Kathryn Farrell in Bricks & Bucks on October 23, 2019
New York City’s iconic rooftop water tanks are as much a part of the city skyline as the Freedom Tower and the Empire State Building. They also serve two vital purposes: to provide water for residents’ use and to act as a protection in case of a fire.
“It’s one tank with two different pipes – one to the people and one to the standpipe for fire protection,” says Scott Hochhauser, owner of Isseks Brothers, one of the handful of companies that install and maintain water tanks. “So that’s considered by the Fire Department of New York to be a fire tank. The FDNY then said you need to be able to monitor the temperature of the tank, because if the water freezes, you won’t have fire protection.” You won’t have water for drinking or taking showers, either.
Generally, resident managers or superintendents climb up and take the temperature of the water during cold spells to ensure that it isn’t frozen or about to freeze. A problematic drop in tank water temperature caused by cooling weather can be exacerbated by a lack of movement within the water pipes. If half of the residents leave on vacation, for instance, less water is moving through the pipes. This sluggishness increases the likelihood of water in the tank freezing. The building staff can prevent this by running water into utility sinks, by partly draining and refilling the tank, or by asking residents to run water. If it’s a chronic problem, Hochhauser recommends introducing a source of heat in the tank.
Technology is here to help: myTankTemp is an automated system (plus an app, of course) that monitors the temperature of water in tanks. A wireless sensor inside the tank sends daily updates to the resident manager or super, who can then monitor fluctuations in the temperature and keep a record of developing patterns. The system also sends an alert when the temperature starts to dip too low. Initial installation runs about $3,000, and a subscription to the app ranges from $290 to $350 a year.
Hochhauser’s experiences with myTankTemp have been positive so far. “It works well because many of these tanks are on the top of the buildings, and they're not easily accessible,” he says. “To actually climb up and take the temperature is dangerous for somebody who doesn't do that all the time.” Now, thanks to technology, your staff doesn’t have to.
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