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Cold Weather and Your Mass Flow Sensor


Feb 22, 2013

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Sierra is a global company, so we sell our mass air flow sensors into some pretty extreme cold weather environments.   Indeed, we are seeing more and more applications in the far North, where immersible thermal flow meters like Sierra’s Steel-Mass® Model 640S and our new QuadraTherm™ Model 640i are used in the oil fields and tar sands to monitor gas flows for flares, natural gas, and compressors.  One common question we get from our customers in these and other cold weather applications is “how do your flow meters handle cold weather”?

The answer is “pretty well”, but there are some caveats to be aware of.  Over the next few weeks, we will look at these in detail.

Part 1: Cold Weather and Mass Air Flow Sensor Electronics

Mass air flow sensors, like Sierra’s Steel-Mass® Model 640S and our new QuadraTherm™  Model 640i, typically have an ambient temperature rating of -40°F to 120°F (-40°C to 50°C).  So what happens at -40°?  This rating is primarily based upon the temperature where the LCD DISPLAY becomes difficult to read.  You may have seen this same effect on your cell phone display; the display will fade in very cold weather but will “come back” without any permanent damage once warmed up.   The same is true of the displays used on Sierra’s mass air flow sensors.  Other than that, there are no lasting physical effects on the flow meter.  In fact the heat dissipated by the operation of the electronics typically keeps everything a snug 40°F (22°C) warmer inside the meter’s red housing.  Recall too that Sierra’s red housing is rated IP 67 and keeps moisture out, so ice and snow won’t be a problem.

Cold weather does affect the accuracy of the meter, though…sometimes by a lot.  We will look at how in Part Two of this series.

Scott Rouse, Product Line Director
Written By:
Scott Rouse, Product Line Director
Sierra Instruments

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