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How Much Does an RTU Cost? Is It Worth The Investment?

price of remote terminal unit

We all know the old phrase "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It's true, but it's actually a surprisingly hard sell. Businesses aren't wired to spend money if they don't see an immediate return.

If you are looking to purchase an RTU that solves problems before they happen, you have to know that their ultimate benefit may never appear on a balance sheet. There's no line item for "costs saved due to catastrophe prevention." However, if you work for an industry that has remote sites in need of constant monitoring, you know how costly a failure or major equipment breakdown can be.

That's why the Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) price is worth the upfront cost. RTUs help to pay for themselves by preventing accidents, saving man-hours, and ensuring you avoid unnecessary fines and fees. So if an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, think of what a pound of prevention will be worth to your bottom line.

Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) are remote monitoring devices programmed to collect information from equipment at remote sites and send it to you or to a master station.

The Remote Terminal Unit Price

RTUs are pretty simple to explain, but the technology behind them can be sophisticated. RTUs help you by collecting information in a monitoring environment and sharing it with a central control unit.

If you're a large utility or business with remote sites, you'll need multiple terminals to monitor your equipment functionality, as well as environmental data such as heat, humidity, water leakage, fuel, and other important levels. All of those areas need to be watched and reported on in order to benefit your company.

Let's take a look at the process of deciding what RTU is best for your company. You can follow these steps to determine whether it's worth it to invest in an RTU.

RTU Cost Range

First, decide on the best RTU for your company, providing a balance between affordability and durability. An RTU price range can be anywhere from $200-$5,000.

  • Lower-end $200 RTUs are very basic and extremely limited in capabilities. They might not support the protocol you need. Also, there is generally no tech support or training included.
  • A minimum price for a fully-functioning basic RTU is about $700 and includes some basic protocol support, web interface, and email alerts. You can expect quality tech support to be included starting at this price level.
  • A mid-level price for a full-service RTU is around $1,100. This RTU should offer solid built-in intelligence with protocol support, tech support, and training included in the price.
  • Many managers appreciate a fully-customized RTU costing closer to the $2,500-5,000 range, depending on specific built-to-order requirements.

RTU Cost and Implementation Factors

Next, evaluate the features of RTUs that can affect the costs involved and determine what is worth paying for.

  • The number and combination of discretes, analogs, and control relays you require for proper monitoring of remote and very remote equipment can have the most significant impact on your RTU cost.

The number and combination of discretes, analogs, and control relays you require for proper monitoring of remote and very remote equipment can have the most significant impact on your RTU cost.

  • Inputs and outputs. With an RTU, there are discrete inputs, analog inputs, and control relay outputs.
    • When you require between 2 to 8 discrete inputs to monitor equipment alarms or sensors, you may just require an RTU for small sites.
    • If you are looking for more than 8 and up to 32 discrete inputs, a medium-capacity RTU will do.
    • If you need 32 or 64 discrete inputs, you will require a larger, high-capacity RTU.
  • Your transport method can also affect costs.
    • For simple LAN, you may be okay with a basic RTU.
    • If you require cell modem, legacy transport, or satellite uplink, you may need a customized unit.
  • You may need value-added options.
    • Options specific to your managers' and sites' needs may include alarm qualification timers, sensors, derived alarm logic, and firmware updates.
    • You can also choose among specialty form factors that are fully-customized to mount or utilize in a special way.

The Dangers of Not Having an RTU

Then, determine sites with expensive equipment that are vulnerable. Your concerns may be natural disasters, malfunctioning, environmental problems, sabotage, and even small changes in ambient humidity that can harm your equipment.

Save hundreds of thousands of dollars in prevention by utilizing remote monitoring units.

These problems can be solved if you proactively monitor and address them. Save hundreds of thousands of dollars in prevention by utilizing remote monitoring units.

Cost Savings and Efficiency Areas

There are many equipment and asset potential cost savings areas realized when you proactively monitor your operation. Some of these include:

  • Generator: $10,000+ (assuming approximately $500 per kW)
  • Generator Installation: $2,000-$7,000
  • Device Repair: $5,000-$20,000
  • Battery Set: $500
  • Microwave Radio: $10,000
  • Telecom Switch Cards: $5,000/each
  • Major Equipment Damage/Replacement: Up to $100,000

Low Voltage, High Costs Example

Finally, consider monitoring needs and potential equipment breakdowns in very remote areas. For example, one of our customers who worked in the telecom industry joined a company that didn't have remote monitoring at all of its locations. One day, lightning struck a remote site that had just got up and running.

The strike ruined the rectifiers at the station, which caused the site to run off of batteries. It took 18 hours for anyone to notice. Needless to say, running on low-voltage can be hazardous on the cards that power site switches. In this case, a brand new switch was majorly damaged.

A blown card cost this company a steep $5,000 for a single card replacement.

An RTU monitoring this equipment could have reported the problem to a central master station where operators could have prevented the problem.

We see these kinds of stories all the time. Revenue (plus out-of-pocket replacement cost) goes out of the window because problems aren't caught before they turn catastrophic. An RTU monitoring this equipment could have reported the problem to a central master station where operators could have prevented the problem.

The Total Cost-Benefit of Remote Terminal Unit Price

Obviously, when equipment breaks down or problems occur, not everything will be destroyed at once. However, at any given site, for any given problem, you could be looking to spend anywhere from $10,000-$50,000. When your eye is on ROI, it's important to understand what an RTU investment gets you.

Working with a trusted and reliable RTU partner ensures you get more than just equipment. Your $5,000 outlay offers many additional long-term benefits including:

  • Pre-sales consultation. RTU experts have the experience you need to design a custom, built-to-order RTU. This will help you understand the RTU required for streamlining your operation.
  • Tech support and training. Ensure your RTU is running correctly with proper tech support and training.
  • Free firmware updates. There will always be new features for your products. You should be able to receive firmware updates at no extra cost.
  • Protocols and compliance. In a standards-based network, you need to know that your RTUs are designed properly to communicate in standard protocols.

An RTU Is Worth Peace of Mind (And Thousands of Dollars)

So that's the investment. Here's the return:

  • Problem prevention
  • Reduction in labor costs
  • Maximize your people's talents
  • Evolve your feature set over time
  • Extended lifespan on all your equipment
  • Streamlining your problem-solving process
  • Prioritization of issues from highest to lowest
  • Catching problems before they snowball into catastrophe
  • Firmware updates to keep you up-to-date and on the cutting edge

An RTU helps you stop wasting valuable windshield time by effectively monitoring and addressing problems. And it provides you with a powerful way to solve problems automatically or make decisions to send engineers for specific concerns. This way you will keep your equipment running without downtime.

So the tangible RTU answer to why the remote terminal unit price is worth the upfront investment is because it will save you potentially thousands of dollars. Also, an RTU, if implemented by the right partner who offers perfect fit customization, training, and technical support, is invaluable.

DPS Telecom has the experience and expertise to help companies who need custom-built RTUs. Our technicians can work with you to find the right RTUs for your specific needs. Reach out and get a quote today!

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