Monitoring devices

Being able to see what the temperature of a space does over time can throw up some real surprises. Like the proverbial tree in the forest, who can be sure what happens in the night when no one is around? One part of HeatHack’s programme involves placing a small device in the building that measures temperature and relative humidity every five minutes. In the past we’ve found user controls that let the heating be turned on all night, mystery user groups that were letting themselves in, and a miswired frost stat keeping a space warm 24/7. Yes, these things do happen, and they definitely cost!

It’s possible to buy high quality monitoring devices with USB to retrieve the data for around £70. Some groups find this too expensive. Thanks to the Internet of Things, it’s now cheap and easy to build devices that either store temperature and relative humidity readings to pick up later or post them in real time to a web page. Ours use cheap components designed for the hobby market. Maybe you’ve heard of Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Ours are similar but simpler and cheaper! It’s early days yet, but we hope one set of batteries will power the sensor for a year, keeping running costs low.

Our stand-alone monitor can be left unattended for a week or more. To get the data, someone needs to use a web browser on a phone, tablet, or laptop. For venues with WiFi, a spare mains power socket, and an old phone charger, the same kind of device can be paired with an additional “Hub” so it sends the data straight to the internet. The only difference is a small radio on the monitor to get the data to the Hub.

Groups will use the data to look for any obvious inefficiencies in how they run their heating systems, answering questions like “when should we turn the heating on?”. They can also pass the data to future heating consultants and architects, who find it easier to give good advice when they have this kind of data available. Watch this space for further updates as the project gathers speed.