Should You Specify Solid-State Technology in your Next Meter Changeout?

Everything you always wanted to know about solid-state water meters (but were afraid to ask).

Master Meter’s Greg Land spent over a decade working for a large Texas city managing their meters. This experience gave Land an ability to empathize with the customers he now serves as the product manager for Master Meter’s Octave line of solid-state meters. He understands the importance of meters to a utility’s income. Land is passionate about solid state. “Because you have no moving parts, the real benefit is something you see long-term,” asserts Land. “You can have a meter that’s five years old, seven years old, ten years and it’s running like it was brand new. You can’t promise that kind of thing with a mechanical meter.”

Land has witnessed the industry’s cautious embrace of solid state meters “We’ve gone from five years ago, the primary meter people would buy would be a turbine, and then a compound for commercial. Now we are starting to seeing mag meters and ultrasonic meters get a pretty strong foothold in commercial, and we’re starting to see them in residential.”

Solid state meters work well across of range flow rates. For example, in high flow applications—those in which turbine meters are typical—yet the solid state alternative can also provide better accuracy in lower flow scenarios. The mechanical alternative here would be a compound meter. Compound meters work by directing low flows through a smaller meter chamber, with better accuracy at these flows, and transitioning to the main line meter body during high flow rates. A check valve controls the flow of water between these two chambers. The problem is that there are flow rates that are in the middle—too high for the smaller chamber, and too low for the larger chamber. The meter’s accuracy is compromised. Newer, properly calibrated compound meters can miss about 5% of the flow in this changeover flow rate. Older meters can lose much more. It’s free water to the customer and lost revenue for the utility. Solid state meters provide the high flow accuracy of the turbine, plus the low flow accuracy of a compound meter, without the issue of changeover flow rates.

Solid State’s Future

Water meters define the edges of a water purveyor’s system. Investments in treating and delivering safe reliable drinking water are lost when the metering system fails to accurately measure consumption, due to flow rates outside of a meter’s performance curve, or meter wear. To maintain accuracy, commercial mechanical meters should be checked and calibrated regularly. This should happen, but often it doesn’t, simply due to a lack of available resources.

Solid state water meters offer water utilities a solution that more accurately measures consumption improving cash flow. Because there’s nothing to wear out, the accuracy doesn’t degrade over time, which eliminates another cost and hassle, meter calibration. Utilities can reinvest the dividends gained by improving their meter accuracy in maintaining aging infrastructure components and capacity expansion.

One critical caveat here is that it’s important to get ahead of the curve on educating customers about the newer, more accurate technology. Customers become accustomed to getting free water. “It’s just education. You have to educate your customers on what you’re doing,” shares Elmore.

Solid-state is no longer bleeding edge. It’s here and now, proven in both residential and commercial applications.

Michael Ashby publishes Utility Intelligence & Infrastructure.