When evaluating residential gas meters, utilities should think carefully about whether or not replaceable batteries are the right choice, especially given the improvements in battery technology in recent years.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding between built-in versus replaceable batteries for a residential gas meter:

1. What is the impact to total cost of ownership (TCO)?

Many people are surprised to learn that devices with replaceable batteries often lead to higher costs over the lifetime of the meter. To calculate the total cost of ownership for a meter with replaceable batteries, you need to factor in the cost of the batteries and the cost of a truck roll to replace the batteries each time they fail.  This can happen multiple times over the life of the meter, depending on how meter life compares with battery life.

2. What is the impact to your operations?

Replacing residential batteries in the field creates a lot of opportunities for failure.

  • If any dirt transfers from the technician’s hands or the environment, it can lead to a poor or failed connection.
  • If it’s humid or raining, water can get into the meter housing.
  • If meters are located in hard-to-reach places, that can make it difficult for the tech to correctly replace the batteries.

To avoid these complications, some utilities may choose to remove the meter and replace the batteries in the meter shop, but that adds even more truck rolls and labor costs.

Regardless of where you change the batteries, there’s also the issue of tracking the meters that contain new versus old batteries.  Consider how you’ll scale this process to thousands of meters and track which ones have had the batteries replaced.

3. What is the impact to inventory management? 

With replaceable batteries, you have one more part that you need to hold in inventory, manage and backfill. It also creates additional end-of-life (EOL) problems – for example, will you be able to source the proper batteries/battery housing over the lifespan of the meter? What if there is a supply chain issue with replaceable batteries and you have meters that are about to run out of power?

4. What is the impact to your troubleshooting process?

Several utilities have admitted that whenever the screen on a meter goes blank, they replace the meter and send the original meter back to the manufacturer for quality testing.  Even if they believe the screen went blank because the battery needs replacing, they want to be certain that there aren’t other issues. They don’t want to risk replacing the batteries, only to find that there is a failure of a different sort, which causes lost revenue from unmetered usage plus another truck roll. If a utility’s protocol requires they replace the meter each time the screen goes blank, then that eliminates the benefits of replaceable batteries.

5. How experienced is the manufacturer in designing and producing battery-operated technology?

If you’re purchasing a device with a built-in, long-lasting battery, then it’s vital the meter manufacturer have proven experience in delivering battery-powered devices that live up to their expected lifetime.  Make sure your manufacturer has perfected the art and science of battery-powered technology and provides a strong warranty to back up their claims. Ask about how they select their battery technology, qualify potential suppliers, create statistical models for battery usage, and validate that battery usage in the field and the lab. It’s important that a manufacturer has many years of field and lab testing experience to substantiate their claims and inspire a utility’s confidence.

6. Will your metrology needs be the same 20 years from now?

The days of using the same meter technology for 30+ years are coming to an end. With new fuels like hydrogen and Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) gaining traction by the day, utilities need to consider whether or not their hardware will need replacing for reasons other than the battery in the next 2-3 decades.

Finding the right residential gas meter for your utility and community isn’t an easy decision.  There are countless things to consider, including the type of battery used to power the meter.  Sensus’ sales team is here to help you choose the right meter to meet your needs, now and in the future.  Click here to find the Sensus sales representative that serves your area.