Submeter Radio Frequency (RF) System Overview & Troubleshooting

In an effort to conserve resources and recover utility costs, properties hire Guardian to supply or install a new submetering system then provide on-going meter reading and utility billing service.  Some properties have submeters that require on-site manual reading each month but most systems are read electronically using a radio frequency (RF) system. The RF system consists of a submeter wired and affixed to a small battery operated transmitter installed in each unit.  Water submeters are installed on the pipe after the unit's main shut off valve.  Gas submeters are installed after each unit's main gas shut off valve.  Electric submeters are installed on the breaker box for each unit.  Here are a few pictures of submeters installed at a property.

Water Submeter installed for total capture inside an apartment at a property where hot water tanks are in each unit

Transmitter (wired to meter)

Low voltage wire connecting meter and transmitter

Water Shut Off Valve (this valve controls all the water coming into the unit)

Water Submeter

Water Submeters installed for total capture inside an apartment at a property with a central hot water system

Transmitter for Hot Water Submeter

Transmitter for Cold Water Submeter

Hot Water Submeter

Hot  Water Shut Off Valve

Cold Water Submeter

Cold Water Shut Off Valve

Gas Submeter installed inside a unit at a property

Gas Submeter

Transmitter (wired to meter)

Low voltage wire connecting meter and transmitter

Electric Submeters installed at a property

The transmitter that is connected and affixed to each submeter sends the meter read over 900 MHz radio frequency back to the property's submeter data collector (aka Gateway, DCC, RDL, etc).  The data collector is about the size of a cable box or internet router and is installed in the property's leasing office or mechanical room. Depending on the brand of RF system, the transmitter can send the read back to the data collector in as little as 1 hour intervals.  Some RF systems have the ability to send out high usage and leak alerts emails to property management or Guardian staff. Larger properties require "repeaters" to boost the signal to the submeters farthest from the data collector.  Here is an example of what it a complete system looks like.  The brand of system shown below is NextCentury. 

Transmitter (Attached to wire coming out of meter and installed in every unit)

Repeater (a few per property depending on size)

Data Collector (just 1 for entire property)

Water Submeter  (installed in every unit)

Depending on the type of RF system, Guardian connects to the property's submeter "data collector" (aka Gateway, DCAP, DCC, RDL, etc) over the internet, phone line or cellular (LTE) in order to remotely read the submeters each month and provide utility billing services.  There are several different brands of RF systems that Guardian uses depending on the specifics of the property.  Below is a picture of a NextCentury data collector "Gateway" installed at a property.  This particular data collector is hooked up to the property's internet router using an ethernet cable. 

Ethernet cable

(included with Data Collector)

Data Collector

(Installed in central location at property such as leasing office)

AC adapter (power supply) to Data Collector

AC adapter (power supply) to Property's Internet Router

Internet Router provided by property

There are several companies in the U.S. that manufacture the submeter RF systems.  These companies do not provide installation or utility billing services like Guardian.  Many of these companies are on their 3rd or 4th version of their system and software as they have learned what works and what doesn't work in our industry and have made improvements along the way. These companies such as Inovonics, NextCentury, Tehama and Cereniti compete to provide the very best  submeter RF system to third-party utility billing companies like Guardian. 

You first need to identify what brand of submeter data collector you have at the property.  The data collector is usually installed in the property's leasing office, a utility closet or MPOE room.  Sometimes the data collector can be installed outdoors if it's in a properly sealed NEMA enclosure.  Here are some photos of different data collectors.  You can click on each image below for some troubleshooting tips. 

NextCentury Gateway OLD OLD.jpg

NextCentury Gateway Old Style (nextcenturymeters.com)

NextCentury Gateway.png

NextCentury Gateway New Style (nextcenturymeters.com)

Inovonics RDL8500 (TapWatch 3)

Inovonics DCC (TapWatch 2)

Hexagram / Aclara "Star" DCU

Cereniti / SpeedRead (myspeednet.net)

Tehama DCAP (Tehama CIT)

NoWire (meterdata.submetersolutions.com)

NextCentury Overview (Tech support 844-538-8203 x 2)

  • Older NextCentury Gateways have a small touchscreen and look similar to an iPad

  • Newer NextCentury Gateways do not have a touch screen and look similar to an internet router

  • Meter readings for both older and newer NextCentury Gateways are available online at nextcenturymeters.com

  • Guardian's billing software (GSOFT) is linked up with NextCentury meter reading data over an application programming interface ("API")

  • Guardian and property manager email addresses can be set up to receive leak, tamper and high usage alerts at nextcenturymeters.com

  • NextCentury Gateways use either cellular (LTE) or internet to send the meter readings to Guardian's network for utility billing purposes

  • Each Gateway has a built in LTE SIM card that can be activated at any time.  LTE costs $20 a month so you need to check the contract or speak with the sales rep or a manager to see if the property has agreed to paying the additionl LTE fee each month.  A lot of times this fee is just divided up by the number of units at the proeprty and included in the billing fee passed through to the resident.  

  • How do I know if the Gateway is even online? Find the site on nextcenturtymeters.com and look for Gateway icon.  If gray offline, if blue then online.

  • Newer style Gateways have (4) lights on the front.  From left to right they are power indicator, setup indicator, RF activity indicator and LTE indicator.  Here is what the different colors mean. 

 
  • If the Gateway you are trying to troubleshoot has no lights, then the problem is that it's not connected to power. The Gateway needs to be plugged into power using the AC adapter the same way you plug your cell phone charger into a wall outlet. 

  • When the Gateway is powered on and hooked up to an internet router via ethernet connection but not online then the indicator light all the way to the left is going to be green.  "Powered on but not connected to the NextCentury cloud".

  • It's recommended to unplug the ethernet cable from both the Gateway and the internet router, unplug the power from both the internet router and the Gateway, wait 30 seconds, then plug the ethernet cable back into a different port on the back of the internet router and also back into the Gateway.  Then plug both the Gateway and the internet router back into to power and give it a few minutes to turn on.  

  • Check out the site in nextcenturymeters.com to see if it's now online. 

  • If it's still offline there may be a problem with the internet router itself.  Can you connect your laptop or phone to the internet router via Wifi or ethernet? Can you get out on the internet? 

  • If you can get out on the internet with another device but the Gateway is still not coming online, there may be a problem with the firewall. 

  • You may need to have the property go back to their ISP with the following information in the NextCentury firewall troublehsooting guide: http://docs.nextcenturymeters.com/Firewall-Troubleshooting.pdf

  • Remember each Gateway is LTE capable so it may be easier to just monitor the site using LTE.  Check the contract or with the sales rep to see if this is a possibility for the property.