Seeking a solution for hard-to-reach meters for their hospital and military clients, a major California-based gas utility looked to RIOTronics. The challenge was achieving adequate transmission from ROOTS Rotary Gas Meters that were located in underground settings such as basements or vaults, and commonly set behind concrete.
RIOTronics provided a customized solution that included the installation of a longer lead wire (ranging between 30 and 100 feet) running from the gas meter’s RIO Tronics RotaRead Pulse Device to an area that allows for proper communication to the remote transmitter.
After testing the proposed solution on several meters over a period of a few months, the utility elected to install the wire and pulse device on nearly 500 inaccessible gas meters.
RIOTronics has worked with the utility company for over a decade, providing niche solutions for large scale automation projects. The company’s Energy Resource Center also utilizes RIOTronics RegistRead pulse devices for gathering building energy data, and in appliance studies at their food service equipment center.
RIO Tronics R & D for Sustainability
Smart metering manufacturers are a key to monitoring energy and carbon conservation and products’ toxicity reduction. Should they not be leaders in exemplifying this in their own products?
Committed to sustainable practices, RIO Tronics has undertaken research in cooperation with the University of California Davis, and the University of California Irvine, to quantify the toxicity of its products, and substitute its materials for safer and less toxic ones in its products-
The work has resulted in a healthier and less toxic series of products. The results are published in the Wiley publication:
Volume 9, Issue 2, pages 319–328, April 2013
It can be linked at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ieam.1384/abstract
A large Colorado utility initiated its own Smart Grid in 2005, including gas, electric, and water meters. As part of the plan for leveraging the existing AMI/AMR system to enable dynamic pricing and customer energy use feedback, the city needed retrofits for the existing ROOTS rotary meters that would facilitate reliable data integration into the central billing system.
RIO Tronics has customized over 1100 RotaRead devices to retrofit the larger consumption rotary gas meters with a digital output connecting to the city’s wireless radio transmitters, enabling capture of consumption data which then transfers directly to the billing system. For the city’s schools, the device allows for dual outputs, enabling the schools to utilize their own energy monitoring systems.
Further complimenting the new efficiencies, the RIO Tronics device utilizes a low power solid state output, increasing the time between battery change outs.
RIO Tronics has worked with this utility for several years, consistently providing solutions to niche issues within the grid. Through collaborative troubleshooting efforts the network is nearing the 100 percent mark for a totally seamless digital grid system.
RIO Tronics President Andrew Brock notes “Most projects don’t expect 100 percent. The remaining portion of issues is often too cost and time prohibitive to solve, so the utilities still have to manually read a small number of meters. But by working together down to the last few issues, we are approaching the final one percent and we realize it’s possible to achieve an absolutely flawless solution.”
When Minnegasco implemented a load study to prove conservation techniques, they planned ahead for consultants, electronics, budgets, and software analysis. The meter interface itself, however, was selected in the final planning stages. That didn’t present a problem because retrofit pulsers are available for most residential and commercial gas meters. They chose a retrofit pulser that mounts under the meter index cover, a unique feature that delivers a number of benefits, including application flexibility. This high-resolution pulser helps bridge the gap between bottom-line performance expectations in load studies and commercial and residential AMR projects.
Roger Dissmeyer, Minnegasco’s gas measurement/gas control supervisor, was involved in the choice. “We’re always looking for a product that offers a lower cost — that’s the bottom line. For our project, we specifically required a flexible pulser that would provide a pulse our recorder could handle. RIOTronics’ RegistRead delivers the accuracy and flexibility we needed at a lower cost.”
Minnegasco chose the Schlumberger Industries as the project’s prime contractor for the equipment acquisition and installation. Ken Prevatte, Schlumberger’s utility services group manager, supervised the project team assigned to Minnegasco. From his vantage point, the flexible retrofit pulser was a key element. According to Prevatte, “This pulser stood out in our minds from the beginning. It is adaptable to several kinds of commercial and industrial meters. This was important because we had meters representing a variety of vintages and vendors. When the project team needed a way to work with meters without instrument drives, we were able to use RegistRead in our retrofit solution. Ultimately, with the use of our retrofit adaptor, RIOTronics was able to fit dial indexes for the rotaries without instrument drives. The pulser provided a special index cover for the commercial Rockwells, so the pulser stayed under the index cover and out of the elements. This pulser was the most economical choice for getting pulse information off the meters.”
Dan Hack, the on-site project manager, says, “The most critical path for the study was the implementation deadline. It was and extremely tight timetable and the pulser supplier demonstrate exceptional supply sensitivity. Because we were working with so many different meters, we had to order a variety of configurations, as well as some odd parts.”
How it works
The pulser consists of a durable permanent magnet rotor on the reading dial or test dial, and a custom Form-A switch. The high resolution unit provides either 2 or 10 pulses per revolution of the index dial to the majority of AMR, data logging, display equipment, and recorders. Any meter reading or recording device that accepts dry contact, contact closure, Form A, Form C, or KYZ inputs can be used with the device to provide a meter connection. The pulse is reported to be the most affordable device available today for retrofitting gas meters.
The unit is easy to install. That’s another area that was important to Dan Hack. “We had very little downtime. Once we’d installed a few, we had it down. We had some concerns initially with the epoxy, but it hasn’t been an issue. The epoxy has performed well.”
The manufacturer ships the structural adhesives needed for installation with the product. Made up of an aerosol spray and the epoxy itself, the adhesive is so strong that removing a pulser from the index means taking the ceramic coating with it — right off the face of the index.
The pulser’s under-the-index-cover design incorporates tamper-proof housing and electronics, while providing protection from outdoor temperature extremes. These features help generate cost savings — especially with customer tampering and diversion of services on the rise. Some utilities report up to 4% of their meter consumption stolen.
The pulser was specially designed to address — and thwart — tampering. The patented metal case around the switch acts as a shield to protect the switch from strong magnets sometimes used to stop the pulse switch. If a thief attempts to cut or short out a wire, electronics in the pulser can interact with the meter reading device or recorder to instantly recognize the intrusion and report it as an alarm to the central office. For those utilities needing more flexibility or customization within their tamper alarm programs, serial and parallel resistors give the pulser a dozen or more custom versions for various recorder and AMI companies.
Current demand for tighter accountability from today’s customers will continue to bolster the need for pulsers. In anticipation of this growth, RIOTronics has developed a dual-switch customer pulser. This pulser unit has a second switch assembly on the meter index adjacent to the utility’s switch to ensure that the customer’s pulse is identical to the utility’s pulse. The pulse is double-sealed in glass and epoxy potting, so it can’t create a spark. That design feature. combined with the pulser’s very low outside power source requirement — typically 5 to 12 volts at under 100 microamps — means the pulsers don’t need a safety barrier. The pulse unit if considered so safe that Canada waived CSA safety approval when if conferred Industry Canada approval.
Customer need supplied the impetus to create a dual-pulse product. In this case, the customer was Xcel of Colorado. When the utility discovered the need for a dual-pulse product, RIOTronics was able to develop one.