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Coin-operated gas meters

DanHolohan
DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
Any Wallies old enough to remember those? Love to hear your story.
Retired and loving it.

Comments

  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    And not fondly. In Britain, just after the war -- WWII, that is. A shilling a pop.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    Thanks, Jamie. How much time did you get for that shilling?
    Retired and loving it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    I was a kid -- don't recall exactly. An evening's worth, seems to me. Little open gas fire thing. No central heating, of course! But definitely an improvement over an anaemic coal fire!
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 14,552
    A modern day version.

    These are common in flats in Europe. You get billed for heat via the BTU meter, also cold and hot water supplied by the building or district system.

    I've heard some have credit card scanners. Probably Apply Pay also :)
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • RayWohlfarth
    RayWohlfarth Member Posts: 867
    Wow I never would have imagined that to be true. Reminds me of Blazing Saddles, Someones gotta go back and get sh**load of dimes.
    Ray Wohlfarth
    Boiler Lessons
    RickBlackfordluketheplumber
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    I'm reading where it also operated the lights, but that's older than even you, Jamie. ;-)
    Retired and loving it.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,445
    I actually used to have one on display in my office at the gas company. One of the interesting things about those meters they typically worked with nickels. So for those clever folks who wanted to steal gas they made them selves little trays the shape of nickels filled them with water and froze them. They then used the frozen nickel shaped fake coins to get the meters to work. The old timers would know the customers were stealing gas because instead of finding coins in the meter they found "WATER".
    STEVEusaPASolid_Fuel_ManSuperTech
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    edited April 2020
    Good one, Tim. Makes me wonder if the fridge ran on gas. ;-)
    Retired and loving it.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 4,823

    I actually used to have one on display in my office at the gas company. One of the interesting things about those meters they typically worked with nickels. So for those clever folks who wanted to steal gas they made them selves little trays the shape of nickels filled them with water and froze them. They then used the frozen nickel shaped fake coins to get the meters to work. The old timers would know the customers were stealing gas because instead of finding coins in the meter they found "WATER".

    I wonder if that would've worked with quarters and arcade games back in the 80's. Oh the money I would've saved...lol
    steve
    Erin Holohan Haskellluketheplumber
  • PerryHolzman
    PerryHolzman Member Posts: 234
    edited April 2020
    @ hot_rod

    I've often though that if I ever got into owning rental property that I would have staged boilers for high efficiency and reliability and BTU meters like these for heat and hot water.

    When the Utility companies charge $15-$20 per month for each meter and the cost of installing individual boilers, water heaters, and utility services... That makes the most sense to me.

    Have a great day... Love, Laugh, and life life to its fullest,

    Perry
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,666
    I saw one in the lower east side tenement museum. If I recall it was piped in to the lighting. It was also piped in to a hotplate connected I think with a hose.

    i guess sterno was invented for day to day cooking where you didn't have other fuels available.
    kevintheplumber
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,445
    Those meters typically supplied gas lights or small cook stoves. In fact meter sizing was five light meters for "five lights" and ten light meters for 10 lights. This was still the case when I joined the gas industry in 1966 we still had the old tin meters rated five light or ten light. However they were not any longer coin operated.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    @Tim McElwain do you recall how they were heating those buildings? Was the gas coming from that same meter?
    Retired and loving it.
  • bburd
    bburd Member Posts: 128
    I stayed for a week in a furnished London flat in 1995. It had a wall mounted combi gas boiler for DHW and central heat.

    One morning we had no heat or hot water and could not light the boiler. My traveling companion was steaming and wanted to call the rental agent. I said “Wait a sec, let me check something”.

    The gas meter, behind an access panel in the kitchen, had a mag stripe card slot. The LCD display read “£0.0”.

    There was a new card sitting on top of the meter. I stuck it in, heard a click and the display read “£50.0”. Presto! Back in business.

    Saved by the habit of reading old English novels. That’s where I found out about coin operated gas meters. Since the temperature there almost never drops below freezing, they don’t have to worry about frozen pipes.

    Bburd
    ratiokcoppSaints
  • nicholas bonham-carter
    nicholas bonham-carter Member Posts: 8,425
    In Rome, staying with friends, (1967), I rode an elevator up 4 floors, by putting a small coin in the button panel.-NBC
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    Indeed, @bburd -- frozen pipes are rare in the UK. In fact, the flat my daughter lived in in Edinburgh for a few years recently (which didn't have pre-pay gas -- it was laid on) all the plumbing and power etc. feeds were outside on the walls. The fact that the building had been built in about 1600 of solid stone may have had something to do with that... central heating is found only in the newest (post war) buildings.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,175
    Our local power company had a few coin (quarters) operated electric meters. They would be installed for delinquent customers.
    The rate thru the meter was higher than normal so they would slowly catch up on their arrears.
    50 years ago there were no social welfare programs that would pay someone's utilities. This was a pay as you use system that prevented a shutoff of your power.

    We have one in our museum basement, bring quarters and I will show you how it works.......I don't have the key to the coin box though.....no refunds.....could be old silver coins in it (pre 1964).
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 462
    Me Uncle Bill used to come over once a week and put in sixpence so he could take a hot bath. Kept the Aga instant water heater on just long enough. Me Mum probably subsidized his bath a bit didn't she.
  • Tim McElwain
    Tim McElwain Member Posts: 4,445
    Dan Holohan most of the buildings with coin operated meters they were only for small use such as cooking or gas lights. Heating systems were often central heating for the entire complex. Individual homes here in Rhode Island were often heated by oil.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,199
    Thanks, Tim.
    Retired and loving it.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 15,373
    True enough, @Tim McElwain -- on this side of the pond. But on the other side, there was no central heating in most places, and certainly not in most homes or flats (although one of the fanciest central heating systems I've ever seen is in Bamburgh Castle, up in Northumberland -- but that was put in by Baron Armstrong around 1900 or so). What you had -- in an inn or pub or block of flats-- was a gas fire. With a meter... (a private home you had a coal fire -- even in cities).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • nibs
    nibs Member Posts: 462
    We had a coal fireplace, me dad bought two kerosene heaters, one for the living room & the other for the dining room/kitchen.
    Kept the oil for them in the washing machine that came with the house, we may have had a newer portable. I remember the day sugar came off rationing, me mum gave me a thrupenny bit to buy a chocolate bar to celebrate. Best thing I ever did was bring my parents over here when I was 14.
    Gordo
  • R. Hayes
    R. Hayes Member Posts: 5
    To see meter in action, watch The Kid from 1921, about 13 minutes into the film:
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