Manufactured Homes and Submetering

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July 31, 2012
Tiffany Mittal
Multifamily Utility Company

Submetering is the process of installing a water, gas or electric meter on each mobile home after the master utility meters for the mobile home park. The term “submeter” is used for any meter installed after the master meter. With submeters installed at every mobile home the association is able to utilize a third party meter reading and billing company to read the meters and produce monthly bills for the selected utilities.

Why Submeter?

One of the largest expenses for a mobile home park is utilities. It is also an expense item that continues to increase over time. There are three major reasons for this:

• Rate Increases – The cost of energy (gas and electric) production and acquiring clean water has outpaced inflation for the past decade.

• Increases in Occupancy – Due to the economic environment more people are living with extended families. Higher occupancy leads to higher utility usage.

• Wasteful Usage - Residents are often less conservative with their utility usage when they are not aware of their individual consumption or do not have an incentive to save.

Studies have shown that once residents become aware of their utility usage, the total consumption will go down, on average around 22%. According to a 2007 Santa Clara Water District study, Water Submetering in Mobile Home Parks, “Tenants who are individually metered can benefit by being able to monitor and control their water use – with submetering, they only pay for what they use, not what others use . . . the four mobile home parks examined shows an annual water savings of from 15 to 30%.”

Submetering makes economic sense for both the association and the residents. The water, gas and/or electric can be billed back to the residents thus reducing the overall association’s expenses. Without submetering, associations and property owners may be forced to pass the increased expenses evenly to all residents. This would unfairly increase costs for residents who are already conscious of their utility usage. The residents will benefit because they are now in control of their utility expenses.

Submeters and Automatic Meter Reading Systems (AMR)

There are many types of submeters that will accommodate any mobile home. In areas where water pipes can freeze, you need to take measures to prevent the meters from freezing. For these applications there are meters with freeze plates or heat tape with insulation jackets. There are also a variety of gas and electric meters suitable for any environment. Submeters were once read by a “meter reader” who came to the property once a month to read the meters either manually or with a variety of handheld devices. This outdated way of reading meters only provided the meter readings once a month, so if there were a leak on the property or a running toilet, hundreds of gallons of water would have already been wasted before the resident received their next bill. The current way of reading submeters is through an Automatic Meter Reading System or (AMR). AMR’s have a small transmitter connected to each meter that sends the meter reads wirelessly to a data collector located on the property. The meter readings can then be downloaded daily and used to notify a property manager or resident if there is a sudden or steady increase in water usage. The devices can pinpoint the exact meter and time the increased usage started so the leak can be resolved within days, not months. Many submetering and billing companies can provide a web-based system with daily meter reads with their services.

How does it Work?

It is best to select a reputable submetering and billing company in the beginning to ensure you are getting the appropriate meters and AMR system for your property. These companies will typically handle all of the details, from the design and installation to the resident billing so you can start saving immediately. Following are some typical steps for a new installation:

1. A complete property analysis is completed to determine the best submetering products for the desired application.

2. Notices are issued to inform residents of the new submetering system.

3. Equipment is ordered and depending on state and local regulations may be sent to a government office for inspection and testing. The meters would then be installed along with the AMR system.

4. Resident information along with their meters is uploaded to a billing system and ready for processing.

5. Meter information is read via (AMR) wireless transmitters and receivers and transmitted back to a billing company. Individual meter readings are then imported into a billing system and individual utility bills are created.

6. Utility bills are sent directly to residents via U.S. Mail and/or electronically to e-mail addresses.

7. The billing company will typically collects payments via multiple payment methods including check, money order, eCheck or major credit card. Online and phone payments are often accepted as well.

8. A monthly utility reimbursement check is then sent to the owner, manager or association.

Multifamily Utility Company offers both code-compliant submetering systems and customized Ratio Utility Billing Systems (RUBS) for mobile home parks. Multifamily Utility Company handles everything from the system design and installation to monthly meter reading and billing. With more than 20 years of experience, Multifamily Utility is committed to being an industry leader in submetering and billing.

For more questions please contact Multifamily Utility Company at: 800.266.0968 or view their website at www.mobilehomeutility.com or www.multifamilyutility.com

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