Should You Implement a Submetering System in Your Community?

In a recent webinar titled “Submetering to Increase Profits and Resident Satisfaction,” panelists provided best practice suggestions for implementing and maintaining water submetering systems in multifamily communities.

New York—Should you use a submetering system in your community to generate revenue? In a recent webinar titled “Submetering to Increase Profits and Resident Satisfaction,” which was hosted by Multi-Housing News and sponsored by NWP Services Corporation,  panelists Howard Behr of NWP, Cynthia Haines of WRH Realty Services and Michael May of Tehama Wireless provided best practice suggestions for implementing and maintaining water submetering systems in multifamily communities.

When considering implementing a submetering system, it is important to read up on the different types of meters, as well as the requirements in your state. “Almost all new construction installs submetering systems,” Behr said. “Submetering is required in many areas, which may limit the type of meters you can use.”

Additionally, according the Behr it is crucial to choose a manufacturer that is committed to working with multifamily communities. If not, the service will not be good and it will be difficult to get replacement parts.

In terms of the technology for the automatic meter reading (AMR), May suggested that property managers seek out devices that are non-proprietary so that they are open to a variety of different billing systems. He said that property managers should pick a meter that uses the current technology, because that will allow the AMR to be flexible and take on new abilities.

May also recommended choosing a meter that is easy to install and maintain. “This minimizes disruption to your residents,” he said.

Maintenance is critical for a successful submetering system. According to Behr, a common issue that comes up is the meter will stop sending a signal. To correct this, replace the battery, replace the transmitter and reposition the meter to avoid interference (from the residents or otherwise). Another issue could be that the meter is showing no usage. If this occurs, Behr suggested replacing the probe (wire), replacing the meter and reinstalling the meter.

“There’s not one fix,” Behr said of maintenance issues. “There’s not one easy answer.”

There are some challenges that might arise with a submetering program. According to Haines, there are different legal requirements in different states. The biggest challenge, however, could be complaints from the residents. If this occurs, Haines suggested reviewing the AMR—was this a one-time occurrence or a repeated event? Often times, a spike in the reading occurs when the resident has guests in the apartment, which leads to more water usage that month.

A way to minimize complaints is to put systems on a regular maintenance service program. “This also eliminates the approval process for unbudgeted repairs,” Haines said.

Property managers should also make sure the community staff is knowledgeable about the submetering system.

“It’s important to train staff so they can answer basic questions,” Behr said. This could eliminate some frustrations residents feel if issues arise and could help build their confidence in the system as a whole.

When submetering systems are added to communities, do the residents respond positively?

According to Haines, residents often consider a submetering system to be a benefit, as opposed to paying a monthly flat rate.

“They’re in charge of their destiny,” Haines said.