Ensure Round-the-Clock Pet Safety with an Environmental Monitoring System
By Rob Fusco
Operating a pet care facility comes with many responsibilities, with the most important being ensuring the wellbeing of your guests. So maintaining optimal environmental conditions is essential to keeping the animals safe and comfortable.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the ambient temperature for dogs and cats should be kept above 50 °F/10 °C and below 80 °F /26.6 °C. Relative humidity should range from 30% to 70%. The AVMA notes that suitable environmental conditions vary with the species of animal being housed.1
Ventilation is another critical factor to maintain a healthy environment at your facility, as it improves air quality. A properly functioning ventilation system introduces fresh air and removes dampness, odor, airborne microbes, excess heat and pollutant gases such as ammonia and carbon monoxide. The ventilation system must provide clean air to all areas of the facility, including within pet enclosures. It is also important that ventilation does not affect the required temperature for each area of the facility.2
Remote monitoring systems let operators of pet care facilities easily keep an eye on temperature, humidity and airflow. They can also track other significant conditions like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, water leaks, power failure, refrigerator/freezer temperature and unauthorized access.
These systems help to ensure the safety and comfort of your dog and cat guests, even when personnel are not onsite. And your customers can be assured that the climate at your premises is monitored 24/7. With advanced systems, users can see real-time status of environmental conditions right on their mobile device, wherever they are. When the system detects that a sensor reading has moved out of range, it sends a notification by phone call, text or email, so you can take fast action.
Choosing the Right Monitoring System
The first step to determining the right system for your facility is to find a reputable, experienced monitoring system manufacturer with a well-trained support team that can assess your needs. When working with the monitoring system representative, you will want to provide details about the scope of your facility. It can then be determined what type of monitoring system would best serve your operation, the number of base units needed and the types of sensors required. Make sure to consider your present situation and future growth.
Each condition you want to monitor requires its own sensor input on the base unit of the monitoring system. As indicated above, you might need to select sensors for monitoring temperature, humidity, water leaks, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, power failure and building/room access. If you store medications for the pets, you should consider installing a sensor inside the refrigerator or freezer to make sure they are held at the proper temperature and that the cold storage unit is running properly.
For monitoring your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, you will want to include sensors to monitor air pressure and airflow inside the ductwork. Vibration sensors are helpful because when parts begin to fail, they often vibrate more or stop moving altogether. If any of these sensor readings fall out of the desired range, it could indicate a problem with the HVAC system.
Monitoring systems with cloud-based technology let you see real-time status of all monitored conditions and receive alerts on your mobile device of potential problems. Cloud technology is supported by networks of remote servers that manage and store vast amounts of data rather than local computers. This means users do not have to install any software.
Cloud-based systems automatically send sensor data to an online dashboard to view in real time. They can store an unlimited amount of information that you can view from any internet-connected device via a website or app.
Wired and Wireless Sensors
Sensors communicate with the base unit through wires that connect them to the base unit of the monitoring device. Many sensors include several feet of wire but can be installed 1,000-2,500 feet away from the base unit, depending on the type of sensor. If you need to run wires through walls or ceilings, it’s a good idea to hire an electrician.
Wireless monitoring systems have sensors that communicate to the base unit through built-in radio transmitters. These systems are useful where it’s not possible or cost-effective to run cabling through walls, floors and ceilings.
Setup and Installation Basics
In general, monitoring systems are quick and easy to install—and you can often set them up yourself. Physical installation of the base unit is often quick and easy, with only three steps:
- Mount the device to the wall or somewhere secure.
- Plug it into an electrical outlet and an internet connection.
- Connect the sensors.
Wi-Fi, Cellular or Landline Connectivity
Most monitoring systems require an internet or Wi-Fi connection and access to an electrical outlet to power them. All programming is done through a website, so it’s easiest to use a computer or tablet for the initial setup. However, basic systems, sometimes referred to as auto-dialers, only need a landline phone to communicate alerts to users.
If you don’t have an internet connection at your location, you’ll want to choose a cellular system. You’ll have to register the cellular monitoring device on a wireless network before you can send or receive messages. Before purchasing a cellular device, you’ll want to make sure that there’s sufficient signal strength at your site.
Depending on the type of monitoring system, you and other designated personnel are instantly notified by call, text and/or email when sensor readings fall outside of preset parameters. If you don’t want all your personnel to receive notifications at the same time, some devices can be programmed to send alerts in a tiered fashion or on a schedule.
Multiple communication methods like phone, email and text provide extra assurance that you’ll get the alert. It’s a good idea to check the number of people the system can reach and if the system automatically cycles through the contact list until someone responds. Some systems allow for flexible scheduling so that off-duty personnel don’t receive alerts.
Built-In Data Logging Function
A data logger is an electronic device within the monitoring system that records sensor data at set time intervals. Using a data logger to automatically record information helps you identify trends in equipment performance and environmental conditions. This data can provide insight into potential issues that you can address before they become bigger problems, such as a subtle but consistent increase or decrease in room temperature.
The safest choice is a cloud-based system that comes with a built-in battery backup that will last for hours in the event of a power failure. A cloud-based unit constantly communicates a signal to the cloud to validate its online status. If the communication link is interrupted—for example, by a power outage or an employee accidentally switching off the unit—the system generates an alarm, indicating that the internet connection is lost or that there is a cellular communications problem. Users are then alerted about the disruption through phone, text or email. All data collected during this time will be stored in the device and will be uploaded to the cloud when the internet connection is restored.
Many web- or cloud-based systems provide free functionality with some limitations. You might have to purchase a premium subscription to unlock features such as text messaging, phone call alerts and unlimited data logging access. If your device is required to be on a cellular network, you should budget an annual subscription cost as well.
It is important to purchase your system from a reputable manufacturer that provides a warranty and offers full repair services in the event the product stops working as it should. Support specialists can often diagnose and correct unit setup and programming issues over the phone. And, ideally, the manufacturer can provide loaner units if your problem requires mailing the device to their facility for repair.
It’s your responsibility to make sure the pets in your care remain safe and healthy. Remote monitoring systems help you stay ahead of environmental changes that could harm those pets. Because these systems send instant notification of potential problems, you can have peace of mind around the clock, no matter where you are.
1. Companion Animal Care Guidelines, American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/companion-animal-care-guidelines
2. Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters, Association of Shelter Veterinarians, https://www.sheltervet.org/assets/docs/shelter-standards-oct2011-wforward.pdf
Rob Fusco is the Director of Business Development at Sensaphone, where he previously served as the Technical Support & Service Manager. Sensaphone designs and builds a comprehensive line of innovative remote environmental monitoring systems and early detection products that safeguard valuable assets by tracking critical environmental data. For more information, call 877-373-2700, email [email protected] or visit www.sensaphone.com