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Plumbing for a meter you don't have yet?

Posted by Mark Beatty on

Meter Idlers and spacers help when meters are not available

Water Meter Idler or spacer tube as a temporary replacement for a water meter

So you have meter project or new homes being built, but can't get water meters. What do you do? We have heard recently that some meter companies are not shipping meters for 6 to 9 months and in some cases a year. For existing customers, you can leave your meter in a little longer. For new construction, your customer is going to want water. In most cases if you can't provide a meter you can at least provide flat rate water service until you get a meter to install. This is where a "meter idler" or meter spacer tube comes into play.

A meter idler is a tube with threads that will work with existing meter threads on meter coupling swivel nuts, meter setter nuts, or in a yoke setting. They will seal with a gasket like a water meter. The idler must be the same lay length as the water meter that will be coming in so no replumbing needs to be done to install the meter when it arrives. In addition to be used for spacing the plumbing correctly for the existing meter, it can be used as a temporary pipe to supply water at your flat rate when permitted, or for pressure testing the plumbing system for leaks.

Various size water meter idlers and spacer tubes

Everyday Use of Meter Idlers

Even when there isn't a supply chain issue, plumbers should have meter idlers to be able to properly space plumbing if the home buyer has not yet signed  up for water and been issued a meter. Water Utilities often use them to temporary replace a meter taken out for accuracy testing on a test bench at the headquarters. There are meter idlers available for most size meters including 5/8", 5/8" x 34", full 3/4" and 1". Meter idlers for 1-1/2" and 2" are also available for both round threaded end meters and for flanged end meters, so make sure you know the meter size that will eventually be installed. In commercial applications you also may have different lay lengths for displacement, compound, turbine, or ultrasonic meters and or need to space for in line strainers as well.

Flange end meter idler with gaskets and bolts


When installing a meter idler you should remember to include spacing on both ends for standard meter gaskets. A standard meter gasket in all sizes is 1/8" thick. We include standard gaskets with the idlers we manufacture and sell. We also optionally can provide meter couplings and meter flanges, gaskets, bolts, and nuts for larger idlers. If the install is slightly off, there are thinner gaskets available in 1/16" and 1/32" thickness or thicker gaskets in 1/4" thickness. Idlers should be installed in the same conditions as the future meter. For mechanical meters they should be horizontal and level. For solid state meters they could be vertical or horizontal. For larger meters you may need certain straight lengths of pipe before and after the meter to prevent turbulent flow through the meter.

Plumbers may also find it easier to use a light weight meter idler to get the spacing right for a meter than the actual meter. Particularly on larger 1-1/2" and 2" meters and larger. It could make setting a meter a one person rather than a two person job if one has to hold a heavy meter while the other gets the spacing right.

Water Meter Idlers in our online store

How NOT to use a meter idler

Never install or use a meter idler to get water without permission of the utility providing the water. Using one to get water illegally when water has been turned off, meter removed, not yet applied for, or to bypass a water meter is illegal in most states. Most utilities can and will deny future service, fine you, or prosecute for theft of services. We do not condone illegal use of meter idlers and will refuse sale if there is indication of intent of unauthorized access to a water system. 

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