SplashValves use a fast-acting servo motor typically found in high-precision robotic applications to actuate a diverter valve that channels water to the nozzle, to bypass, or to any proportion of the two, enabling a range of nozzle heights between effect and bypass. The SplashValve’s efficiency can be attributed to its specially shaped diverter, which SplashBotix’s engineering team designed with a particular curvature optimized to reduce the impact of its movement on incoming water.

Constructed using 316 stainless steel and absent of any dynamic seals, the SplashValve’s build quality and innovative design allows it to outperform conventional water switches across a number of dimensions. Beyond its clear efficiency and control advantages, the SplashValve also marks a major improvement over conventional water switches with respect to operating performance, reliability, build quality, ease-of-use, ease-of-installation and maintenance.

Comparing the SplashValve to its Predecessor

Switching Capability, Operating Performance and Reliability

The SplashValve’s ability to achieve both binary and proportional flow control gives it a clear leg up over conventional water switches with regard to switching performance. Capable of switching between 255 different flow heights, the SplashValve is unmatched in terms of the creative control it offers water feature programmers and designers.

Furthermore, while the SplashValve and water switch are each capable of switching between full effect and full bypass in roughly 1/10th of a second, the switching systems used by water switches tend to degrade in performance as pump speeds increase.

The narrow channels and orifices that make up the water switch’s switching system make it difficult for the device to perform effectively at high pump speeds and place greater resistance on the manifold when compared with SplashValves. While water switches’ narrow pathways don’t generally result in especially dangerous or damaging water hammer, they do require greater manifold pressure per meter of nozzle flow height.

SplashValves, meanwhile, are essentially a four-inch by one-inch diameter NPT pipe when their diverter valve is set to full effect and flush with the bore. Due to their considerably wider flow path, SplashValve’s place far less resistance on the manifold than conventional water switches, making them much more efficient.

Finally, the water switch’s pilot valve used to engage and disengage atmospheric pressure via a narrow snorkel held in place above the water line often collects atmospheric dust and clogs over time, further hampering the device’s performance. SplashValves, on the other hand, which don’t use pilot valves to change the flow of water, are completely uninhibited by contaminants in the air.

YouTube player

Build Quality

The size and material composition of conventional water switches vary based on the manufacturer and the application for which the water switch is being used. Most often, however, water switches are composed largely of cheap, injection molded plastics held together by small metal bolts and screws. Designed with relatively narrow flow paths, most water switches also rely on steel filters and strainers to keep from clogging.

Constructed using 316 stainless steel and a proprietary mix of wear- and chemical-resistant plastics that form the diverter, the SplashValve is designed to operate in a range of different environments. At a full inch in diameter, its orifices are much wider than those of a conventional water switch, typically allowing any potentially obstructive material that might be in the basin to pass right through.

Ruggedly constructed and devoid of any filters or strainers to clean, the SplashValve requires far less frequent maintenance than conventional water switches, facilitating lower overall fountain operating and ownership costs.

Startup and Installation

Among fountains and water features that use water switches, installers typically need to use throttling valves installed beneath each nozzle to ensure each one is casting water at the same spray height. Matching each nozzle’s spray height, however, can be difficult work that sometimes requires installers spend hours inside the basin meticulously adjusting each throttling valve as water is running through the fountain.

Using the SplashValve, however, installers no longer have to spend time physically adjusting each nozzle’s throttling valve. Given its proportional flow control capabilities, the SplashValve allows installers to set the maximum flow height of each nozzle remotely using the device’s remote device management (RDM) settings. As a result, fountain installers spend less time starting up and commissioning fountains, saving owners money and allowing them to bring their water feature to the public more quickly.

Maintenance

In addition to delivering enhancements in build quality and performance, the SplashValve’s design is also intended to make fountain maintenance a simpler and less frequent task.

As noted previously, conventional water switches feature a number of paths and channels with narrow orifices that are easy to clog, either by contaminants in the water or in the air. Especially among large fountains using many water switches, this can make maintenance a constant challenge for owners, limiting the fountain’s uptime and incurring significant operating costs.

The SplashValve, by contrast, contains no narrow orifices and isn’t subject to issues associated with contaminants in the air. Under certain circumstances and in applications with particularly poor water quality, however, the SplashValve’s orifice may, from time to time, collect material like cigarette butts and grass clippings. While this kind of material may not lead to significant performance issues, too much buildup may start to put greater resistance on the manifold, requiring the pump to work at higher speeds.

Specially designed for easy maintenance, the SplashValve’s diverting mechanism is conveniently built into a cylindrical spool, magnetically coupled to the SplashValve’s servo motor, which can be easily removed from the SplashValve such that maintenance teams can access the device’s open bore. Once the SplashValve has been thoroughly cleaned out, maintenance teams can simply drop the spool back into place, reactivating the magnetic coupling.

YouTube player

Conclusion

In the ever-evolving landscape of aquatic technology, the SplashValve marks a breakthrough new development, facilitating a new generation of more exciting and efficient fountains and water features. Compared to the water switch, the SplashValve by SplashBotix represents more than just an upgrade in hardware; it signifies a leap forward in the artistic and technical possibilities of fountain choreography. Incorporating high-precision robotics technology, the SplashValve takes advantage of new technologies that allow it to not just outperform its predecessor, but to redefine what’s possible in the world of water features. With its robust build quality, low maintenance design and unparalleled flow control capabilities, the SplashValve offers designers and programmers an exciting new tool that makes it easier for them to bring their most ambitious and creative visions to life. The SplashValve is not just changing the game – it’s setting a new standard for innovation and excellence in fountain technology.