After several years of exploring Automated Meter Infrastructure (AMI), the Town of Somerville has started the process of implementation of this system for our customers. Automated meter reading, or AMR, is the technology of remote collection of consumption and other data by the central office location for billing, troubleshooting, and further analysis. This project will begin in the spring of 2015 by installing all new water meters, 1000 new gas meters-meters, and retrofitting 5300 additional gas meters. It's expected to take one year to complete the upgrade for meters to this new technology.
United Systems, partnered with Mueller systems and SDT contractors was chosen as the AMI vendors and installation company for this project.
Frequent Q & A
1. What is AMI?
New technology, called Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) enables us to remotely read meters resulting in operational efficiency, enhanced customer service, and increased billing accuracy. All existing customer meters will be exchanged for new digital meters starting in the spring of 2015.
AMI is the acronym for this technology which was first introduced in the 1970's/ Previously known as "AMR" for Automated Meter Reading, the AMI system used operations similar to that of a cellular telephone. The communication device embedded in each meter (generally located outside the building) will communicate with data collection equipment mounted on the utility poles at various points in a community. Communication between the AMI meter and data collection points will be transferred over the 900 MHz spectrum with an anticipated power output of .25 watts of power. The transfer of data gathered at various collection points will then be transmitted to us via a communication infrastructure.
2. Why is Somerville Installing AMI meters?
This new technology enables Somerville to remotely read meters resulting in operational efficiency, enhanced customer service, and increased billing accuracy. Other benefits of the advanced meter include:
The meter is digital, secure and easier to read.
Usage data collected remotely eliminates misreads.
In the near future, meter readers will not be needed to read your meters every month. this will be done remotely at City Hall.
Only bill pay customer will have the ability to monitor usage and past charges.
3. Who will receive AMI meters?
All customers - residential and commercial - will receive AMI meters. As with any new technology, the old meters will soon be obsolete. Meter Readers will no longer be needed to physically read the meters on a regular basis.
4. What does the meter look like?
The new AMI meter's exterior appearance looks similar to existing meters. The AMI meter is secure and easier to read.
5. Will the communications system interfere with home equipment?
All communications equipment meets criteria set by the Federal Communications Commission and should not interfere with any equipment inside a home or business.
6. Will there be a separate charge for this new meter or the installation?
No. You will not be charged for the new meter or its installation. In fact, we anticipate a cost savings from this project.
7. What type of information is being transmitted?
Only meter numbers, energy usage readings and diagnostic information will be transmitted through encrypted signals. Personal data will not be transmitted so your information will remain private and secure.
8. When will you be installing these new meters?
Somerville started this new program in November of 2015 and will continue over the coming years to install the new meters. Before the meter is installed, a representative will knock on your door in an attempt to notify you of the change out.
9. How many visits will it take to install the new meters?
Under normal circumstances it should only take one visit.
10. Will there be any interruption during the installation?
Only the customers receiving a complete meter change out should see a short interruption of service. If there is an issue, you will be notified if it will be an extended period of time.
11. Will I see a charge in my service after the new meter is installed?
The service you receive will not be impacted by the new meters. Once the AMI meter is installed and operating, meter readers will no longer visit your property on a monthly basis for meter reading. However, service personnel may visit the meter periodically to perform safety inspections, routine maintenance, or meter testing.
12. Are there any potential health concerns with the radio frequency (RF) signals?
Several studies have been made on low-power RF transmissions that AMI uses, but no negative health impacts have been found. The AMI system we are deploying meets all applicable FCC requirements.
13. Will I still be able to read the meter(s) on my property?
Yes, you still will be able to read the meter.
14. What day of the month will the meter be read?
Meters can be read at a variety of times in a 24 hour period to obtain a history of usage information. For billing purposes, the customer monthly billing cycle will remain the same. The only change will be a more consistent 30 or 31 day interval between meter readings except for the month of February.
15. Do customers need to be at home for the change out?
No, customers do not need to be at home, if the customer receives a completely new gas meter, we will notify the customer so we can schedule a time to relight pilots.
16. If no one has to read the meter, does it still need to be assessable?
Yes, Somerville requires that reasonable access to equipment still must be maintained.
17. I understand the AMI meters use radio frequency communication. Is this safe?
AMI meters use the same FCC-approved frequencies that have been used for many years in devices such as baby monitors, portable phones, remote controlled toys and medical monitors. RF fields from AMI meters have been studied and found to emit very low fields and then only intermittently. Any exposure to humans would be extremely small. There are no known adverse biological effects from these small fields. To provide some perspective, under typical operating conditions, an individual meter on average would transmit 1.6 seconds every four hours. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/smart-meters.
18. Who will be changing out the meters?
At this time, Somerville plans to do all the meter change outs using SDT contractor employees.
19. Will the AMI meter control appliances inside my home?
The homeowner will have the same control over their inside their home as they presently do. The installed AMI meter will not have any control over a customer usage nor can the meters be remotely shut off.
20. Will rates increase due to the installation of the AMI meter?
No. New meters will be more accurate thus reporting the true usage of each customer. More accurate readings could result in an increase or decrease on your bill. The Gas Department is continually working provide our customers with the best service at the most reasonable price.