How to Protect Your Camera in Harsh Environments
It's too cold out there
by Bob

Computer equipment is quite happy to be indoors with us because the environment is not too hot or cold, but just like us it needs some protection when it is outdoors.  Standard environmental enclosures can protect our electronic equipment when temperatures are between -20 F and 120 F, but what happens when temperatures reach over 130 F or drop to -50 F?  For example, in Alaska and Northern Canada temperatures during the winter can get as low as - 50˚ F.  In sun-baked areas of the world like Death Valley in California temperatures can get as hot as 130˚ F.  This is not only a problem in extreme areas of the world; it can get even get over 140˚F in some areas of the NYC subway system.  Thatís when it gets much harder to keep the electronics from overheating or freezing.  Special equipment is required in these extreme environments.  This article describes how we can protect our computers and IP cameras.

In temperate zones there are many housings and enclosures for computers and cameras. These enclosures vary from those that just keep the rain out to pressurized enclosures that not only maintain the temperature but also assure that equipment is protected when there is salt water spray.  But these standard enclosures are not sufficient when temperatures get extremely hot or cold.  This is when we require special types of environmental enclosures.

Operating at very low temperatures
 When it gets very cold, electronic equipment will not work correctly and can be damaged.  Electronic components such as CCD and CMOS sensors in cameras will not operate correctly at very low temperatures, and water vapor can condense and freeze on the electronic circuit boards and damage the circuits.  To prevent this we can do one of two things.  We can add heaters, or insulate the equipment so the heat generated by the operating electronics maintains the temperature.

Enclosures with Heaters
Most camera enclosures include heaters and blowers to maintain the operating temperature. This is usually sufficient and they work well when we have adequate power.  When the temperature is not too cold (not less than -20 F) we can use a heater that requires about 20Watts.  In extremely cold environments we add additional heaters to maintain the temperature.  For example we can add an additional heater (aptly called the cold weather kit) to the Videolarm FDW75C2N dome enclosure.   In this case we will require about 40 Watts of external power to keep the heaters going.  In very cold environments we may also get a lot of freezing rain or blowing snow.  In this case we require a sealed or even pressurized enclosure.

Insulated Enclosures
Insulated housings provide the simplest way to protect cameras and computers.  It is also excellent when we use solar power since power usage is minized.  When we use a sealed and insulated enclosure the heat generated by the camera is enough to maintain the environmental temperature.  The more heat generated by the camera the better able this system will work in very cold weather.

Another advantage is that it can simplify installation of IP cameras that use PoE (Power over Ethernet), since you only need to run the network wire to the camera.    

An example of a insulated enclosure is the Batko FB-2008MT environmental housing which has been successfully used in the extreme northern climates of Canada.  This sealed, weatherproof enclosure has a double wall and mineral fiber board.  It can protect an IP camera in environments as cold as -40˚ F (-40˚ C)
The IQinvision Sentinel Series is another example of an IP camera system that can be used in cold environments without a heater.  It can operate in temperatures as low as -22˚ F (30˚ C). 

Operating at High Temperatures
When computer equipment gets too hot it will virtually burn up. The circuits will be damaged.  We must make sure that the equipment doesnít exceed its rated operating temperature. 

When your car is parked out in the sun and itís hot outside, the inside of the car gets extremely hot.  The same thing happens with a camera, thatís in an enclosure out in the sun.  When itís hot the sun can add significant heat. To minimize the heat, sunshields are added to enclosures.  Most enclosures also include a blower that provides some cooling (especially when the outside temperature is less than the interior temperature).  The fan also helps to prevent hot spots in the camera.  But when the temperature gets beyond 120 F (48 C), the sun shield and fan are not enough to keep the equipment cool.  

In extremely hot environments we need to add special cooling or design the electronics to survive when it gets very hot.  Air conditioners are the best way to keep the temperature under control.  There are two types of air conditioning products available, those that use compressor type coolants and those that use solid state thermoelectric cooling.   

Thermoelectric Cooling
A thermoelectric cooler uses the Peltier effect to reduce the temperature in an enclosure.  A Peltier cooler is a solid-state active heat pump which transfers heat from one side of the device to the other side against the temperature gradient (from cold to hot), using electrical power.  The advantage of this type of cooling is that it has no moving parts making it more reliable than air conditioners that use compressors.  These types of systems can provide up to 2500 BTU of air conditioning and can operate in ambient temperatures up to 140 F.  There are a number of different size enclosures available that can handle computers. Contact me if you need to know more about the enclosures available.

 Compressor Type
The air conditioners we are all familiar with use compressors that force special fluid through a nozzle that causes the fluid to vaporize.  This causes flash evaporation which results in cooling. This type of cooling systems can handle a lot more cooling (up to 24,000 BTU). They are usually not designed to work in temperatures above 120 F but some special compressors have been designed to handle temperatures as high as 167įF (75į C ).  For example the Videolarmís new Igloo Dome provides an air-conditioned solution that operates in extreme heat climates with temperatures up to 75įC / 167įF. The unit operates on low toxicity Propylene Glycol coolant which cools the internal temperature within the camera enclosure.

If you need more help in selecting the right type of enclosures for your cameras or computers, donít hesitate to contact us at 914-944-3425 or use our contact form.

Published by Bob Mesnik
Copyright © 2009 Kintronics, Inc.. All rights reserved.
For more information, please contact us 1-800-431-1658 or 914-944-3425 (outside the USA) or by email infohome at kintronics.com
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