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Energy meters

The amount of gas and electricity we use is measured by meters, but not every energy meter is the same.

From standard to digital and from dial to pre-payment, there are several different ways in which your gas and electricity usage can be measured.

Reading your meter regularly and sending the numbers to your energy provider is essential, as this will help ensure you don't end up being under or overcharged for the energy you use. That's why it's important to familiarise yourself with the type of meter you have.

Here, we outline the various energy meters on offer and provide tips on how to read them - and also introduce the concept of 'smart' meters, which will revolutionise how energy use is monitored and measured in homes across the UK.

Standard meters

Standard meters are known in technical terms as electromechanical induction meters. These count the number of revolutions on an aluminium disc which rotates at a speed that is proportional to the power used. Therefore, the number of revolutions indicates the energy used.

To read your electricity or gas meter you should read from left to right recording any black numbers (don't include any red numbers, if present).

Digital meters

Digital meters are straightforward as all you need to do to take a reading is to read the first five figures on the digital display - but ignore a final figure if it begins with 0.1.

You may need to press a button to get the reading to display.

Dial meters

A dial meter usually comprises of six dials. These read from left to right. You only need to read the first five dials - starting with the 10,000kWh dial on the left and stopping after the 1 kWh dial.

Ignore a final red dial if it is present. If the needle on the dial is positioned between two figures then it is the figure it has just past that should be recorded.

If the pointer on a dial falls between 9 and 0, reduce the reading already taken for the dial immediately on the left by one - for example, if your original recorded 5, reduce this to 4.

Economy 7 meters

These are for people who are on Economy 7 tariffs, where charges for electricity are lower at night than they are in the day. Using storage heaters to capture energy during the specified 7-hour period means the overall cost of energy can be reduced.

An Economy 7 tariff is not normally suitable for people with heavy daytime electricity usage.

An Economy 7 meter will show both night and daytime readings. Certain meters have two sets of numbers, while others have one set of numbers, which is the 'day rate', and you have to press a button to display the 'night rate.'

Prepayment meters

With a pre-payment meter you pay upfront before you use any gas and electricity. Standard prepayment meters can come with a single or two-rate reading, similar to that of Economy 7.

You can top up a pre-payment meter based on how much you wish to use. Those on low incomes who are struggling to pay their energy bills are sometimes asked to use a pre-payment meter by their provider.

Smart meters

Smart meters send billing information direct to the energy provider so you don't have to rely on manual and estimated readings. The main benefit is that bills are based on 100% accurate readings, getting rid of the need.

The government intends every home in the UK to be fitted with smart meters for both electricity and gas. Some energy providers have already started fitting them, with others joining the roll-out to an estimated 30 million homes by 2020.

How to give your meter reading to your supplier

Most suppliers will enable to submit your meter readings online provided you have your account number and personal details to hand.

Alternatively, you can phone your supplier and give them your details that way.

What if you cannot read your energy meter

If you are physically unable to read your meter, for example because you are disabled, contact your gas and electric suppliers and ask if they can come and take a meter reading for you.

If you are of pensionable age, disabled, visually or hearing impaired or chronically sick, you are eligible for certain free services and protection too.

You should ask your supplier to let you join its Priority Services Register (PSR), which will mean you can get help and advice quickly from your energy company.

Whichever type of meter you have, it is essential that you don't end up paying more than you need to for your gas and electricity. You should regularly compare the different tariffs available to ensure you are on the best possible deal.

If you aren't happy with your existing energy meters, contact your existing supplier to see how much (if anything) changing them will cost.