Re: metering common heating system
From: TomMOENCH (TomMOENCHaol.com)
Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 02:07:11 -0500
I read Tom Lent's response about metering a common heating system with both
amusement and dismay. EGADS, THEY ARE GOING TO DO WHAT WE DID!

Tom wrote <We will put four water flow meters
on each water heater, one for each unit's domestic water usage and one for
each unit's hydroniv space heating loop. Then we will read the meters once a
month around the same day as the utility reads the meter and plug the
readings into a spreadsheet to figure out how to split the bill. It will be
a bit of a pain (one more chore), but we expect it to be worth it.>

Perhaps Tom and his group will have more success than we have had in trying
to     figure out how to meter a common heating system. We at Winslow
Cohousing have been trying for 4 years to figure out our metering without
much success. We have a slightly different system I am sure and maybe yours
will allow you to "read the meters once a
month around the same day as the utility reads the meter and plug the
readings into a spreadsheet to figure out how to split the bill."  I know
some of the meter readers here think that they are presenting us with useful
readings and flows to split our shared bills but the conflicts remain. A
couple of neighbors are still fighting over bills a couple of years old. They
haven't been neighbors in over a year. Most of our duplex owners just ignore
the meter readers, add up the electrical costs above the summer baseline and
split it 50-50. 

We have radiant floor heating with loops and then a heat recovery system that
preheats our hot water. The problem is the flow meters. There seems to be
little relationship between the home's air temperature and the the amount of
flow through the system. Upstairs radiant loops flow at a different rate than
downstairs so if you try to heat the upstairs you get these enormously high
"heating bills" when it is just differential flow, not increased heating. The
really fun part is coming up with a "workable" agreement with a neighbor and
then they move out and we've had to spend another 2 years negotiating and
explaining this "shared heating" to the new folks.

I have no easy answer. As for lessons learned if I had to do it again I would
either a) go the "commons" route, not have any meters and just split the
heating system costs 50-50 (something like, "it takes a whole village to heat
a home"), OR b) I would set each home up with a separate heating system with
separate meters. The first is the courageous route for true believers in
cohousing. It really gives you a chance to "understand" your neighbors. The
second is for the non-believers. I do wish you luck. 

Tom
Winslow Cohousing
Winslow Cohousing Village  

  

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