METER READING FACTS
METERS - WHAT THEY DO AND HOW TO READ THEM
Your water meter is most likely located inside the house where the water service line comes through the foundation wall. In certain older homes they were sometimes located outside, in a pit. In any event, like the water, they need to be protected from freezing temperatures.
The meter is a calibrated, positive displacement-type device which measures the gallons of water flowing through it by allowing the water to flow through a rotating wheel assembly which keeps track of the volumes passing through and records that on a dial, somewhat like a turnstile. The meter will only register what passes through it and converts the number of revolutions of the "turnstile" into gallons.
A modern water meter is shown below:
The "odometer"-like readout is where the total volume of water that has passed through the meter since it was first installed is recorded. The large red dial shows volumes in (1-10) gallons (therefore, one full rotation of the dial means 10 gallons of water have passed through it). If you turn off all your faucets, etc. the red dial should not move. Similarly, the little red triangular spinner (between the 7 and 8 on the dial above) will rotate if any water is going through the meter and it is very sensitive. It will move slowly even with a small drip-type leak. If the little spinner moves at all, you have a leak somewhere. If you are getting higher-than-expected water bills, this is a good way to check to see if you have a leaky toilet, etc.
A close-up of the dial is shown below:
It shows a total reading of 538,810 gallons.
The difference between meter readings taken each quarter represent the amount of water used in that period. Customers are billed in thousand gallon increments.
For example, if the previous quarter reading on the above meter was 523, 810 gallons, the amount used would be 538,810 - 523,810 = 15,000 gallons or "15" under "Usage" on the bill. This would represent a fairly typical usage.
E-Coder Meters - Digital Display
In recent years, the Authority has been standardizing on Neptune E-Coder meters, often in combination with a remote/radio read configurations.
These meters have a different, digital dial face, but offer some key added features when it comes to detecting leaks (leaking toilets, etc.). The dial initially appears to be blank, but can be activated/read by shining a flashlight on the dial face which will then bring up the full display.
Instead of the familiar spinning triangle that is on a conventional meter to indicate flow, the E-Coder meter Displays a Leak Icon in the form of a dripping faucet, to show low, relatively continuous flows in the system, like a leaking toilet:
REMOTE METER READING DEVICES - OLDER VINTAGE
Meters are normally read remotely, through wires connecting the meter (that black panel to the left of the meter face in the first photo) and a remote reader which is then located on an outside wall. The meter can then be read from the outside using special equipment. This avoids the meter reader from having to get into the basement, etc., unless there is a problem with the connection or we need to check the meter itself.
The photo shows different types of remote reading devices currently in use within our service territory:
METERS - HOW OFTEN ARE THEY READ?
We read meters every three months, normally during the first two weeks of January, April, July and October. Every attempt is made to get "actual" reads. If you get more than an occasional "estimated" read, something is wrong. Please contact the office and we will try to resolve the problem.
METERS - HOW ACCURATE ARE THEY?
Very. They typically measure flows with 98-100% accuracy.
When they begin to wear, after many years of service, they slowly begin to bypass and typically record less than the actual amount used. It is rare for a meter to register "high".
For this reason, we replace meters after 20 years of service.
METER REPLACEMENT PROGRAM
As mentioned above, we replace meters on a 20-year cycle to maintain a high standard of accuracy and reliability. Occasionally we will run across an old meter that has been in service beyond this time frame because of access problems in the past, etc.
A good way to tell if your meter belongs in the Smithsonian is that meters have changed in style over the years. The older units had brass "caps" which could be closed over the meter face, as shown below:
If you have a meter that looks like the above unit in your home, give us a call and we will replace it with a new unit at no charge.