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Temperature Monitoring System: How it Works & How to Choose

Andrew Erickson
Andrew Erickson
Applications Engineer

Remote temperature monitoring is most commonly used in telecommunication or IT environments where computer equipment must work with high reliability and high visibility for many years. This kind of monitoring protects your network against thermal shutdown, not to mention irreparable and expensive damage to your network. Ultimately, it avoids lost revenue that results when systems fail.

While "too hot" is the most common issue when dealing with computer systems, "too cold" is also a very real problem in some climates.

The right temperature monitoring system should allow you to keep track of critical temperatures at all of your sites, server rooms, and data centers that contain important gear. Instead of turning to installing new climate control systems, you'll be able to use intelligence to solve temperature-related problems.

What Do I Need for My Temperature Monitoring System?

When you think about remote monitoring, words like "protocol" and "alarm output" might worry you; however, unlike direct monitoring of equipment alarms, site temperature is one of the easiest things to keep an eye on from a distance.

For this kind of monitoring, all you need is one or more temperature sensors and an RTU to send the information back to you. If you have a medium or large network, you can use an alarm master station to send alerts to your phone, email, or other devices.

The HVAC (air conditioning) failure occurred without knowledge of the network operators, and no temperature sensor was in place to detect and report the high temperature. With the money lost due to equipment damage this company could have purchased numerous temperature sensors.

Temperature Sensors are Inexpensive and Easy to Use

Electronic equipment naturally creates large amounts of heat. If this heat is not monitored adequately with temperature sensors, thermal shutdowns will happen sooner or later.

Deploying temperature sensors at your sites will help you dodge service downtime and damage to your gear. These sensors are relatively cheap, simple, and quite compact.

The Costs of Not Monitoring Temperature

Imagine the situation: your HVAC system stopped working and you didn't have any temperature sensors at your remote sites. You had absolutely no idea that the temperature was rising until it was too little too late. Both your customers and bosses won’t be happy with equipment damage and/or emergency shutdowns, right?

I can't say enough how vital it is to monitor the temperature at your remote sites, if you want to avoid having your electronic equipment cooked by excessive heat - or frozen by excessive cold. Temperature sensors should cut your costs and protect your revenue by alerting you at the first sign of trouble at your site.

What Kind of Temperature Sensor Should I use?

That's a very valid question when you start planning your monitoring system. In general, there are two types of sensors to choose from:

With analog sensors you have a real-time value and graphical display of important analog data.

Analog sensors are the best option when setting up remote monitoring systems because they provide more visibility. However, if you don't need all the features of the analog sensor, a digital sensor is more useful than not having any type of visibility.

How Do I Provide Power to My Temperature Sensor?

One of the often overlooked - until the install goes wrong - point when designing a temperature monitoring system is knowing how you'll power your sensors. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that running an expensive external power transformer (also an additional point of failure) is the only way to power your sensor.

To avoid the headache of having a separate power transformer and a power supply for such a small sensor, make sure that you provide direct power to your temperature sensor.

The 2 principal ways that you can do this process are:

If I Decide to Use an Alarm Remote, What Should I Look for?

Remote temperature monitoring systems can really vary in quality depending on the choices you make while researching and purchasing equipment.

Getting the best RTU for your unique scenario should be one of your top priorities, in order to have the best visibility of your sites possible.

Here's some considerations to keep in mind:

This is a short list of some basic functions to help you start planning your temperature monitoring system. If you want a monitoring system that meets and exceeds all your requirements, make sure to discuss customization options with your vendor.

Do I Really Need a Master Station?

If you have a number of sites and are monitoring temperature - along with other things - at multiple locations, you"ll need a master station to pool and manage monitoring all your sensors and alarms.

Getting notifications from an RTU is super helpful. However, during a real emergency, you don't want to waste time trying to remember which of your sites the alert came from, the site's location, set point for your air conditioning, and other factors that will make you understand the alarm situation better.

Avoid leaving room for error. Your master station, polling your sites and sending alerts, can give you access to more specific information about your sites and offer a single point of contact, making things easier for you and your team.

An excellent example of an efficient master is the T/Mon. It can send escalating temperature alerts, and it allows you to configure multiple notification methods for a site and have them sent in a specific order. If the first notified person doesn't respond to the alert and acknowledge the alarm within a period of time you define, the alert goes out to the next technician. This way, if you do get a temperature alert at your site, you can create a chain of command and make sure that someone finds out about it.

Also, like RTUs, look for master stations that have an accessible web interface that allow you to view your temperature readings and set controls to operate equipment around your sites. Using the example of the T/Mon once again, it offers a graphical user interface called T/GFX. T/GFX is a map-based system that shows you where alarms occur by geographical location. This interface allows you to get a closer look at your sites, all the way down to the floor-plan and equipment views. This is an extremely helpful feature which lets you and your techs pinpoint the problem when you receive an alert.

With the T/Mon you're able to see your maps in a dynamic web interface. It allows you to view alarms visually on layered geographic maps. This multiple-layer support enables your staff to drill down from regions, to cities, to sites, to photographs of individual equipment racks.

Independent of which master station you choose, keep in mind that the idea is not simply to receive an alert when the temperature at your site reaches a critical level, but to be able to identify the issue and fix it, so you can save your vital - and expensive - gear from damage and keep your network up and running.

Combining temperature sensors with competent RTUs and master stations that provide progressive notifications and simple interfaces can help you watch over your sites better, decrease the cost of maintenance, and increase network lifetime.

Don't Forget to Also Provide a Secondary Power Supply for HVAC Systems

Along with providing power to your temperature sensors, having a secondary power supply to your HVAC system is also often overlooked.

Having a secondary power supply is important, because during power outages your equipment will be able to continue running. If your air conditioning is connected only to commercial power, it will be offline.

Picture this: you've got a perfect-fit solution in terms of temperature sensors and you're ready to go. However, in case of an alert you're not able to intervene quickly enough, simply because there's no techs near the determined site. If you don't have a backup power supply to your HVAC system, the temperature will keep rising - while your gear is still running on backup power - until a thermal shutdown happens.

When you have a secondary power supply to your HVAC system, it can control situations before a forced thermal shutdown happens. Your site won't go dark and your customers will still be happy.

Where Do I find a High-Quality Temperature Monitoring Solution?

Monitoring your equipment is a serious task - monitoring the temperature that affects your vital gear at your remote sites is no less than a serious task either.

Now that you know how critical it is to not leave your network vulnerable, it is time to start looking for a high-quality temperature monitoring solution.

You already took the first step - and one of the most important - in making the right choice. You're gathering information on what temperature monitoring is, and the basic aspects to achieve a perfect solution.

After you've armed yourself with all this information, you can start your search for the best vendor for you. Knowing the principal aspects of what you're trying to buy is really important, because then you won't have to just accept your seller's words for everything.

If you're interested in a personalized solution for your unique scenario, you can contact me. I can answer any questions that you might have, as well as help you design the perfect-fit monitoring system for your network.

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"Buying more than you need" and "buying less than you need" are real risks. You also have to think about training, tech support, and upgrade availability.

Send me a quick online message about what you're trying to accomplish. I'll work with you to build custom PDF application diagram that a perfect fit for your network.

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