Columbia Gas of Ohio is beginning its automated-meter-reading (AMR) system installation in Gahanna.

Columbia Gas of Ohio is beginning its automated-meter-reading (AMR) system installation in Gahanna.

Ken Stammen, Columbia communications manager, said Columbia and its contractor would install AMR devices at about 16,000 properties in the Gahanna area beginning Jan. 10 and continuing through May.

Customers should be given a two-week notice via a postcard about when the devices would be installed on their meters. Indoor access to a customer's home will be required if an existing meter is indoors, according to Stammen.

Customers will be given a contact number to make arrangements for inside access when necessary.

Columbia is installing AMR devices at no separate charge to the property owners. The device will allow Columbia to read customers' meters remotely from the street on a monthly basis.

The January AMR schedule in Gahanna includes the following:

Week of Jan. 10 - west of Hamilton Road, between Dublin-Granville Road and Thompson Road.

Week of Jan. 17 - south of Morse Road, between Cherry Bottom Road and Hamilton.

Week of Jan. 24 - Hamilton, between Thompson and Morse, and Cherry Bottom, between Dublin-Granville and Broadview.

Stammen said the change shouldn't affect customers' bills, but it will eliminate future estimates.

"We read meters every other month, and our data shows the estimated reads have been very accurate over the years," he said. "But one of our biggest customer-service complaints is, they don't like estimated reads. If we overestimate your usage, we'll catch it the following month."

The new AMR will provide actual monthly readings.

"This is really about a convenience improvement," Stammen said. "It's a convenience upgrade rather than a bill impact. We see big benefits for customers. Customers don't like estimated readers, and some customers live in homes where the meters are indoors or behind a locked gate. In those situations, customers have to make arrangements six times a year. It's a hassle for those people."

In most situations, Stammen said, the AMR installation is an almost invisible process to the customers.

After the AMR system becomes operational, meters will be read from equipment inside a vehicle.

"Essentially, the equipment inside the vehicle will wake up the AMR device, and the equipment in the vehicle will record that data," Stammen said. "It will be a more efficient way for us to read the meters. It should lower our meter-reading costs over time because we recover those through rates. So eventually, savings will be passed to the customers."

The AMR program began in early 2009 in northwest Ohio, and it eventually will be implemented for all Columbia residential and commercial customers, according to the gas company.

All Columbia employees and contractors carry identification cards bearing their name, photograph and identification number.

Columbia Gas of Ohio, with headquarters in Columbus, is one of the nine energy distribution companies of NiSource Inc.