Dr Alex Murdoch, Castle Water’s Technical Relationship Manager, provides expert advice on the differences between AMR and smart meters.

Recently Castle Water has received an influx of queries from customers enquiring about installing smart meters for water in their businesses; however, many assume the smart meters available for water are similar to those for electricity and gas. This blog will help remove any ambiguity and clarify why other utility smart meters cannot be a substitute for AMR devices in the water industry.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters have become a buzzword over recent years. As part of a government strategy to effectively monitor energy consumption, all UK businesses are being offered a smart meter before 2025. Subsequently more customers have been enquiring about the benefits and installation of smart meters. The rise in these enquiries may be due to customers having the expectation that they can get a similar ‘smart meter’ device to those available for other utilities or can’t justify the cost of AMR devices.

A smart meter’s main function is to “provide automatic meter reading; regular, remote readings resulting in monthly charges matching monthly consumption”.
Dr Murdoch further explains that “smart meters can also provide analysis tools and alarms to help better manage consumption, identify leaks and other problems sooner; all to improve overall water efficiency”.
In order to do this, smart meters need to be able to communicate. This could be through using Wi-Fi, mobile phone networks or radio frequency.

Why other utility smart meters cannot be installed to measure water consumption

To manage expectations a little better, smart meters used in the energy market are specifically:

  1. low-cost, mass-produced devices that are not suitable for the water industry
  2. devices that cost can be covered as part of normal service

Low-cost smart metering for electricity (combined with higher average spend per customer) makes the ‘free’ provision of smart metering viable in the energy market. However, the opposite can be said for the water market, and unfortunately customer expectations do not always reflect this.

What is an AMR device?

The general description of AMR, Dr Murdoch defines as being “essentially synonymous with smart metering – although the term can often be used to describe the device which attaches to the existing (compatible) meter; only the combination of a meter equipped with AMR together counts as a smart meter”.

These advanced devices are installed to meters that are usually underground which poses a challenge for the remote communication of data.

Differences between AMR devices and smart meters

Technical

Standardised, mass-produced smart meters (like those used in the electrical industry) do not have a suitable interface to be used in the water industry. Water meters are typically installed underground which limits options for communication. If a mass-produced smart meter was fitted underground, it would not be able to get a signal. More specialised technology is therefore required in AMR devices to ensure a signal is received and that data can be communicated back to customers and suppliers.

Cost

The cost of AMR devices is also much higher than smart meters used in the energy industry. The technology used in AMR devices is more expensive and these devices have higher network costs. Unfortunately, low cost and mass-produced AMR devices are not yet available in the water industry. However, the benefits of AMR completely outweigh the costs. For instance, businesses with accurate billing, based on their water usage, can save thousands of pounds. The ease of AMR means time saved from not taking physical monthly meter readings. This particularly benefits large, multiple site organisations and agricultural customers.

Benefits of using AMR devices

AMR smart devices offer many benefits to all business water stakeholders. These advantages often result in less time and money being spent for customers and suppliers, as well as having positive environmental impacts.

Customer (user)

  • Reduced water consumption: AMR provides a real-time view on water usage to highlight any overuse.
  • Precise billing: AMR make billing as precise as possible, meaning customers will only pay for the water they use.
  • Leak detection: Regular AMR and reports can help detect early signs of a leak, protecting your business from potential flooding and expensive repair costs.
  • No more manual meter reads
  • Cost savings: AMR saves both time and money.
  • Improved efficiency: AMR allows for better visibility and easier management of water consumption which can be used to change water habits and deliver cost benefits.
  • Supports sustainability targets: AMR allows customers to benchmark and ensures they are achieving and track their business’s sustainability targets.

Environmental

  • AMR remote communication means no travel is required to take physical meter readings and therefore reduces overall consumption.
  • Significantly reduced environmental damage from floods as AMR can detect early signs of a leak.
  • Any decrease in consumption from improved efficiency or reduced leakage relates to a reduction in emissions associated with water/wastewater treatment and pumping.
  • Reduced water consumption also helps to lessen the impact on natural water resources

Ready to install AMR?

Talk to our expert Castle Water team today about installing AMR in your business by calling 01250 718718 or email additionalservices@castlewater.co.uk.

We’re available Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm.