Chris Drage goes on an efficiency drive with new monitoring devices from Data Harvest
We recently came come through the coldest winter for 30 years. Most school buildings are ageing and nowhere near as energy efficient as modern ones designed to be as comfortable and environmentally friendly as possible. Just how energy efficient is your school?

It makes a worthy investigation for upper key stage 2 and 3 students. And with Data Harvest’s help, collecting that data has become a realistic project.

You can now answer questions like: "How much has it cost to keep us warm?"  "How much power does a computer use on standby?" You can monitor energy use, and deliver the important message about energy conservation, with a number of useful gadgets now available from Data Harvest.

Infrared ThermometerThe non-contact Infrared Thermometer (£25) measures heat loss from objects and from windows and other surfaces. You simply point the thermometer at an object or subject, pull the measuring trigger and hold. The surface temperature is displayed immediately on the LCD screen. There’s even a single-spot laser built in to help guide you accurately. It can handle temperatures from -20 to 320°C with a resolution of 0.5°C. These it can display on a clear four-digit backlit LCD screen.

It takes a standard 9-volt battery and auto-powers off after six seconds of inactivity to preserve battery life. The 'scan and hold' function ensures that pupils have enough time to record the measurement. Measuring just 150mm x 133mm x 45 mm and weighing in at around 135g, the Infrared Thermometer is a must-have for any science department. Students could use this device to create a heat map of the school building, something the senior management team and bursar will want to know about.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose    5
Ease of use                5
Features                     3
Quality                       4
Value for money        4

Eco-eye meterUsing an Eco-eye Electrical Energy Meter (£49.99), you can see how much electricity per hour, per week, per month or year is being used in the lab, an out building or even the whole school. It will also convert electricity use into a cost. The Eco-eye Elite real-time electricity monitor has an easy-to-read large screen that makes energy watching easy. It monitors the amount of electricity coming into your school, clearly displaying the usage in Kilowatts or in cost, and is a visual reminder to think about how much power you are using. The unit will help to identify wastage and encourages you to make changes which will reduce the department’s/school’s carbon footprint.

The sender unit is simple to install on your electricity meter or supply cable. As the sensor unit clips around the incoming live supply cable – usually at the meter – there is no need to disturb or cut any wiring, so schools don't need to involve a qualified electrician. Once installed, the sensor monitors the total current passing through the supply cable. Data can be transmitted wirelessly up to a distance of 300 metres to the display unit which receives updates every few seconds. You can adjust the voltage and cost per unit according to individual circumstances.

The portable display can be used in any area within a 300-metre radius of the sender unit and shows electricity usage in KW or as cost per hour, day, week, month or year. It also automatically calculates your CO2 emissions and has a memory function which stores your usage and CO2 emissions history. The display unit runs on four AA batteries and there’s an optional aerial for greater wireless range. The transmitter unit can accept up to three sensors and is suitable for monitoring single, multi-phase or split source supplies. Here though, additional sensors are required. The system is completely user adjustable for voltage and cost per unit.

Be warned though, I trialled the Eco-eye Elite system at home and nearly had a coronary when I saw how much energy certain family members used! I also became quite unpopular too!  "Eco spy" and "Energy police" were just two of the more polite comments I received.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose    5
Ease of use                5
Features                    4
Quality                       4
Value for money        4

Eco-eyeAnother, even simpler device, the Plug-in Eco-eye (left, £12.49) enables you to measure the energy use of a single appliance and shows volts, current, frequency, cost, and KW per hour. Designed for use with individual appliances, the Eco-eye plug-in is a real-time electricity monitor instantly displays the data on its LCD screen, giving immediate feedback and the incentive needed to make changes to electricity usage. It displays power usage in Kilowatts as well as the cost in £s.  After setting unit cost, it will display the cost (£) and unit price of electricity (£/kWh) and checks and displays the current Voltage, current, frequency, the current power usage, the lowest power usage and total energy in Kilowatts.  It also records the total running time.  The Plug-in Eco-eye is made for a UK style socket only and is able to measure and display AC Voltages 90–250V, at the maximum current of 16A. Several of these devices strategically deployed would provide a very clear idea about equipment running costs.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose    5
Ease of use                5
Features                    4
Quality                       4
Value for money        4

By 2020, the aim is for all schools to be models of energy efficiency, renewable energy use and water management. They should also take the lead in their communities by showcasing wind, solar and bio-fuel energy, low-energy equipment, freshwater conservation, use of rainwater and other measures.  These devices will help in the achievement of that goal but more importantly perhaps, help youngsters grasp the environmental and running costs within their school environment.

Data Harvest Pulse OximeterData Harvest's Pulse OximeterThe last sensor I had to include has nothing to do with electrical energy use but is one of those touchy, feely ones that children just love: the Pulse Oximeter (£39). Technically, this one measures human haemoglobin saturation and heart rate through a fingertip.

Pulse oximetry uses a light emitter with red and infrared LED that shines through a reasonably translucent area with good blood flow – like your fingertip. Opposite the emitter is a photo detector that receives the light that passes through the finger.

It couldn’t be easier to operate: put the test subject’s finger between the rubber cushions of the clip and then clip the finger. Pressing the On button while power is on will change the direction, brightness and contents of the LCD display. The display shows the pulse intensity by a single column bar graph and the pulse rate and SpO2 (pulse oxygen saturation percentage) as numbers. A graphical representation of pulse wave is displayed as a line or bar graph. It will report a low voltage warning when battery fails and automatically powers-off after eight seconds of inactivity. The 50g (with batteries) Pulse Oximeter requires two 1.5V, AAA batteries and it is supplied with a lanyard.

There is also a Pulse Oximeter with lower specification (item 3903 – £29). This is a similar device but the display does not include the graphical representation of the pulse, and you can't change the orientation of the display. Children love to measure and compare their physical data with peers and this little device is a wonderful addition to science and PE resources.  

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose     5
Ease of use                 5
Features                     4
Quality                        5
Value for money         4

Data Harvest has been a stalwart over the years when it comes to control technology and data-logging. The natural progression into devices which examine and measure energy usage is an interesting and welcome provision and one which schools should grasp with both hands. There’s a lot of curriculum mileage here, apart from providing the logistics needed to make the school more energy aware and, in time, efficient.
www.dataharvest.co.uk

Chris DrageChris Drage is a CISCO Regional Academy manager and an adviser and trainer with Central Brent Education Improvement Partnership. You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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