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We have recently completed submetering our park in Indiana. In this article, we discuss the detail of the project.

What is Water Submetering?

Submetering is process of installing water meters for individual units then billing back the tenants for their water usage.

Why Submeter?

In a mobile home park, water is one of the largest expense. It is also an expense item that is likely to increase over time. There are three major reasons for this.

  • Rate Increase – Cost of acquiring clean water, maintaining water system, and demand have all been increasing to result higher water rate in most places.
  • Increase in Occupancy – When you increase occupancy in your park, there will be more people using more water
  • Wasteful Usage – Tenants can waste water when they do not have any incentive to save water. Some tenants with leaky toilets and faucets that continuously waste water. Others may leave their water running to keep their pipes from freezing instead of properly insulating their pipes.

The water and sewer charge for our mobile home park in Indiana has steadily been increasing. All three factors applied, but the biggest reason was the wasteful usage by some tenants. After we had notified that we will be billing back water, our water bill came down from $2,800 in January to $1,500 in February!

Submetering makes economical sense for the landlord because water and sewer can be billed back to the tenants. It also makes sense for the tenants. Eventually, expense on a mobile home park will be passed back to the tenants. Without submetering, property owner may be forced to pass the raised expense evenly to all tenants. This would unfairly increase rent for tenants who are conscious of their water usage. Lastly, it is good for the environment. Water is a precious resource. By making people conscious of their water usage, it will reduce waste.

Water Meters and Readouts

There are many types of water meters, but most of waters meters for mobile homes will be displacement meters, also called positive displacement meters. While flowing through, water displaces a measuring element, which in turn moves a magnet that drives the register.

Unlike water meters, there are some options for meter readouts. Your choice of readout will depend on size of your park and budget.

  • Built-in Readouts – Many meters can have readout attached directly to the meter. For a lot of mobile homes, this is not an option because meters will need to be installed underneath a home.
  • LED – LED readouts are connected to the meter with a wire. The usage is displayed on the LED. This option requires someone to manually read the meters.
  • Touchpad – Touch-sensitive pad is connected to the meter. With a reader, you can touch the pad, and the meter reading will be transmitted to the reader.
  • Infrared – These readouts can transmit infrared signal. You can point an infrared reader to the readout and the readout will send infrared signal back to the reader. You can read the meter from a visible range.
  • Radio Transmission – Each reader transmits its usage data to the reading station. The reading can be done without any manual labor.


In our park in Indiana with 43 spaces, we went ahead with LED readout. Other options were too costly. For touchpad and infrared, the readers alone cost around $1,000 and the readouts cost more as well. Radio transmission was out of question because the system would have costed thousands of dollars. The size of our park simply did not justify the cost.

Freeze Prevention

In the northern states where water pipes can freeze, you need to take measures to prevent meters from freezing.

  • Meters with Freeze Plate: Make sure to choose meters with freeze plate. When these meters freeze, it will break freeze plate instead of the meter. You will then have to replace the freeze plate
  • Install below frost line in pit. One of the best way of preventing meters from freezing is installing water meter below frost line underground. This is a recommended way for most of water meter installation. Drawback to this approach is that it can be costly. You can expect to spend $500 per unit. For a low-income mobile home park, it may not be viable option.
  • Heat Tape and Insulation Jacket. More cost effect approach that we have found is wrapping heat tape around the meter and putting an insulation jacket around the meter.



Once meters are installed, there are several opinions for charging tenants.

In many states, you are not allowed to charge higher rate than the utility company. Many do allow a fee for reading the meters. Check with your local agency.

In our Indiana Park, people were using average of 7,500 to 15,000 gallons a month. It would be $30 to $60 a month increase, which would increase the cost for the tenants considerably. Instead of passing all of this to the tenants. we have decided let people use up to 5,000 gallons a month for free. Anything over that would be charged at $3 for water and $4 and for sewer for each 1000 gallons. Thus average increase would only be $6 to $40.

We have considered charging back the whole amount for the water, then giving tenants discount. Our partner Dave actually had done such bill-back before and did not have a good reaction. It confused some tenants because it sounded like he was giving them a discount, but it ended up costing tenants more money. His opinion is that if you are going to charge people, it is better to make it simple and straightforward instead of trying to find an angle.

Finding Installers

We have contacted local contractor and plumbers. We also received local distributors for from the headquarters of the meter manufacturers. While they did not install meters themselves, they referred us to several contractors who installed their meters.



Meters & Readouts

Heat Tape

  • Easy Heat
  • Frotex

Meter Insulation Jackets

Cost Breakdown

Here is the detail of the cost for submetering our park in Indiana. We installed meters for all 43 homes. The total cost was around $14,000, which came out to be $329 per home ($111 for labor and $218 for parts). Since the park was built in the 1960’s, there were a big variety of pipes which required variety of fittings. Many of the homes also did not have proper insulation for their pipes, so we insulated and put heat tapes around the pipes as well. We also purchased extra meters, freeze plates, and jackets.

Item Quantity Cost per Unit Total
Water Meter 45 89.00 4,005
Readout 45 19.00 855.00
Meter Jackets 45 9.95 447.75
Wire (2000 feet) 440.00
Extra Freeze Plate 6 9.95 55.50
Heat Tape (500 feet) 565.25
Heat Tape Plug 43 9.95 427.85
Pipe Insulation 108 3.40 367.20
Other Parts (fittings for pipes) 1507.14
Shipping 100.00
Tax 606.94
Labor 43 111.00 4,773.00
Total 43 329.08 14,150.64