Earlier this week, we talked about the “Incorrect Setup” of your sonde and how this mistake can lead to lost data or incomplete data records, which is not only a great loss, but can lead to a great cost.
To recap on what to keep in mind to avoid making this costly mistake:
- If you’re setting up a sonde for long term deployment or continuous monitoring – check that your sampling interval and battery life are adequate for your monitoring goal
- If you’re connecting the sonde to a data logger, be sure to setup the RS232/SDI-12 settings in the software and that those settings match those of the data logger device
- Be careful when choosing a start time for a deployment, because one typo can lead to an incomplete data set
We are now ready to talk about the third most common and costly mistake you can make with your sonde.
“Common, Costly Mistake #3”
As most water quality professionals will tell you – long term deployments with sondes will inevitably result in some sort of unexpected issue in the field. The reality is even the best laid plans can go astray with field work and this is especially the case in the harsh monitoring conditions that mother nature has in store for us.
It’s our job to limit the risk to our equipment, our data, and our budgets each year.
Several common mistakes can be made that may result in issues with your sonde’s hardware. Here are some, with ways you can avoid making them.
Lack of a Maintenance Schedule
First and foremost, a typical water quality sonde has around a 5 year operational lifespan when used in more extreme conditions, longer when used less frequently or in less extreme conditions. This of course does not include some of the chemical and membrane based sensor technologies which should be replaced on a more regular basis (pH probes or replaceable tips, for example)…however these figures are based on the assumption that regular maintenance is performed to keep equipment in good shape. A big mistake people often make is underestimating the need for a routine maintenance regimen and this can have significant impact on how long their sondes will hold up in the field.
For example…water ingress. It’s is the one of the most common failure modes for monitoring equipment throughout its lifetime, and to prevent future leak paths into your sonde, it is critical to periodically check all the O-rings and inspect all the sealing surfaces on your instrumentation. …That includes taking a close look at the battery compartment, connector, and cable O-rings on most sondes; and on EXO sondes, just the battery compartment O-rings since the connectors and cables are wet-mateable.
O-rings can fail when they’re not properly maintained, and this is why we engineered EXO with redundant O-ring seals. If you are replacing O-rings to maintain your system, here are some mistakes to avoid:
- Don’t use sharp tools to remove or install O-rings! You may unintentionally do more harm than good to your sonde by cutting the O-ring you’re examining or installing.
- Don’t lay O-rings down on a work bench, table, etc. There is a chance they will grab onto residual dirt, dust, or even a strand of hair that could cause a leak path.
- Don’t forget to lubricate the O-rings. The material needs to stay hydrated or over time it will crack.
There are plenty of other aspects of a routine maintenance regime that you should review to avoid some costly problems down the road, so we recommend taking some time to review the portion of the operations manual dedicated to this topic.
We just talked about one incident that we can prevent… leaks through poor O-ring seals and there are several other preventative measures in the equipment manual we should all take to keep our equipment running. However, unfortunately, floods still happen. Lightning still happens. Vandalism still happens.
No matter how well we maintain and setup our equipment there is always a risk that something is going to go wrong that’s outside of our control. This is just the reality of monitoring water quality continuously with sondes. It is what it is.
One nightmare scenario you can imagine is losing the equipment you’re relying on to collect data… and waiting days or weeks on a repair or replacement to arrive, presents a big problem. As previously mentioned – you can’t rewind time to collect all that data you’ve lost.
And for that reason, we always recommend for monitoring projects that you keep a spare sonde and sensors available. Not only can you use the spare to fill in for a damaged or lost instrument, but it also can allow you to take a sonde out of circulation for a few days to perform the routine maintenance we discussed earlier without impacting your work.
Lack of Budgeting
All of these suggestions are easy for us to say as the equipment manufacturer, but the reality is that budgets are tight. A lot of monitoring equipment is purchased with one time grant money and after that as an organization you’re on your own. The fact is that operational expenses are going stack up over the course of a monitoring season. Calibration standards, replacement membranes, spare probes… they’re all necessary to maintaining a monitoring program over time.
It’s challenging to find money for these things in a yearly budget, but it’s also equally as important to find money for these types of operational expenses as it is to buy the equipment in the first place. We always encourage groups to think about this before they decide to purchase sondes. You never want to max out your budget to purchase equipment. As a rule of thumb, always save 20% of whatever you had planned to spend on the spares, accessories, and consumables that will keep it running once any funding goes away.
To summarize what we have talked about here:
- Make sure your equipment is receiving regular preventative maintenance to extend its operational lifespan.
- Be prepared with spare hardware (sonde, sensors, handhelds) ready to go in case of an emergency.
- Maintaining equipment is equally or more important than buying it in the first place. While it can be challenging to find money for these expenses, do your best to budget for spares, accessories, and consumables that keep your equipment in good working order.
To learn more about hardware issues and how to prevent them, check out EXO University, for your on-demand training.
Additional Blog Posts of Interest:
5 Tips To Prevent Costly Mistakes With Your Sondes | Tip 1 of 5
5 Tips To Prevent Costly Mistakes With Your Sondes | Tip 2 of 5
Trouble Collecting Data with Your Water Quality Sonde? Try This!
Webinar: Expert Tips for Continuous Water Quality Monitoring | YSI, Aquatic Informatics and Pennsylvania DEP