Old electric meters

Old electric meters

Joined: June 28th, 2017, 11:03 pm

October 8th, 2017, 11:15 am #1

http://www.ipernity.com/doc/ndlinegeek/45633722

Just curious if anyone here has even a passing interest in older watthour meters (the type the electric company reads every month to decide how much to charge you).

I've been collecting them for a number of years now, but currently focus on early socket-type models made between 1933 - early 1960s, and hybrid mechanical / electronic models from the 1980s.
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Joined: October 8th, 2014, 2:05 pm

October 8th, 2017, 1:00 pm #2

That Westinghouse has seen better days. Is that smoke on the inside of the globe?

I've worked in that industry since 1980, for companies that make electronic watthour meters. I've lost a good deal of hair trying to explain how a computerized meter works to a guy who cut his teeth on mechanical registers. (And lots of them have reminded me that they could still read their old mechanical meters with a flashlight, while mine needs to be powered up for the display to work.)

For a short time in the 80s my company (Scientific Columbus) made a digital demand register for mounting in a mechanical meter, but we never sold very many of them. GE pretty well had that market tied up.
If it ain't broke, I'll fix it!
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Joined: June 28th, 2017, 11:03 pm

October 8th, 2017, 1:56 pm #3

Yes, that meter has seen better days. No, that was water and rust. My guess is that after it was retired due to a hot terminal failure (B phase line terminal burnt badly enough to char 3" of insulation on the current coil and cause the terminal block to crack into 4 pieces), it was parked "out back" behind the golf course shop until it was finally gathered by the municipal light department to put in the auction. It was still attached to its service cabinet when it was in the auction.

I'm already almost finished with a rudimentary cleanup of the Westinghouse meter to make it a fairly decent static display unit. I'm sure you are familiar with what a PITA it is to reassemble a polyphase A-base terminal block into the housing... now try it with the block in 4 pieces. :-P

Incidentally, that was one of only 5 electromechanical meters in a tub of 50 meters - ALL the rest were failed 'smart' meters! In the end, there was only one I deemed a permanent addition to my collection - a GE I-50-S (Form 19S - convertible 60-amp model for use in place of a Form 1S or 2S meter), and which obviously was used indoors, as it only needed a bit of cleaning to make it practically NOS condition.

I can imagine what frustration that must have been in trying to explain solid-state meters to someone that only knows the old electromechanical models.

What register was that you speak of? the JEM?

I did work in the industry for a while, doing on-site testing, mainly single-phase meters, for a number of coops and municipal utilities, but I tired of the travel (and a few incidents made it inadvisable for me to continue in that particular job) and moved on to other work.
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Joined: October 8th, 2014, 2:05 pm

October 8th, 2017, 2:54 pm #4

Yes, I've had the terminal block out of an A-base meter. Putting one back in the meter was like trying to put skates on an octopus. Never in that many pieces though. (Maybe a little JB Weld is in order?) We quit making them years ago. We just sell Marwell socket adaptors with our meters now if somebody wants an A-base.

We did build the JEM meters and the electronic registers that went into them, but I didn't get involved until they were designing the JEM-2 which was all digital. Then was the JEMINI, which was supposed to be a cheap commercial/industrial meter. (We sold a bunch to the city of Homer, Alaska for some reason.) Then JEM-3, JEM-10, then we were acquired and moved to Rochester NY in 1995. Now we're Ametek Power Instruments. Here we made the JEMStar and most recently the JEMStar II. But the demand register I mentioned earlier was the Joule Electronic Demand register, model 1. We called it the JED-I. I think we only sold a couple hundred of them. Over time they tended to reprogram themselves down to a 1 minute demand interval. I developed a fix for the bug but they canceled the product before we could get it to the factory.

Most of the old timers I worked with were actually pretty cool about the new meters. But the most obstinate guy I had to deal with worked for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. Since then I've learned that the really brainy people in NASA are in Houston, Huntsville, and Pasadena. The folks at Kennedy are the mechanics and electricians who build and operate what the other sites tell them. The electrician in question was ordered to install one of our meters on a submarine pen. When a sub is tied up at Kennedy (like around the time of a Defense Department launch, where they want to keep folks away from the spacecraft if it has to ditch in the ocean) they draw power from shore, and Kennedy meters it and bills the Navy for it. It was a simple Form 5 meter and all he needed to read was kWh but he couldn't understand why he had to tell the meter what to do. We finally sent a salesman down to program his meter for him.

Nice find on that I-50S. Haven't those been out of service for a while? If you don't mind me asking, what kind of smart meters were in that lot? My local utility was heavily invested in ABB / Elster meters when I first came here, but I don't see them much any more.
If it ain't broke, I'll fix it!
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Joined: June 28th, 2017, 11:03 pm

October 8th, 2017, 4:19 pm #5

Skates on an octopus? Now that's an interesting metaphor and very apt in this case! What I wound up doing was butting the block against the leads then using a tool to lift the terminals into their appropriate slots. The pieces fit together well enough once assembled I just left it as-is for now (I tend not to sink too much time into meters that aren't staying in my collection).

That 1-minute demand interval must have been a nasty bug - seems the Westinghouse EMF registers had a similarly nasty demand interval bug too (infinite if I recall right?).

The municipal still has a few ancient socket type meters in use around town, mainly on streetlight services. I know of at least one other I-50 (another convertible unit even!) still chugging away, and possibly one DS (jewel bearing!) too. I bought a Duncan MFS with the steel magnets from a muni about an hour northwest from here - that one had still been in service as well.

The IOU that serves most of the rest of town has standardized on Centrons and Alphas, and the two coops on the outskirts of town are migrating towards smart meters as well, but using powerline carrier-based AMR systems (one using the Cannon 12.5kHz system, and the other, Hunt Technologies' Turtle system).

Now then, as for the failed smart meters, there were a few Alphas and kV series units in there, but many were newer L&G models - some with the built-in service disconnect.

As for models I'm looking for for my personal collection, maybe you can help. I'm looking for the earliest version of the GE I-20-S with the full metal baseplate (S/N below 17,194,000), Duncan MFS 50-amp, and early GE I-60-S (this would have the same solid face as the I-50 and the current coils would have the butyl rubber sleeving vs. epoxy). Also looking for the Roller-Smith S3.
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Joined: October 8th, 2014, 2:05 pm

October 8th, 2017, 4:47 pm #6

Our local utilities don't use our meters, so I have no contacts to try to locate retired hardware. Plus as a developer I have very limited contact with users. Any time I go on-site with somebody they send along a salesman to keep me from sticking my foot in my mouth and promising too much.

I've played with Alphas and kV2 meters but our stuff tends to be higher end, used in transmission & distribution. (Big substations & plants, all transformer rated.) The thought of building a 200 amp meter makes our hardware guys break out in a cold sweat.
If it ain't broke, I'll fix it!
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

October 9th, 2017, 8:56 am #7

http://www.ipernity.com/doc/ndlinegeek/45633722

Just curious if anyone here has even a passing interest in older watthour meters (the type the electric company reads every month to decide how much to charge you).

I've been collecting them for a number of years now, but currently focus on early socket-type models made between 1933 - early 1960s, and hybrid mechanical / electronic models from the 1980s.
Believe it or not, I have one on the wall in my shop.

It's a remnant from when the shop was originally built- which predates me as a person, let alone my living here.

I was given to understand that it was abandoned (that is, disconnected from service, but left hanging on the wall) sometime in the early 70s. I basically just worked around it when I refurbished that part of the shop into my machine room back in '01 or so.

I guess I'm surprised to hear there's actual collectors of such things- to me that's like finding out there's a whole Reddit of people that collect 1972 Ford Maverick rear brake cylinders, and they're always arguing about which one's more valuable- the driver's side or the passenger's side.

What's something like that worth?

Doc.

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Joined: June 28th, 2017, 11:03 pm

October 9th, 2017, 12:33 pm #8

One can group meters into several eras:

Experimentation - 1872 to 1889
A literal handful of examples survive, as electricity was a strange new thing at that time.
One Edison chemical meter sold a couple years ago for 20 grand.

Dawn of the industry - 1889 to 1913
A fair number of these survive and are often many of the most desirable models when people speak of the really old meters.
The most expensive was a Sangamo Gutmann A that went over $4200 on Ebay.
Minimum for a meter from this era is about $200

The earlier modern models - 1913 to 1933
A large number of meters survive from this era, and if you pay more than $100 for one, you're not trying unless it is 3-phase, an odd frequency (25 or 50Hz), or high amperage version

Standardization - 1933 to 1960s
Again, many survive, and if you pay over $75 for one, you're not trying, but a few are tough to find like the Roller-Smith and I-20-S spoken of.

Modern mechanical models - 1960s-1990s
Readily available, and $30 is about right

Smart meters - 1990s-present
Not worth my time.

This applies to North American models - I know zilch of European / Asian models (many of which are based on a design from the 'dawn of the industry' era - even modern mechanical units).
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Joined: June 28th, 2017, 11:03 pm

October 9th, 2017, 2:02 pm #9

Our local utilities don't use our meters, so I have no contacts to try to locate retired hardware. Plus as a developer I have very limited contact with users. Any time I go on-site with somebody they send along a salesman to keep me from sticking my foot in my mouth and promising too much.

I've played with Alphas and kV2 meters but our stuff tends to be higher end, used in transmission & distribution. (Big substations & plants, all transformer rated.) The thought of building a 200 amp meter makes our hardware guys break out in a cold sweat.
The only one I have is one you may well know of - the Sangamo ST-Q110. Got it for about $60 on Ebay I believe.
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Joined: February 17th, 2016, 1:31 am

October 9th, 2017, 10:17 pm #10

One can group meters into several eras:

Experimentation - 1872 to 1889
A literal handful of examples survive, as electricity was a strange new thing at that time.
One Edison chemical meter sold a couple years ago for 20 grand.

Dawn of the industry - 1889 to 1913
A fair number of these survive and are often many of the most desirable models when people speak of the really old meters.
The most expensive was a Sangamo Gutmann A that went over $4200 on Ebay.
Minimum for a meter from this era is about $200

The earlier modern models - 1913 to 1933
A large number of meters survive from this era, and if you pay more than $100 for one, you're not trying unless it is 3-phase, an odd frequency (25 or 50Hz), or high amperage version

Standardization - 1933 to 1960s
Again, many survive, and if you pay over $75 for one, you're not trying, but a few are tough to find like the Roller-Smith and I-20-S spoken of.

Modern mechanical models - 1960s-1990s
Readily available, and $30 is about right

Smart meters - 1990s-present
Not worth my time.

This applies to North American models - I know zilch of European / Asian models (many of which are based on a design from the 'dawn of the industry' era - even modern mechanical units).
Managed to sit in on a webinar that used one of the earlier (I hope now gone) smart meters as an example of Security Fail. The short ver is that the evaluation team bought one off ebay, broke the weak encryption, downloaded the hardcoded credentials and developed a PoC takeover demo that would have propagated through the meter network and allow them to lock out the "legit controllers" & take over the grid.

The initial response was echoed when the St Jude's medical device hack was revealed. "That's highly unlikely"

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