Bill Bosch, director of the city’s electric department, said the new meters are more efficient and accurate than the old, mechanical meters which were 35 years old on average. Bosch said the old meters had moving gears that eventually wear out and slow down.
Residents may have seem changes in their bill with the new meters, he said, because they are more accurate, resulting in higher bills after the meters were installed. “If there is an increase,” Bosch said, “customers would already have seen it, since the meters are already in place and shouldn’t see another one in July.”
The new meters, called AMI or automated meter infrastructure meters, are cellular wireless monitoring, which sends a signal to the city with the data on usage, eliminating the need for meter readers. The signal is sent around midnight and takes only 4 to 5 seconds, Bosch said, then turns off.
The data collected includes how much and when its being used. “It can show you, in 15 minute increments, what you’re using, when you’re using it and why,” he said.
The old meters only tell how much is being used. Bosch said the additional data helps the city know when peak demands are, and how much electricity it needs to buy,
It also allows customers to see their usage to make adjustments if they need to, which could help lower their monthly bills. It will also alert the city in the event of an outage, sending a signal that it does not have power.
This allows city crews to respond to outages faster since its easier to locate the outage and determine if its just one house, a block or an entire area, Bosch said.
The city opted for the AMI “smart meters” because unlike others, they have no health risks or additional infrastructure requirements. “The whole thing is right here,” he said holding up one of the meters.
With other systems, radio transmitters and collectors are needed, and would also have to be repaired during an outage. “When the power goes out, you want me to get the power back on as soon as possible,” he said.
The new meters can be turned on and off from the office, in the event of outages, as well as during move in and move out of tenants, and for failure to pay.
“With the old meters we have to send a truck out, and it costs the city $45 to $65 just to roll a truck,” Bosch said.
Another savings for the city with the new meters is the ability to determine tampering. The electric meter will send a signal if its been tampered with, where the old ones had to be visibly checked.
He said the savings for customers is the ability to see and adjust useage. “You can see fluctuations which we can see if the problem is on our end or the customer’s end,” Bosch said.
He cited an example where the data showed the fluctuations, and “we saw our transformer was failing,” Bosch said, “We scheduled an outage with the customer to make the repairs.”
The other savings to the city will be that as of July 1, there will no longer be a need for meter readers for the electric meters. “I pay $1 per meter for readings each month. We have 15,000 electric meters and 22,000 water meters,” Bosch said,
The meter readers will still be used for the water meters, he said, as the technology isn’t there yet for water meters. Bosch explained the city will be using the radio transmitters for the water meters, which will send a signal to a collector, placed on top of the water tower and then to the city.
County water customers will have drive-by meter readers, who will be able to pick of the signal as they go by. The health concerns about the radio transmitters are minimized, Bosch said, as the water meters are not in the house, but down by the street.