Iowa’s largest utility is launching a massive effort to replace hundreds of thousands of gas and electric meters in customers’ homes. MidAmerican Energy spokesman Allan Urlis says the upgrade will start in August and should take about three years to complete.

Urlis says the meters will be replaced in all customers’ homes, including 714,000 electric meters and 696,000 gas meters, all at no charge to customers. He says each new meter will include a module that’s equipped with a radio transmitter that can send a signal to MidAmerican vehicles so meter readers can stop on the road to take a reading. He says they’ll no longer have to venture onto the property of customers, or enter some of their homes, to take a reading.

Urlis says the readings now have to be done on-site or some customers read their own meters and call in reports. Estimated reads are also done, on occasion, a process some customers dislike. He says the automated meter reading is more efficient and cost-effective than traditional on-foot readings. MidAmerican now has about 157 meter readers statewide. Once the conversion is complete, there will only need to be about 50. The others will be offered other positions within the company.