Simply put, submetering is the installation of meters downstream of the main utility meter(s) at a given site. This allows for capturing more granular data regarding the consumption of various components behind the primary meters coming into the site.
One purpose for submetering is to bill individual tenants, residents or owners for their individual consumption of energy or water, when the utility company hasn’t already metered these points individually. By adding a utility cost recovery program and billing back utilities, there is a direct impact to NOI which typically also leads to an increase in property value.
While the traditional purpose of submetering has been to recapture revenue by billing spaces individually, there are a variety of reasons sites are turning to submetering. Some other common uses for submetering are:
- Capture complete consumption data for rebate programs
- Analyze granular data of site consumption to identify potential optimization opportunities
- Provide leak detection to safeguard your site
- Compare energy and water use from site to site
Today, submetering has become commonplace in the U.S., as more and more focus is being placed on conserving our natural resources. With some areas now mandating submetering, the trend favors metering individual tenant and resident spaces, as opposed to outdated methods of flat fee or RUBS billing, which offer no motivation to conserve.
How it Works
Each individual meter is equipped with a Radio Frequency (RF) component to communicate the reading and meter information back to a central data collection point. This eliminates the need for entry into units to collect readings and costly monthly fees for manual meter reading. In addition, we are able to receive daily readings for more complete data (we can also drill down into interval data for individual meters if needed for analysis).
The RF communications are simple to install and maintain. The transceivers operate with a 3v lithium battery which is easy to replace every 5-7 years. The system requires a main data collector (Gateway) which can communicate using existing internet service at the site (Ethernet or wifi), or cellular communications. Each site will require repeaters to help boost the signals from the transceivers back to the data collector (typically about one repeater for every 35 meter/transceivers). The Gateway and Repeaters are both powered by basic 110v power for simple installation.
There are three main categories most submetering applications fall in: New Construction, Retrofit and Conversion.
New Construction - New project being built, where submeters are called out in the planning phase. This is by far the best situation to install submeters, because the meter locations and RF network can be drawn into the plans. Some advantages of installing submeters during construction are:
- Installation is more cost effective as needed contractors are already onsite
- Installation can be performed under existing building permits
- Radio Frequency network can be drawn into existing plans, making installation simple
- Meter locations can be drawn into existing plans, eliminating messy retrofit workarounds later
Retrofit - In a retrofit situation, the property is already constructed and the decision has been made to submeter the individual units. In many situations, this can be a simple installation. However, there are times in which retrofit installations can become cost prohibitive and an alternate bill-back program may be the correct solution. In any case, there are more variables to consider in these situations than with new construction, so care needs to be taken in the planning phase.
Conversion - This term refers to the situation in which your site already has meters in place, but the system is not performing at acceptable levels. Some reasons a site might need to upgrade the existing submetering system could be:
- Losing revenue due to inaccuracy of older meters
- Too many estimated meters each month due to failing meters
- Manufacturer eliminates older parts or support for older systems
- Property wants to convert from manually read meters to automated wirelessly read meters
When you start research submetering, you will be inundated with technical jargon, countless options on meter technology and even more options for reading the water meters. We are here to try to help sort through some of this complication and offer our clients quality product options at the best price available.
If you are interested in adding a submetering system to your new construction project or existing site, or would like to replace an existing submetering system, please complete our Contact Form and we’ll reach out to you to start the discussion and help you make the decision.