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View Full Version : Do you use a water meter monitor?



Nords
February 15th, 2010, 06:32 AM
I just finished fixing a nasty little water leak from a cracked irrigation valve body. Our sprinkler system is 20 years old and our water bill showed that this one had been leaking for weeks before it got big enough to hear.

I know how to check our water meter for a leak, but I only do it if I think there's a problem. (That's troubleshooting or damage control, not monitoring.) It's not easy or convenient to pry up the sidewalk cover, chase away the centipedes, wipe off the meter face, and watch the little triangle. OTOH if that meter had a remote display on our PC or in our kitchen then I'd check it every day.

With my submarine background, very little water is wasted in our house. There aren't any plumbing leaks. We have low-flow faucets and shower heads, low-flush toilets, a front-loading washing machine, and an EnergyStar dishwasher. I even do most of my showering at the beach! I don't think I could further reduce our house water use without "significant family feedback".

The majority of our water use, perhaps even 70%, is our sprinkler system. I've considered having a second water meter installed on our sprinkler line but first it makes more sense to reduce the irrigation by changing our landscaping. Over the years we've spread our xeriscaping and shut off about a third of the sprinklers. However we still have eight valves hidden inside irrigation boxes all over the lot, and the PVC piping is the cheap thin-walled variety. I'll probably pre-emptively replace a couple more valves, but it's hard & dirty work. Even that won't solve the problem of a sudden break.

Payback is problematic. Our water/sewer bill runs $100-$110/month and most of it is the sewer bill. However the sewer bill is based on water use. Even though your irrigation water never goes into the sewer system, if you have high water use then it's a double whammy on the water/sewer bill. A water monitor would probably help us save $10-$20/month just in prompt leak detection.

I've been looking for a non-invasive system that would mount on the face of the meter or perhaps tap into some sort of test plug-- something that wouldn't upset the water company. There's already a small transducer on the meter (which I guess is read with a wireless device or maybe even networked over a power line) so a monitor could also tap into that signal instead of directly into the meter.

I'm having trouble crafting a good Google search, and this doesn't appear to be a popular consumer product. The sites I've found (Elimleak (http://www.elimileak.co.uk/sfaqs1.htm), Outpost Smart Water (http://www.outpostcentral.com/english/ProductLiveWater.aspx)) look fine but they seem oriented to commercial & industrial customers. Any other product suggestions?

craigwatanabe
February 16th, 2010, 09:26 AM
I just finished fixing a nasty little water leak from a cracked irrigation valve body. Our sprinkler system is 20 years old and our water bill showed that this one had been leaking for weeks before it got big enough to hear.

I know how to check our water meter for a leak, but I only do it if I think there's a problem. (That's troubleshooting or damage control, not monitoring.) It's not easy or convenient to pry up the sidewalk cover, chase away the centipedes, wipe off the meter face, and watch the little triangle. OTOH if that meter had a remote display on our PC or in our kitchen then I'd check it every day.

With my submarine background, very little water is wasted in our house. There aren't any plumbing leaks. We have low-flow faucets and shower heads, low-flush toilets, a front-loading washing machine, and an EnergyStar dishwasher. I even do most of my showering at the beach! I don't think I could further reduce our house water use without "significant family feedback".

The majority of our water use, perhaps even 70%, is our sprinkler system. I've considered having a second water meter installed on our sprinkler line but first it makes more sense to reduce the irrigation by changing our landscaping. Over the years we've spread our xeriscaping and shut off about a third of the sprinklers. However we still have eight valves hidden inside irrigation boxes all over the lot, and the PVC piping is the cheap thin-walled variety. I'll probably pre-emptively replace a couple more valves, but it's hard & dirty work. Even that won't solve the problem of a sudden break.

Payback is problematic. Our water/sewer bill runs $100-$110/month and most of it is the sewer bill. However the sewer bill is based on water use. Even though your irrigation water never goes into the sewer system, if you have high water use then it's a double whammy on the water/sewer bill. A water monitor would probably help us save $10-$20/month just in prompt leak detection.

I've been looking for a non-invasive system that would mount on the face of the meter or perhaps tap into some sort of test plug-- something that wouldn't upset the water company. There's already a small transducer on the meter (which I guess is read with a wireless device or maybe even networked over a power line) so a monitor could also tap into that signal instead of directly into the meter.

I'm having trouble crafting a good Google search, and this doesn't appear to be a popular consumer product. The sites I've found (Elimleak (http://www.elimileak.co.uk/sfaqs1.htm), Outpost Smart Water (http://www.outpostcentral.com/english/ProductLiveWater.aspx)) look fine but they seem oriented to commercial & industrial customers. Any other product suggestions?

You won't find anything that is non-invasive. Water metering has to be done inline thus you have to tap into your water service. You can add a secondary (submeter) after the water meter without getting into trouble with the utility. It's called sub-metering and is typically used when multi-families on one property want separate billing from a landlord. I did a google search and found this interesting site (http://amr.byramlabs.com/submetering.php)devoted to this cause.

Having worked in the Gas Utility business for over 21-years I've researched, ordered and installed remote reading systems for the Gas Company on all islands.

Nords
February 17th, 2010, 04:53 AM
You won't find anything that is non-invasive. Water metering has to be done inline thus you have to tap into your water service.
I hear you, but I don't have to directly sense the flow like the water company. They have a remote-reporting gizmo on the water meter, and whether it's invasive or non-invasive it still senses something from the mechanical meter and then transmits it somewhere else. I'm hoping not to have to build my own sensor like this guy (http://www.edcheung.com/automa/water.htm), but it would seem easier (and a lot cheaper) to sense whatever data the water company's sensor is already transmitting. But maybe that sensor is only tracking hundreds of gallons instead of small leaks.

There are several non-invasive home monitors for electrical power consumption. (Like WattVision.com.) I guess the concept hasn't proven so easy to implement for water consumption. Maybe water prices are too cheap (for now) to merit the same level of attention.

If I go the submeter route then that Byram model looks good, thanks. Don't know if I have to submeter from an "approved" model or if I can go with whatever I want. I've looked at the water company's bureaucratic submetering rules and haven't gotten a price quote yet. Guess I need to talk with one of the water company's guys or a plumber who's installed submeters for them.

You've helped me realize that maybe I care more about leak alerts, definitely on the sprinklers but the house as well, so if I went this route then I'd put my own meters on my own convenient locations and not worry about working with the water company. But if I can find a model that's compatible with their requirements then that's worth doing too.


Having worked in the Gas Utility business for over 21-years I've researched, ordered and installed remote reading systems for the Gas Company on all islands.
Sorry to hear that. Our rental uses gas, and it really bugs me that the Gas Co insists on visiting the site for each & every change of customer, and charges for it, but won't set up even a two-hour appointment window. And that visit requirement is enforced even if it's been just a week or two since the last visit.

It's easier (and definitely cheaper) to pay the old tenants to leave the service in their name for a few more weeks than it is to switch it over to our name and then to the new tenants. Gotta bribe have the right tenants to make that happen.

Maybe this is only an issue for landlords and the Gas Co doesn't have to care. But imagine if HECO or the water company insisted on visiting a home to inspect each & every electrical appliance or faucet every time the residence changed hands, but would only commit to being there "sometime" between 9 AM and 4 PM with no prior notification. Even Oceanic Cable probably does better than that.

I think the Gas Co is giving its customers the impression that without their constant vigilance, customer's homes are on the verge of immolation... if we ever move back into our rental as residents then we're going solar water & photovoltaic and canceling the gas service. And if solar subsidies started making fiscal sense for landlords then I wouldn't even wait until we moved back in.

Eh, sorry about the rant. I'm going to have to figure out what the water company needs for submeter data. If I can read and report it myself instead of having to comply with their equipment requirements then this gets a lot easier and also gives me the leak warning.

craigwatanabe
February 17th, 2010, 11:07 AM
I don't see why the frequent visits either. From a billing perspective I can understand the visits per new tenant. You need a "start read" to begin service at any account.

There may be issues with gas appliances however. I've seen people put in commercial-grade appliances with domestic metering and regulators. It overtaxes the regulator (that round thing that attaches before the meter) and can cause the regulator to start humming. Too much humming and it can damage it. Basically too much gas draw, so the metering system has to be upgraded to accomodate the increased gas useage.

As for charging, whenever a new account is set up there is a fee involved. A technician typically has to go out to inspect the gas setup to ensure the new tenant has proper gas service to be in compliance with the PUC. Then the paperwork goes to the Billing Department so the "Meter" can be updated to the current account holder's name, address, billing info. That information is also updated with the Meter Reading Department to update their database to include customer issues such as; dog in the yard, alarm system installed, meter in enclosed area (need key), etc.

If the meter becomes inaccessable to the meter reader, a work order goes out to the Engineering Department to install a remote reader. The Meter Shop gets the work order and calls the tenant to set up a date to install it. The Distribution Department then gets the work order and a date to install.

If all this or any part of this scenerio has to be done when a new tenant arrives, it can be costly because of the manhours needed to comply with turning on a new account.

How to avoid all of this time, expense and hassle? Put the account under the landlord's name and bill the customer thru rent payments. Then it becomes your problem to ensure gas service to the customer instead of having the customer wade thru the beauracratic system the Gas Company has right now.

As for sub metering, I think as long as you tap into the waterline AFTER the meter you are okay. Just make sure there are appropriate backflow devices to keep the main water line from contamination. The Gas Company uses backflow devices to make sure customers don't backflow dangerous or inappropriate gasses into the utility system. It also prevents the meter from being spun backwards. Some meters have built in devices that prevent back spinning.

There is a way to make a non-invasive device but it requires you to attach it to the meter face of the water meter. Most utilities do not allow customers to attach anything to their meters without their approval. It involves an optical sending unit (LED Laser) and an optical photocell. You place the laser dot on the test dial of your water meter (the fastes moving dial, that isn't part of the consumption set of dials or odometer reading). Stop the dial so the laser dot is focused on the black strip (if odometer style) or on the black dial pointer (if dial type). At the optical sensor set the output so that it reads an electronic "Low". Spin the water meter and when the laser dot sees the white background or the white part of the odometer style test dial, the optical sensor's output should read high. Everytime the laser dot hits the test dial's dark setting the optical sensor's output should read a low output.

Setting up a simple PNP or TTL transistor circuit, route the optical sensor's output to the base of an PNP transistor via a linear taper potentiometer. Or if the Optical sensor is a logic sensor send the output directly to an inverter. When the optical sensor "sees" the black portion of the test dial (once per revolution) it will send a low voltage to the PNP circuit or a digital "Zero" to the inverter.

The output of the PNP circuit is the transistor's collector which will send out voltage set by the PNP circuit's biasing resistor (resistor parallel to the Emitter/Base leads of the transistor) That voltage can be used to trigger a counter.

The output of the inverter is sent as a digital "One" or high signal that can be sent to a logic relay that will trigger a counter.

These two circuits will allow you to see meter movement at the basic unit count of the meter.

This is how meters are calibrated using an optical sensor type unit. For larger commercial grade meters that are turbine in nature, ultrasonic is the preferred method where usage is in the millions of gallons per hour ratio.

The easiest and least intrusive method of testing for water leaks is to simply do what you've been doing. Shut off all water valves in the house and use a grease pen to mark the position of the test dial. Come back in 15-minutes, 30-minutes, one hour whatever and see if the dial moved. If it does you have a leak somewhere.

Does your home sit on a concrete pad? Do you have an electric water heater? if yes to both, have you noticed an increase in your electric bill too? If yes, you may have a hot water pipe leak under the slab where you'll never see it.

Walkoff Balk
January 28th, 2014, 09:57 PM
http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/24568507/bws-warns-of-impersonators-attempting-to-steal-customers-money

Fake wada bill.

helen
January 28th, 2014, 10:51 PM
How does people posing as Honolulu Board of Water Supply employees demanding money from people factor in to a thread that is discussing if one is using a water meter monitor?