Installing new meters for non-billing applications has historically been a costly, labor-intensive process. A hole must be dug that is large enough for one or more people to work or, in some cases, to allow access for a crane. The system must also be shut down and flushed. As such, many water treatment plants (WTPs) delay replacing or adding meters to the system unless absolutely necessary.
Ultrasonic clamp-on meters offer a cost-effective alternative to traditional electromagnetic meters and other metering technologies. An ultrasonic clamp-on meter can be installed in around 30 minutes by a single person in tight spaces. All this and more can lead to huge savings by freeing up personnel to perform other critical tasks.
Evolution of Ultrasonic Technology
Ultrasonic clamp-on meters first hit the market in the 1960s. As with many technologies, they have evolved gradually over time, becoming both easier to use and more precise. WTPs that tried out the technology even a few years ago may find that today’s meters are far superior to earlier versions.
Early ultrasonic clamp-on meters used Doppler technology to measure water flow. This measurement technique has limited effectiveness in a drinking water system. Doppler technology requires large particles in the water to bounce off in order to determine flow rate. However, the cleaner the water, the fewer impurities there are.
Newer ultrasonic meters use a technique called transit time. This technique uses two transducers that send signals both upstream and downstream and then measure the difference between their speeds. Transit-time technology works best in clean water but can be used effectively in raw water or even some wastewater applications.
Areas of Cost Savings
Ultrasonic clamp-on meters offer three important areas where WTPs can save money:
- Non-Revenue Water (NRW) Reduction. The meters can be easily deployed in temporary, permanent or semi-permanent situations where water usage or flow rates need to be measured. Among the more common of these situations is when WTPs are looking for inconsistencies that can indicate leaks. Once integrated into a SCADA or other system, WTPs can quickly identify areas of potential NRW and make the necessary repairs.
- Simple and Fast Installation. For inline meters, once the pipe is exposed, the system must be shut down and flushed, then saws must be brought in to cut out pipe. Large-diameter pipes may require a crane to raise the pipe and lower the meter. The full installation can take a day or more and be very costly.
With clamp-on ultrasonic meters, the installation is as quick and simple as it gets. The entire process can be completed by a single person in as little as 30 minutes with no disruption to service. Because the device itself offers step-by-step instructions, personnel do not need prior experience or training to get it right. Moreover, the installation can be performed in tight confines, requiring less excavation, saving both time and money.
- Easy to Relocate. Although ultrasonic clamp-on meters can be a permanent installation when needed, a big area of cost savings comes from being able to remove them and reinstall them in new locations. For example, a WTP performing a water age study can place multiple meters in a sector in order to collect data. Once all the data required has been gathered, the meters can be easily removed and the process repeated in another sector. This eliminates the need to invest in a dense deployment of permanent sensors throughout the entire water distribution system.
Additional Benefits of Clamp-on Ultrasonic Meters
Beyond the return on investment, there are many other benefits and features offered by ultrasonic clamp-on meters, including:
- Intuitive Startup. Advances in display quality have made a big difference in the usability and success of an ultrasonic clamp-on meter. Some models even include integrated step-by-step installation instructions that display directly on the device. When the meter is first powered up, it will ask a series of questions, including the pipe diameter and other relevant information. Once entered, the display will run through the installation process, including how far apart to place both sensors.
- Easy System Integration. Some ultrasonic clamp-on meters can be integrated into a WTP’s data-gathering system, including automatic meter reading (AMR) as well as radio frequency or cellular advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). These devices may include simultaneous connectivity to SCADA and cloud-based analytics software for both operational and leak detection analysis.
- Data Logging. Some meters may also include built-in data logging. Data is stored directly on the meter for more detailed or frequent records of the meter status and readings. The logged data acts as a backup to normal SCADA or AMI recordkeeping.
Ultrasonic clamp-on meters are an easy-to-use way to get accurate data reading at a fraction of the cost of a permanent meter installation. The number of features and options available can help enhance any WTP’s data gathering project.