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How To Read Your Electricity And Gas Meters

Learn all you need to know about gas and electricity meters

Emma Spencer
Written by  Emma Spencer
5 min read
Updated: 12 Feb 2024

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

Understanding how to read your energy meter is a fundamental aspect of managing your household energy usage. Not only does it ensure you're billed accurately, but it also empowers you to keep track of your consumption patterns. Let's delve into the different types of meters and how to read them, so you can take control of your energy bills.

Why read your energy meters?

Regular meter readings are the cornerstone of accurate energy billing. Relying on estimates can lead to overpayment, as your actual usage may be lower than what the energy company predicts.

Conversely, smart meters offer a hassle-free solution by sending readings automatically, ensuring your bills reflect your true energy consumption.

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Types of electricity meter

There's a variety of electricity meters out there, and each requires a specific method for reading. We'll explore the common types: standard, digital, dial, Economy 7/10, and prepayment meters.

Standard meters

These meters are the old-school type with a mechanical display that records energy use hourly.

When reading a standard meter, go from left to right, jotting down the black numbers while ignoring the red ones.

Digital meters

The digital age brings us meters with an LCD screen.

To read them, press a button if necessary to wake up the display, then record the first five figures from left to right, disregarding any numbers starting with 0.1.

Dial meters

Dial meters might remind you of a clock with their six dials. They're a bit more complex to read:

  • Start from the left and move right, reading the first five dials – ignore the last red dial if there is one

  • Write down the figures that the dials are pointing towards

  • If a needle is between two numbers, write down the lower number it has just passed

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

A 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 these meters from left to right, ignoring the red numbers.

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

If you're unsure about your meter type, the first thing to do is to call your provider. They 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 use this to look for a letter 'E' for an estimated reading or 'A' for 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?

You can submit your meter readings through various channels: online, via an app, or over the phone.

It's best to do this monthly for the most accurate billing. Providers often send reminders when it's time to read your meter.

What about smart meters?

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.

Which meter is right for you?

Choosing the right meter depends on your property type, lifestyle, and energy usage habits.

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. 

Economy 7 meters are ideal for those who can shift their energy usage to off-peak hours – for example, using your washing machine during these times.

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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