Water Meter Reading
An Overview of Electronic Meter Reading
What is Automatic Meter Reading?
Many utilities are using Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) as a way of improving customer service while reducing the cost of reading meters. Because the AMR system will greatly reduce our meter reading and meter maintenance costs, the system will pay for itself very quickly, so there will be no extra charge to existing customers and no rate increase to cover the expense.
Broomfield has chosen an AMR system that uses miniature radio transmitters attached to the water meter. We will be able to collect the readings from radio receivers that are either handheld or mounted on vehicles. With this process, one operator of a vehicle will be able to read more meters in one day. There will not be nearly as many problems from snow and meters that are hard to access; however, we still require that our customers keep their meters uncovered and accessible at all times.
What are the benefits of AMR?
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Improved operations
- Cost reductions
- Improved employee safety
- Improved accuracy
- Theft identification
- Improved reliability
- Improved distribution system planning
- Improved leak identification
- Eliminates access problems
How does the system work?
The key to the system is a device called an "ERT" (Encoder-Receiver-Transmitter). This device is connected directly to a special electronic register on the water meter. Normally, the ERT does nothing – it “sleeps”, waiting for the meter reader to approach.
The meter reader’s handheld or truck-mounted reading device sends out a “wake up” signal. When an ERT receives this signal, it checks the reading on the meter register, encodes it into a digital signal, and then transmits its identification number and the current reading. After a few minutes, the ERT stops transmitting and goes back to "sleep” until the next time we perform a meter reading.
The handheld device or truck-mounted computer system matches the ERT identification number with your property and records the reading. At the end of the day, the meter reader uploads the information to our billing system.
What exactly is an ERT, and where is it installed?
An ERT is a wholly contained electronic device designed to read the meter register and transmit a signal.
We use two kinds of ERTs. The type that is used in a particular property depends on the location of the water meter. Pit ERTs are used for meters located in pits outside the building, whereas Integrated ERTs are used when the meter is inside the building.
The pit ERT mounts directly on or under the lid of an outdoor meter pit. It is sturdy enough to stand up to the weather and a certain amount of traffic load. The ERT looks like a black mushroom with a 7-inch diameter cap and a 2-inch diameter “stem” that passes through a hole in the lid. A wire connects the ERT to the meter register. In sidewalks, we’ll use a special lid that holds the ERT underneath and out of the way of pedestrians.
The pit ERT sticks up about ¾ of an inch above the cast iron lid, so it’s important that you take care not to damage it with lawnmowers and snow blowers. In some cases, we will use a lid that has a ¾-inch recess to hold the ERT so that it is flush with the lid.
The integrated ERT is a 4-inch, square, black box that is attached to the register on the inside water meter. Inside meters are usually located in the basement or a crawl space by a water shut-off valve.
Do you need to come into my home?
If your water meter is in a pit, the installer will not need to enter your home. He or she may need to work in your yard, however, and will probably want to run the water from an outside faucet when the work is complete. You can help by making sure that nothing obstructs the meter pit and that overhanging shrubbery has been trimmed back.
If the meter is installed indoors, the installer will have to work inside the building. A responsible adult must be at home when the installer arrives. You can make the installation faster and easier if you make sure that the water meter is fully accessible and that the area around the meter is clear of debris and obstructions. The installer may need to leave and re-enter the home several times to obtain supplies and to verify that the meter can be read from the street. Our installers have been asked to take special care inside people’s homes to avoid tracking mud and dirt into the house, and to clean up the work area before they leave.
Will they need to turn off my water?
There will be a brief interruption of service – usually for only 15 minutes or less. The installer will inform you before turning off the water and again when it has been turned back on. The entire operation should take less than thirty minutes.
Will the ERT and meter last forever?
Not exactly. Approximately every ten years, a field service representative will need to change the battery in your ERT. Or we may need to inspect and service the meter and ERT every few years if it isn’t working properly, so you must keep them accessible at all times. In about ten years, a field service representative will come by to change the battery in the ERT. For indoor ERT installations, that will mean making an appointment to get inside the house.
Taking care of a Pit with an ERT
If you have a pit with an ERT mounted on the meter or lid in your yard or driveway, be careful not to run over it with a lawnmower or snow blower. Please don’t bury the ERT or the meter pit, and don’t place objects on top of the ERT. We will still need access to your meter and ERT from time-to-time, and objects on the ERT may interfere with radio transmission.
If you do any landscaping around the meter pit, you’ll need to adjust the meter pit (and maybe the meter setting) to the new grade. You will need to contact the Broomfield Utilities Division at 303.438.6319.
Taking care of an inside Meter & ERT
If you have a integrated ERT attached to your indoor meter, the most important thing is to leave it alone. If you decide to finish or remodel the area where the ERT is located, please call the Broomfield Utilities Division at 303.438.6319 and arrange to meet with a field service representative who can explain how much room we need to work on your meter and ERT, or who can relocate the ERT, if necessary.
Please do NOT box these devices in, place them behind plaster walls, or paint them. We will need to inspect and service the meter and/or ERT every few years, so you must keep them accessible at all times.
If you have any questions about AMR, ERT, or your meter itself, please contact the Broomfield Utilities Division at 303.438.6334. If the phone representative cannot assist you directly, they can get you in touch with a field technician.