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How To Read Your Electricity And Gas Meters

Learn all you need to know about gas and electricity meters

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Written by  Mehdi Punjwani
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Reviewed by  Joe Minihane
5 min read
Updated: 28 Jul 2023

Find out what you need to know about the different types of energy meters, and how to read them

Why read your energy meters?

To make sure your energy bills are accurate, it’s important to take regular meter readings. If you don’t, your supplier will base your energy bills on estimated usage – which could result in you paying too much.

If you have a smart meter, your readings will be sent automatically to your provider, meaning they’ll always be able to give you an accurate bill.

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Types of electricity meter

There are several different types of electric meters on offer and how you take your meter reading will depend on the one you have. Here are the most common meters and how to read them:

Standard meters

These measure the number of units of energy you use every hour and display readings on a simple, mechanical display.

  • Readings should be taken from left to right

  • Make a note of the black numbers (ignore the red numbers)

Digital meters

These are electronic and have a row of numbers displayed on an LCD screen.

  • Readings should be taken from left to right

  • Make a note of the first five figures on the digital display, ignore the final figure if it begins with 0.1

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

Dial meters

These typically feature six dials, which look like small clocks, and appear more complex than standard or digital meters.

  • Read the dials from left to right

  • You only need to read the first five dials – ignore the last red dial if there is one

  • Write down the figures that the dials are pointing towards

  • If the needle is positioned between two figures, record the figure it has just past

Economy 7 and Economy 10 meters

These meters are for households on Economy 7 and Economy 10 tariffs which charge lower rates for electricity at night than in the daytime. It is also known as a ‘time-of-use’ tariff, as what you pay depends on when you use electricity.

  • Readings should be taken from left to right

  • The daytime reading will either be the top one, marked as ‘normal’, or the default display

  • The night-time reading will be the bottom one, marked ‘low’, or the reading accessed by pressing a button on the meter

Prepayment meters

prepayment meter is basically a pay-as-you-go meter for gas and electricity, so you pay for your energy in advance. You’ll need to top up a card or key to do this. The meters come with a single or two-rate reading, similar to that of Economy 7 meters.

  • Read the figures from left to right

  • Ignore any red numbers

How do I find out what type of meter I have?

Checking what kind of meter you have does not have to be stressful. The first thing to do is to call your provider, who should be able to tell you the make and model number and whether it’s a smart meter, Economy 7 or another type of meter.

Your bill will also have details of the kind of meter you have. You can also use this to look for E to see if your bill is based on an estimate or A if it’s based on an actual reading.

Is the meter always right?

If you think your meter isn’t accurately recording your energy use, you can always get it checked by your supplier. Just be aware that they may charge a fee for this service.

How do I provide my meter reading?

Most suppliers enable and encourage you to submit readings online or via a dedicated smartphone app. Just be sure to have your account details to hand. Alternatively, you can provide readings over the phone, although increasingly providers prefer you to use the former methods.

Ideally, you should submit readings every month or so, so that bills stay accurate – some suppliers will send you an email to remind you.

What about smart meters?

A smart meter measures how much electricity and gas you’re using in real-time and sends the information directly to your supplier, so you won’t need to take meter readings. This can give you a better idea of energy costs and assure you that your bill is accurate.

Government guidelines suggest that all energy suppliers must aim to install smart meters in every home in England, Wales and Scotland. They are currently being rolled out and your supplier will contact you to tell you when you can get one, but you can request one too.

It’s worth remembering that smart meters need to be able to connect to the reader you have in your home. If your meter is in a basement or below ground, it may not connect, meaning you’ll still have to give your provider manual readings.

What if I have a business energy meter?

You’ll also be able to get smart meters specifically for your business. However commercial energy tariffs can be different to domestic ones – have a look at our business energy section to learn more.

What if I can’t read my meter?

If you are unable to access or read your meter, such as if you are elderly or disabled, call your supplier for help. It should send somebody to take a reading on your behalf.

It’s also worth asking to join your supplier’s Priority Services Register (PSR). This means you can get help and advice quickly from your energy supplier.

Whichever type of meter you have, make sure you’re not paying over the odds. Compare tariffs regularly to check you’re on the best possible deal.

Which meter is right for you?

Which meter is right for you largely comes down to the kind of property you live in. Increasingly, smart meters are taking the lead in this space, allowing you to have greater control over day to day energy costs.

If you’re a student or live in a large house with people each contributing to the bills, it’s hard to be specific about usage, so a smart meter can help you all save. Alternatively, go for an Economy 7 meter, which will ensure you don’t pay as much in off peak hours - using your washing machine at these times is a great way to start.

Prepayment meters are often used when you have a history of struggling to pay your bills, meaning providers can get their money upfront. However, they are more expensive than smart or Economy 7 meters.

New rules on prepayment meters mean that providers must try and contact you 10 times before enforcing their installation, give you seven days’ notice of installation and offer you alternative ways to clear debt, including a repayment plan or paying directly through your benefits.

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