What is utility submetering?
Submetering is a metering system implemented in buildings or communities where there are multiple tenants, so the property owner or management company can bill the individual tenants for their utility usage. While submetering was initially invented in the 1920s, it didn’t become popular until the late 80s, because of increasing utility costs and environmental conservation.
Among the utilities commonly submetered are natural gas, water, electricity, HVAC, cable, and steam.
In most situations, the system has a “master meter,” which is a primary meter owned by the utility company. This meter measures and bills the responsible property owner or management firm for utility usage. The responsible party places submeters (a/k/a sub-meters), or privately owned meters to determine the individual occupants’ utility usage.
Many submeters communicate usage through Automatic Meter Reading (AMR), where the meter reading is conveyed to billing through electronic means.
When a building is not submetered, the property owner’s utility costs may be passed onto the tenants through their rent, or it may be divided among the occupants. Studies have shown that when a building becomes submetered, the tenants are more likely to conserve energy which benefits the environment. It’s also been shown that when residents follow prudent conservation tips, they can reduce their costs.
Over the years diaphragm meters are most often used to measure the natural gas flow of residences and submetering. These positive displacement meters have two or more chambers formed by movable diaphragms. A popular gas meter for residential and submetering applications is the Itron Metris 250 (formerly by Actaris and Schlumberger) or the Gallus meter. One of the attractions to this meter has been its unique modular design which enables complete customization to fit most installation needs.
Submetering natural gas has become pivotal in encouraging energy conservation by the tenants and a way for tenants to pay for their fair use of utilities.