Battery Life in Water Communication Modules
Battery Life in Water
Communication
Modules
Satish Bhakta, Ph.D.
Advisor, Hardware Solutions
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
1
2
Introduction
3 Battery Technology
3 Determining Battery Life
3 Wake-Up vs. Bubble-Up Mode
4 Calculating Battery Life
5 Battery Life Expectations in Bubble-Up Mode
7 Battery Quality Program
7 Summary
8 © 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
Battery Life in Water Communication Modules
Introduction
For water providers utilizing automated meter reading (AMR) technology or advanced metering infrastructure
(AMI), battery longevity and the frequency of battery change-outs in the radiofrequency (RF)-based endpoints are
critical factors in maximizing the benefits of these systems. The cost of replacing batteries—especially the labor
portion—can have a huge impact on the total cost of the AMR or AMI system. When comparing technologies,
utilities need to consider the total lifecycle cost, including battery replacements, in order to have a full understanding
of true AMR or AMI system costs.
Critical to battery life is the frequency of transmission necessitated by the selected meter data collection system,
whether it is a mobile AMR, fixed network AMI or hybrid (combination AMR/AMI) system. In designing
AMR/AMI endpoint functionality, the laws of physics state:
The higher the output power and the greater the frequency of transmission, the shorter the battery life.
Designing for extended battery life increases the long-term performance of AMR/AMI systems and minimizes costs
related to system maintenance and battery replacement. This paper discusses battery longevity for the 50W-, 60W-,
100W-, and 200W –series water meter modules. Itron’s battery predictions are based on understanding the physics
of failure, modeling, lab tests and field tests on functional units.
Battery Technology
Itron uses two A cell Li-SOCl2 batteries in the 50W, 60W and 100W ERT modules. The 200W-series endpoints use
a single D cell Li-SOCl2 battery. The 50W, 60W and 100W ERT modules are used in Itron’s 900 MHz handheld,
mobile and fixed network meter data collection solutions. 200W endpoints are used exclusively with Itron’s 1.4
GHz-based Water Fixed Network 2.5.
Determining Battery Life
Battery life is dependent on battery capacity, operating specifications of the meter module and transmission
frequency. Itron determines the average battery life using a combination of lab tests, modeling and field monitoring.
Lab Testing Program
Battery failures can occur due to the following conditions:

Exhaustion of capacity, relative self-discharge and voltage drop due to the operating conditions

Integrity of the mechanical can holding the electrolyte and Li metal (battery packaging)
To evaluate both physical and battery chemistry characteristics, Itron develops test models and conducts accelerated
life tests to determine battery susceptibility to the above failure modes. These experiments include battery discharge
under various conditions, impedance measurements and micro-calorimetry experiments.
Itron then uses the lab results to verify the model assumptions and determine pertinent model parameters.
Predictions made from the lab results are then tested using data from the field, through Itron’s battery field
monitoring program.
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
3
Field Testing Program
To further validate battery life design, Itron conducts field monitoring of batteries. In 1997, Itron began a program to
validate battery life design on gas ERT modules at several utilities. Working with a number of utility customers,
40G-series gas ERT modules were pulled from the field and their batteries discharged to determine remaining life.
The amount of discharged battery capacity was then added to the number of years the ERT module had already
operated in the field to calculate total battery life. The testing took into account variables such as product type,
battery type, location and climate, and the type of data collection technology used.
For more information on battery life in Itron gas ERT modules, see “The Proving Ground: Gas ERT Battery
Performance” (Publication 100753WP-01).
Leveraging the data and methodology from the gas ERT module battery testing, Itron now conducts field monitoring
of Itron water communication modules to improve the accuracy of battery life prediction models. Functional water
communication modules which have been in use for more than five years are removed from the field and their
batteries are tested to collect the field data that Itron uses to develop and correlate the accelerated lab tests with the
field. Through this program Itron is able to engineer new communication modules and match them with the best
type of batteries proven through our research.
In this program, functional gas ERTs from six to eight utilities, which have been in the field for more than five years,
are removed from the field. Various tests are conducted in-house on the batteries, including determination of the
remaining battery capacities. This data is then used to determine the remaining battery life. Consistent data is
obtained from year to year for the various utilities. The field data helps Itron further develop and correlate the
accelerated lab tests with the field. The field data also give credence to Itron’s battery life predictions.
Itron recently started the Field Program for the 60WPs. The battery life data from the field agree well with the model
predictions, which in turn, gives credence to the model predictions and our test methodology.
Wake-Up vs. Bubble-Up Mode
AMR/AMI endpoints operate in two basic modes: wake-up and bubble-up. Battery life varies significantly
depending on the operating mode required by the utility.
Wake-Up Mode (50W-Series ERTs only)
In wake-up mode, the ERT module transmits the meter reading only when it receives a “wake up” signal from a
reading device that is within RF range. Typically, this is a handheld or mobile reading device. This approach
conserves battery power, since the device only transmits when the meter reading device is within range of the unit.
Sending a wake-up signal does require a license with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Where
available, wake-up mode allows utilities to take advantage of longer battery life.
4
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
Battery Life in Water Communication Modules
Bubble-Up Mode (50W-, 60W-, 100W and 200W-Series)
In bubble-up mode, the meter reading is transmitted continuously within the unlicensed 902 to 928 MHz band. The
advantage to this approach is that an FCC license is not required. This approach is optimally used with fixed
network AMI systems for daily and hourly readings. However, bubble-up mode can also be used with other AMR
meter data collection solutions. To support mobile AMR, where the vehicle drives at normal speeds, the meter
reading is transmitted every few seconds. These more frequent transmissions significantly shorten battery life. When
collecting large amounts of interval data from the 100W ERT module, collection results are reliably acquired when
driving at slightly slower speeds.
Calculating Battery Life
Itron uses the following formula for calculating battery life:
Average battery capacity (in micro amp hours)
Hours =
Average current consumed by circuit + self discharge (in micro amps)
(To convert hours to years, divide the answer by 8760, the number of hours in a year.)
50W Series
With its dual-mode operational capability, the 50W-series ERT module encodes accurate consumption and tamper
information from the water meter and can be programmed to communicate with 900 MHz Itron meter reading
technologies in either “wake-up” mode or “bubble-up” mode.
When the 50W and 50W-1 ERT modules were first introduced in 2001, they used two A cell ER 17/50 2750 mAh
capacity lithium batteries. In March 2002, Itron started deploying two still higher 3300 mAh capacity batteries in
50W-series ERT modules and by January 2003, all 50W-series ERT modules were manufactured with 3300 mAh
capacity batteries. This includes the 50W-2 pit ERT that replaced the 50W-1 pit ERT in August 2003. When used in
wake-up mode, the battery life of the 50W-series greatly exceeds the 20-year design life of the ERT module, for both
2750 and 3300 mAh capacity batteries, making battery change-out programs unnecessary.
For 50W-series ERT modules used in bubble-up mode with 2750 mAh capacity batteries, the more frequent
transmission of the ERT results in an average estimated battery life of 10 years. With 3300 mAh capacity batteries,
which are now used exclusively, the battery life of the 50W-series in bubble-up mode is a minimum of 10 years.
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
5
To calculate battery life for the 50W-series ERT modules used in wake-up mode, where the endpoint is read on a
monthly basis:
(6.6 x 10 6 )
/ 8760  31.71 years
(10  13.76)
Average battery life 
To calculate battery life for the 50W-series used in bubble-up mode, where the ERT transmits once every three
seconds:
(6.6 x 10 6 )
/ 8760  13.95 years
(32  22)
Average battery life 
60 Series
The compact 900 MHz 60W encoder and 60WP pulser ERT modules provide superior performance in harsh pit
environments and requires no field programming for easy, low-cost installation. Advanced leak, reverse-flow and
tamper detection help utilities reduce O&M expenses and improve customer satisfaction. The 60 series only operates
in bubble-up mode.
60W Encoder



Average battery capacity = 7.3 Ah
Average current consumed by the circuit during standby and bubble up = 30 A.
Self discharge of the battery pack, under these conditions = 11.02 A
Average battery life 
(7.3 x 10 6 )
/ 8760  20.32 years
(30  11.02)
60WP Pulser



Average battery capacity = 7.3 Ah.
Average current consumed by the circuit during standby and bubble up = 38 A.
Self discharge of the battery pack, under these conditions = 16.47 A.
6
Average battery life 
(7.3 x10 )
(38  16.47 )
/ 8760  15.3 years
100W Series
The advanced 100W ERT module allows water utilities to capture large amounts of information to be used in many
ways across the utility – from customer service, to engineering, to distribution planning, to conservation, to field
service, and executive management. The 100W provides the advanced functionality desired by utilities and Itron’s
proven product reliability for a low total cost of ownership. A single ERT gives water utilities the flexibility to
collect meter data in mobile, fixed network and hybrid environments. 100W ERT modules are compatible with water
meters from all leading manufacturers.
Calculation of battery life for a typical 100W Encoder (Mobile/HH SCM): (Various Network versions have slightly
different battery life for pulsers and encoders)


6
Average battery capacity = 7.3 Ah.
Average current consumed by the circuit during standby and bubble up = 25.43 A.
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
Battery Life in Water Communication Modules

Self discharge of the battery pack, under these conditions = 10 A.
6
Average battery life 
(7.3 x10 )
( 25.43  10)
/ 8760  23.52 years
200W Series
The 200W-series endpoints are designed specifically for use with the Itron Water Fixed Network solution. The highpowered 1.4 GHz 200W endpoints deliver 1 watt of RF power, enabling utilities to optimize the use of concentrators
(CCUs) in the network. Data logging allows for storage and retrieval of 35 days of hourly consumption information.
200W endpoints only operate in bubble-up mode.



Average battery capacity = 16.5 Ah
Average current consumed by the circuit during standby and bubble up = 54 A.
Self discharge of the ‘D’ size battery, under these conditions = 38.7 A
Average battery life 
(16.5 x 106 )
/ 8760  20.3 years
(54  38.7)
Battery Life Expectations in Bubble-Up Mode
We have taken what we have learned from the design and subsequent studies of the Itron 40G-series gas ERTs and
applied it to develop batteries that provide even better performance for our newest meter modules which operate
only in bubble-up mode, including the 60W, 100W and 200W endpoints.
Average Battery
Life
Collection
Systems
Design Life ERT
Module
50W Series
60W Series
60WP Series
100W Series*
200W Series
13.95 years
20.32 years
15.3 years
23.52 years
20.3 years
Handheld,
Mobile, Fixed
Network 2.0
Handheld,
Mobile, Fixed
Network 2.0
Handheld,
Mobile, Fixed
Network 2.0
Encoder,
Handheld/Mobile,
SCM
Water Fixed
network 2.5
20 years
20 years
20 years
20 years
20 years
*The battery life is different for various network applications for encoders and pulsers which is typically 20 yrs.
Battery Quality Program
Itron works continuously to achieve the maximum performance at the lowest cost. Batteries from vendors go
through an exhaustive test program, both standalone and in products, before they are qualified to be used in Itron
products. Itron has a battery quality program in place, where we test approximately 30 batteries from the production
line (15 from each vendor) every month. These tests include short-term as well as long-term reliability and
performance tests to ensure consistent performance of the battery from lot to lot.
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
7
Summary
The batteries used in Itron meter modules assure long life to maximize investment in Itron systems and minimize
operational costs. Itron’s proven AMR/AMI technology optimizes battery life to deliver the longest battery life
available in the industry. Millions of consumers have benefited from Itron’s patented designs and will continue to do
so because of our commitment to our customers.
8
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
Battery Life in Water Communication Modules
About Itron
At Itron, we’re dedicated to delivering end-to-end smart grid and smart distribution solutions to electric, gas and
water utilities around the globe. Our company is the world’s leading provider of smart metering, data collection and
utility software systems, with nearly 8,000 utilities worldwide relying on our technology to optimize the delivery
and use of energy and water. Our offerings include electricity, gas, water and heat meters; network communication
technology; collection systems and related software applications; and professional services. To realize your smarter
energy and water future, start here: www.itron.com.
Itron Inc.
Corporate Headquarters
2111 North Molter Road
Liberty Lake, Washington 99019
U.S.A.
Tel.: 1.800.635.5461
Fax: 1.509.891.3355
Due to continuous research, product improvement and enhancements, Itron reserves the right to change product or system specifications without notice. Itron is a registered trademark
of Itron Inc. All other trademarks belong to their respective owners. © 2011 Itron Inc.
Publication 101152WP-01
04/11
© 2011, Itron Inc. All rights reserved.
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