City of Fallon using radio to read meters
Nevada Appeal News Service
FALLON – The city is using new technology to read water and electric meters by radio.
“We have discovered with new technology we can replace existing meters with an MXU, a low-band FM radio,” said City Clerk/Treasurer Gary Cordes.
“It facilitates the meter-reading process and improves accuracy. It’s 99.9 percent accurate,” he said.
All new subdivisions in town are utilizing the newer water and electric meters. The electric meters still have a round face, but lack the spinning disk normally found on older meters. Instead, there is a digital readout of the household’s power consumption.
City Engineer Larry White said the city can read meters three ways now: A city employee can physically read the dials on the meter, use a hand-held device with a touch pad that fits into the lid of the meter to read it automatically or drive by the residence with the hand-held receiver. The receiver sends a signal to the meter, activating it to send a signal back and then shuts it off.
“Once it’s implemented, we can read all the meters in one day,” White said. But that day may be years off still.
Cordes said it will take five to 10 years to outfit all homes and apartment buildings in the city with the new radio meters. He said new subdivisions are installing the radio meters now and existing homes will have their meters replaced when they break. Meters that are difficult to read, either due to placement or obstacles like plants or fences, will be replaced. Over the course of the next few years, all meters in the city will be replaced, at the city’s cost.
Cordes said the water meters cost $111 and the electric meters cost $139. So far, the city has 205 electric and 276 new water meters installed.
Reading the meters is a matter of slowly driving through a neighborhood and pointing the hand-held receiver toward the house. The unit will emit a beep when the reading is complete, and will compare the usage to the previous month’s reading. If the numbers aren’t similar, the receiver will alert the reader, who will double check the reading.
While the technology is still being installed, there is still a good amount of physical labor involved in reading meters.
Jenna Cole and Amber Gulley, both meter readers with the city, said they still have to get on the ground to read water meters located in front yards, even in new neighborhoods still under construction.
They said sometimes dogs will chase them or residents will tell them to leave their property, leery of their presence.
Cordes said the city looked at a neighbor to the west before implementing the system locally.
“Fernley has had the process implemented for their water meters. We looked closely at their operations,” he said.
Fernley City Manager Gary Bacock said his city has had the radio water meters for several years now.
“When I arrived in 1998 we were already using it,” Bacock said.
He estimates 80 to 90 percent of Fernley homes have the radio water meter.
“All new subdivision have them. It helps, as you get more customers, you don’t have to add employees as fast when you get more automated,” he said.
Bacock said a few months ago a Southwest Gas employee came to his house and replaced his natural gas meter with an automated one.
“The newer systems are much more efficient,” he said. “Employees drive by an area and the radio frequency picks up the information in a hand-held computer. They go to the office and download it and process it for a water bill.”