Water System Data Logging 101

Improve data collection accuracy and boost overall efficiency

Interested in Flow Control?

Get Flow Control articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Flow Control + Get Alerts

Do you need a way to capture important information such as flow rates or levels but don’t know how to get started? This brief overview will help guide you through the basics of data loggers and how they can simplify data collection for your organization. 

A data logger is an electronic device designed to measure and store data values, often independently of a PC. Nowadays most data loggers are compact and relatively inexpensive. Data loggers may be single input devices or may accept inputs from multiple types of sensors. Some loggers have built-in sensors and others have connections for external sensors. Data loggers have internal memory, a real-time clock for time/date stamps, and may have an LCD display. A datalogger typically has an internal battery and records at a once-per-second or slower sample rate with internal memory for thousands or millions of readings. 

A device like a simple temperature and humidity data logger may be located at the point of interest for the measurement and retrieved at a later date to unload the data using a USB connection. More sophisticated data loggers have Ethernet, Wi-Fi or even a cellular modem that allows for real-time monitoring and alerting for out-of-tolerance (alarm) conditions. This feature will let you take immediate action to out-of-limit conditions instead of just collecting or logging the data. With network-connected data loggers, fully automated data transfer to network drives or even cloud-based applications provides labor savings and convenience. Data loggers are much more reliable and accurate than manual measurements and free up labor for other duties.

Advantages of a data logger

Because of their accuracy and reliability, data loggers save personnel the time otherwise spent reading and recording measurements on paper. Whether you have a short- or long-term problem to solve, they give you an automated solution for both monitoring and recording information. 

Data loggers can even transmit alarms via email or text messages, or trigger phone calls. This feature is important if you need to be alerted on an operationally critical piece of equipment, process or environment going out of tolerance. This can help you to avoid potentially disastrous situations. 

Data loggers can also operate in a standalone format by themselves without human interaction. Running on battery power, they can be used over long periods of time in critical applications. They’ll operate 24/7 including weekends, holidays and outside of work hours when no person is available for the task. Data loggers are also used for more complex tasks such as recording multiple sensor data from machines for diagnostic purposes or to identify areas for energy savings.

There are a wide variety of devices on the market with internal or external sensors to measure the data you need. Also, for some applications, it is important to know the measurement accuracy that is required.  

While some data logger models are designed to log just one measurement value such as temperature, there are models recording two, three or more types of data. 

Easy data retrieval

Typically, data loggers save their measurements to a memory card or other internal memory for convenient retrieval. More advanced models transfer the data automatically over your choice of communications. 

These include but are not limited to:

  • Ethernet
  • USB
  • Wi-Fi
  • Cellular modem
  • Proprietary wireless
  • Bluetooth

Setting alarms

Today’s technology gives you several choices of how you’d prefer to receive alarms. For example, alarm notifications can consist of anything from bright LED indicators and loud audible alerts to data loggers with external alarm outputs for connection to sirens, lights, etc.  

More advanced models can automatically send you an email or text alarm to your smartphone or tablet, ensuring that you’re always notified of critical changes in your system or process. Alarm setup and other configuration details are handled using software provided by the data logger. 

Data loggers that offer changeable settings typically use Windows-based software to handle setup and configuration. Simply connect your data logger to a PC, follow the simple configuration wizard, and pick your recording rate and start time — all this normally just takes a few mouse clicks. 

The latest generation of data loggers provides simple connectivity to cloud-based applications to view and store data. Simply configure the logger to connect to your network, Ethernet or Wi-Fi, open a web browser to access your cloud account, and get your data. You can be up and running in just a few minutes. Being designed for simple operation, many compact data loggers require minimal to no maintenance or IT department involvement. That makes them ideal for use in nearly every industry and application.

Finding the right fit

When searching online for the right data logger, you want to be confident that the device itself can perform the functions you need for your particular application. 

It is important to work with a vendor that knows the right questions to ask to make sure that the product you end up with fits your needs. 

This includes (but is not limited to) the right number of channels/inputs to cover all your monitoring points, communication options and software features. For example, if you need alarming capabilities or a trend chart for data or if you need to comply with some special regulatory or calibration requirements, make sure you specify this when speaking with a solutions provider. 

You’ll find lots of data logger manufacturers and distributors online, so make sure you consult with an experienced distributor. While data loggers are easy to use, you won’t get stuck if there’s a free technical support number you can call if you run into a problem, especially if you’re a first-time user.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.