Setting Water Meters
I know of no department of water works management or maintenance that is of more importance, nor one that has received less attention than that of setting meters. The manufacturers of meters have put forth every endeavor to improve the durability and accuracy of water meters, and water works managers and suprintendents have made exhaustive tests to determine the make, type and size of meter best suited to their requirements, but the question of setting meters has received very little consideration. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, however, and one of the most important is that of the city of New Orleans, where they have 40,000 meters installed under one standardization of setting, which has resulted in a very high efficiency of operation, and a low maintenance cost. It has also resulted in reducing the cost of reading meters to an absolute minimum, and putting the full control ,of meters in the Water Department, where it properly belongs. Having purchased the meters, it has been very largely a matter of getting them set in the supply pipes somewhere, without any special regard as to the advantages to he obtained in operation, repairing, testing and reading. The location of meters has varied almost as much as the types of meter boxes used, and the manner of setting. In the warmer climates it has been very largely the practise to set meters in the sidewalk. This has been varied, however, by setting them in the street or roadway, and in front yards or lawns. In some cases they have been set in cellars or within the premises served. In the colder climates it has been very largely the practise to set them in cellars or within the premises served This practise has been varied, to some extent however, by setting them in sidewalks and front yards, within brick pits with heavy cast iron frames and covers. In regard to the types and kinds of meter boxes used, the many hues of the rainbow are as a piece of opalescent glass, compared to the various kinds and types of boxes used in setting meters. The range includes wood boxes with tin covers; sheet iron boxes with cast iron covers; concrete boxes with iron covers, and so on, to the more modern types of boxes with the meter quick-removing features. It has been, and probably will ever be, one of the proud privileges of the average water works manager or superintendent to get up his own meter box. He gets more real pleasure out of it than all the other, features of his water works management combined, He will buy the best meters and improved hydrants, and other modern water works appliances, but if you butt into his meter box business you are looking for whole hunks of trouble, I realize in saying this I am treading on many toes, but I say it good-naturedly, and I also want to qualify it by saying that, as one of the older water works superintendents, I was one of the earlier ones to he guilty of this very same thing. It was something like 20 years ago while superintendent of the Savannah, Ga., water works, that we started to install some meters. The work of getting up a meter box was a highly prized privilege of mine, and I refused to be denied it. I lay awake manv nights working it out in my mind, and I think it was the proudest moment of my life when I finally evolved a contraption that later experiences proved to be more suitable for housing a South Georgia Gopher than it did for protecting a re spectable meter. I worked laboriously over the plans for several days, and then hied mvselt to the local foundry. The proprietor looked it over and said it was wonderful. He patted me on the back and said I had a great head, and lie didn’t see why some of the big water works appliance manufacturers didn’t get me. I swelled up considerably and gave him an order for 100. Finally we got them installed. I am not going to tell you just what they were, for you would have the joke on me a little too strongly. However, they had an iron cover with my own locking device. After the pedestrians walked on these covers for a while, the vibration loosened the locking device, and some of the covers tilted. That the city did not have a number of damage suits for broken limbs was more good luck than anything else. I finally got up a plain, cast iron box with a heavy iron cover, which answered the purpose fairly well. I is game, however, and kept on thinking. If my efforts in this direction have been of any benefit I will feel that my early disappointments have been amply repaid. Right here I want to say that, while I have poked fun at some of you gentlemen about your meter boxes, yet your practical experience and original thought along these lines is valuable, and I know of my own knowledge that some of the best water works appliances in use to-day are the result of suggestions from practical water works managers and superintendents. As I have dealt in a lighter vein, with some of the conditions that exist, I will now take up seriously the subject assigned to me, viz.: “Setting Water Meters.” Taking up, first, the location of meters, I unhesitatingly say that, for the general run of metered services, the meter should be set in the sidewalk in front of the premises to be served. This permits of the meter being absolutely and solely under the control of the Water Department and it also makes their control susceptible to such rules and ordinances as may be passed for this purpose. When set in this way, a meter reader can read from two to three times as many meters as he can where they are set in private grounds or in cellars. Likewise, the work oi testing and repairing can be effected much quicker and more economically. In the same way the possibility of tampering with the meter is very much lessened when set in the sidewalk, for the reason that one so inclined will not take the rsk of tampering with the meter out in public view. Meters set in cellars or private premises are not only more subject to being tampered with, but they are unhandy for reading, testing and repairing, as the premises arc often locked, making several return trips necessary for the purposes mentioned, which in turn causes delayed water bills, with consequent disputes over the correctness of same. Even in the coldest climates, meters should be set in the sidewalk, for in this way freezing can positively be guarded against, which is not always true when they are set in cellars and basements.
It is considered the best practise to set meters within two feet to 3 feet of the sidewalk curb line, which puts them slightly out of the usual path of pedestrians. Where a stop cock is installed outside of the meter box it should be located directly between the meter and the curb line. There are, however, several types of meter boxes on the market having the stop cock inside of the meter box, and the advantages of using these under certain circumstances will be referred to later. Meters should be set at such a depth that the dial of same will come within 15 inches to 20 inches of the surface of the sidewalk. No matter how cold the climate may be. this practise holds good, as it has been proven beyond a question of doubt that if the proper meter box is used and the meters are properly installed, there is not the slightest danger of the meters freezing when set at the depth just mentioned. The particular types and methods of setting meters that will accomplish this result, even in the extremely cold climates, will be referred to later in this article. There are a large number of manufacturers of what is known as plain meter boxes, which usually consist of a rectangular, oblong, or round casing with cast iron covers with various kinds of locking and fastening devices. These have never proven very satisfactory in service, for the reason that, in taking out meters for testing and repairing, it is necessary to use a wrench at close quarters in the box, in order to disconnect same. Often after the meters have been disconnected the connecting pipes will spring out of line to such an extent that it is necessary to dig up the entire box in order to reconnect the meters. This is an expensive proposition and especially so where the box is set in concrete sidewalk. The importance of bringing out meter boxes which will enable a meter to be removed from the meter box from the surface of the sidewalk without the necessity of using wrenches at short range within the box itself has received a great deal of attention from manufacturers recently, and there are now three or four manufacturing concerns which are producing a box that will enable the meter to be removed and replaced within one to three minutes without the necessity of using wrenches within the box itself. Meter boxes of this type possess decided advantages over the ordinary plain box and will, under ordinary conditions, pay for themselves within two to three years in the saving of time and expense in removing meters for testing and repairing. Several types of these boxes are equipped with stop cock, which obviates the expense of providing a separate stop cock box. In new installations, where local conditions permit, I would recommend that this type of box be used. In cases, however, where the stop cock and service box have already been installed in the pipe lines it would probably be advisable to use a type of box without the stop cock, unless for the sake of standardization it might be deemed advisable to do away with the old stop cock and box. and install all services with stop cock inside the meter box. These are questions that would have to be determined by local conditions. The question as to plumbers having access to the stop cock would also enter into this as, in many cities, plumbers are not allowed access to the meter boxes at all. Local ordinances and rules, as well as local conditions, would also have some bearing as to the advisability of location of the stop cock in the meter boxes, for the reason that in many cities the water departments merely run the supply pipes up to the curb line, and it’s up to the owner of the premises to furnish the stop cock and service box. These practises vary to such an extent that it is almost impossible to outline any general plan that would meet all of these requirements. Wherever local conditions will permit, however, the stop cock should be installed within the meter box. and access to this box should be limited absolutely to authorized employes of the Water Department. As to types of boxes best suited for general requirements, the same should permit of a proper adjustment in height, so as to bring the top level with the surface of the sidewalk and whether the casing is of concrete, sewer pipe, or iron, it should be provided with an outer iron rim at the top that will permit tile sidewalk paving to be joined solidly with same. The box should also be of a type that will permit the meter to be removed and replaced easily from the surface of the sidewalk without the necessity of such that the edges of same will not come in contact with the sidewalk paving. If the cover is equipped with locking device, it should be free from all triggers and complicated mechanism or such parts as might become inoperative through corrosion, or that would loosen from vibration due to pedestrians walking on the covers. Where the cover is not provided with locking device it should be fitted into a deep socket and have a deep ring or deep lugs that would prevent the cover from being easily displaced and that would also require a vertical lift with some special lifting device in removing the cover. There are many worthless locking devices on the market; and, as a general proposition, I would say that the cover with deep lugs has proven the most satisfactory in service. In the warmer climates the meter should be set in a straight line with the service or supply pipe, which will usually bring the dial of the meter within 15 inches to 20 inches of the surface. In the colder climates, where the supply pipes have a bury of trout three feet to eight feet, there are several makes of boxes on the market which permit the service pipe to run horizontally until the same reaches the meter box casing and the service pipe is then run vertically to within approximately 20 inches of the surface, then connected to the meter and the outlet pipe to premises, then extends downwardly again to the same level of the inlet pipe, thus putting the inlet and outlet pipes a sufficient depth from the surface to prevent freezing. In this wav the vertical inlet and outlet pipes would be entirely within the casing, which, of course, should extend down to the depth of the horizontal pipes leading from the main. The vertical pipes with the meter connected would then present an inverted “U” shape and, being entirely within the casing, the warm air from the lower level would prevent the vertical pipes and meter from freezing. At the same time the meter would be brought within easy reach of the surface for reading, repairing and testing. In this type of box an auxiliary cover should be provided just above the meter, which with the iron cover at the top would provide an air space to prevent the frost from the surface from reaching the meter or the vertical pipes Boxes intended for this service are usually provided with sewer pipe for the lower casing and a cast iron ring at the top, which fits onto the upper end of the sewer pipe. This iron ring should be provided with an auxiliary cover, located just above the meter and also a cast iron cover at the top, in accordance with the suggestions previously offered. All of the foregoing suggestions apply more especially to 5/8-inch, ¾-inch, and 1-inch meters, which, of course, constitute a very large percentage of all meters installed. In installing meters above one inch it is considered good practise to provide brick pits or heavy cast iron, frames with cast iron covers of the socket type previously referred to. Where it is necessary to install large meters in the street or roadway, the top frame of pit and the iron cover should be sufficiently strong to stand the heaviest traffic. Wherever possible, however, large meters, as well as small, should be located in the sidewalk, near the curb line. The above suggestions are intended to cover general requirements; but. of course, there arc many special conditions that it is hardly possible to cover in an article of this kind. In closing this subject I wish to again say that the proper installation of meters is one of the most important elements in successful water works management and, as a general thing, entirely too little attention has been paid to this very important part of the water works equipment. The question of reading meters, testing and repairing is one,of great importance, and all of these elements should be taken into consideration in both the location of the meter and the type meter box used.