individual “throwaway” counters

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Central heating came into our lives as a way to give us great energy comfort while we did not worry (too much) about the energy bill, but a few decades later, with energy wastage as a consequence, the Government of Spain sentenced her to death by Royal Decree. That was in August 2020, when he proposed that each home would have to start paying for the heating or cooling that it had consumed.

Although the term does not run out until May 1, 2023 (depending on the autonomous community and the number of homes in the building), many neighborhood communities have been getting down to work to install these new individual meters, a solution to adapt to this law with sustainability as its flag… But it is being implemented in a very unsustainable way.

Neither rechargeable nor interchangeable

Individual meters are divided into two types, depending on the heating distribution of the building. It can be vertical (connected radiators on each floor, more common in old buildings), or in rings (connected on each floor, more common in modern buildings). Those that are vertical are those that are equipped with cost allocators, the devices that calculate the individual consumption of each dwelling. They are the size of a mobile phone, they hang from the radiator and calculate consumption by the difference between the ambient temperature and that of the radiator.

When one of these devices runs out of battery, it only has the garbage as a destination, there is no way to give it continuity

“These cost allocators battery operated, because next to the radiator there are usually not enough plugs. And those batteries aren’t replaceable, nor can they be charged,” says Carlos Castiñeiras, administrator of farms in management 10.

In practice, this means that When one of these meters runs out of battery, it reaches the end of its useful life. The device continues to work perfectly, but due to its construction, there is no way to charge the battery or change it for another. The entire device ends up in the trash. And that useful life is between six and ten years at best.

“I did not know this, and throughout 2020, we observed in a building built in 2010 that many of its meters have stopped working. Some during the summer, others already in winter. I was amazed to find out that it was due to the battery. The manufacturer told me that when they run out, a battery replacement is not planned because they are very precise devices, and they would have to be recalibrated. There were a hundred residents in that building, so the solution was to buy another hundred meters and install them. They are to be used and thrown away”, explains Carlos.

“This is not being explained,” the administrator continues. “The budgets include the meters purchased and installed, but nobody tells you about the battery.”

This law was created to curb energy waste in neighboring communities that did not act in a sustainable way and spent the winter with the heating on full blast all day. But the importance of the carbon footprint of a product, plastics and circuitry, which becomes “use and throw away” every ten years, remained in the inkwell.

question of price

One of the questions about the impact of this law is whether it really achieved a change of habits in the neighboring communities that had central heating. “The meters by themselves do not produce savings, it is produced by the user when he goes from a situation where he is going to pay ‘the same’ no matter what he spends, to another where each kWh term that he consumes will be charged directly. That is where it begins to close radiators in unused areas, to control setpoint temperatures, etc. In buildings where I have been able to count on data, I have seen that diesel consumption dropped by almost half”reveals Carlos Gutiérrez, installer and consultant on energy infrastructures, and also responsible for the independent website on energy issues, Nergizes. there he gave an early warning about this problem.

The price of a non-disposable meter can be three times higher than one without a removable or rechargeable battery

Another question on this topic is why individual meters that do have rechargeable or at least interchangeable batteries are not used. The answer is that there are hardly any, and the ones that do exist are significantly more expensive, so installers often don’t even offer them so as not to put the neighbors off. It is even common for some installers not to be aware of the existence of these meters.

In cases where their existence is known and the convenience of installing one of these models is suggested to the neighbors, it is usually the neighborhood that does not want to hear about them. Castiñeiras recalls a recent example: “In the community where everyone was left without meters, they decided to replace them with other disposable ones. The reflection was that they preferred the cheapest option.”

A meter without a rechargeable or removable battery costs, installation included, about 150 euros. One of the few models that does have a standard rechargeable or replaceable battery can cost a few €475.

We have accessed some technical manuals of meters that do contemplate the charging or replacement of the battery and the direct power supply from the electric current, respectively. The first is from Siemens; the second, from Danfoss.


On the left, the Siemens WSx8 meter. On the right, the Danfoss SonoSelect 10. The first one has an exchangeable battery. The second can be connected to the electrical network.

Gutiérrez has a very similar experience to Castiñeiras. “This is a commercial issue. We live in an age where cost matters, not long-term profitability or durability. Neither the manufacturer nor the installer wants to ‘play it’ by offering a better meter at a higher price, because they may lose the operation. They even rule out the possibility of offering it as an option, since including more variables to analyze in a neighborhood meeting can work against them and end the operation in the hands of another installer with a simpler proposal”.

In the market we find many products in this category that indicate the useful life of the same in terms of battery life. It is usual that they indicate it in the format ‘x+y’ to refer to the estimated life in operation plus an additional reserve as a margin for its replacement, in the style of fuel reserves in cars. “We are going to go from ‘open bar’ communities, to each one paying their own, but with another waste of energy,” says Castiñeiras.

Central heating came into our lives as a way to give us great energy comfort while we did not worry…

Central heating came into our lives as a way to give us great energy comfort while we did not worry…

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