Step-by-step Padborg District Heating is going from time-consuming meter reading with a handheld terminal to efficient and simple remote reading via mobile phones.

Padborg District Heating is in the process of replacing its entire meter park with meters that support the remote reading system READy. This is expected to reduce the time required for meter reading by 50%, and in the long term, the future upgrade to automatic network reading will mean further savings and operational optimisation.

From manual reading to mobile reading of heat meters
The process of replacing the meters and the meter reading system had just begun when Utility Manager, Bjarne Hermansen, joined Padborg District Heating in 2013. At that time, the utility had started putting radio modules into the meters and implementing meter reading via handheld terminal. 

At a meeting with Kamstrup, the new utility manager was introduced to the remote reading system READy, and the system’s potential was clear to him: "We saw some great opportunities down the road in getting data delivered instead of driving around to collect it. The first step towards that goal was getting started with READy mobile reading."

Today, the 1,734 heat meters are read using a combination of a handheld terminal and READy mobile reading. 
Approximately 250 meters support READy, but the number is steadily increasing, and the benefits are already evident.

Simpler and faster meter reading with READy
The challenge of reading meters by handheld terminal is the hassle of collecting the data and, consequently, the amount of time it takes read all the meters. "It takes three to four times as long to read the meters with a handheld terminal, as it does with READy," explains Bjarne Hermansen.

READy’s simple and intuitive interface made it easy for the utility manager to get started using the new system, and meter reading is now done faster than ever before. "The entire reading method is easier with READy – we can quite simply go faster. Additionally, the READy system is much easier to handle. That’s why we want to make the switch."

Today, all heat meters are read twice a year, but once they can all be read via READy mobile reading, they will be read once a month. With the utility's current solution, which uses the handheld terminal for most meters and READy for a smaller number of them, it takes one man two days – if all goes well.

"All you have to do is drive"

Bjarne Hermansen estimates that when the entire meter fleet can be read with READy mobile reading, it can be done in five to six hours as opposed to the approximately 16 hours it takes today. In addition, he does not need to do anything except drive the car around the supply area, as the READy app on his mobile phone automatically reads the meters that are nearby: "The reading takes care of itself  while I’m driving around, so literally, all you have to do is drive." 

In other words, the difference compared to reading meters with a handheld terminal is significant, explains the utility manager: "It is completely different than before. With the previous meters, you had to stand right outside the front door of the house, and even then, the hand terminal would often still not detect the meter. With READy mobile reading, you can drive by at 50 km/h and you catch pretty much all of them right away."

Operations optimisation based on data

So far, the time savings are the main result Padborg District Heating has experienced from their ongoing changeover to mobile reading. This is because the meters are currently used only for reading consumption data. As soon as the phasing out of the handheld terminal is completed and all the meters can be read using READy, the use of data will become an important part of the utility’s daily work. Bjarne Hermansen describes this as phase two.

"We see great potential in using data for operations optimisation. Once we have everything up and running, we can use data for a number of things. There are substantial savings to be made here," says Bjarne Hermansen. In addition, it is also expected to result in less administration and better service for the consumers.

Huge potential in network meter reading
Switching to READy mobile reading is part of a longer process towards network reading. Consequently, when Bjarne Hermansen looks ahead about five years from now, he expects that at that time, all of the district heating utility’s meters will be read via a network of antennas.
In this way, all meter data will automatically be collected directly to the utility, without having to spend time driving around the supply area. "We will get data delivered directly to us every day as opposed to driving around for it, and this will allow us to focus on the numbers instead," he says.

Network meter reading will enable further operations optimisation based on the more frequent data. This will specifically contribute to the district heating utility being able to reduce its collective transmission losses, lower the flow temperature and minimise water loss: 

"By getting data on a daily basis, we can quickly detect any errors that might occur, which will definitely mean great savings. For example, we would be able to catch a leak right away."

The potential of network reading was therefore also a contributory factor in convincing the board to make the investment in READy. "It is a step on the journey towards us being able to use data to save money," explains the utility manager.

"We see great potential in using data for operations optimisation. Once we have everything up and running, we can use data for a number of things. There are substantial savings to be made here."

Bjarne Hermansen, Utility Manager, Padborg District Heating
About the project:
Padborg District Heating
Metering points: 1,734

376 MULTICAL III and MULTICAL 66 that read by handheld terminal
1,114 MULTICAL 601 and 602 with Kamstrup RF radio that are read by handheld terminal
244 MULTICAL 601 and 602 with wireless M-Bus that are read by READy and a mobile phone

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