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Do you use a water meter monitor?
Old 02-15-2010, 11:29 AM   #1
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Do you use a water meter monitor?

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 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. Hawaii has a terribly rotted sewer infrastructure with very high repair/replacement expenses. However the sewer bill is based only 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, Outpost Smart Water) look fine but they seem oriented to commercial & industrial customers. Any other product suggestions?
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Old 02-15-2010, 11:57 AM   #2
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I have never heard of a remote water meter monitor for a private residence, so I can't help much here.

Where I live, we have a system similar to yours where the sewer bill is based on water consumption: If you consume 1 gallon of water, they assume you send that same gallon of water down the sewer system (no matter whether the water actually made it to the sewer system or not) and charge you accordingly. Since the sewer cost per gallon is much higher than the water cost per gallon, it can get very expensive, especially if you water your lawn frequently.

What people do around here is have 2 distinct water meters: one meter for the house and one meter for outdoors activities (gardening, car washing, etc...). In that case, the sewer bill is based only on what you consume for the house and it may mean tens of dollars saved in sewer bill each month for people who have sprinkler systems.
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Old 02-15-2010, 12:39 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
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, Outpost Smart Water) look fine but they seem oriented to commercial & industrial customers. Any other product suggestions?
Excellent question. I, too, am very interested in this issue. Therefore, I have written (e-mail) to our water company asking for their opinion. So I may wait weeks for a response or get it within minutes. We'll see.
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Old 02-15-2010, 12:41 PM   #4
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No remote water monitor here, either. My water consumption is way below the minimum so I pay $2.65/month for water. I have never watered the yard (we get an average 60" rainfall/year).

The entire bill is $20.71/month, but that includes a number of other charges such as sewage, trash collection, mosquito control, and park maintenance. Actually it is billed every other month, so I divided the amounts in half to get monthly values.

One month my water consumption was higher than the minimum for some reason, and they put a warning on the bill itself in big bold capital letters, saying that I was using more than usual and to check for leaks. Scared me to death but Frank's bill said the same thing so we think that the meter reader was goofing off all year and finally caught up. My entire bill that time was $37.xx/month.
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Old 02-15-2010, 01:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
...

Payback is problematic. Our water/sewer bill runs $100-$110/month and most of it is the sewer bill. Hawaii has a terribly rotted sewer infrastructure with very high repair/replacement expenses. However the sewer bill is based only 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. ...
Dunno about your one season state, but here in Oregon the sewer bill is based on the February water reading, then applied at that usage rate through the rest of the year. Water bill fluctuates, sewer bill remains constant through the year. Idea is that few people in Oregon are watering their lawns at that time, thus sewer rate is based pretty much on what actually goes down the pipes. Makes January the time I'm out fixing leaky toilet flappers.
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Old 02-15-2010, 03:30 PM   #6
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Do you use a water meter monitor?

No. But I would like to. Don't really have the financial impetus anymore since I make my own water (well, treatment) but I would still like to have a digital readout for the shower to be reset after each use. It would be nice if it was under $20.

The truth is out there (somewhere).

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Old 02-15-2010, 04:08 PM   #7
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I talked to our meter reader here in oregon recently and he said they were going to install wireless meters in all the residential areas soon. They would still have to drive up the street but would be able to read the meter without lifting the cover.
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Old 02-15-2010, 06:43 PM   #8
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Nope, don't use one. Our water meter is broken. Our usage for the past 4 months has been 0 gallons. Public utility was informed by a phone call on first bill it showed up as 0. They didn't fix it. Second bill of 0 gallon usage, public utility was informed by a visit to their office. They said, "Oh, we replaced your meter." Bills still show $0 usage. We have given up on them.
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Old 02-15-2010, 06:57 PM   #9
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Can think of one idea. Use cheap old sonobuoy hydrophone, or some other waterproof microphone, or an engine knock sensor from junk yard. Some cheap amplifier from Radio Trash, to amplify mike, input in to computer sound card input, listening for sound of water passing through pipe. Set some trigger levels for low and loud noise.

Alternatively can rectify output of amp, send to some parallel port data acquisition. log.

Not simple but doable.
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Old 02-16-2010, 06:53 AM   #10
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Water and sewer are billed separately here and we use a separate water meter for outside use. It's a portable one that just attaches to the hose bib and I take it to the water dept. once a year. It cost about $70 and paid for itself in about a year and a half.

In other places they often allow homeowners to have the outside water billed separately but the connections have to be done by a licensed plumber to avoid fraud and that raises the payback time considerably. Have you checked to see if that is an option? Even with paying the plumber it might be worthwhile.
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Old 02-16-2010, 10:54 AM   #11
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Received an answer from my Water Company:

Quote:
Ron,
There are many different types of water meters and many types of meter reading systems. Some reading systems are not compatible all meters. I would recommend contacting your local water department to find out what type of meters they use and if they have any objection to you installing a reading device. If your local water department is OK with you installing a reading device, I would try another Google search based on the type/brand of meter you have. For example you could type in “Badger meter reading equipment”.

You also mentioned installing a sub meter on your irrigation system. I think that would be a much less expensive way to install a meter in a more convenient place. It would allow you to detect a leak without having to deal with the centipedes. Good luck in your search.

Regards,
Ame Muniz
Denver Water
Conservation Section
303-628-6501
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Old 02-16-2010, 11:20 AM   #12
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Here is one person's solution/method.

Water Meter Monitor
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Old 02-16-2010, 12:34 PM   #13
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Update:

Quote:
Ron,
Sorry I misunderstood you! At your residence I am showing you have a 5/8” Badger meter. I spoke with our meter shop to ask if they would have any objection to you installing a reading device. Mike in our meter shop said that you would have to buy a register head with a splitter that splits between Itron (our reading device) and Orion which makes a device that is compatible with a Badger meter. Mike also said that the reading device would not tell you if there is a leak, it would only give you what the current reading is. You can go to www.badgermeter.com for more information about the compatible products. Feel free to call me if you would like to discuss this further.

Regards,
Ame Muniz
Denver Water
Conservation Section
303-628-6501
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Old 02-16-2010, 05:52 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
No remote water monitor here, either. My water consumption is way below the minimum so I pay $2.65/month for water. I have never watered the yard (we get an average 60" rainfall/year).
The entire bill is $20.71/month, but that includes a number of other charges such as sewage, trash collection, mosquito control, and park maintenance. Actually it is billed every other month, so I divided the amounts in half to get monthly values.
Man, I'm jealous.

Hawaii doesn't bill for trash collection because too many people already dump by the side of the road. We pay through taxes but collection is "free".

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Nope, don't use one. Our water meter is broken. Our usage for the past 4 months has been 0 gallons. Public utility was informed by a phone call on first bill it showed up as 0. They didn't fix it. Second bill of 0 gallon usage, public utility was informed by a visit to their office. They said, "Oh, we replaced your meter." Bills still show $0 usage. We have given up on them.
So clearly I want to buy your model, problem solved!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
Water and sewer are billed separately here and we use a separate water meter for outside use. It's a portable one that just attaches to the hose bib and I take it to the water dept. once a year. It cost about $70 and paid for itself in about a year and a half.
In other places they often allow homeowners to have the outside water billed separately but the connections have to be done by a licensed plumber to avoid fraud and that raises the payback time considerably. Have you checked to see if that is an option? Even with paying the plumber it might be worthwhile.
That's an option costing a ridiculous amount for both labor & materials ($250-$400 each) but one that I'll eventually pursue when we're done with the xeriscaping. Even if we do this, I'd still want a "leak monitor" that I'll be more likely to check in the kitchen or on the PC.

Quote:
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Here is one person's solution/method.
Water Meter Monitor
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