Reading Your Meter – Automated Meter Reading (AMR)
Cherokee has long relied on meter readers walking from home to home collecting visual meter reads and hand writing or entering them into handheld electronic devices. In cases where meters were difficult to access, meter reads were not collected, and estimated bills were generated to reflect utility usage. Adverse weather conditions, structural hazards and the occasional dog sometimes led to a slip, trip, fall or nibble. Technological advances in the form of AMR have enabled utilities to eliminate reading errors, missed reads and work-related injuries, all while reducing costs and maximizing efficiency.
AMR’s success relies on ERT technology, and while it could easily stand for efficient, reliable and thrifty, it’s actually short for encoder/receiver/transmitter. The ERT itself is an interface device designed to attach to and integrate with the meter register – see meter type illustration. Each device is programmed with a unique identification number to ensure all collected reads match the property where the meter is installed.
Once installed, reads are collected using a Data Collection Unit (DCU) – handheld computer or larger Mobile Lite – containing a transceiver that transmits a low-level, narrow bandwidth radio frequency that “wakes” the meter. The information is compiled, converted to a digital signal, and sent to the DCU, where it will be stored and eventually downloaded into the billing system. Within a few minutes the meter will stop transmitting a signal and go back to sleep to conserve battery life.
Automated Meter Reading FAQ’s
Why are the meters being replaced now?
Existing meters within the District range from 10-30 years of age and must be periodically replaced to ensure proper operation and accuracy. Cherokee would still need to replace meters over time, and implementing AMR was an opportunity not only to accomplish that, but to also take advantage of existing technology that improves operations.
Why use AMR?
AMR provides a number of advantages to both you and Cherokee:
- Privacy protection
- Reduced costs
- Eliminates access problems
- Increased efficiency
- Fewer service repairs
- Reduces re-reads
- Improved accuracy
- Improved employee safety
Will the new meter affect my water bill?
Over time meters tend to register less water than is actually being used. Since new meters work more efficiently, you may a see a slight increase in your monthly water bill. Accurate meter reads allow for better long-term budget forecasting that can help keep rates lower.
Will the emitted radio frequency affect electronic devices within my home? No, the only time the meter transmits a signal is when it’s prompted by a Data Collection Unit. Unless a follow-up read is requested, this should only occur once a month on your scheduled meter reading date. Additionally, the ERT operates at a very low-level radio frequency and will not interfere with or operate any other electronic devices such as garage door openers, televisions, cordless or cellular phones, wireless computer networks, Internet access or cardiac pacemakers.
Will the emitted radio signal adversely affect my health? No, the ERT operates at a very low-level radio frequency – much lower than radio receivers or cordless telephones – and will not cause any adverse health effects.
How will I be notified?
A door hanger will be placed on your front door asking you to contact the office to schedule an appointment at your convenience.
Why do you need inside access if the meter is located outside my home?
The small box on the outside of your home is not the actual meter. This device is known as a remote register and is connected to your water meter by a two-strand copper wire. A small magnetic current transmits the meter reading through the wire to the remote register so a visual reading can be documented by a meter reader. Once a radio frequency meter is installed, feel free to remove and discard the remote from your home’s exterior, as we leave the remote installed for aesthetic reasons.
Where is my water meter located?
Most water meters are located in the basement or crawlspace near the hot-water heater. If you’re unable to locate your meter, our technician will assist you upon arrival for the appointment. Most meters in Antelope Ridge and Ellicott Springs are located in meter pits outside of the home and do not require inside access.
Will I have to wait several hours for the technician to arrive?
Absolutely not, we understand your time is valuable and that’s why we schedule spot-on appointments that work for you. We can even schedule weekend appointments if you’re unavailable during normal business hours.
Will the service technician identify themselves upon arrival?
Yes, technicians will be wearing a Cherokee uniform and driving a company vehicle. Both uniforms and vehicles should have the Cherokee logo clearly visible.
How long does it take?
Our technicians can install a new meter in as little as 10-15 minutes. Meter location, valve condition and other factors can increase the time to as much as 30 minutes. Clearing debris and obstructions from the area surrounding your water meter can help speed up the process.
Will my water service be disrupted during the installation?
You will experience a brief service disruption while the technician replaces the water meter. The installer will inform you prior to turning the water off and again when it has been reconnected.
How long will the meter last?
Each ERT unit contains a special battery designed to last approximately ten years, which means eventually it will need to be replaced. You will receive a notification at that time requesting a service appointment. Also, improperly functioning meters will require service or replacement, so it is important to keep them accessible.