Comparing sensor costs

Comparing sensors costs and securing a higher return on investment

A search on Google for sensors produces nearly 4 billion results. Consequently, engineers searching for sensing and monitoring solutions are confronted by a market flooded with options. Therefore, it is crucial to compare availability, functionality, upfront costs and on-going costs. Questions like- How will operating this product affect my responsibilities? and What hidden costs are associated with the power source? need to be answered. Comparing sensor costs begins by placing sensors into 3 groups based on their power source. Here we break down the costs of battery-powered, plug-in, and energy harvesting sensors to illustrate which provides the best operation for value. Furthermore, within this article we compare 100 of each sensor type over a 10-year period.

Battery-powered sensors need continuous maintenance

Battery-powered sensors for industrial applications average £300 each. They may be 'off-the-shelf' and ready to deploy, however understanding the ongoing costs and persistent maintenance is important. On average, batteries need replacing every 2 years with some extending to up 10 years. If you only need 5 sensors, that sounds manageable. Yet larger sites can easily require hundreds of sensors.

Typical replacement batteries cost as low as £5 and can exceed £55. To illustrate cost comparisons, we estimate replacement batteries at £25 each. Therefore, 100 battery-powered sensors at an average price of £300 will cost £30,000 for the initial purchase. Because batteries will need replacing every 2 years on average, you will spend an additional £2,500 every 2 years. Additionally, your engineers will be tied up replacing batteries instead of performing important tasks.

Cost comparison over 10 years

Click on the image to expand

Plug-in, wired sensors require expensive installation

To implement plug-in sensors, there are important aspects to consider. Firstly, you will need to schedule an electrical engineer for installation. In some cases, this can take up to 6 months and you can expect to pay an average of £30 per hour for an electrical engineer’s time. Considering 100 sensors need installation, that can take weeks costing up to £2,500 in labour, plus an additional £250 in materials. Furthermore, plug-in sensors are reliant on infrastructure and available electricity. Without these, your monitoring efforts won’t include hard to access equipment and locations. Meanwhile, the average cost of a plug-in sensor is £300. Therefore, 100 sensors will cost £30,000 plus the cost of installation. Ongoing costs include the electricity that each sensor uses is estimated at £730 per 100 sensors per year. Consequently, over a 10-year period this can add up to £7,300 in order to maintain function.

Energy harvesting sensors offer superior performance

In stark contrast, energy harvesting sensors offer a higher functionality. They offer more flexibility by monitoring more metrics in combination and can include hard to access equipment. They are ultra-deployable and can be easily installed by any member of your team therefore eliminating any installation costs. Additionally, these self-powered sensors can be up and running within minutes. The typical cost of a common energy harvesting sensor for industrial applications is £250. Powering themselves using energy sources available in the local environment, they eliminate the need and cost of battery replacement. As a result, 100 sensors at a cost of £250 equates to an investment of £25,000. Notably, there are no installation and ongoing maintenance costs.

An engineer at a UK manufacturer had this to say, ‘DCO’s energy harvesting sensors let us deploy more quickly and cost-effectively than wired-in sensors. But still give us higher monitoring performance than battery-powered sensors.’

DCO Systems offer energy harvesting sensors that can significantly advance your current monitoring efforts. Energy harvesting sensors also secure a faster and higher return on investment compared to battery-powered and plug-in sensors. It’s a modest investment with clear and proven results. To learn more about our adaptable, ready-to-deploy products, go to our contact page or email us at

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