by Jennifer Yos
LANSING, Ill. (July 24, 2019) – Nicor Gas representatives spoke at the July 16 Village Board meeting to explain their current Meter Modernization Program and to share important information for Lansing’s Nicor customers.
New technology for timely, accurate billing
The Meter Modernization Program involves installing small, two-way communication devices on the existing natural gas meters at Nicor customer homes or businesses. These two-way communication devices feature technology that automates the meter-reading process by collecting natural gas usage information and securely transmitting it to Nicor Gas. This new technology will provide timely and accurate billing, and eliminate the current system of in-person meter readings alternating with “estimate readings.” Nicor representatives likened their modernization program to the recent upgrade of the water meters in Lansing.
Nicor has licensed radio frequency usage through the vender Sensus, their network provider, to make sure that information is protected. The device cannot access any information other than the customer’s natural gas usage information. It will be installed on the existing meter and will move the natural gas index into the new device with the same kinds of dials that are used for readings on the existing meters. The device transmits the meter reading via radio frequency to base stations at existing Nicor facilities or to rented tower space.
Installation and deployment
All of Nicor’s residential and commercial customers will eventually have the devices installed. Due to the volume—approximately 2.2 million gas meters—Nicor is working with third-party contractors on the installations.
Nicor customers will receive a postcard 30-60 days in advance of planned installation.
At the time of installation, the contracted installer will knock on the door, give a door tag to explain what they’re doing and answer any questions about the program. The installers contracted by Nicor for the Village of Lansing are 3P and Tribus Utility Services. Installers will wear uniforms, but they will not be Nicor Gas uniforms. They will be 3P Utilities Services or 3P Utility Tribus Services uniforms. However, all contractors will have a Nicor Gas contractor ID with their picture and a red bar showing which company they work for. Residents who have any doubt about the personnel at their door should call Nicor before granting access.
Most Lansing residents will not experience any interruption to their natural gas services during installation. Those with an outside meter might not even notice that the installer is there putting on the device. Residential installation takes 15-20 minutes; for businesses with large commercial or rotary meters, it may take a little longer—about 30 minutes to an hour.
For residents who have an indoor meter, Nicor will leave a door tag notice with instructions for scheduling an appointment to have the device put on that meter or eventually to move the meter outside with the new device.
What happens to the Meter Readers?
Nicor assures that there will be no job reduction due to meter modernization because current meter readers will be transitioned to new roles as utility specialists who will be trained more in depth on how to do safety checks and perform maintenance on the meters. They will learn additional skills for advancement in light fuel operation and mechanical responsibilities.