Pen and paper are the cheapest, easiest way to read meters. With a small enough property, you may only need a post-it note! It’s fast, cheap, and easy, no doubt. But, how does it compare in the big picture? Is there a better way to save time and money on meter reading?
You can get a pad of paper and a dozen pens for $2 at the dollar store. Sounds like a great deal, right? But what about time spent on rereads, debates, and corrections? How many hours are you paying for each month to cover that? It adds up fast. One hour of fully-burdened labor each month will run you over $300 a year. And in the summer months, I’m sure you’re spending more than an hour discussing “bad reads” with residents.
What if, instead, you read via photographs? Any cell phone that takes pictures will do (but we recommend using a cheapie as bad things do occasionally happen). Add to that, cell phone with their selfie feature are great for those tight spaces. Or you can use an inexpensive digital camera. You can pick up an acceptable camera for less than $100. It doesn’t need to be fancy or take huge, amazing, million-megapixel pictures, it just needs to get the job done for a few years. One caveat, if you have a large property it could take more than one charge to get through the entire thing, so consider picking up a spare battery and charging them both before you start. We ended up buying some high-end cameras, but we read for 8 – 10 hours a day for a week, per person.
Instead of going to the space to collect a new read, just pull up the picture. Save time and guesswork. You won’t need to run a daily average to figure out if the read is correct and you can show the resident the actual read, effectively shutting down any debates about the accuracy of the read. If it was misread, you’ll know exactly what is should be.
2) No Debating
There is something called “spiking.” It’s when the resident has abnormally high usage for a month and then it drops back down to normal. If you run a daily average on that, it will actually under bill them because you are spreading it out over a longer period of time. If you have a picture confirming the high read, then it’s done. Discussions on high reads have dropped 95% since we started taking pictures. Talk about a great way to save time!
3) Hard Evidence
Found a magnet on the electric meter? Water meter suddenly installed backwards? Gate locked, but they insist it wasn’t? Have a huge pile of stuff that mysteriously manifests around the read date and then disappears? A picture will prove these issues are valid and there is no debating it. You can then include a picture in your write ups to help residents understand you have a legitimate reason for the write up and it needs to be addressed.
We are huge advocates of photo documenting your meter reads. No rereads, less debating, and having hard evidence are the best reasons to take pictures instead of read with pen and paper. Need more reasons to photo document?
Leave a comment and let me know if this was helpful!