Columbia Gas to debut automated meter reader systemWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Columbia Gas of Ohio will launch its new Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system in Northwest Ohio on Jan. 3.
The new AMR system will allow Columbia Gas to read every customer’s meter each month and eliminate the need to estimate a customer’s gas consumption.
“What we use to do is read the meter one month and estimate the next month, read one month and estimate the next month and so on,” said Chris Kozak, Columbia Gas communications and community relations manager. “One of the concerns we heard from customers is ‘You estimated my bill wrong, high or low’… ‘You couldn’t gain access to my house and have been estimating for a long time.’ So this is going to eliminate all of that.”
The AMR system utilizes new meters containing radio technology. A vehicle equipped with a special meter reading computer sends out a signal to the AMR device and eight signals are sent back with a customer’s gas reading, according to Curtis Anstead, statewide AMR project manager.
Each AMR device operates at a 900 megahertz range, or approximately a quarter mile, Anstead said. The range decreases as more structures are placed between the meter and the meter reader.
The AMR system allows each meter reader to collect 4,000 readings a day, compared to 400 readings that could be collected by foot, Anstead said. The meter reader can drive down a street at posted speeds, and up to 50 mph, and still collect data from the meters, Kozak said.
All meters contain a 20-year lithium battery and do not draw energy from a home’s electrical system.
Columbia Gas previously outsourced its meter readings to Bermex and at its busiest time the system utilized 15 meter readers, Kozak said. The new system will utilize three vehicles and retain three meter reading positions.
Columbia Gas has spent $9 million and 18 months installing 180,000 AMR systems in Northwest Ohio.
The company hired 24 temporary workers in the region, a total of 70 statewide, to help install the new meters. All temporary employees have the option to relocate and continue working to install new meters as Columbia Gas works to implement the AMR system statewide by 2013, Kozak said.
The AMR system represents an $81 million investment by Columbia Gas during five years as it converts its 1.4 million meters to the new technology.
The system kicks off in the Northwest Ohio service area Jan. 3. Communities that will be affected include; Toledo, Sylvania, Holland Maumee, Perrysburg, Rossford, Oregon, Northwood, Walbridge, Millbury, Curtice, Clay Center, Genoa, Elmore and Woodville.
The AMR system is already running in Findlay, Fremont, Fostoria and Bowling Green. Following its launch, Toledo will be the largest city in the state currently utilizing the AMR system.
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