Meter Readings

Purple

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9,075
Why on earth do we still have people walking around the country taking gas and electricity meter readings? I'm sure the technology has existed for decades to automate that function. It seems to be a massive waste of money employing people to do it.
 

jpd

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1,699
You need to spend money on upgrading or replacing all the existing meters with automated reporting meters - this is obviously a costly exercise, so paying reader is the cheaper option at the moment

Apart from the cost of the automated reader, you need to pay to have them installed
 

odyssey06

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1,612
Seem to be reading the meters less and less. My parent's gas meter is only read once a quarter at best, and doesn't even need access to the inside of the house to read it.
 

banner_man

New Member
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The existing meters could be used. Customer takes photo of meter on a quarterly basis. Sends same to utility provider. Software reads meter and identifying meter number. Meta data from photo shows when photo was taken. Reduced costs to utility provider. Cheaper bills for us all!
 

Peanuts20

Registered User
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104
we just update the details online. Meter reader is really just a double check these days. I thought there were plans to role out Smart meters but given the lack of broadband in much of the country, it'll be a while yet before everything is fully automated
 

Andrew Murphy

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79
The roll out of smart meters is documented here. Extract...

Phase 1 (2019 –2020) – 250,000 meters upgraded. Initial smart services being turned on in Q4 2020. This will include services such as time-of-use tariffs, smart bills, access to historical consumption information, etc.
Phase 2 (2021 –2022) – 1million additional meters upgraded and the addition of smart prepayment (Smart PAYG) in Q4 2022.
Phase 3 (2023–2024) – 1 million additional meters upgraded and additional functionality will be made available by ESBN through a Home Area Network (HAN). This will allow consumers to access real-time data on their household energy usage via a device in their home. At this stage the costs and benefits of gas smart meters will be analysed by the CRU to determine their delivery.
So electricity meters first and then who knows when gas meters will be converted.
It looks like manual readings will be with us for some time yet.
 

mathepac

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6,770
I have written an app that uses OCR on a photo of consumer meter to extract the few bytes of data needed to supply a meter reading and paste it into an SMS. No smart-meter or smart meter reader needed.

Security? No hassle automatic message content encryption / decryption and certain manufacturers have messaging apps that have never been hacked

Next stages are to extend the app to replace my Excel spread sheet to capture usage and cost data in real-time.

Who needs all the hassle and unreliability being experienced in places like the UK by dumb smart meters and dodgy installers. (Watchdog etc.)

[EDIT] I could of course modify the existing app to send meter readings to ESB networks automatically but it takes ESB networks 5 working days to get the reading to (in my case) Electric Ireland. If I phone in a reading it takes 5/6 working days to get a bill, up to 10 if I text it in.
 
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Andrew Murphy

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@mathepac, much of the functionality you have outlined will become redundant with the roll out of smart meters.

There is a mountain of info available here should you wish to research this topic further.

If you looking to create an app for residential/small business energy users then you ought to investigate how you can use the 1/2 hourly readings produced by smart meters, and build value-added services utilising this data. I personally believe that smart meters are going to confuse the hell out of many people so anything that simplifies peoples lives will be a winner.
 

newtothis

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556
Why on earth do we still have people walking around the country taking gas and electricity meter readings? I'm sure the technology has existed for decades to automate that function. It seems to be a massive waste of money employing people to do it.
Because there’s a big difference between technology existing to do something and it actually being widely deployed. So far, the economics just don’t stack up, mainly because there are so many meters. I was involved in this about 15 years ago: the technology existed even then, but it didn’t make sense, except in certain scenarios. There are three sets of costs: the cost of the meters with the capability, the cost of installing them and the cost of the network required to get the information from the meter. It’s only with 5G that mobile networks will be specifically designed for this kind of application. Then there’s the issue of power: apart from electricity meters where power can be “borrowed”, you need to power a smart gas or water meter: batteries have to be replaced periodically. The cost of smart meter rollout in the UK is about £11billion. That would pay for a lot of manual meter reading over an extended period, and certainly not anything any private company would take on.
 

mathepac

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6,770
Using existing technology and my little spread-sheet I can produce better more accurate estimates than the ESB when they miss meter readings. The new meters wili not reduce costs for the consumer they'll do the opposite (again!)

[EDIT] If ESB/ESB networks cannot estimate consumer bills accurately, how do they forecast their own energy needs?
 
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Andrew Murphy

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I can produce better more accurate estimates than the ESB when they miss meter readings.
Hi mathepac,

When you talk of accuracy are you referring to the calculation of the estimated reading itself, or the bill produced by your supplier which is based on the estimated reading provided by ESB Networks?

If it is the latter and you are always missing the meter reader then simply providing ESB with your actual readings on a diarised basis will ensure your supplier bill is accurate without having to go to the effort of doing the calculations yourself.

Am I missing something?
 

galwaypat

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224
It's probably going that way, another job lost to technology, it was a handy gig not well paid anymore but a good ould number back in the day when you were working for the ESB.
 

odyssey06

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1,612
I got a bill from ESB, estimated, they asked to provide meter readings. I did, it reset the system and I had to phone to get bill issued.
Some of their 'estimations' make no sense based on previous usage, and supplied \ actual meter readings.
 

mathepac

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6,770
Am I missing something?
Because I have my summer & winter readings (units used), I can accurately forecast my consumption per 61 day billing cycle (we get 6 ESB bills per year) in any year and produce the resulting invoices to within a euro or two of the actual bill. ESB in winter grossly underestimate consumption in my experience, sometimes by in excess of €100. The numbers they use for consumption figures on "estimated" bills seem to come from a random number generator!

Joking aside, the implications for consumers receiving grossly underestimated energy bills can be catastrophic, financially and emotionally. Pre-pay meters and the averaging of bills over a year are not the answers either, any more than smart-meters. If ESB staff can't use their own existing, simple technology available in-house now, what are the odds they'll mess up again with the new stuff?

Pre-pay meters result in higher costs for the consumer and the "averaged out over the year" billing, aka budget billing paid by direct debit of course, has caused problems for neighbours (over-payments difficult to get back, under-payments causing worry).

If I get an estimated bill I phone customer services, give them the new reading and ask for a new bill. I don't pay by direct debit and I get paper bills. Hard-copy utility bills are very handy and given their ineptitude with calculators or simple spread-sheets, would you want ESB (other re-branded energy suppliers may operate in your area) to have access to your bank account?

An early version of my simple ESB template is available as a key post (rates are well out of date by now)

I'll update it when I get a chance.
 

Andrew Murphy

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79
Hi mathepac,

I have had a look at your spreadsheet, run a few of my bills through it, and don't get what problem it solves. All it seems to do is verify what my supplier has charged me.

I get what you are saying about the impact of over/under charging and more generally the cost burden the new smart meters will have on energy users, but the easiest way to avoid wild estimated readings is to provide actual meter readings to ESB Networks on a regular basis, for example on the
first day of every odd month i.e. a few days before your supplier issues their bi-monthly invoice.

I can't help thinking you are over complicating the problem.

I think the real issue we ought to be discussing are the data protection / privacy issues that smart meters will introduce, but that is a topic for another thread perhaps.
 

mathepac

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6,770
The first thing to note is that the litlle spread sheet does exactly what is says on the tin - it calculates electricity bills in advance of them arriving from your supplier. By taking frequent e.g. weekly, readings, you can monitor usage over time and costs.

By building the spread sheets into a work book, with each sheet representing two billing periods, you can build a historical data-base to feed to a forecasting algorithm. To maintain multiple months, use the "Move/Copy Sheet" in Excel and rename the copied sheet appropriately and input the new data to the new sheet.

In times of high electricity usage e.g. winter, you may opt for shorter billing cycles, maybe 45 days, in order to keep bills to manageable levels. The idea of the sheet is to begin to capture data for analysis, something ESB Networks does very badly or not at all from a consumer perspective. HTH
 

Marion

Moderator
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1,988
Purple

That is a very clever observation. It does seem ridiculous!

We could receive a discount for sending in our own records. We only need a key to open the box.

Win-win. Except perhaps for the people who carry out the meter readings.

Maybe they could be employed on other duties?

Marion
 

mathepac

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6,770
Any hardware shop or builder will sell you or give you a meter box key, they're all identical. Or just use a small pair of pliers, you won't be done for B&E! :)
 
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