Last week we hosted a live event on Facebook explaining everything you need to know about your Helix water meter. We also shared a video of Helix construction and meter shop supervisor Dan Baker answering some common questions about water meters and accuracy.
The 4-minute video shows our testing procedures, how we read meters, why we replace meters and how to use your meter to find a leak.
Q. First off, how accurate are water meters?
New water meters must meet industry-specific guidelines and must fall between 98.5 and 101.5 percent accuracy across three different flow rates. For an added layer of quality control, Helix tests a sample of new meters before field installation to verify the manufacturer’s test results.
Q. Are old water meters accurate?
Old water meters actually under-read water consumption, allowing more water to flow through the meter than the meter registers and work as expected for approximately 17 years. For this reason, Helix staff replaces water meters once they are 15-20 years old. We replace around 3,000 water meters per year to maintain the replacement cycle of our 56,500 water meters.
Q. How do we test meters?
At our El Cajon Operations Center, Helix staff test meters on a testing bench. The bench allows staff to run varying flows of water through the meters into a tank with a known volume. We record the meter’s reading before starting the test and then again after the flow test. We then compare the readings, which provides us with the accuracy of that meter for that flow rate. For residential water meters, we test using a high flow at 25 gallons per minute, a medium flow of 3 gallons per minute and a low flow of ¼ gallon per minute.
Q. How do water meters work?
Water meters are 100 percent mechanical, meaning you have to use water for the meter to register use. We mostly use a type called a positive displacement meter. These meters have a disk inside of a chamber with a known volume. As water flows through the chamber, it rotates the disk and the meter register records the rotations, just like a car’s odometer.
Q. How do we ensure our meter reads are correct?
Our meter readers visit each address – and meter – every two months, and use a handheld device to enter the meter reading for each account. The device informs readers of the meter address, location, serial number and previous reading. The device also alerts the reader if the reading is too high or too low based on that property’s historical consumption and prompts the reader to reenter the actual reading. Once we upload the reading data, our customer service team runs a separate analysis of high and low readings for an extra layer of quality control. If our customer service team determines that the read seems too high or low, we send out a different meter reader to the property to verify the read.
Q. What should I do if I have a high bill or think my reading is wrong?
Give us a call. We would be happy to assist you. We can help you troubleshoot possible reasons for high use or send out a representative for a free water use evaluation. Call us at 619-466-0585
Upcoming Water Chats
Started in 2019, our Water Chats series invites customers for a conversation and in-depth look at what we do. These smaller “chats” focus on single water-related subjects like distribution, supply, meters and infrastructure.
We are hosting our next Water Chat on January 28 at 5:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. We will take you on a virtual tour of our tanks and discuss how we use gravity to deliver water. We started doing Water Chats on Facebook Live in July to allow customers to participate during the pandemic.