Achieving cost-optimised drinking water distribution, the need to deal sensitively with this valuable resource and to fulfil customer expectations, which include demands for smart metering solutions: the challenges facing water companies are on the increase. With 40,000 smart water meters, the energy and infrastructure utility company HSE based in Darmstadt has set the scene for a future-proof and sustainable solution.
“For safety reasons, collecting data manually from our 300 meters in drinking water shafts has always had to be carried out by two specially trained members of staff”, explains Martin Grüger, who is responsible for drinking water metering at the Darmstadt utility company, HSE. “This places high demands on personnel and time and leads to high costs. In order to reduce our financial and personnel commitments we looked around for modern and cost-efficient alternatives. That is how we came across iPERL.”
With iPERL from Sensus, HSE was not only able to modernise its previous metering concept. They were also able to optimise downstream water distribution processes considerably. The integrated AES encrypted data communication in iPERL (Sensus RF) enables water companies to collect consumption data simply and quickly using remote meter readings. Shaft and household meters can be integrated seamlessly into the reading and billing system. The economic benefits are enormous: operating costs, usually dependent on manual readings, can be reduced considerably or saved completely. At HSE, since iPERL has been deployed, manual readings for 300 shafts have become unnecessary. Thanks to remote readings, it is not necessary to make appointments with thousands of consumers anymore either. “In this way, instead of reading just 200 water meters in one day, in future we will be able to read 6,000 meters per day”, says Grüger. “We are planning to collect all the meter readings for our complete supply network within seven days in future and to replace our rolling meter-reading system entirely.”
Recording consumption figures transparently and precisely increases customer satisfaction
In addition to the potential savings for operating costs, using iPERL also has a positive effect on the supplier’s customer service: Housing associations prefer fixed date readings instead of the conventional rolling readings. With iPERL we can offer this service without any problems”, says Grüger. Complaints management will also be optimised because the consumption readings are so precise and transparent, as Grüger describes: “We achieve a high level of precision even when flow rates are at a minimum and we can show the customers their real consumption in a transparent and understandable way. This leads to improved acceptance for billing on the customer side. In future, queries or complaints about supposedly incorrect meter reading data can be answered more competently, eliminating the need for some costly diagnostic tests. We can also fulfil our role as a sustainable water supplier with iPERL, as individual consumption profiles mean we can quickly identify leaks and water losses at the consumers, and inform them about it. This is a service which benefits our customers and which they will come to appreciate in future.”
The recognition of leaks is made possible because of iPERL’s unique measurement parameters, which can register through-flows of as little as one litre per hour. The water company wants to use this ability to detect water losses within their own water supply network precisely for the first time. “With the help of the transparent fixed date readings, with IPERL and SensusRF we too can now determine and eliminate water losses more precisely,” says Grüger. This means HSE ensures drinking water as a resource is treated responsibly for the customers and within its own infrastructure and shows them pointing the way to the future with their concept of sustainable resources management.
Precise metering technology even with the lowest through-flows
In Darmstadt they are making full use of the metrological properties of the iPERL, which is currently one of the most modern metering technologies on the market. Sensus has equipped the meters with residual magnetic field technology which at a nominal Q3 4 ensures correct billing for consumption even when through-flow is as low as one litre per hour. The unique construction of the measuring tube and the non-contact measurement technology also have a positive effect on pressure management, as Grüger confirms: “Within our network we have some places with low pressure so it is very useful for us that we can minimise pressure losses with iPERL. This also contributes to improving cost and energy efficiencies in our company.”
Precise consumption readings also have a positive impact when we have to cooperate with public organisations, Grüger explains: “The public administrations at state and federal level expect water supply companies to deliver reliable consumption data and forecasts. Until now our estimates – based on rolling readings – have been worked out with a tolerance of about three percent. With iPERL delivering the latest consumption data, we can now work with exact figures – the public administrations appreciate that, and it means consumption figures don’t need to be adjusted for the following year.”
Conclusion: iPERL sees Sensus heralding a new generation of water metering. Water companies can now deploy “intelligent” metering systems, which serve as high performance and precise “suppliers of data”. The philosophy and technical concept behind iPERL replaces conventional water metering with its communicative system as it continuously records and transmits data about consumption and operating statuses, providing precise and valuable information for both the supplier and the consumer. “Of course iPERL is more expensive than a conventional water meter, but as we are talking about a meter lifespan of at least 12 years, which is 3 successful sample inspections, this procedure definitely makes financial sense for us,” says Grüger.
Although today the term “Smart Metering” is more usually used in connection with electricity networks, the energy and infrastructure services provider HSE in Darmstadt not only shows that it is possible, but also that it is well-worth setting up intelligent water networks. In future, consumption data from this company’s intelligent electricity and water meters will be transferred to their billing partner Count+Care in one work process. By modernising its meters, HSE is one of the first suppliers to take this innovative step in Germany.