Care of Your FieldKit
Here are some care recommendations for your FieldKit.
General FieldKit Care
We have built the FieldKit Case to be highly water-resistant.
However, to further protect your FieldKit hardware, we strongly suggest using a desiccant inside the case to reduce the potential for moisture damage. Our recommendation is a refreshable aluminum dehumidifier canister (such as those manufactured by Dry-Packs) but any desiccant that doesn’t interfere with the hardware will work.
Also, make sure that the gaskets in your FieldKit Case (lid and cable plate) are sitting nice and flat, not stretched or twisted, and the lid is properly closed using the lid clasps for maximum water resistance.
Securing Your Circuit Boards
Never just leave your circuit boards in the FieldKit Case unsecured. Secure them down with screws so they don’t move around and risk getting damaged. That goes for everything else in the case too, e.g. the battery, microSD cards, your lucky screwdriver—you should secure everything firmly to keep things from moving around, which could damage the boards. Screws appropriate for each component of a FieldKit Station are included in every FieldKit Station order.
Placing Your FieldKit
To protect your FieldKit, anchor it securely in place when leaving it in the field, especially if your location might experience intense winds. With the FieldKit Weather station, to ensure effective measurement, your sensor cluster should be a minimum of five meters (15 feet) off the ground to avoid boundary layer effects. If you are using a solar panel, you should ensure that it receives 6-8 hours of full sun each day, and it should be pointed in the compass heading appropriate with the location. Additionally, we recommend camouflaging your FieldKit as much as possible to prevent interference or damage by humans. The lid has a hole for a lock in case you would like to install one to minimize tampering.
In very cold weather (i.e. -20 °C or lower), the battery for FieldKit will not work as effectively and may be damaged even by storage in these temperatures. The screen on the FieldKit’s internal hardware also may become sluggish in extreme cold. Additionally, the pH, Dissolved Oxygen and Conductivity Probes used in the FieldKit Water station could crack in freezing weather and should be protected from freezing by deep submersion into water that remains unfrozen all year. If you plan to deploy your FieldKit for a longer period of time in extreme cold, please contact us for recommendations on alternate sensors and batteries you might explore.
The pH probe may be damaged by immersion in extremely hot temperatures (e.g. in water at or near the boiling point). If you plan to deploy your FieldKit in extremely hot water, please contact us for recommendations on alternate sensors you might explore.
If you deploy your FieldKit in an environment with extreme temperature variability (e.g. Death Valley, California), the case could possibly seal itself. If this occurs, do not attempt to open your FieldKit by prying it with a screwdriver. Instead, loosen the nuts on the cable glands slightly. A vent can also be installed in the cable plate to help mitigate this (FieldKit does not currently sell vents as part of our product range, so please source a vent separately and purchase a blank cable plate to drill in your own hole configurations).
If algae, plants, animals, or microorganisms accumulate on parts of your FieldKit, we recommend cleaning them with an abrasive sponge and a biodegradable cleaning product. We recommend Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner if it is available to you.
It is possible to utilize external power sources with your FieldKit, and in extreme conditions this may even be preferable. If you choose to do this, note that plugging a 12V battery into the battery terminal will cause it to fail; it will need to be plugged into the solar terminal as that has the proper protections to accept that voltage. If you plan to use a solar panel that is not one provided by FieldKit or otherwise would like feedback on how to add voltage to the system without overloading it, please feel free to contact us for advice.
Sensor and Cable Care
Many of the sensors used with FieldKit are fragile. The pH, Conductivity and Dissolved Oxygen probes in the FieldKit Water station are prone to breakage if dropped or subjected to freezing temperatures. Additionally, the anemometer and wind vane in the FieldKit Weather station are also prone to breakage.
Most of the sensors used with FieldKit will last indefinitely with proper care and regular cleaning. However, the pH and Dissolved Oxygen sensors used in the FieldKit Water station have an expected lifespan of two years. After two years, these sensors will have drifted significantly, such that their measurements might not even be correctable by calibration, and they will have lost significant sensitivity. Additionally, the Dissolved Oxygen probe requires reconditioning every 3-6 months, which is performed by rinsing out the accumulated white zinc oxide powder and refilling the probe with electrolyte solution. Instructions for doing this are located in our FAQ here. Do not go more than six months without reconditioning. Failure to recondition the Dissolved Oxygen probe may cause it to fail prior to the full two year lifespan.
Sensor cables are a key wear point. The most common issues affecting cables are UV damage and animal abrasion. If it is possible to shade your FieldKit (without shading the solar panel, if you are using one), we recommend doing so to reduce UV damage to the cables. You will know that UV damage is occurring if the cable insulation becomes brittle or discolored.
Animals will also sometimes chew on cables. To prevent this, you can choose to apply a mixture of petroleum jelly (or other grease) and cayenne pepper to the cables. This mixture is waterproof but may need to be reapplied every few weeks or months, depending on your environment. You can also purchase an armored sheath (also known as a metal wireloom) to protect your cables. We recommend using one made of aluminum, as galvanized steel sheaths eventually corrode and can be sharp on the inside, leading to cable damage.