Issues with Pulse based Electric Meter Reading

There are many societies which employ pulse based meter reading process for the reading electricity consumption data for the residents. This information is then used to bill the residents either on post-payment or pre-payment basis. There are however some design and operating issues with such systems and we would like to list the issues with pulse reading.


Let us first look at the basics. A modern electrical meter measures various parameters (let us call them registers) such as power (kW), voltage (V), current (Amp), power factor max demand (KW) and cumulative energy reading (kWh or units). The meter could be single phase or three phase meter. A single phase meter would provide three voltages, three currents, one power (kW) and one cumulative-energy (kWh or units). Also, the meter may be a dual supply meter as well where it can measure the grid energy and DG energy. A dual supply meter has two cumulative energy registers – one for mains supply and one for DG supply.


Many of the meters convert the energy consumed in a specific interval and give out pulse output. The pulse output is typically used to check the meter calibration. Pulse output can sometime also be used for collecting the consumption data.


In case of electronic energy meters (most of the present electric meters are electronic meters), data collection based on pulse is an old technique and is not accepted as a good practice as there are many issues. Some of the common issues are as follows:


  1. The pulse data from the meter does not give the meter serial number. In any good remote data collection system, the instrument identification number is required to eliminate the chances of data manipulation.

  2. The pulse based remote metering only give the energy consumption data. The modern energy management systems require a lot of data such as Voltage, Current, Power, Power Factor and Max demand to be collected from the meter. The pulse based metering does not support the same.

  3. If there is a missing data communication for any period of time, the pulse based meter reading has no way to get the missing data from the meters. The only resolution is manual meter reading and use the manual meter reading data instead of pulse based data. Thus in a lot of scenarios, every meter needs to be cross checked by manual meter readings!

  4. There is another surprise for dual energy meters. In case of dual energy meters, the pulses give single consumption data irrespective of the source of the supply.  A pulse based reading system then again converts this data (single consumption data stream) into grid consumption and dual consumption. So what was the point of using dual energy meters; and if the dual energy meters are to be used for manual readings assurance, the remote meter reading loses its value.

  5. The pulse based system does not maintain the concept of real time clock.

  6. The pulse based communication system cannot be used for two way communication. The information cannot be given back to the meter.

  7. The pulse based system requires elaborate software the convert the pulse data into consumption data and then convert the same into meter reading data. Thus the meter reading data available in the system is not the raw data rather calculated data!


There are quite a few more technical issues which are not required to be highlighted.


So what is the solution to these issues? We do not suggest to remove the pulse based reading system as significant investment would have been made in installing such a system and the system does provide some valuable information. It is important to use the back end system to use this valuable information. Of course, if you are evaluating pulse based meter reading systems to be installed, use this information for careful analysis. Pulse based meter reading is still a good option for water and gas meters to some extent.


Of course, there are much better and industry accepted remote meter reading practices which provide resolution of all the issues listed above. These methods are possible with electrical meters as they are electronic in nature. Please do let us know if you are interested in any such solution.


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