Environmental Measurement Overview

Environmental measurement is vital in some industries. Whether it is monitoring the humidity and temperature in a server room, ensuring that heavy machinery is not outputting too much heat into the environment in an enclosed industrial space or serving another purpose, measuring the variables related to the environment is necessary for quality control reasons, safety reasons, preserving equipment and more.

In some cases, environmental measurements include taking measurements related to the outdoor conditions as much as indoor conditions. This employs a variety of different types of measurement equipment and the data that they provide can offer insight into environmental conditions that may be essential for some industrial, agricultural and other processes.

In order to measure environmental conditions, a variety of different types of devices are employed.

 

Barometers

Barometers are devices used to measure atmospheric pressure. Some of these devices utilize a liquid to take the measurement and others utilize components ranging from springs to very small electromechanical components.

The most common use of barometers is to predict whether precipitation is likely, with lower atmospheric pressure readings generally indicating that rain is on the way. These devices, however, can be used to measure atmospheric pressure inside and outside a building, just as an example, to get an idea of whether there is negative or positive air pressure in the building and how much.

Atmospheric pressure may be important information for some manufacturing processes. Barometers are oftentimes integrated into weather stations, as atmospheric pressure is one of the most fundamental measurements taken by meteorologists.

 

Thermometers

Thermometers provide a way to measure the amount of heat energy in the atmosphere. These devices come in many different designs, including digital designs, which are very compact and accurate. Some of them are equipped with components that have radio devices, allowing the thermometer to be positioned outside and the reading to be taken inside or in another location.

Thermometers are very accurate and very reliable devices. The primary concern in purchasing them is the maximum and minimum temperature that they can reliably take.

 

Rain Gauge

A rain gauge is a device that takes a sample of rainfall that can be expanded upon to gauge the overall level of rainfall over a given period. In most cases, the measurement is taken in millimetres. This can be mathematically extrapolated to give the leaders per square meter of rainfall that fell.

In very advanced weather stations, rainfall meters will typically take automatic readings, reporting back to the weather station their results.

There are some limitations on what a rain gauge can really do. For example, if there are strong winds at the time that rainfall is occurring, most of the rain may be blown out of the rain meter, resulting in and inaccurate measure of how much rain actually hit the ground. However, for the most part, these are reliable enough devices to make accurate measurements of rainfall quantities.

 

Thermohygrometers

Thermohygrometers are combination devices that measure both the temperature and the humidity level in an environment. These can be extremely convenient, as both of these measurements are integral to most environmental measurement taking.

The remote sensor will usually incorporate both of these functions. The remote sensor is positioned where the measurements need to be taken and using radio transmissions, the base station can receive whatever data is taken in by the device.

 

Weather Stations

Weather stations are combinations of measurement equipment and displays that allow the user to get very sophisticated and detailed measurements about the environment. They typically include very basic information to begin with, such as the date and time. While this may seem like an ancillary feature, this is often integrated into the device so that peak measurements can be catalogued. For example, the device will likely be able to store several high and low temperatures, high and low humidity readings and more.

These are typically battery-powered devices that take very common types of power supplies, such as AA or AAA batteries. Most of them have an enormous range where minimum and maximum temperature readings are concerned. This may vary, however, depending on whether those temperatures are being taken indoors or outdoors. For example, one model may have a maximum of 50°C for its indoor temperature measurement and a maximum of 60°C for its outdoor temperature measurement.

The humidity measurement may also have a maximum, which needs to be taken into account depending upon the environment in which the weather station is going to be employed.

Weather stations will typically come with a base station and a remote sensor. The remote sensor – or more than one sensor, in some cases – will be stationed wherever the outdoor measurement needs to be taken or, if the device is being used completely indoors, in whichever room where the temperature and other conditions need to be monitored.

The base station will typically display data that includes the readings at the remote sensor and the readings at the base station itself. In the simplest applications, this would include a temperature measurement for the outdoor and indoor conditions. More sophisticated models, however, may not only incorporate temperature data, but humidity, whether or not it is raining, moon phase, sky conditions based on barometer readings and more.

Many of these devices are designed so that they can use more than one sensor and, in some cases, so that sensor can use a source of power other than batteries, eliminating the need to change them out as frequently. For example, some sensors are solar powered, allowing for long term usage without concerns about changing out batteries.

Weather stations may also be provided with further enhancements. For example, to get accurate data, some of them may be synced with an atomic clock signal, ensuring that the time of day and date are always very precise and ensuring that accurate data can be recorded over a given amount of time.

 

What Are they Used For?

Weather stations, largely because of digital technology, are very inexpensive today. Even sophisticated sensors can be purchased for low prices, making them as popular with hobbyists as they are in industrial uses.

In industrial applications, weather stations are typically used to measure indoor and outdoor environmental conditions that may be vital information for manufacturing processes, transportation, working conditions and more.

For example, in applications where a substance is being dried, such as in the lumber industry, a hygrometer might be used to measure the overall humidity levels in a room, giving some indication of whether or not materials are being stored in suitable conditions. Temperature and other variables might be measure toward the same end.

In industrial applications, these devices can also be used to simply ascertain the level of comfort on a factory floor. Large, powerful machinery tends to put out a great deal of heat and, should that heat reach excessive levels, it could pose a threat to workers and other people in the area. Keeping accurate measurements ensures that those responsible for maintaining safe conditions can be made aware of situations where it has become too hot or too cold for people or the equipment that they are working on.

In some applications, it may be the outdoor conditions that are vital information. This is particularly the case in large-scale agriculture, where knowing temperature, humidity levels, the likelihood of rain and so forth might be imperative to some tasks. Likewise, this information may be vital in industry, dictating whether or not certain materials can be stored outside, safely moved and so forth.

These devices also have obvious applications in maritime activities and other activities where knowing current and likely weather conditions may not only be a question of maintaining comfort, but may actually be a question of life and death in some scenarios.

 

In High Tech Applications

Knowing the environmental conditions is particularly vital in high-tech applications. Many high-tech devices have very limited tolerances where temperature, humidity and other conditions are concerned.

Frequently, remote sensors are positioned in server rooms, data centres and other locations where there is a great deal of electronic equipment operating. That equipment will invariably release heat energy into the atmosphere. That heat energy, as it builds up, reduces the cooling capacity of each of the electrical devices in the room, potentially resulting in serious damage to expensive equipment. To avoid this scenario, keeping constant data flowing about environmental conditions is necessary.

Fortunately, the same measurements that are used in outdoor applications are generally useful in these indoor applications. Humidity levels need to be monitored in server rooms to ensure that there is neither too much nor too little humidity in the atmosphere. Temperature, as was pointed out, needs to be measured for equipment safety. Because these devices are so inexpensive, they provide one of the most practical ways to ensure the safety of electrical equipment and the consistent delivery of IT services.

While these devices may be simple and inexpensive, they also provide some of the best information for troubleshooting some of the most expensive equipment in these facilities. A problem with the HVAC system, for instance, may not be apparent to anyone in the room, but sudden rises or drops in humidity or dangerous high or low temperatures being recorded over a period of time would give an indication that those expensive systems need to be looked at.

 

Using Environmental Measurement Tools

Positioning is vital where environmental measurement tools are concerned. If sensors are placed inappropriately, the measurements they take will likely not be accurate or, even if they are accurate, they will not be particularly useful.

Temperature provides an easy example of this. In order to measure outside temperature, a temperature gauge needs to be positioned outside the shadow of any neighbouring structures and in an area where heat radiating from those structures will not influence the reading taken by the thermometer. For instance, positioning a thermometer right next to an exterior wall will likely give an inaccurate measurement, as heat radiating from the building will cause the measurement to rise.

Where moisture meters and rain gauges are concerned, they need to be positioned in an area where they will receive the full amount of rainfall hitting the earth. Any overhangs or other obstructions – including natural ones, such as trees – will result in inaccurate measurements.

In server rooms and other applications where indoor temperatures are being taken with remote sensors, positioning is dependent upon the precise scenario. For example, monitoring a server room may require that several sensors are placed, allowing the operator to be aware of any hotspots that might be forming in the room. This could happen because of improperly positioned equipment, airflow problems or other issues.

In applications where the temperature may vary considerably from room to room, independent sensors may need to be set up to ensure that measurements are taken at every relevant point. For example, the temperature on a factory floor might be much higher than the temperature in the offices, simply due to the amount of equipment that’s running. In such situations, it would be vital for people responsible for monitoring the temperature to have accurate measures of both.

 

Affordable and Accurate

Because digital technology has driven down the price of environmental measurement equipment, these are among the least expensive pieces of equipment used in industry. Very sophisticated models can be purchased for surprisingly low prices, allowing the temperature, humidity, air pressure and other variables to be measured accurately and easily all throughout an industrial facility.

Combined with solar powered options, long-lasting batteries and designs that are surprisingly durable, this all creates a situation where taking environmental measurement is among the most cost effective necessities related to industry. Taking those measurements correctly and accurately can result in better preservation of expensive equipment, increased employee comfort and safety and better quality control of products, as they are not exposed to potentially damaging environmental conditions. Of all sophisticated electronic components used in industry, environmental measurement tools are among those that give a huge amount of value for the amount of money spent.