Automatic remote meter reading: putting your water meter on-line

Automatic remote meter reading: putting your water meter on-line – Focus On: Building Management & Maintenance

Alan Rothschild

Water cost management and conservation are emerging issues of particularly critical concern in the context of today’s high water/sewer costs (which can sometimes exceed annual heating costs) and in view of anticipated future rate increases.

Some building owners and managers are now making use of a new technology to increase the water efficiency of their properties and cut annual water/sewer expense dramatically. An additional benefit is that the data provided by these systems can also be used to eliminate DEP billing errors and to generate bills for commercial submeters.

A monitoring device called a probe is attached to the wire connections of the meter. This device is then simply connected to any regular telephone line.

The probe can be programmed to read meters at selected and variable intervals, and to phone these readings into a central station computer automatically. It does this late at night only, when the line is clear, and will not interfere with regular phone service in any way. Typical calls are placed once or twice a week and last only 30 seconds. Special software then compiles the readings and calculates consumption. Monthly summary reports of consumption and projected costs are then provided automatically, enabling you to closely track water/sewer expense.

Warnings of leak/waste situations are also provided automatically as soon as any are detected.

Automatic remote meter reading does all of the following:

* Eliminates the need for your staff to read the meter and check consumption.

* Provides a database of readings for comparison to utility bills – avoiding bill errors and disputes.

* Monitors consumption regularly to provide automatic calculation of anticipated expense.

* Provides reliable methods for quick detection of leaks and waste.

* Detects and eliminates unnecessary expense – automatically.

For example, if a 200-unit complex’s water/sewer budget exceeds $ 60,000 per year, and if an Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) system enables the property to find savings of only 15 percent, that equals $9,000 per year (after year after year…)! And just think what $9,000 in additional net income does for the value of that building!

The typical building with 50 to 100 units and one meter can receive basic monitoring services for a cost of only $50 to $60 a month. The probe unit is free, and installation is inexpensive – typically about $450. All that’s needed is a standard telephone line and an extension jack within 10 feet of the meter remote.

The property’s net expense is zero, because the data provided will enable the building to save more that its minor cost every year.

Remember that one moderately leaky toilet can cost more than $150 a month under today’s high water/sewer rates. The AMR probe units will detect these leaks within days.

A hidden boiler water leak or hot water leak can cost many hundreds of dollars a month. Automatic Meter Reading will indicate these problems within a week.

Hidden uptrends in consumption can easily increase costs by 10 to 20 percent or more. This can amount to $1,500 to $3,000 per year in the typical 50- to 100-unit building. Automatic Meter Reading detects and reports these uptrends quickly, enabling you to take corrective action long before DEP generates an unexpectedly high bill.

Erratic billing cycles, estimated readings and erroneous charges can cost you much needless aggravation, and plenty of money. Automatic remote metering enables you to avoid these problems today.

Commercial submeters can also be wired into the system. Then these costs can be easily tracked and automatically billed.

Automatic remote meter reading is like having an insurance policy against leaks and bill errors. Information from the probe units indicates the exact status of your water and sewer expense, and current consumption efficiency, and will enable the property to effectively manage and control this important budget item.

There is probably a great potential treasure in cost savings hidden in many properties. This new technology is a valuable tool to help owners and managers locate and exploit potential savings.

Putting your water meter on-line may enable your property to reduce water/sewer costs by 20 to 30 percent or even more; eliminate DEP bill errors, and control commercial costs.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Hagedorn Publication

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group