Frequently Asked Questions
With professional consultant support, the Department of Public Utilities studied the options available to replace aged and obsolete water/sewer and power meter equipment. As a result, replacement of the city’s aged meter equipment will begin in January 2023 with advanced metering infrastructure. Columbus’ Enhanced Meter Project (EMP) will take about three years to change out Columbus and contracting suburban community customers’ meters.
Many utilities across the U.S. have been upgrading their metering systems the past several years and are finding numerous operational and cost savings benefits, along with many customer benefits. Frequently asked questions:
Why is this project being done?
The Columbus Department of Public Utilities has approximately 300,000 water meters and 17,000 electric meters. These meters are aging and becoming obsolete. As many cities have done, the City of Columbus decided to upgrade to more modern and advanced metering infrastructure to mitigate the risk of inaccurate billing. The department is partnering with Sensus and Utility Metering Solutions on the Enhanced Meter Project (EMP) to replace, upgrade, or retrofit all water and power meters over the next few years.
How will customers benefit?
By upgrading to what is known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), the project enhances customer service, resulting in improved efficiency and meter accuracy. Benefits include alert notifications that customers can set up on a future portal, such as high consumption and leak alerts. These features provide customers with a better understanding of consumption patterns and inefficiencies, allowing them to adjust their habits and prevent high utility bills. Earlier leak detection is possible for water customers, and immediate outage notifications to the city is enabled for power customers to improve electricity restoration in the future.
Will the meter upgrades provide the ability for monthly water/sewer billing in the future, instead of quarterly?
The upgraded system will allow monthly billing to be more easily implemented at a future date.
Will there be a cost to customers?
The cost of meter replacements was planned for and built into the water, sewer, and power rates. There will be no additional cost to Columbus utility customers.
How will the meter replacement process work?
Water meters are being changed out on an area-by-area basis, beginning in 2023, with completion expected in 2027. Customers are notified by mail about work beginning in each area*. An appointment will be required for water replacement to schedule the work and ensure the installer can gain access into the property as the water meter is typically located in the basement.
Power meters are being changed out on an area-by-area basis, beginning in 2023, with completion expected in 2027. Electric meter replacements do not require an appointment, but power customers are notified of the short outage period when the meter will be replaced. Door hangers are left to notify customers when the power meter installation is complete.
How can I identify the installation crew?
Appointment confirmation is sent to residents to allow them to prepare and expect the installer. To assist residents in the identification of the contractor's installation crew on site, the meter installer will carry city-issued identification.
Do I need to schedule an appointment to replace my water meter?
Yes. Water meter replacements require an appointment to be scheduled as the water meter is usually located inside the house. The installer requires clear access to the area surrounding the meter. To book online, visit columbusemp.org and click “Schedule Appointment.” To book by phone, call 833-232-3202 (Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Do I need to schedule an appointment to replace my city electric meter?
No. Electric meters are located outside of the home and therefore will not require appointments to be replaced. This project will affect city power customers only. AEP customers will not have their electric meters replaced by the city.
Is there anything else I need to do?
Please keep pets indoors and away from the installers during the timeframe your meter is scheduled to be replaced, and please ensure the path to the meter and area around the meter is clear.
For water meter replacement appointments, an adult (18+) must be present to provide access to the installer. It is also important to note that, since water service may be interrupted for a short period of time; water appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers should not be used until the water is turned back on.
For electric meter replacements, there may be a short interruption in electric service when the meters are exchanged. Therefore, sensitive electronic equipment should be unplugged, or a surge protector should be used to prevent the possibility of damage.
What should I do if I encounter an issue after installation?
Please call the EMP 24-hour emergency number at 844-903-1207 to report a water leak following a new water meter installation, loss of power following an electric meter replacement, or any other concerns.
Can customers opt out of having their water meter replaced?
Participation in the program is mandatory because existing meter equipment is becoming obsolete. The upgrade of water meters is authorized in accordance with the Columbus City Code Section 1101.03. Customers who do not book an appointment may be subject to penalties, which may include the termination of water service.
Will information be collected on household water and power usage?
Only consumption-related data is collected for billing and operational purposes, and no personally identifiable or account information is transmitted by the meter. The goal is to replace metering equipment for reliability, accuracy of reading, operational efficiency, and improved customer service.
How can I be sure that the meter readings will be accurate?
AMI technology increases the accuracy of the equipment and eliminates the possibility of human error when collecting meter readings. One way to validate the accuracy of your billing statement is to read it carefully to see if your usage for that month is typical for your home or business and validate it against the consumption on your physical meter.
I live in a new home (within the last 5 years or so) do I still need this upgrade?
Yes. All meters currently installed in homes and businesses are part of an aging meter reading system that is reaching the end of its lifecycle and due for replacement.
Does this upgrade mean that meter readers will not be coming on my property anymore?
Access to the meter for routine readings will no longer be necessary. There may be occasions when a technician will require access to the meter for maintenance.
How long does the water meter replacement take?
Once the technician gains access to the water meter inside your home, the work will take between 30 and 90 minutes, and your water service may be temporarily interrupted. Please ensure an adult (18+) is present during the appointment and the area around the meter is clear of obstructions.
Area by area, how will I know if there are installers in my area?
Residents are notified by mail. They receive a timeline during which the contractor will be replacing meters in their corresponding area and are prompted to schedule their water meter replacement appointments online or by phone.
How does the water meter send information to the radio transmitter on the outside of the house?
The water meter must be connected through a wire to the new reading device installed on the outside of the property. This work is authorized under Columbus City Code, and your meter upgrade cannot occur without it. The meter in the basement is connected to the transmitter attached to the outside of the home through a wire, similar to an internet cable or telephone line.
Are the frequencies emitted by these devices harmful?
No, the radio frequency waves emitted by these devices are a fraction of the amount generated by a cell phone and other common household appliances.
Why are inspections required?
Inspections are a part of the contract for the Enhanced Meter Project to ensure that Utility Metering Solutions is completing the upgrades according to contract standards. The inspections will be carried out by the Department of Public Utilities or representatives from Anser Advisory, a firm under contract to the Department of Public Utilities.
Will all properties be inspected?
Not every upgraded meter will be inspected. Throughout the project, only a percentage of the completed meter replacements will be randomly inspected to ensure project standards are being consistently fulfilled by the contractor.
How will I know if my property will be inspected?
Within one week after your installation is complete, an Anser Advisory inspector may knock on your door and request to do an inspection.
How will I identify the inspectors?
Anser Advisory inspectors will carry both a City of Columbus and Anser ID badge with their photo and name clearly displayed. They will also wear branded uniforms and have a company logo on their vehicle.
What should I expect during the inspection visit?
The inspector will visually inspect the newly upgraded water and/or electric meter and the transmitter installed on the outside of the property to validate that the work completed by UMS meets the project’s standards. Inspectors will require approximately 15 minutes to complete their work. Should any concerns be identified, the inspector will advise the resident and notify the City of Columbus and Utility Metering Solutions. If necessary, Utility Metering Solutions will book a follow-up appointment with the customer to resolve concerns and ensure the contractual standards are met.
Will multiple visits to my home be required?
A second appointment will be required only if there are any issues preventing the work from being completed during the initial site visit or if a fault in the system is detected.