Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) holds a lot of potential for municipalities, but it can be difficult for utilities to know what to expect in deploying new metering technology and software. We asked Randy Hinson, Utility Director for the City of Hohenwald in Tennessee, to share his team’s experiences as they rolled out Sensus’ new ultrasonic gas meter – Sonix IQ.
We first spoke with Randy in the summer of 2020 to learn how and why his team chose to implement an AMI solution for gas. Since then, Hohenwald has completed its Sonix IQ installations and collected several months of data. We caught up with Randy this month to hear about their initial results and what’s next on their AMI roadmap.
Temperature compensation delivers ROI out of the gate
The first thing Randy and his team observed was the huge impact of Sonix IQ’s temperature compensation. Sonix IQ’s ultrasonic measurement allows the meter to automatically adjust for changes in gas volume caused by high or low temperatures. This means improved billing accuracy for customers, as well as less lost revenue caused by inaccurate measurement. For Hohenwald, these reduced losses mean a positive return on investment for AMI much sooner than expected. Randy explained, “In just seven years, the Sonix IQ will pay for itself in temperature compensation alone – and it’s a 20-year meter.”
Built-in pressure monitoring at the meter level leads to a regulator program
Randy cites the Sonix IQ’s built-in pressure monitoring as the next feature to deliver a big benefit. Historically, Hohenwald hasn’t had a regulator replacement program – there was no age limit for the regulators in their distribution network. But, when the Sonix IQ meters started issuing low-pressure alarms, Hohenwald learned that many of their regulators needed to be maintained or replaced. Based on the data they collected from their Sonix IQ rollout, they have now instituted a regulator replacement program to ensure consistent flow for their customers.
Moving beyond the meter with AMI
Randy says that the Sonix IQ rollout has also proven the value of frequent pressure monitoring at points throughout the distribution network. “We can check the end of the line once a week and they’re fine, but we don’t know what’s going on in between.” As a result, they’re looking to move beyond pressure monitoring at the meter and implement Smart Gateways with pressure sensors at key endpoints throughout their pipelines.
What Hohenwald wants other gas utilities to know about Sonix IQ
When asked what he would tell other utilities about Sonix IQ, Randy replied, “People need to know that there’s more to these meters than just a meter.” The insights Hohenwald has gotten into their entire distribution network and the health of their assets have been just as valuable as the improvements in measuring usage. Randy believes that they have a better understanding of their system overall thanks to the Sonix IQ and the foundation it provides for a true smart utility network.
Given the return on investment they’ve seen on their first wave of installs, Randy plans to accelerate converting his entire fleet of residential gas meters to Sonix IQ. In the meantime, they’ll continue collecting data and using it to identify new areas for improvement in their processes and system.