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HVAC Monitoring System Best Practices

By Andrew Erickson

December 3, 2019


HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems are responsible for keeping your sites at an appropriate temperature so your vital gear doesn't overheat - or get too cold. Systems can vary in size and quantity depending on the size of the site and the amount of equipment being affected.

With such an important task, it's critical to monitor your remote HVAC units. This can be challenging at remote sites, which is why finding the right remote site monitoring equipment for your network operations is a must.

Why is it Important to Monitor Your HVAC System?

When you overlook the importance of HVAC monitoring and management, it's only a matter of time until a problem occurs.

Two different situations can happen when you don't monitor your HVAC at your remote sites:

  1. You don't notice that a site is overheating

  2. You short-cycle HVAC or generators until they die

What Can You Do to Prevent Equipment Damage?

If you perform effective remote furnace monitoring at your sites, you'll most likely see a threat before it causes actual damage.

Monitoring your HVAC system is not rocket science. You can do it with an RTU box and simple sensors, such as temperature and airflow

When you connect these simple sensors with history logging in an RTU, you can count HVAC cycles and look for opportunities to reduce them.

HVAC monitoring system
The temp sensors monitor the temperature of the air going in and out, while the airflow sensor monitors the rate at which the air is coming out.

An Issue to Keep in Mind: High Monthly Fees Due to HVAC Power Waste

Something to keep in mind when setting up your HVAC system is power waste. This can come in a few different forms:

  • You start cooling at a lower temperature than necessary

    Even your most sensitive gear will be able to function without issue at a higher temperature. These higher temperatures would make a person uncomfortable, but why let human comfort drive your default temperature settings at unmanned sites?

    The simplest possible data analysis on decent HVAC logs - and a review of your equipment specs - will show you opportunities to expand your temperature settings.

  • You have a wider cooling window than necessary to prevent short cycling

    To use your HVAC in the best possible way, you have to balance two opposite factors.

    First, you want to have longer cycles so you don't cycle on and off too much.

    On the other hand, you should want shorter cycles so you won't be excessively fighting to maintain really low temperatures. This is a crucial point because the further you push temperatures down, the faster they'll go up in a warm climate.

    These two factors are why you need to strike a balance between long HVAC cycles and short ones.

  • Clogged filters and other failures are limiting your HVAC throughput

    If your HVAC units have clogged filters or otherwise aren't cooling effectively, they're not doing their job. This means that now you're running them longer to get the same job done, which is a huge waste.

    Monitoring the airflow at your AC vents is an accurate and cost-effective method of getting real-time data about the condition of your air filters.

If you work in a very cold climate, keep in mind that all of this information also applies in terms of heating efficiency. The logic remains the same, you're simply reversing all of the thermodynamic math.

How Can You Solve Your Profit-Eating Problems?

Now that we've reviewed the most common causes of lost profits caused by a lack of network monitoring, it's time to learn how you can deal with them. Let's break down some of the solutions:

  1. Collect data from all reasonable sources
    You need a good scope of alarm and sensor data to have a clear image of your remote sites.
  2. Distribute alarm detail promptly
    After getting the data, you need to deliver useful real-time information quickly to the service technicians who can use it.
  3. Program automatic responses
    As you get more and more knowledge about remote monitoring, you can go further to shorten response times. You could program automatic responses to some common conditions, instead of alerting your techs.
  4. Log and analyze useful data
    Once you're doing the first three steps, you'll be ready for fine tuning. This is when you'll review your alarm logs to look for recurring issues and consider long-term fixes, eliminating your profit-eating problems altogether.

Explore Your HVAC Cycles

It's important to have the peace of mind of knowing if you're starting and stopping cooling (or heating) cycles at the right temperatures. You need to have good information to be able to adjust your power consumption to the amount of cycle wear that is being reflected in your HVAC unit's lifespan.

Each additional degree of cooling you demand vs. the outdoor air increases the amount of electricity you consume. Each degree you give up offers a significant reduction in power consumption.

Monitoring thermostat
This curve shows the exponential advantage you can gain from dialing up your thermostat just a few degrees.

In addition to looking at your HVAC cycling, you can also chart analog values and discrete counts to see long-term progressive tendencies.

By seeing this data spread out across time, you'll have a better overall perception of your network performance.

A Smart Controller Will Help You Minimize Wasted HVAC Expenses

Now you know that it's key to run your HVACs only when it's necessary - to be as efficient as possible. However, efficiency can be hard to determine. After all, how do you actually spot opportunities to save money?

You have to do long-term analysis of your gear, of course, but that requires comparing temperature trends, HVAC run times, and energy bills. This is a hard process if you don't have a system that automatically logs temperature and HVAC run times.

You could skip the complicated logging and analysis altogether and get a smart controller. This device will remotely control your HVAC systems to run at an optimal level - the best ones even do it automatically, making adjustments as necessary.

HVAC monitoring system device
The HVAC Controller G3 monitors and controls your HVAC units.

Don't Wait Until After a Failure

At DPS, we get a lot of inbound calls after the caller has already had a major failure. That's natural, but you don't have to fall into this same trap.

The HVAC Controller G3 is a device designed specifically to control and monitor HVAC systems. It provides you with all the benefits that NOC technicians need in a centralized location. It's simple to install, configure, use, while also being capable of supporting D-Wire sensors.

Do you have any questions or want to understand further how you can remote control your HVAC system? I'm just a call away!

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...