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LuckyGuy's avatar

Does anyone remember when meter readers regularly came into your home to check your utility usage?

Asked by LuckyGuy (43813points) May 20th, 2021

This is for meters located inside the home, of course.
I recall 40 years ago being told by the previous owner that the power company had a key to our house but no one ever locked the doors so it didn’t matter.
The guy would knock on the door a couple of times, yell: “Meter Reader!” and let himself in. (Our doors are still unlocked.)
We were always supposed to have a clear path to the meter.
I do not recall ever being surprised by a meter reader.

Now we get a card in the mail that we send in and there is a yearly check that is announced way in advance.

Does anyone still have a meter reader who comes into your house?

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21 Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

The utility company replaced electric meters with wireless broadcasting meters a couple years ago, with low-power radios. He drives down the street once a month and has its transceiver query my meter,

Something like this

LuckyGuy's avatar

They did that for our water meter but not our electricity, and we don’t have natural gas here. The houses are too far apart. That’s also why we don’t have sewers or street lights, or sidewalks…

My question is mostly about the friendly, neighborhood meter man from the 1950s and 60s and maybe the 70s. I recall they had keys so they could get inside our house if there was an emergency. He had a giant key ring with keys to all the houses on the block.
That seems incredible today. I was wondering if others here had the same situation.

We also took our guns to school on the school bus and kept them in our lockers on days when we had Riflery class. there were rules, though. The gun had to be in a case and we were not allowed to carry bullets or loaded magazines. The teacher would give us our ammo when we got to class! Can you imagine?!?!
But that is a whole other subject.

zenvelo's avatar

All the places I have lived since1965 have had the gas and electricity meters outside.

I do remember in first and second grade when I lived in a Victorian in San Francisco that the electricity meter was under a concrete slab in the sidewalk.

Zaku's avatar

My readers have always been outside.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yikes! I must sound like a 100 year old grandpa from Kansas. “Get off my lawn!”

I grew up on Long Island in houses built ~1954. My house in Western NY was built in 1957.
In both places all the meters were inside the house.

flutherother's avatar

A guy comes round to my flat once every blue moon to read the electricity meter. He doesn’t have keys. I usually update the meter reading myself online and I was supposed to be getting a new smart meter installed this morning funnily enough but no one showed up.

Zaku's avatar

I don’t think it’s a simple matter of age of construction. Many of the places I’ve lived were built before 1954, but the electric meter was still outside. Maybe the location varies not just by time but by region?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Zaku You bring up a good point. I wonder if weather and cold temperature extremes might have something to do with it.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

When I was a kid in Michigan the gas and electric meters were outside.

In Chicago apartments where I lived in recent decades, they were inside. They would estimate the bills most months and true it up occasionally when they could arrange to go in and read them.

The electric company went to smart meters a few years ago, which use the electric line to communicate with the company office. It’s nice. It allows checking your usage online easily. It also enables remote management, where they give you a discount if they can turn down the AC a little in peak periods.

The gas company added wireless devices to their old meters so they can read from the street – People’s Gas – Automated Meter Reading – “As a specially-equipped vehicle drives by, the vehicle sends a signal to the device on your meter, which then sends the meter reading data to a computer in the vehicle. ’

I am in Milwaukee now and they have the same electric smart meters. I don’t know about the gas, it’s included in my rent.

Postmen still have building keys for apartment buildings. My current carrier even brings packages to the apartment door.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

In my city they can read the meters while driving by with an app on a reader in the truck.

They changed over to remote reading in most of the city in the last two years.

jca2's avatar

When I lived in my grandparents’ house (old Victorian in a large city in southern NY), the meter man would come in. I think the meter was in the basement. I’d just let him in and he would disappear for a minute and come back out. Where I live now (former summer home also in southern NY), the meter is on the outside of the house and I have no clue what they do.

elbanditoroso's avatar

When I was a really little kid my parents got postcards like this in the mail, and had to complete them and send them back. Postage back then was 2–3 cents.

stanleybmanly's avatar

For my entire life the meters were located in places where they could be read from outside the home. Sometimes there would be an actual tiny window through which the meter was visible in the basement or garage. The gas and electric meter readers were discontinued from our neighborhood around 10 years ago, and our meters were transitioned to ones which are monitored remotely. I’m not sure how, but I remember at the time thinking they were to be tracked through satellites.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No. But I remember when the milk man delivered 4 bottles of milk to your door.

Love_my_doggie's avatar

Yes, I remember meter-readers.

The electric meters for my condominium building are located in a panel nearby my front door. Years ago, I planted an oakleaf hydrangea, hoping to cover the ugliness. That plant is now huge and completely hiding the entire panel. Nobody has complained, because nobody comes to read the meters; it’s all done remotely now.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Dutchess III I vividly remember the milkman and those half gallon bottles. They were ideal for mixing up koolaid which we kids could readily accomplish in the Summers—if you cut the water by 50% you got the most delicious popsicles the earth ever saw & dirt cheap.

JLeslie's avatar

You can still get milk delivered in NYC. The company is about 15 years old. In NYC there were always delivery options for groceries, but this company is farm direct in glass bottles very similar to the old days.

I wonder when milk delivery stopped around the US. It’s definitely before my time, but I grew up knowing that’s how it used to be.

LuckyGuy's avatar

We had a milk man until around 1995 and he had been doing it for decades.
In his later years when he began to get weak and clearly close to retiring, he stopped giving out bills. When customers asked what we owed he just said he didn’t need the money and to leave what we think we owed in the milk box.
I think most, if not all, of us gave him more than he would have billed.
It was a little sad to see him stop.

Dutchess_III's avatar

In the early 60s my little sister was trying to help and dropped one of the bottles. It shattered…..then she stepped on the broken glass. So. Much. Blood.

David7520's avatar

In Minneapolis, 1950–70, I do remember the gas company meter reader would just let himself in and announce ‘meter man’, same too with milk man – he would come in and check your refrigerator, or see if you left a check list, and stock you up.

This was a ‘safer’ time I believe. In high school we had rifle club and students would bring their guns from home and we would all go over to the local VFW to use their inside range. One time I even took my cased .22 rifle on a city bus to get it repaired at the local Remington warranty center. Can’t imagine doing that today without a full scale SWAT response. No big problem then.

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