Columbia Gas of Ohio will have 23,000 automated meter-reading systems installed in Hilliard before the end of May.

Columbia Gas of Ohio will have 23,000 automated meter-reading systems installed in Hilliard before the end of May.

"If you have a gas meter in Hilliard, you're getting one of these," said Butch Seidle, director of public service, at the March 12 city council meeting.

According to Columbia Gas, the Automated Meter Reading (AMR) "is a computerized, radio-transmitted meter reading system." It will eliminate every-other-month estimated meter readings and provide actual monthly electronic meter readings.

It will also eliminate visits by meter readers, and some customers won't have to read their own. Instead, a vehicle will drive by and send a signal to the battery-operated device on the meter, which in turn transmits the data to a computer in the vehicle.

Columbia said the AMR signal will not interfere with home electronic equipment.

"It's not very invasive for the customer, and yet they'll get a lot more actual reading information on their bill, and they don't have to let meter readers in," said Pamela Learman, a Columbia Gas spokeswoman.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio authorized Columbia to update its technology as part of a rate case, Learman said. There is no separate charge for the AMR installation.

"We've done quite a few in our service area," Learman said. "We operate in 61 counties, and we started out in the Toledo area and working our way across Ohio."

Customers will receive a postcard two to four weeks prior to installation. People with indoor meters that aren't home when the installer arrives will get a notice on their doorknob.

Most installations, however, do not require the customer to be present.

In some cases with old equipment, a new meter will be needed, and the natural gas will be turned off for an hour. For all other customers, the installation usually takes about 20 minutes. Learman said a subcontractor called TruCheck will do the installation.

Once installation is completed in Hilliard, Columbia Gas will start using the AMR system for billing.

For more information, call TruCheck at (866) 257-8178.