Your electric meter helps you track your energy usage, and reading it can help you spot errors on your utility bills. Learn how to read your meter with this step-by-step guide.
Ensure the area around your meter is well-lit (and consider taking the reading indoors if it’s cold outside). Begin by standing directly in front of it, and note the direction each dial/digit is moving.
Your electric meter tracks your energy usage in kilowatt hours (kWh), much like a car odometer tracks mileage. You must read your meter monthly and submit those numbers to the power company. Learning the electric meter reading will help you understand your energy usage and take control of your home energy consumption, saving you money and ensuring the power company is accurately billing you. The best way to read your meter is with a pencil and paper, standing as close as possible to the meter at eye level. Start at the bottom and write down the first five dials, ignoring any in red. Note that each dial is a different size and moves in a different direction, some clockwise and others counterclockwise.
Record the number that the pointer seems to fall directly on – for example, on the first dial, if the hand is between two numbers, count the lower one, or if it’s between 9 and 0, use 9. Then, move to the next dial. Repeat the process until you’ve read the dials on your meter. Most meters will have a label on the front of the display indicating which reading is the cheaper nighttime rate and which is the higher normal daytime rate. You can also check the previous month’s usage on your most recent utility bill if you need help determining which rate is which.
If you have a traditional electric meter with multiple dials, it’s important to know how to read them correctly. These meters record your kilowatt-hours (kWh) usage similarly to clocks, but you don’t have to be an electrician to understand them. It’s a good idea to subtract your previous month’s reading from the current one, giving you an accurate estimate of your energy use this month. First, you must stand directly in front of the meter at eye level and see all the dials. Then, note the direction that each dial rotates – some spin clockwise and some counterclockwise. Some meters also have arrows to indicate the order in which they turn, but not all do.
Once you have the directional information, read each of the dials in order from right to left. If the pointer falls between two numbers, always read the lower number – except when it’s between zero and nine, in which case you would read the higher number of 9. Some older electric meters have a second line of dials that separates ‘low rate’ or ‘night rate’ consumption from the normal usage displayed on the top row.
Some meters have dials that look like clock faces and a pointer that moves as electricity passes through the meter. The dials record kilowatt-hours (KWH) in thousands, hundreds, tens and ones. A kilowatt-hour is used to light ten 100-watt light bulbs for one hour. The important thing to remember is that when the pointer lands between two numbers, read the lower number. For example, if the pointer is between 7 and 9, read 7. If you have a two-rate meter, the top row shows how many units of cheaper (“low”) electricity you’ve used. The bottom row shows the number of standard-priced electricity you’ve consumed. Some meters have a button to press to cycle through the different rate readings.
Stand in front of the meter, at eye level, and look at all the dials. Each dial has a ten-number scale with a pointer that advances when electricity flows through the meter. Each dial has a directional marking, indicating that every other number turns counterclockwise. Start with the dial farthest to the right and work your way left, reading each number. The last dial should have a zero (0), the present meter reading. Record the numbers and write them down in order from right to left.
If you need help understanding your utility bills or are interested in how your home uses energy, you can get a better picture by reading your electric meter. The information on your electric meter is important because it tells you how much power you’ve used over time. It can be useful for planning, budgeting, and tracking energy usage. Your meter may have dials that look like clock faces, or it might be a digital display. Whatever the type of meter, they all work in the same way. A set of small gears inside the meter rotate as your house draws power, and the numbers on the dials or digital display show the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity being drawn. The meter’s hand (or pointer) moves across each dial, and the numbers indicate how many kWh hours are used throughout a given period. The direction the hand moves can make a difference: Some meters’ hands spin counterclockwise, while others’ move clockwise. The best way to learn to read your meter is to stand in front of it and observe. Read each dial in order from right to left, and record the numbers as you come across them. If the dial’s hand is directly on a number, use that number; if the hand points between two numbers, then use the lower of the two.