“Where should we put the sensors?”

Of all the questions we get asked, “Where should we put our kittens?” or “How many should we buy?” comes up the most often.

Answer: That depends what you want to know.

Look, I know that can sound evasive but my Christmas break proves my point. Some of you might already have read about the monitoring of 2 very different houses over the Christmas period and what we found. We saw some very interesting things in that experiment and we’ll pick up a few of those over the next few months.

At the 70’s house that we monitored I found something a bit odd. We were all sat around the laptop on Christmas Eve looking at what was happening and to see if anything surprised us. My parents have lived in that house for 24 years so we saw pretty much what we expected, however the main family bathroom intrigued us. It’s located at the top of the stairs, has a double glazed window and a fairly large towel rail style radiator. We have never been consciously cold in that room so why was it 17 degrees?

The sensor was on a fully tiled window sill right next to the window at about waist height, so we ran a little test and moved it to the top of a wooden bathroom cupboard at about head height and the temperature climbed by nearly 5 degrees! We all knew that it didn’t feel like 17 degrees in there but we never expected such a huge difference in temperature by moving the kitten less than 1m within the same room.

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We can occasionally be surprised about what we see when we put sensors in environments we thought we already understood, we see in real terms just how sensitive the kittens are and how temperature can change very quickly across space.

Which presents a useful tool for comparing performance. For example: my parents upgraded their windows to double glazing in a few separate rounds to spread the costs not long after they moved into the house. This window was one of the first ones to be installed in the house and are almost certainly getting on for 20 years old. Installing a larger number of sensors in some of the rooms to monitor exactly how well the double glazing is performing and even compare the windows installed at different times could identify if some or all of them could benefit from being replaced.

We also saw things that we expected like peaks in temperature when we had showers and when the heating turned on and off:

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We used humidity kittens across the house, some of you might be interested in seeing the graph for humidity across the same timescale. I managed to achieve 96.9% humidity with my post run shower. (In particular, you’ll notice the humidity continued to rise after my shower? This is a function of the way we measure humidity – as relative humidity – which we’ll cover in a later blog post).

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So, how can this help to inform you on where to place your kittens? Like we say, it does depend heavily on what you want to know, but here are some general guidelines:

  1. If you want your kittens to record the temperature that you feel in a room them make sure that you place it well away from any heat sources such as radiators, air con units or fans that blow warm air out of computers etc.
  2. If you want your kittens to record the temperature that you feel in a room then make sure that you place it well away from any sources of cold such as open door, windows, draughts or on cold materials such as tiles.
  3. It you want to record the temperature of in a specific place then be sure to locate the kitten exactly where it’s needed, they really are very sensitive i.e. next to a thermostat to check its functionality.
  4. Try to avoid putting kittens in direct sunlight as they will be effected by solar gain, unless of course this is what you are trying to measure.

Remember that if you want to see in more details what’s going on in a room then re-deploy your kittens or buy more, one of the main advantages of how small they are is that you can put them pretty much anywhere. Place them in a grid pattern around the room or if you are feeling really adventurous hang them off fishing line  at different heights to create a cross section of your space. This can be very interesting particularly in a mezzanine or tall staircase, you might be amazed to see whats going on.

If you want to know more about how Purrmetrix can help you to learn about your space then contact us by email at help@purrmetrix.com or call us on 01223 967301

 

Comparing Christmas in 2 very different homes

Happy New Year to you all, we hope you had a great Christmas break. Since we got back to work some of us here at Purr Towers have been looking at the results of a little experiment we set up over the break. At Christmas Hermione spent her time in an 18th century folly in North Yorkshire (DP) and I (Liz Stevens) spent it in my parents 70’s build house on the south coast (CC). We thought it might be interesting to take a look at how the 2 buildings behaved with all the family piling in and a roast dinner in the oven.

Background:

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DP – The 18th century folly is a sprawling 2 story house with 6 bedrooms, single glazed, not insulated, 4 external doors, oil central heating, open fires and a large aga in the kitchen. 8 people stayed in the house over the Christmas period.

 

 

 

 

 

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CC – This is a 70’s build box shaped house with double glazing, cavity wall insulation, a very well insulated roof, 4 bedrooms, 2 external doors, a partly integrated garage and gas central heating. 4 people stayed here over night during the period and there were 9 people in the house during the day on Christmas day.

 

 

 

 

Cooking the Christmas dinner:

DP has an Aga which is constantly running at least at a low level where as CC has a conventional gas oven. The kitchen at DP is a large room with a dining table that seats 8 people, we can see that the cooking of the roast dinner doesn’t have much impact on the temperature in this room as the heat is dissipating and there is no clear time when the oven is working.

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CC has a conventional gas oven so you can clearly see when the oven is turned on (11am). The kitchen at CC doesn’t have any radiators which means it can get quite cold on a normal day but it was constantly warm with all of the cooking and people coming and going. You can also see the oven heating up the room on Christmas Eve while a ham is being roasted.

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Eating our Christmas dinner:

You might have already guessed that DP was rather colder than CC with one of the rooms hardly getting above 16 degrees over the period we monitored despite being heated by a radiator. It’s a very large room, which doesn’t get much daylight, with single glazed windows and a stone floor. This was actually the room where they had their Christmas dinner and the temperature peaked just below 17 degrees – ouch chilly.

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It makes a very interesting comparison to CC where our lunch time temperature was about 22 degrees and the temperature didn’t drop below 20 degrees for the whole period. You can see the difference when you have a well heated well insulated modern carpeted dining room.

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CC conclusions:

We looked to see what was going on with the temperature quite a bit over the Christmas period and there were a few things that surprised us about the findings. I found that I was only comfortable when the temperature was below 22 degrees, once the temperature climbed above this I felt like I was in a tropical jungle. Clearly other people didn’t always agree but it was interesting to know my threshold. We have always know that the downstairs bathroom (Kitten 29) was always rather cold but we didn’t really quite how bad it was and we had no idea that they temperature in the hall by the front door (Kitten 32) was so low. You can see from the Hotspotter view here that they spent rather a lot of the Christmas period below 18 degrees although it wasn’t surprising to see the kitchen (Kitten 13) above 25 degrees for 28% of the time.

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You can also see how the temperature changed from Saturday till Monday:

 

 

DP conclusions:

Well we already knew that it was going to be colder at DP over Christmas as it’s further north (so colder outside) and it’s an old building with a few poorly insulated slightly more modern extensions. I think we were all a little shocked at just how cold the dining room was but this room isn’t often used as there is a large dining room in the cosy kitchen not far from the Aga. It’s a big house and it’s going to take more heating than the average building even in warmer parts of the year. I think I for one might have been more comfortable with the temperatures at DP but it really does show us that comfort levels are very personal to everyone. The Hotspotter view below is very interesting and really shows you how cold the downstairs of DP was over Christmas, I’m sure there were lots of cosy Christmas jumpers being worn (I didn’t get to wear mine once at CC!). The dining room is Kitten 48 and the kitchen is Kitten 46 but I’m sure you could have guessed that.

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You can also see how the temperature changed from Saturday till Monday:

 

If you want to learn a little bit more about how you could use our system in your home, workshop, office or data centre please contact us via email on help@purrmetrix.com or call us 01223 967301

Installing Kittens In Your Rack – Data Centre

 

If you have just taken delivery of your first set of kittens ready for deployment in your rack or you are thinking about ordering then I’m hoping to give you all the info you need to get them fitted. It’s not a difficult process and the installation guide will talk you through the basics but there are a few tips that I want to give you to help along the way.

One of our limited edition black kittens in a rack.Optimal kit installation:

  1. Our recommended kit for a rack would be a 8 temperature sensors, 1 temperature and humidity sensor and 1 gateway. This is to give you the best coverage and  the best visibility of your rack on the heat map.
  2. Fixing your kittens – We have found that it’s best to use the cable ties provided for the data centre environment. It’s warm and dry so it’s not the best conditions for sticky pads, they will work but we prefer the reliability of the cable ties. The doors on the front and back of the racks should be easy to slip the cable ties through.
  3. 4 of the kittens should be placed at the front of the rack equally spaced from top to bottom in order to get a full spread of temperatures to see whats going on in the whole rack.
  4. 4 of the kittens should be placed in the same way from top to bottom in the back of the rack.
  5. If you have purchased a humidity monitor then try fixing that in the top of the rack to see whats going on overall.
  6. The gateway is going to need power and an ethernet connection. You will be provided with a normal UK plug socket for the power, if you require power over ethernet then just let us know (extra cost).
  7. The gateway will need to be fitted within the rack for best signal, it can be sat on a shelf, on top of a server or better still attached to the top of the rack with cable ties.

Tips:

  1. The kittens sense the temperature from their faces so make sure you face the kitten in the direction that you want the most sensitivity.
  2. Rename the kittens when you get them so you can easily know where they live. You can do this by clicking on the kitten and editing the name (you can also add notes to the notes field).
  3. If you aren’t sure which kitten you have in your hand at any one time just push the kittens nose, till the LED lights up (red for the normal temperature sensors and green for the humidity sensors) and it will flash up on your account.
  4. Don’t forget that you can move the kittens about as much as you like. If you have a problem area in a rack you could alway re group them all around a few machines for a few days or weeks to see whats going on. Just don’t forget to change the names of the kittens and change the heat map so you can see exactly whats going on.
  5. Try playing around with different view for your heat map like the rack views from the front or back, different analytics and even hot or cold alerts to get the best out of your purr account.

If you want some ideas about the kind of insights you can get from the information check out our previous blog: Using onboard monitoring? Here’s four things you’re missing.

Heatwave Hits The UK – What impact is that having in the workplace?

sun-clouds-blue-sky-14641020076aMAs an industry we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can save money on heating, reducing heat loss and plugging draft gaps in our buildings. If your heating breaks down or you have a very bad insulated building then most of the time the odd fluctuation in cold can be dealt with by putting a jumper or a jacket on.

What do you do when it’s too hot in the office?

Too hot in the office is hard to handle. In an office environment there isn’t really much that users can do to keep themselves cool. If you have a strict dress code you really don’t have any options, you still have to wear your suit each day. You might find it hard to concentrate, become very uncomfortable and even lightheaded or dehydrated in extreme cases.

office temperature and performance

Effect of Temperature on Task Performance in Offfice Environment, Olli Seppänen, William J Fisk, QH Lei (2006)

Extremes of temperature certainly affect productivity. There have been a lot of studies over the years looking at this issue – when you jam all the results together the overall effect seems to be a plateau around 21 – 23° and a decline in performance of about 1% for every degree above 25°

The good news is that there are seasonal effects. If your body is becoming acclimatised to 28° outside the office, it will tolerate slightly higher temperatures inside without too much impact on work performance. This might explain why a studies conducted in Florida by Cornell University found fewer keystroke errors and higher typing rates at 25°, where studies in Helsinki office environment identified more performance issues at 25°.

Office temperatures in the UK.

Sadly the UK is a lot closer to Helsinki than Florida, but this week week will see possible highs of 30 degrees. So what does this mean for our users? Well as you can imagine it’s hot in lots of your offices. During the last UK heatwave we saw temperatures of 39 degrees from one of our kittens!  We are talking about a normal office environment and thats clearly not comfortable.

Helpdesk and building managers across the country will be inundated with complaints about the heat. While we might be about to leave the cooling season and many FMs will be tempted to ride out the complaints, creating a more structured policy to deliver staff comfort has many benefits – and it doesn’t always have to mean a total overhaul of building services.

Temporary or permanent solutions?

It’s clear at times like this if you have a cooling problem in your building but relying on complaints doesn’t give you much data to identify what’s causing the problem or where the main problems are. Heatmapping using Purr’s system gives some hard data to help deliver staff comfort in a heatwave:

  1. Identity hotspots.
  2. Understand how well your air conditioning is working or isn’t!
  3. See where the heat in your building is coming from – for example solar gain or occupational gain.
  4. Find out if humidity is also an issue (with our temperature and humidity monitors).
  5. See if solar insulation is an issue – you could look to install blinds or solar reflective film.
  6. Identify where to prioritise temporary measures like fans, stand alone air conditioning units or even where to install more permanent units in the future.

In the UK we don’t always prioritise cooling within our homes or office as the common feeling is that we don’t get much of a summer so its not worth it. However as the climate becomes more variable creating a comfort policy that can deal with a problem that affects productivity and, just as importantly, morale, is going to become a higher priority.

If you interested in finding out more about our heat sensors and the insights you can gain from our services please contact us on 01223 967301 or help@purrmetrix.com

(Image with thanks to Public Domain Pictures)

Using onboard monitoring? Here’s four things you’re missing.

IMG_3382If your server, rack or cage is in one of the UK’s established and well run data centres you can probably guarantee that they are going to keep the temperature within a fairly well controlled temperature range (unless something goes very wrong).

You also probably already have onboard temperature monitoring in your servers, disk arrays and switches so I bet you have never thought about any other type of temperature sensing or even mapping.

But if you’re simply looking at onboard data the chances are you are actually missing out on a lot of interesting, actionable information. Lets talk about the useful stuff that we at Purrmetrix can help you learn.

1. Locating a Hot Spot.

When you look at your onboard monitors you get a number on a screen – maybe even a graph. But how – and where – does that fit in to the bigger picture and I mean that literally. By putting data into a heat map you can see instantly how that all fits in. Is the machine you are looking at the actual problem? Is it a wider issue in the rack with air flow? Is it one of the machines next to it? A picture paints a thousand words after all. You could use this information to help you to make a better informed choice about where to fit your next piece of kit or how to set up the next rack you buy. Untitled 2 (1)

2. Tracking access to racks

If you have 3rd party engineers accessing your kit for maintenance, replacing kit or just remote hands from the DC to check something out for you wouldn’t you like to know bit more about what they are up to? When they opened the door, which racks they accessed, how long they left the door open for while they walked away from the DC floor or even if they left the doors open when they left. Yes the data that you get from the kittens really are that sensitive as the picture below shows.Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 10.29.24

3. Remedying problem rack conditions

So what can you tell from the kittens that we believe can help you find out a bit more about whats going on when a fault occurs: if the temperature of the air coming into the rack has risen, if the air flow is being obstructed, someone has been into your rack, the humidity (only with the temperature and humidity monitors) has got up which could suggest a leak or a liquid spill, heat from a next door rack is effecting your rack etc. You could set up alerting in your account so that you can be informed when things go out of your preferred parameters.

4. Analysing what went wrong

Lets say that you had a total network meltdown and you really didn’t have time to study exactly what was going on in your rack regarding temperature. That’s ok because you can go back and replay the data when you have the chance. You might not have been able to figure out what happened or why. Perhaps the same scenario keep cropping up and causing a disk to fail or kit a server to reboot. You could find that there is some small event that is causing the issue or even that now you know how it shows up on the data you could recognise it sooner, set up an alert and stop it from causing the issue before it starts.

The importance of time and space.

There are a lot of possibilities but only with the correct level of monitoring. To make sense of the data you need to have information on where it is coming from, as well as when, and you can’t get this just from your onboard sensing. It’s time to bring our thinking up to date.

kitIf you think all of this sounds interesting then ordering a starter kit would be great place to start. A medium bundle contains 1 gateway and 8 kittens, this would do the trick for one rack with 4 in the front and 4 in the back spaced equally from top to bottom. If you want to have a chat to us about your current step up, problems you think you may have and how best you can detect them using kittens then you can contact us on 01223 967301 or help@purrmetrix.com

Liz Fletcher is Purrmetrix’s project manager. After nearly a decade in IT, miles of cabling and gallons of tea she is currently dividing her time between Purrmetrix and the UKNOF Programme Committee.