Archive for category Cost Issues

How to Measure Thermal Energy

As energy costs and environmental concerns continue to rise, we count on our facility managers to take control of building/factory energy consumption. To reduce their companies’ carbon footprints, facility managers have begun implementing energy management programs to control their systems, optimize efficiency, and manage expenses.

But how are they doing it?

Let’s say you are trying to cool your facility. There are two steps to determining how much energy is consumed in the process. Read the rest of this entry »

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Reducing Steam Leakage with Delta Element Steam Traps

Typical thermodynamic disc steam trapBecause of the way they operate, all thermodynamic disc traps leak steam. It’s not a question of IF, but of How Much, and how much more over time.

Typically the leakage is two pounds per hour when the trap is new, and increases to about five pounds per hour after just one year in service.

This amount of leakage or wasted steam can be expensive for the steam producer. But before you write it off as an expense you just have to grin and bear, check this out:
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HART communications without busting the budget

The HART communication protocol has been firmly established as the standard means of configuring field instruments for some years.   But talking to a field instrument needs a communicator.

There are the handheld communicators, Rosemount’s  x75s and the “budget-priced” Meriam MFC 4150, but at a cost that’s more a capital appropriation than an MRO expense.  Even the Meriam, with a 3-year field device description subscription starts at more than $4000.

People continue to ask me if there isn’t a more budget conscious approach to HART configuration.

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Industrial Wireless 101: Free access to webinar recordings

In the past month, I’ve focused several articles on industrial wireless technology. If you’re interested in learning more, here are several webinar recordings you can watch on your own time that will give you more insight into how wireless works, and how companies are using it to extend that measurement base and get process information where they need it to go, even on a limited budget.

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Industrial Wireless 101: Which wireless antenna do I need?

In our continuing quest to understand industrial wireless, here’s the next bite. We already talked about the three industrial wireless bands and what they’re used for. Now, we’ll look at wireless antenna.

The antenna’s primary purpose is to focus or direct the signal that it is sending or receiving. The antenna strength, called gain, (measured in decibels) concentrates the transmitter or radio signal in a given direction, and reduces it in unwanted directions. The higher the antenna’s decibel value, the more focused the signal.

I’ve found that the word gain sometimes confuses people: they think gain refers to an antenna ADDING power to a radio. That’s actually what an amplifier does. Antenna gain is about concentrating or dispersing radio frequency energy and directing it where it needs to go.  By packing that available energy into various patterns, as the different antenna types do, a radio signal can be spread out to a broad field or concentrated into a small tight pattern to go a farther distance.

Just like the three industrial wireless RF bands, there are three main types of antennas. And while lots of people have tried to explain them, with technical charts and inkblot-style diagrams, this simple description really hit home to me:

  1. Omni-directional antennas radiate their signal in all directions, like a floor lamp radiates light equally around itself.
  2. Semi-directional antennas radiate in a specific direction across a large area, like a spotlight shining on stage.
  3. Highly-directional antennas focus their signal on a very specific target, like a laser pointer focusing on a specific portion of a photo.

So, let’s take it a step further.

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Industrial Wireless 101: Why do we need three frequency bands?

Regardless of what information you need to send, or where you need to send it, if your data is going “over the air”, you’ll need to choose a frequency in one of three ranges that do not compete with the FCC licensed bands for radio transmissions.

These three ISM (industrial, scientific, medical) bands are 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5 GHz. They’ve often been described as the industrial equivalent to Citizens’ Band radios, specified so they don’t interfere with broadcast radio signals.

History with technology would lead you to believe that the more Hertz you have, the better your radios will perform. But what you need to understand is that there’s a tradeoff. Each band has its strengths and weaknesses, and there’s a best use for each.

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Using a wireless radio battery to power a pressure transmitter

In an ideal world, every place you need to install a transmitter would have easy access to electrical power. But we don’t live in the ideal world, and there are locations where power isn’t readily available, and getting electrical power to those areas can be quite costly.

This was the situation at a local plant, in their flammable fuel storage facility. The site is required to keep a record of the line pressure that supplies water in the event of a fire.

The Problem

The water pipe is located 6 to 7 feet (2 meters) below grade, and the engineers planned to build a vault where they could install and maintain the necessary submersible pressure transmitter.

The planned location is more than 500 yards from any available power source. The signal coming from the pressure transmitter would have to run that distance plus an additional 200 yards to reach the control room.

Not surprising, the trenching cost for an electrical installation was quoted at a five-figure minimum price.

Finding a solution

The project engineer started considering a wireless solution, and then asked, “Can a battery-powered industrial radio also power a two-wire loop-powered pressure transmitter?”

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