Full capture submetering is by far the most accurate method of utility billing. This is the same way public utilities charge for usage. However like most things line life the devil is in the details.
There are 3 Main sources of problems related to submetering. Installation Issues, Reading Technology Issues, Meter Quality Issues
There are a number of things that can go wrong during an installation of submeters that will impact your bills. The most common is that when the property was utility rough in was done on your building the contractor cut corners so that the units are not actually isolated. That means you could be paying for your neighbors usage, or vice versa. Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell if this is the case. I have seen it before and it took us over a week to figure out the problem, unfortunately most billing companies will never devote those kind of man hours to finding the source of the problem, they just do not care.
There are 3 basic methods for reading your Meters, AMR (Automated Meter Reading), TouchPad and Visual
It is just what is sounds like, a physical person walks up to your meter and looks at it, writes down the read or enters it in to a handheld device. Human errors are always possible, and some meters have complex faces that require special training to read property, below is a common electric meter, can you tell me what the correct reading is?
The correct reading is 00858.3, I am willing to bet most people get that wrong, including many meter readers from the billing companies because they have not been properly trained. Many people would read that as 01968, See the HUGE difference in the reading????
There are a large variety of meters uses in Sub metering, all with different methodologies to read them. Many meter readers are paid piece rate some as low as $0.25 per meter read, and given that most billing companies have little to no error checking there is zero incentive make sure they get the read right, after all they do not get paid any more to make sure, nor do they have to pay your utility bill. Some readers, and reading service contracts have been known to do what is called “curbing” reads, which means they just make them up based on normal usage, and other factors to make it seem correct. I myself have been ordered, under protest and threat of losing my job, curb reads by previous employers, thank fully for the people that were unfortunate to be at the properties I was ordered to this, I have years of experience analyzing meter data, combined with my mathematical skills am able to come up with some fairly intuitive algorithms, so I am confident that no one that I curb paid more than they should have. This however is not the case for most people that get curbed, as most people dont care or have the knowledge to do what I do, smart people get out of submetering…. as I did.
If your meters are being visually read, you should ask the billing company, or the property about when the meter reads are done, they should be able to give you an approximate date (3 day window or so), you should find and record your meter reading around this time every month and compare it with the bill you receive, it will not match exactly but it should be close. Also they should include the actual meter reading date on the bill, if you took a reading AFTER this date, and your reading is lower than billed reading, this is a good indication that your meter has been curbed at some point and the data is being manipulated.
Always verify your meter readings.
Touchpads are actually very accurate, and if the reader is using a system that automatically records the data then there is almost no human error, however the Guns to read touchpads range from $300 for the basic unit that just displays a LCD readout to the reader, to guns costing $3,000 or more that have data outputs that go to handheld devices (which themselves cost thousands of dollars) given how cheap people are in this industry you can image which direction most companies go. So human error, and all of the problems I talked about above with Visual Reading also applies here.
Below is a photo of a common touchpad.
This enables the meter reader to get a very accurate meter reading with out having to enter your unit every month
You should be able to locate the meter in your unit and take a visual meter reading off of it to compare to your billed reading, you do not need to have a touchpad reader. If a Billing company tells you otherwise they are lying to you.