Water meters have turned up in some unimaginable locations over the years. From dark basements to cramped ceilings, hard-to-reach meters make it difficult for building engineers and other commercial real estate (CRE) professionals to collect the information they need. However, the process of regularly metering can be easier than having to first climb a ladder or squeeze into a tight space. Here’s how.
How to Meter a Commercial Real Estate Building
Essentially, there are two methods of metering – networked and non-networked. Networked meters are wired to a building’s data collector or building management system (BMS). These systems automatically send data from the meter to a data repository at regular intervals.
The second type of metering is known as non-networked or manual metering. When using this method, building engineers must walk to each meter and record the read by hand. Manual metering takes time and is prone to error, especially with meters that aren’t easily accessible. However, there are ways to optimize manual meter reading.
Option 1: Manual Meter Reading for Commercial Real Estate
If your team is not ready to network its metering with an automated solution, you can still read your meters and submeters manually. But hiking up a ladder with a clipboard and spreadsheet takes time and causes more trouble than it’s worth. Additionally, meters with difficult accessibility lead to more inaccurate readings. The screens of these meters may be obscured by things like condensation or paint. Instead, manual reads can be made safer, faster and easier by leveraging technology.
Some property teams believe that in order to efficiently read their hard-to-reach meters, they must perform sweeping renovations or install expensive software and hardware. But there is a more cost-effective way that doesn’t involve a system overhaul.
Here are a couple of options for conducting manual submeter reads:
- Digital Meter Displays – Meters and submeters can be connected to a remote digital display, which is then placed in an easily accessible area. For example, if a water meter happens to be in the ceiling, then a digital meter display could be placed in a safe and accessible location. From there, the building engineer can take the read of the display.
- Smartphone Applications – Providers, like Genea, offer intuitive apps for submeter reading. Using a QR code placed on the meter or digital meter display, data from the meter can be captured using a smartphone camera, then uploaded and stored for billing purposes. This type of workflow gives building teams an audit trail, which helps with tenant disputes and understanding utility usage.
Too often mistakes like incorrect multipliers and mistyped readings are added to billing spreadsheets. Even if a metering formula is correct, an error will lead to inaccurate billing. However, with technology like smartphone apps and digital meter displays, building engineers can easily decipher meter read values.
Option 2: Networked Metering for Commercial Real Estate
Though technology enhances the process of manually reading water meters, billing accuracy and utility accountability can be improved with real-time networked metering.
Commercial building teams can benefit from a networked solution in several ways, including:
- Saving time by eliminating manual reading
- Providing visibility into granular, real-time utility usage
Though networked metering is a more costly upfront expenditure, reduced administrative and engineering time can offset the initial expense. More accurate tenant billing and better insight into overall system performance help negate the upfront cost as well.
Further, networked metering improves building teams’ insight into which tenants use more of a given utility during specific times of the day when usage spikes and peaks. With data like this, property teams and their tenants can start having more thoughtful conversations about utility consumption.
How Genea Helps CRE Professionals
Genea helps commercial real estate professionals improve their networked and non-networked reading and billing. With our mobile-first technology, you can accurately bill your tenants and save time collecting data. Genea Submeter Billing also features:
- Easy Submeter Reading– Our intuitive smartphone app allows engineers to capture usage of otherwise hard-to-read meters.
- Automated Invoice Processing– Genea Submeter Billing creates regular invoices, saving you time.
- Audit Trails- Keep tenants accountable for the utilities they use.
- Automatic Meter Reads– Networked meters can be read daily, hourly or every 15 minutes, providing you with the granular data you need.
Additionally, our non-proprietary system ensures that you can change providers without having to install new hardware. For more information about Genea Submeter Billing and Reading, contact a Genea expert.