Columbia Gas to begin using automated meters

LISBON – Columbia Gas of Ohio announced this week it will begin monthly readings using the new automated meter readers (AMR) installed over the past year in its Great Trail operating region, which includes the Lisbon, Salem, Alliance, Minerva and Carrollton areas.

The wireless AMR will allow utility workers to obtain gas usage data via radio transmissions without having to leave their vehicles. The technology eliminates the need to estimate usage during the alternating months when actual readings are not performed or the worker was unable to make arrangements with the homeowner to check indoor meters.

A Columbia Gas vehicle receives a signal from the AMR, which then transmits the usage information to a computer in the vehicle. The AMR is powered by a long-lasting battery and not from the household’s electrical system, according to a Columbia Gas news release.

Spokesman Shane Cartmill said AMRs are not the same as so-called “smart meters” being installed by electric companies. Smart meters have drawn opposition from some who say the radio waves can cause health problems and raise privacy concerns.

He said radio signal emitted by AMRs are of the equivalent strength of a garage-door opener, cordless phone or Wi-Fi connection. Cartmill also pointed out AMRs are one-way communication devices and activated only when the specially equipped vehicles drive by to collect usage data on a monthly basis.

The actual AMR consists of a new display panel attached to the existing meter. Cartmill said some customers who initially balked changed their minds after they explained how the new system would work.