True Submeter (water submetering company) for triplex?

22 Replies

Hello! Just wondering if anyone has firsthand experience with True Submeter (www.truesubmeter.com). I manage a triplex and would love to submeter the water, but the HOA prevents us from doing it through the water company. This looks like a way to bill the tenants for actual usage in a way that won't violate any of the HOA/city rules. I would love to hear about how it has worked for anyone else!

Thanks!

I'm also hoping to connect with someone who has first hand experience with True Submeter (www.truesubmeter.com) for an older triplex. I'm leaning towards their service because they measure actual use instead of hot water use based rubs based, which seems to be the other option here in Oregon. 

Concerning Water Sub-meters: Older buildings typically do not have individual shut offs (individual shut offs allow water to just one apartment to be shut off) a/k/a non-segregated plumbing; When allowed by the regulatory agencies, (in nonsegregated plumbing) a meter is installed on the water supply to the hot water heater; The meter measures the amount hot water consumed, the tenant is billed for every 1 gallon measured (hot water) the tenant is also billed 2.75 gallons (cold not metered); This is called Ratio Billing.

When ever possible full capture is more accurate and allows for better leak detection.

Sub-metering for smaller properties: Usually a sub-metering service (Reading,Billing, and Collection a/k/a RBC) will require a minimum to service a property; Although a reasonable billing fee can be passed through to the tenant; Smaller properties say less than 5 units may not be economical.

Regardless if you bill your tenants for W&S, installing sub-meters will allow the owner to personally monitor leaks, waste, and excessive usage (extra tenants not on the lease) by apartment.

Last month I installed True Submeters in a small duplex. They provide multiple set-up options. I chose to go with meters on the hot water lines of the water heaters and additional meters for the toilets and cold water lines to sinks. I'm losing out on collecting on the cold water that runs through the showers but the trade-off of not making the shower heads  a little awkward was worth it to me. Also, I realized after getting the first bills that only 10% of our local water bill is for actual water use. The rest is local surcharges that True Submeters billing assigns to the tenants, so the loss from this setup is quite minimal.  Since the sub meters are still new, I can't speak to their resiliency. Because the batteries are easily removable, I'm a little concerned that tenants will try to hack the system by removing them. But that won't change the 90% of the bill that represents surcharges so it's not a major concern.  So far I'm feeling really good about my decision to go with True Submeter. It didn't take my handman long to install them and True Submeter was very responsive and patient with me. I was not an easy client. I changed my mind and the order multiple times. 

@Roanna R.  

Hi Roanna, Thanks for sharing your beginning experience with True Submeter. I am looking for a submetering option for my duplex. New tenants moved into the second floor and my water & sewage bill went from $500 every quarter to $1200/quarter! I am curious, what exactly happens when you try to measure both cold and hot water, especially in the bathroom/shower? What makes it awkward?  Where do the meters get installed? Appreciate your help with this!

That is quite an increase! You may have a leak instead of a wasteful tenant. But even at $500/quarter it’s probably worth sub-metering.

True Submeter has multiple options so if what I explain doesn’t seem like a perfect fit, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a solution. The options I explored ranged from identifying and metering a single water source to metering each point of use.

The point of use meter is basically an insert that goes into the supply line coupled with a box that is about the size of a small fist. My handyman installed them but I believe that a good analogy for someone like myself who isn’t familiar with plumbing would be adding a short connector hose with an attached meter, either between two hoses or between a faucet and a hose.

It is easy to access the supply lines for toilets, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and outside spigots. But because the lines to the tub/shower are hidden behind the surround or wall, metering them would necessitate one of the following:

1) Demo to access

2) Don’t meter the tub faucet but do meter the shower head by adding a meter between it and the wall. (Maybe “awkward” was an unfair assessment. I imagine them to be a bit like a shower head water filter but I haven’t actually used one.)

3) If the unit has its own hot water heater you can meter all of the hot water use from that and then the cold water at individual points of use. You would not be able to do a shower head meter in this scenario because instead of measuring the supply lines the shower head unit measures the output which includes both cold and hot water, the latter of which you would already be measuring from the hot water heater.

For any readers who are as utterly clueless about plumbing as I was, you can see these supply lines by looking at the back base of your toilet, under your sinks, and on the top of the hot water heater. You don’t have to know how to identify or explain them. Just send photos of them to True Submeter and they will tell you which meter is compatible with your setup.

I hope this helps! 

@Shadonna N. If you only measure the hot water heater output, you miss the cold water use. Keep in mind that when warm water is run in a sink, it isn’t all from the hot water heater. It’s a mix of hot water from the heater and cold water from a different supply line. 

That being said, if your property is in an area that allows you to charge on a pro ratia basis, you could charge accordingly. For example, if tenant A used 35% of the hot water and tenant B used 65%, tenant A would be responsible for 35% of the total water bill and tenant B would be responsible for 65% of it. 

good morning, I am trying to get a TRUE water meter service for a triplex. All units have individual plumbing. What I come across is most of the companies that provide the submeter billing have a minimum of 25 to 30 units. I need it for a triplex and a fourplex. Any suggestion will be appreciated. I am in Los Angeles California.

Thanks.

I was sent this by a friend who reached out to them for this service.  Hope this helps everyone.  This looks like a great option.

"Let's start out with giving you a bunch of information to answer many common questions. Many of these are helpful to know what we do differently but also many are what is needed to get you accurate pricing. Primarily we would need to know the plumbing configuration. Once we have that info I can get you a formal quote. We have main line submeters that can install on the water line going direct to each unit if plumbing is separated. That is the ideal situation as you only need one meter. This is ideal but don't sweat if you do not have separated plumbing as we have our innovative meters that can help with that too.

Here is a break down on both options:
Pricing for the whole system of the plug and play meters and routers run anywhere from $65 per apartment unit if the plumbing is separated. This is obviously the best case scenario. That is a ¾" meter and what we call the "main line meter". The best way to determine if it is split is how many hot water heaters are there? One per unit? It might be on one city meter but the plumbing may be split and we could use one of our meters per side.

If hot water heaters are shared then we have to go to the next option. When it is not split meters are still in the $60 price range each, so if you need 6 meters (per point hot and cold) $300 per apartment. We call these under the sink meters the "point of use meters". These are our claim to fame meters as they are innovative and quite unique in the market. Even at $300 we still see an ROI of 9 months or less, generally. Did you see the ROI calculator? https://truesubmeter.com/roi/ .

Attached is a flyer that shows a worst case, point of use meters configuration and pricing example for that. This is the option you reference but if we can go with the single main line meters it is preferred. One router is required per building, not per unit. The routers run around $175.

As for the monthly monitoring cost from us, that is easier as it is fixed per apartment and not dependent on how many meters you have. We charge $5.90 per month per apartment. So a 10 unit apartment complex would cost $59.00 per month. That fee includes everything such as private database, real time water logging, Verizon/T-Mobile cellular monthly service (we pay this so you do not have to have internet in the property) and the automated monthly water billing that goes direct to the tenant. There is really nothing you need to do other than collect the money each month. We do everything for you in order to make passing on the water bill as hassle free as possible. We take whatever the local water/sewer rates are and basically use those to set up your account. Then every month when the automated water bill is generated and sent to each tenant it is identical to the pricing structure your city charges. All fixed fees and per gallon rate fees can be billed back.

Water bill is automatically generated and either automatically emailed direct to the tenant or landlord/property manager (however you choose). Or can be available as a PDF from your private login to our database. The water bill is generated at the end of every month as a set period and send on the 1st of the month.

Batteries last on average 2 years. They are standard AA batteries, so nothing proprietary. Or the main line meters primarily come with an additional plug in and you can plug it into an outlet and never have to change batteries!
Let me know if you'd like a more formal quote. Attached is a couple of flyer pages and example customizable invoice that is automatically sent to each individual tenant at the end of every month."

I have been using TrueSubmeter now for 4 months and I am very happy with the service (customer service is an entirely different issue). Due to finding quest piping inside my triplex during the remodeling of one of the units, I elected to repipe and separate all the units. The city would not provide separate mains, as a result, I had my plumber separate the main into 3 separate shut offs for each unit. At the shutoff, he installed the submetering device that you plug in and it tracks all water usage downrange. 

The billing is nice, provides a copy of the tenant's water bill, trash, and submeter charge on the bill that my property manager provides. One can plug in their own water/sewage rates, and up to 3 other miscellaneous charges. I pay $17.70/month for the 3 metering services, which I pass onto the tenants. 

I have no experience with the point of use meters. Their customer service sucks though, with long delays for emails, and they never answer the phone. I hope this helps you or whoever may choose to use their service. 

@Paul Kuhn thanks for the comments on the service. Much appreciated. Wanted to touch base on the service for two things, please email me direct if you need in the future and I will help myself and we can always schedule a call too in person. I agree our customer service, especially for new clients, can always improve. We are a small team and have literally been growing rapidly and trying to keep up with current clients needs and new orders (good problem as a company but bad to have that personal touch). Potential customers all have the same initial questions so as much as phone calls to answer these questions is ideal method for many it saves lots of time to send out an info packet email that answers most initial questions and then schedule a call for. You are already a customer so please reach out direct to me if you are not getting through to Derek or Carly, who are our inside sales team. Hope we can improve in the future for you and others as we continue to hire even in this pandemic and work to keep up. Take care!

This looks like a way to bill the tenants for actual usage in a way that won't violate any of the HOA/city rules.

If you want to get actual usage, get a submeter on each unit.  They're wireless now, so you can read the usage remotely (assuming you can get a WiFi connection).    If not, on mine, I have a remote meter in an OUTSIDE lockbox I can go read

Usually (unless you have access to the main water into the unit) you put it on the HW heater cold water line.  Theory is that if A uses 200 gal and B uses 100 gal then A pays 2.3 the bill and B pays 1/3.

For 3 units, not worth hiring a 3rd party, however, make sure your CURRENT lease includes a provision for billing back water usage.

I just ordered these for three on my multifamilies. I agree their customer service is marginal at best, but it seems like a great product

Don't know what true submeter does, but it costs about $200/unit for a flowmeter.  You put it on the feed to the HW heater and you can do pro-rates with that.  So if A uses 200 gal and B uses 100 gal and C uses 100 gal then A gets the privilege of 50% of the bill and B and C 25% each.

If you're talking about billing, for 3 units, I'd do it myself once I incorporate it in a new lease.  Lot of these billing companies will not do collections, so effectively are just mailing tenants a 3rd party letter - Which you can do.

Hi guys, just want to give an update on True Submeter as I know many have said the pain point was the phone support. We have recently hired and trained two new employees, Carly and Nick, that will now also be helping myself and Derek with customer service. Derek will still be doing most of the quoting. We know the phone support was lacking and from a time management standpoint due to growth pushed most people to email. We still encourage email as we can send an initial email info packet that answers new inquiries common questions (this was the most time consuming taking the time on the phone as everyone has the same handful of questions), it also gives us a tracking system. But now we have more bodies to help with email and phone. We appreciate the support from all of you through any growing pains and striving to do better. We took the next step and hope we can keep getting better in all areas. You should be hearing our advertisement on the March 14 upcoming BP podcast. @Nabeel M. , @Paul Kuhn , @Zander Kempf

I wonder if its even legal to resell water to tenants that you buy from the municipality ( that is exactly what water submetering does). Technically you have to have some sort of license or permit for it.

@Dmitry Prosvi Yes it is legal. This is very common practice, particularly in larger multifamily buildings and other commercial buildings. It's also common to do RUBS (ratio utility billing system) where you don't even submeter, just charge tenants a percentage of the water bill based on their share of the square footage of the building / # of occupants / any other way you see fit to divide it, as long as it's detailed in the lease that the tenants sign. 

@Nabeel M. My experience has been great with the submeters. The bills are being generated on the 1st of the month to the property manager so they can pass the bill onto the tenants. At first, there were delays in generating the bills, which caused me to login into my account manually and generate the bills. This caused some hesitancy with the property manager to use the service, but TrueSubmeter has seemed to iron out the kinks. I haven't attempted to call customer service since my last post, so I cannot comment on customer service. 

Attached below is a photo of my submeter setup. I had quest piping throughout the house, so we elected to redo all the plumbing and separate the units.