9 Investigates: Water meter switch hikes utility bills

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CENTRAL FLORIDA,None - It's a utility concern that could be hiking your bill, and you wouldn't even know it.

Many homes have indoor and outdoor water meters, which should make your bill more accurate, but one local woman's meters were mixed up, and she has overpaid for years.

Ginger Lelansky has spent a lot of time checking her dual water meters after receiving a $1,000 bill.

"I was shocked," Lelansky said.

The sky-high bill was because of a leak, but it helped uncover a bigger problem: her two meters were crossed, meaning her outdoor irrigation meter was measuring indoor use and vice versa.

"They told me my leak was to my house. And I said, 'No, my leak was to my irrigation system,'" Lelansky said.

The meters are charged at different rates, so the mix-up led to four years of overcharges. It was just $10 or $12 a month, but it eventually totaled more than $600.

The same could be happening to other homeowners not carefully watching their meters.

Orlando Utility Commission's Tim Trudell said all utilities offer dual meters, and they're standard in most newer homes.

"This is an extremely rare occurrence. It does happen," Trudell said.

Even though the utility usually installs the second irrigation meter, it's often by contract, with a plumber or an irrigation company actually hooking it up. That's where the mistakes usually originate, meaning a system intended to make bills fairer -- because the outdoor meter does not charge for sewer use -- can introduce new errors.

The only way you'll know is to turn off all water either inside or outside your home and watch your meters.

"You should see just one meter where it's spinning -- and vice versa," Trudell said.

Right now, OUC has only about 13,000 customers on dual meters. It has reimbursed Lelanksy for most of the costs she thinks she's owed.