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How To Read Your Electricity And Gas Meters

Learn all you need to know about gas and electricity meters

published: 15 October 2020
Read time: 5 minutes

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.

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What type of electricity meter do I have and how do I read it?

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 meters: These meters are for households on Economy 7 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. There are other time-of-use tariffs such as Economy 10.

  • 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

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 – but they may charge a fee for this.

How do I provide my meter reading?

Most suppliers enable you to submit readings online, so long as you have your account details to hand. Alternatively, you can provide readings over the phone.

Ideally, you should submit readings every month or so – 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.

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 disabled or elderly, for example, and unable to access or read your meter, 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.

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