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Can My Gas Meter Be Faulty?

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garyhigh
garyhigh Member Posts: 2




Thank you for the opportunity to communicate with HVAC and Natural Gas professionals. A first time issue developed this season. I’ve lived in this home for several decades. There has never been any remarkable variation in natural gas consumption as far as I can remember. And, this year does not seem unusually cold in my area. Something changed this year that caused my gas consumption to skyrocket. Six months ago, in August, SDGE (in San Diego) swapped out my gas meter on their own volition. They did not change the regulator. The previous meter was there, possibly for many decades. I don’t recall it ever being swapped before. I may not have noticed if they had. I don’t use much gas in the summer- just a water heater and gas dryer. On the summertime monthly invoice, my usage is between 1-3 therms historically. So, no alarming increases appeared other than a small bump to 4 therms. Once November arrived and I turned on the furnace, my gas usage soured to 3 to 4 times that of normal. I still have all of my gas invoices going back 6- years. In the coldest part of a San Diego winter, my gas usage over those 3- months would average 13, 15, 14 therms November to January. These figures hold true over the 6- years of invoices. This year jumped to 35, 61, 57 therms respectively and tailing off slowly. None of my appliances have changed or faltered as far as I can see. The only change has been the meter. Recently, I purchased a manometer, zeroed it before use and measured 8.81 in/water at the inlet of the gas furnace control valve. This appears high according to research. The outlet pressure was 4.09 before I reduced the outlet pressure to 3.51 in/water as indicated on the valve. Before I reduced the outlet pressure, I clocked the meter using a couple of methods found online and came up with approximately 82k btu with the furnace running and about 78k after adjustment to the control valve (I have an old 75k btu furnace that seems to be running fine, as always). I NEVER HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO CLOCK THE OLD METER. I’ve never had a professional check my heater. That’s all that SDGE offered when I called them about this issue. My gut tells me that the issue is with the meter! Maybe, my old meter was undercounting. But, if it was, it was undercounting for decades. To me, it seems more plausible that the new meter is over counting. However, I see virtually nothing online about this possibility. I’m looking for a professional opinion as to the possibility and likelihood of a faulty meter before I demand an assessment of my meter by SDGE. A final note; is it possible that high gas pressure through the meter, as noted above, could cause the meter to report extraordinarily higher-than-actual usage data? Thank you for your response.


Comments

  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,166
    edited February 2023
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    I had an occasion in NJ to find a defective meter. The meter would cause a Trianco Heatmaker to fail when the outside temperature was extremely low. The problem took me several hours to diagnose. When I finally got a manometer on the gas water heater that would not fail, there was a rhythmic drop in pressure then an immediate recovery. It seems there was a dead spot on the gear that measured 1 foot on the meter. I finally stood outside and watched the meter and every time the dial reached the 9 o'clock position the dial stopped then there was a click and the dial jumped to 11 o'clock. This is when the pressure drop happened inside.

    The customer's equipment was not at fault for the nuisance “no heat” condition. It was caused by the meter. The customer needed to call the gas company and tell them he had no heat and the contractor said that they should bring a replacement meter. The Gas company told my customer that a contractor can not diagnose a bad meter. The customer then told them there might be a gas leak at the meter, that is why the contractor said to bring a replacement meter. That gas leak thing got them there fast.

    So YES you can have a defective meter

    EDIT: The Gas Company CSR that answer the phone are trained to reduce the need for technicians to go on nuisance calls (like "I think my meter is wrong"). The mechanics and technicians that actually show up are usually interested in what you have to say. So a gas leak is the fastest way to get the mechanic to your location. Explaining the meter problem to the mechanic may get you a replacement meter. Keep a record of the meter serial number of the one you have now and the replacement meter. This will be important when you want a refund for overcharging you for gas resulting from a defective meter.

    There is also a public utility board or commission and the board of weights and measures that will be happy to look into the problem (They are the people that check the calibration of meters on fuel pumps and fuel meters)

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,104
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    I use 25-30 therms in the summer for hot water and cooktop.
    I believe this is fairly typical for hot water in the summer.
    2 people in the house.

    Your 1-3 therms sounds like only a small standing pilot light.
    You may have gotten a deal over the years.

    For heating in January, I used 103, that includes hot water.....but I am in northern Nebraska and we touched below zero several times... obviously not a good comparison for you.

    Ask your neighbors about their consumption if similar house.

    You might call gas Co about high pressure being delivered.

    If you were on a smaller system, the company may have noticed your lack of consumption.
    Actually that may have instigated your new meter install.
    bburd
  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,696
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    Where were you measuring the pressure at? Where did you adjust the pressure at?

    When I was just a wee youngster, the house I grew up in had a meter that made a looooong squeal when gas was flowing. Coincidentally, our house, one of the largest & leakiest on the street, also had a gas bill that was a fraction of everyone else's. Sounds like your old meter was underreporting.

    JUGHNEEdTheHeaterManhot_rod
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,219
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    One of our local gas company's, Nicor, insisted that a gas meter cannot be defective. We had a customer that was getting outrageous gas bills. I sat down and divided the reported usage by hours per month and the boiler ( over twice the size needed to heat the house) would have had to be firing continuously the whole month in moderate weather to even come close to the gas usage reported.
    We also had another client where Nicor came out and changed the gas meter and apparently assigned the new meter to the wrong account. In addition, it was extremely likely they did not properly record the ending reading on the old meter and the beginning reading on the new meter because they were shown as the same on the monthly bills. I don't think they ever refunded or admitted thier reading errors, though the account was corrected after we had analyzed thier bills and found the error in monthly usage.

    So yes, it does happen.
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  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,241
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    Absolutely!  Any meter whether its gas, water, hot water is a mechanical device with moving parts that can and will eventually wear.  The utilities will NEVER admit this but I've had smart techs admit it. Admitting that possibility would open the flood gates to challenges.   Mad Dog 
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,104
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    I think your 1-3 therms for WH & dryer is the telling issue.

    In talking to our village clerk, their billing program will pop up any reading that is out of the typical range.

    We have had that program for 3 years in our "hamlet" of about 200 NG meters.

    Perhaps SDG&E has caught up with us in the technology. :)

    It would be interesting for others here to tell what the average monthly consumption for NG WH.
  • JakeCK
    JakeCK Member Posts: 1,415
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    I had to have the gas co replace my meter this past October. It was causing a pulsing of the flame when my boiler would fire. 
    EdTheHeaterMan
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    I also believe the meter could be wrong. Every metering device used for commerce-heating oil meters, deli scales, weight scales, cash registers, even the large 20' measuring stick next to the register at HD, requires a mandated Weights & Measures check annually. But gas, electric and water meters do not. I'm sure 1 out of every so many are checked at a factory, but that would be it.
    So drift is probably. I'm even cynical enough to think that maybe utility customers have their meters rigged a little in their favor, creating a nice windfall for them every month.
    If you notice, the utility company will come out almost immediately if usage is below normal, but they'll never contact you if usage is uncharacteristically higher (like a constantly running toilet at a rental property).
    Anyway, despite the above boring rant by me, I think your old meter was under reporting. Maybe your new one is over reporting, maybe not.

    There was an error rendering this rich post.

  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,219
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    I also believe the meter could be wrong. Every metering device used for commerce-heating oil meters, deli scales, weight scales, cash registers, even the large 20' measuring stick next to the register at HD, requires a mandated Weights & Measures check annually. But gas, electric and water meters do not. I'm sure 1 out of every so many are checked at a factory, but that would be it.
    So drift is probably. I'm even cynical enough to think that maybe utility customers have their meters rigged a little in their favor, creating a nice windfall for them every month.
    If you notice, the utility company will come out almost immediately if usage is below normal, but they'll never contact you if usage is uncharacteristically higher (like a constantly running toilet at a rental property).
    Anyway, despite the above boring rant by me, I think your old meter was under reporting. Maybe your new one is over reporting, maybe not.

    This is a distinct possibility. Since I analyze gas usage quite often, I pick up on patterns. A very consistent one I found was underestimating usage on December bills and then making up for it on the January bill. The gas company can then shift profits from one year to the next and probably come out ahead on the cost of gas because it is usually higher in January than December. They buy the cheaper gas in December to supply the customer and under estimate usage and then charge them the higher January rate with excessive usage.
    Corporate corruption is rampant and nearly all the watchdog agencies have been gutted.
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    STEVEusaPA
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,458
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    Where did you get the first reading of 8.81 from? Was it close to the meter? I don't know what the normal meter outlet pressure there is, but that seems pretty high. I would get the gas company out to check it out for sure.
    Also, if you can hook, your manometer up on the outlet of the meter as close as you can, and then turn on your furnace and see what that pressure drops to. It shouldn't drop much.
    Rick
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,944
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    Not that if the meter is calibrated for 7 in cw and the actual pressure is above that you will get more mass of gas through the meter than the index indicates. It will under read if the pressure is a little high.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,915
    edited February 2023
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    Where did you get the first reading of 8.81 from? Was it close to the meter? I don't know what the normal meter outlet pressure there is, but that seems pretty high. I would get the gas company out to check it out for sure.
    Also, if you can hook, your manometer up on the outlet of the meter as close as you can, and then turn on your furnace and see what that pressure drops to. It shouldn't drop much.
    Rick


    Normal, as I understand it is anything from 6" to 10". 7 is the most common I believe.

    An appliance valve / regulator should have no problems with 9"

    My guess is he took a measurement at the inlet of the appliance. The valve's I've seen have test ports on both the inlet and outlet.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • garyhigh
    garyhigh Member Posts: 2
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    First, let me thank you all for your comments. I’ve had new considerations as a result. I took my measurements at the heater control valve inside the heater closet. The inlet pressure tap yielded 8.81. Although it would be interesting to check pressure near the meter, too difficult to break in there. I have to say that based on the comments above, from the first to the end, it’s a resounding yes that meters can be faulty. However, comments regarding my summertime usage got me thinking about that differently. I had thought about the possibility of my old meter undercounting. But, paid little attention to summer. As a comment suggested above, I made a survey of at least one neighbor whose home is the same as mine and lives alone. Like me, he turns off his heater in the summer and has a WH and gas dryer only. My expectation is that he would use less gas than we do in our home especially since he’s more environmentally conscious than I am. And, he’s a bigger nut than I am in that he’s kept all his invoices going back 20 years. His summertime usage is five times higher than mine! Although, I hesitate to make final this conclusion, it seems I’ve benefited greatly over some time. That being said, this winters spike is still hard to understand. I hit 61 therms ending December. While reading an article in our local paper about natural gas rates doubling last month, it mentioned the average SDGE customer used 45 therms in December. I would seriously consider my use to be below average. More work to do, I guess.
    I am intrigued by the last post above from Mattmia2 regarding reporting anomalies based on higher than rated meter pressure passing through the meter. The post states that the meter would underreport which is opposite my perceived issue.
    Once again, thank you all