Temperature data loggers are used in situations where maintaining a specific temperature range is crucial. The data logger makes it possible to monitor temperature, and provides credible time-stamped evidence that the right temperature range was maintained.
To ensure accuracy and get the best out of a temperature data logger, it’s important that you know how to use it properly. In this post, we discuss how to use a temperature data logger with some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.
What Does A Temperature Data Logger Do?
A temperature data logger records temperature autonomously. It is typically used in situations where temperature needs to be monitored continuously.
It’s more convenient to set up a data logger to automatically record temperature every few seconds or minutes rather than manually measuring the temperature with a traditional thermometer.
A temperature data logger is also handy for areas where people cannot access such as a cold storage container, a high temperature environment, a shipping container and so on.
Using a remote data logger is safer.
There are many types of data loggers depending on what parameters they record (temperature, humidity, pressure etc.), how they store or transmit data (USB, LAN, wireless etc.) and the number of probes that can be connected to it (4-channel, 32-channel etc.).
How To Use A Temperature Data Logger
1. Use The Right Temperature Data Logger
The first step is to make sure you are using the right kind of data logger for your particular situation.
For example, not all temperature data loggers can be used in high temperature environments such as inside an oven or kiln.
You’ll need a special high temperature data logger for that. Alternatively, use a temperature data logger that connects to an external temperature probe. That way, you can measure high temperatures without damaging the logger.
If you are measuring temperatures outdoors, you’ll need a data logger that can withstand the elements.
For aquariums, rivers, reservoirs and other watery environments, you need a temperature data logger designed to be submerged in water.
Something else to check is whether the temperature data logger records the kind of data you want.
Some data loggers only measure temperatures, while others can also measure humidity, pressure and other parameters.
Also check what sampling rates you can set. Can the logger record temperature two times a second or once every hour?
And if you also need to track the max and min temperatures recorded, check that the temperature data logger also does that.
2. Check the Battery
Most temperature data loggers run on battery power. Make sure the battery has enough juice left before you position the data logger.
This is especially important if you plan to leave the data logger in place for a long time like weeks or months. The last you want is the battery dying and leaving gaps in your temperature records.
The batteries in data loggers typically last for months. Keep track of when you last changed the battery to make it easier to remember to change it on time.
Some data loggers have a low battery warning or alarm. With others, you have to check the user manual for the specified battery life.
If your data logger uses a rechargeable battery, charge it before you position the device.
3. Check Calibration
Before you set up the data logger, you need to be sure that it is working accurately. Run a test where you measure a known temperature. Alternatively, compare the measurements of the data logger to those of a calibrated thermometer or probe.
If the temperature data logger is off, check if it can be user-calibrated. If not, you’ll have to send it to the manufacturer or a certified lab for calibration.
Tip: For industrial, clinical and other applications where accuracy is critical, it’s important that you get a pre-calibrated temperature data logger. Some even come with a traceable calibration certificate.
Remember to check the accuracy of the data logger regularly to make sure it’s still working correctly. You may also need to have it re-calibrated after a certain period.
4. Adjust Settings
The battery is good, the temperature sensor is accurate — you have a working temperature data logger. Now, you are ready to set it up and leave it to do its thing.
Before you do that, you need to adjust various settings like setting how often you want the device to log temperature (sampling rate), whether you also want it to record min and max temperatures, and where it will transmit data to (for wireless data loggers).
Many data loggers have a display where you can configure various settings. Others like the Elitech RC-5 (shown in the video below) have to be connected to a computer. You can then configure settings via a software program.
5. Optimal Positioning
Where you place the data logger greatly determines its accuracy. The device will record temperature in the immediate vicinity, so make sure the data logger is positioned close to where you want to monitor temperature.
Avoid placing the data logger or external probe in an area where outdoor temperature or airflow can affect its measurements.
6. Transferring Data
With the data logger in place, all you need to do is wait for it to record data. If you have a wireless data logger, it can transmit data wirelessly so you don’t have to retrieve it everytime you want to check the data.
But most temperature data loggers store data onboard in their internal memory, in an SD card or on a USB drive. So you have to retrieve the data logger and connect it to a computer to transfer data.
Check if the data logger works with any analysis software. That makes it a lot easier to analyse the data.
In some cases, you can use popular programs like Excel to analyse and graph the temperature measurements.
What Is The Difference Between A Temperature Data Logger and Thermometer?
You could certainly use a thermometer to measure temperature. A well calibrated thermometer is just as accurate as a temperature data logger.
But a thermometer and temperature data logger are suitable for different kinds of situations.
A data logger records temperature autonomously. You don’t have to be there to record temperature. As I explained before, this is useful when you need to monitor temperature remotely or in a hazardous environment.
In contrast, with a thermometer you have to press a button to record temperature.
Another major difference is that a data logger can record temperature continuously at a set frequency (e.g every second). It can also store and transfer this data.
Most thermometers don’t have these features.
How Accurate Are Temperature Data Loggers?
The accuracy of a temperature data logger depends on its build quality and calibration.
Inexpensive temperature data loggers are less accurate and have a wider margin of error. But they are good enough for applications where extremely high precision is not needed like a home aquarium or a wine storage cellar.
High-end temperature data loggers are built to deliver as much precision as possible. They are suitable for industrial, medical, laboratory and commercial applications.
These expensive data loggers typically come pre-calibrated and require regular calibration to stay accurate.
How well you configure and position a temperature data logger also determines its accuracy. For instance, positioning the data logger near an exterior vent will affect temperature measurements.
How Much Data Can A Temperature Data Logger Collect?
One of the things to look at when choosing a temperature data logger is its capacity. How many readings can it store?
Cheaper data loggers can store up to 8,000 values while high-capacity data loggers can store over 100,000 readings.
Knowing the capacity of a data logger helps you determine what sampling rate to set. A high sampling rate of twice every second will fill up the memory faster than a lower frequency of once every five seconds.
Capacity also determines how often you need to transfer data from the data logger.
Generally, if you plan to leave the data logger in position for months, get one with lots of memory. A high-capacity data logger is also ideal if you are recording multiple parameters or you have a multi-channel data logger that records data from several probes.
How Long Does The Battery Last On A Temperature Data Logger?
Because temperature data loggers don’t use a lot of power, the battery inside can last for months. Most data loggers have a battery life of at least one year.
Keep in mind that there are various factors that determine battery life such as temperature and sampling rate.
Even if the manufacturer says the battery is good for two years, it can be less if the data logger is used in extreme temperatures or if you set it to measure temperature at a high frequency.