Today I got a chance to tag along with an Avista meter reader. Not quite sure why learning what a meter reader does, in the 90 degree heat, was a great idea. I only hung around for about two hours, but Aaron, my guide for the morning will be out there all day, every day. It was hot, dusty and quite honestly, not a whole lot of fun – at least for me because I had no idea what I was doing.
Dressed in a brightly colored vest or other Avista logo apparel, meter readers like Aaron visit customer homes once a month to “read” the meter. That consists of checking the positioning on the four little dials on the gas or electric meters, and sometimes the digital display on some electric meters.
By reading the meter and coming up with a number, we can compare the numbers from last month and determine your usage. Pretty simple, but reading a meter, for novices like me – and I assume most of you - isn’t very simple. Some dials are read clockwise, others counter-clockwise. And the numbers don’t really mean much unless you can subtract them from last month’s numbers. For a little tutorial on reading a meter, click here
For Avista’s meter readers, one quick glance at the meter is enough to determine what the dials say. That’s the easy part. “Reading” the meter takes seconds, but it’s travel time between meters that take the bulk of the day. Negotiating fences, prickly bushes, dogs (happy and not-so-happy ones), rough terrain and the weather is the tough part.
I always assumed that meter readers would travel from house to house like a mailman. Up to one house, then on to the next in a straight line, and so on. But since meters tend to be scattered all over the place, sometimes behind fences, walls or even under decks in backyards, meter readers take the most efficient path. That might mean reading your neighbor’s gas meter from your driveway over the fence with binoculars, or walking between houses to grab the read through the alley.
When the snow falls, those shortcuts become even more important, as plowing through four feet of snow to get a quick look at your meter is even more difficult. Tip: this is why you don’t always see footprints in front of your meter. They don’t have to be standing right in front of it to make the read. Of course, if I was to read your meter I’d need to be directly in front of it for a few minutes to figure it out. Luckily, we’ve got experts out there making sure reads are correct and if there’s a question, give us a call and we’ll check it again.
So, as a personal plea for all meter readers out there working for Avista or any utility – try to clear a path to your meters this summer. Trim back the hedge or remove other obstacles before the big snow hits, so when you need to clear a path to your meters this winter, it will be easier on you – and them!