Troy Smithhisler, left, holds the antenna and battery pack portion of the new “smart meters” set to be installed by the Knox County Water/Wastewater Department in the Howard/Apple Valley area. On the right, Superintendent Jeff Pickrell holds the iPERL water meter, designed by Sensus. The county recently received delivery of close to 3000 of the smart meters to be installed in 2020.
HOWARD — A new era for Knox County water customers in Apple Valley and Howard arrived by delivery truck Friday morning at the Knox County Water/Wastewater Department’s facility on Howard-Danville Road.
Unloaded into storage containers were 350 boxes from 16 pallets, which contained 2,800 high-tech water meters. Most of them are Sensus iPERL meters that had been housed most recently at a Core & Main facility in the Ashland area.
County Water/Wastewater Department Director Jeff Pickrell said the computerized task of these meters, which shall be installed now through the spring at a cost of $1.083 million, is a highly important one. It is to drastically cut down on 60 percent of well-drawn water from five county wells that is considered lost, or “unaccounted for,” due to leaks. Those leaks can occur from causes ranging from freezing temperatures resulting in a ruptured line going into a home, a leaking faucet or something as simple as a toilet leak caused by a faulty rubber flange.
Pickrell, whose department has been working with Johnson Controls on the project, explained the technology behind the new water meters’ ability to attain water efficiency as Johnson Controls personnel unloaded the pallets.
The digitally read iPERL meters are physically connected by a line to a small black box that serves as an antenna. When a leak is detected, described as a “ping,” a radio signal is sent from the antenna box to the antenna perched on a tower, which is then relayed back to the computers at the Department of Water/Wastewater offices next to the Opportunity Knox building on Coshocton Road. Their “ping” ability is referred to as Smartpoint technology.
The “ping” of a water leak is detected in different ways depending on digital readings, but one way would be a reading of continuous water use — perhaps indicating that a toilet is still running or a faucet is leaking. One leaking toilet for a one-week period can account for 3,000 gallons of lost water, Pickrell said. The water meters have built-in GPs’s allowing each unit to be tracked by its latitude and longitude.
The water meters themselves, which will be placed about 42 inches below the ground, are attached to piping on both sides that feeds into a three-quarters inch or 1-inch water line going into a home or business. Above the water meter, its connecting line to the antenna box allows the main part of the back box to be placed under a casting and lid, which resembles a small version of a manhole cover.
Only the top portion of the antenna box, which is round, is usually above ground, and it does not sit far above ground, Pickrell noted. However, one problem with the antenna boxes, which are also used with the water meters being replaced, is that people who mow their lawns are known to clip off the small white, vertical antenna piece inside the black, round piece that is built to protect it. Water/Wastewater worker Troy Smithhisler said during Thursday’s water readings alone in the Apple Valley/Howard area, 15 meters were damaged out of 40. The cost for the department to repair the antenna boxes is $200, which is then charged to the customer. So the department is trying to get out the word to be careful when mowing, especially when near the casting and lid in your yard, Pickrell emphasized.
The $1 million-plus cost of the water meters themselves is being paid by Knox County government. The county has entered into a 10-year lease-purchase term with Sterling National Bank of Columbus. The county Water/Wastewater Department has put down half of the project cost, or $541,000, while financing the other half through Sterling National Bank. The other half of project cost is expected to be paid for through increased water efficiency with greatly reduced water lost. The county is not raising its water prices, but Pickrell said increased efficiency may result in higher water bills for some residents.
The county is likely going to erect some digital signs on county-owned property in the Apple Valley/Howard area directing water customers to the county website, Pickrell said, which is found at www.co.knox.oh.us and scrolling down to click on the Water/Wastewater tab.
Johnson Controls has been an integral part of working with the Water/Wastewater Department on project pre-planning, planning and engineering, Pickrell said. The two entities will work together during an upcoming construction meeting to discuss which homes will be fitted with the new meters first, and then proceed from there. The project should be completed by late spring, he added.