The Best Wireless Compost Temperature Probes!
A wireless temperature probe for compost piles is an attractive ideal. Simply insert the probe into the pile and walk away. Data for regulatory compliance is collected automatically and there are no electrical cables to worry about. What could be simpler? Unfortunately, the devil is in the details. Cabled temperature probes are generally lower cost and higher reliability.
But, when electrical cables are impractical, wireless temperature probes are the best choice.
There are, however, four important considerations to using them.
The first consideration is battery life. The expected life and guaranteed life between battery changes should be both provided by the manufacturer, as well as information about the type of battery and ease of replacement. In the case of the ECS RF TeleProbe™, we have taken the approach of maximizing battery life by using a large D-cell primary Lithium battery.
This allows ECS to guarantee a 30-month battery life and have an expected average lifetime of 5.0 – 8.0 years.
As you can see there is a large difference between guaranteed and expected life. This is due to the fact that ECS has, through repeated design/test/re-design cycles, reduced power consumption in our device so low (roughly 0.3 Amp/hours per year at a 3 minute transmit frequency) that it is on par with the internal self-discharge rate of the high quality batteries we use. This self-discharge rate varies from battery to battery and is also dependent on exposure to elevated temperatures. But batteries aside, no other manufacturer has been designing/improving wireless composting temperature probes as long as ECS (20 years), and no other wireless probe comes with comparable guaranteed or expected battery life for the RF TeleProbe™.
The next consideration is reliability. Probes that require regular maintenance and replacement and probes that cannot transmit effectively will quickly become more of a nuisance than an asset.
At ECS, we have learned from hard experience that you cannot make any device ‘too rugged’ for the composting industry.
For over 20 years, our product development has focused on making components tougher and more reliable.
The RF TeleProbe™ handle is built to stand up to years of repeated insertion loads, the probe shaft are constructed using thick walled Type 316 Stainless steel. A heavy duty fiberglass reinforced polyester enclosure protects the electronics, and all electronic components are double or triple sealed against moisture.
Our integrated RF TeleProbe™ monitoring systems employ multiple antennas and network arbitration to ensure full coverage at a site and prevent probe ‘shadowing’ due to pile material or other obstructions, and data loss due to collisions.
The next consideration is adaptability. Requirements vary from facility to the next, and can include: transmit cycle frequency (fast feed-back to aeration control systems and slow for simple monitoring); 1, 2, or 3 temperature sensors at discrete positions in the probe shaft; redundant sensors; custom length probe shafts; automatic sensing of in-pile and off-line to indicate status to the data-logging and control software; WiFi enabled local access to real-time temperatures, and full or partial integration into 3rd party control and monitoring systems. The ECS RF TeleProbe™ offers all of this.
The last consideration is how to correctly assign probes to locations. This is an important and often overlooked issue, especially at large installations (ECS’s largest installation has 200 RF TeleProbes™).
As probes are moved around and occasionally changed out for maintenance, it is critical to maintain an association between the unique identifier a probe is transmitting and its current, actual location or pile number at the site. A component of this is proper operator training, but a system that makes it easy to manage these assignments is also an important factor.
ECS has integrated RF TeleProbe™ management into our standard site control software (ECS Comptroller™), making it visually intuitive to track and modify probe assignments when necessary.
At this moment some 500 third and fourth generation ECS RF TeleProbes™ are hard at work providing 24/7 temperature data at eight large scale composting facilities around the globe.
And unlike some less evolved products, operators do simply insert the probe into the pile and walk away – in confidence.