The diaphragm meter is a positive displacement natural gas flow meter used by utility companies to bill residential and light commercial applications.

Natural Gas Flow Measurement

Our Sage-In the Flow blog routinely discusses applications for thermal mass flow meters because that is our business. Our meters serve a wide range of applications; however, many other meters excel in other applications. For this reason, I will present a simple series on different natural gas flow meter types beginning with the diaphragm gas meter.

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 Natural Gas Flow Meter Types | Diaphragm Meters Reviewed
The Diaphragm meter is a positive displacement natural gas flow meter used in residential and light commercial billing applications for the utility company.

Diaphragm Gas Meter

The diaphragm gas meter is one of the most common and oldest natural gas meters. The development of this device in the 19th century was pivotal in the natural gas industry’s success. It created a reasonably priced way to charge the end-user for their energy use. Diaphragm meters are found mostly on residential properties and light commercial buildings. This type of meter measures the quantity of natural gas the user consumes so that the gas distributor can bill for it.

Positive Displacement Meter

The diaphragm gas meter is a positive displacement meter, also known as a PD flow meter or volumetric flow meter. The gas flows into a meter inlet or chamber of known capacity, which has an oscillating diaphragm. The section fills and empties the gas, and the volumetric flow rate is determined with each cycle.


Diaphragm meters are relatively inexpensive, offering a low-cost way for billing measurements for utility companies. They have a long life expectancy. For example, the old Sprague meter shown is around 30 years old and still in service. Rotary meters or newer smaller diagram meters commonly replace these older, well-served meters and often include AMR (automatic meter reading) systems, which allow for a remote meter reading.


The main disadvantages of diaphragm gas meters stem from the meter having moving parts. For this reason, they require periodic maintenance, and the user should consider the gas cleanliness. The gas meters are usually used in smaller pipes and at relatively low flow rates. While this meter type is accurate for volumetric flow, pressure and temperature compensation are needed to achieve mass flow.


Some popular diaphragm gas meter manufacturers include Elster American Meter, Dresser, Itron, and Sensus.

If you are interested in learning more about other styles of natural gas flow meters, read more.

Who are we?

We are Sage Metering. We manufacture thermal mass flow meters, which measure and monitor gas mass flow. If you are interested in a different meter style, may I suggest learning more about the advantages of thermal mass flow measurement? Otherwise, here are other links to articles sharing the benefits and limitations of each technology:

infographics natural gas meter types
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