For a woodworker, a moisture meter is more than just another tool, it is an investment in building their business and reputation. Taken care of properly, a moisture meter can provide years of reliable service before requiring replacement. Without proper care, even the toughest, most reliable meters ever made would quickly fail and be rendered practically useless.
In order to protect their investment so that they can get the most out of it, it is important for woodworkers to take proper care of their moisture meters. However, before you can maximize the life of a moisture meter, you have to know what factors affect the lifespan of a moisture meter.
To help make this easier for you, we’ve assembled a short list of factors that affect the longevity of a moisture meter for woodworking:
Factor #1: Extreme Temperatures
While most moisture meters should work fine in “normal” indoor temperatures, it takes a purpose-built moisture meter to withstand the effects of sub-freezing temperatures or temperatures that are above the boiling point of water. For example, a thermo-hygrometer exposed to temperatures less than -4 °F or more than 140 °F will begin to return incorrect readings.
Leaving any moisture meter not specifically designed for extreme temperatures in severe heat or cold for long periods of time not only throws off the accuracy of a woodworker’s readings, it can cause lasting damage to the meter’s electronic components, permanently rendering it useless.
Factor #2: Exposure to Moisture
Ironically enough, exposure to excessive moisture over a long period of time can actually cause damage to a moisture meter. This damage can manifest in numerous ways, such as corrosion on the contact element of the moisture meter (the pins of a pin-type meter, for example) or in faults of the circuitry inside the meter itself.
As anyone who’s ever dropped a phone into a pool or other body of water can tell you, moisture and sensitive electronics don’t get along well. However, you don’t have to drop an electronic item into water to expose it to excess moisture. Leaving the meter in a humid environment, such as in a bag buried beneath wet work clothes, can cause just as much damage over time as dropping it in water.
Factor #3: Damage Caused by Mishandling
While woodworking moisture meters are typically built to be rugged, long-lasting tools, improper handling in the field is still a leading cause of failure for these devices. This is not to say that such incidents are the user’s fault; accidents do happen, such as a meter getting dropped onto a hard surface or into a bucket of water.
However, taking precautions to avoid mishandling a meter can go a long way towards keeping a meter from failing. For example, you can prevent mishaps by keeping a steady, firm grip on the meter and handing it to co-workers who need to borrow it instead of throwing it across the room to them. Wearing gloves with a gripping surface instead of gloves with a smooth surface can also make it easier to avoid accidentally dropping a moisture meter during use.
A moisture meter, like any piece of electronics, will last for much longer when it is handled with care.
Factor #4: Exposure to Contaminants
This is a problem that thermo-hygrometers are especially sensitive to, since their measuring element is less easily replaced than the pins on a pin-type meter. Over time, as a thermo-hygrometer is repeatedly exposed to chemicals, dust, mold and other particles in the air, these substances can settle on the measuring element of that meter. This causes inaccuracies in the relative humidity readings that the meter provides over time, a phenomenon that is sometimes called “drift.”
As the sensor drift gets worse, the meter becomes less and less reliable, eventually resulting in the need to completely replace the meter with a new one. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much you can do to directly control exposure to contaminants other than trying to minimize particulates in the air before employing your moisture meter and keeping the meter itself clean and in good condition.
Ultimately, no moisture meter or thermo-hygrometer is completely immune to the effects of contaminants.
Factor #5: Storage Conditions
When your moisture meter isn’t in use, where is it being stored? Storage conditions are an important part of taking proper care of any sensitive piece of equipment, and moisture meters are no different. Each of the items we've talked about in the above sections can prove to be important when it comes to storing your moisture meter.
For example, storing a moisture meter in a hot, humid, dirty box that sits loose in the back of a truck which gets bounced around at random won’t last nearly as long as a meter that is kept in its appropriate carrying case. Delmhorst’s moisture meters come with cases to protect them in-between jobs.
However, storage means more than just where you keep the meter in-between jobs. While on the job, is the meter being placed in a utility belt pouch when moving around? Keeping a meter in a pouch not only keeps your hands free for climbing ladders and other activities, it puts your moisture meter in a secure location where it will be exposed to fewer contaminants, not to mention fewer chances to be dropped.
When you take care of your equipment, you can be sure that it’s there to take care of you when you need it.