Reading your gas or electricity meter
If you want to keep track of your use of gas and electricity, you need to know how to read your meter
If we're honest, few of us know how to read our gas or electricity meters. But it's a useful skill to acquire because it helps us keep track of our energy use and to make sure we (or someone we're helping) isn't being overcharged by their supplier.
Which meter is which?
It’s easy to get them confused! Electric cables can be seen coming in and out of an electricity meters, while thicker pipes and hoses come out of gas meters.
Electricity meters show how much power a home has used, measured in kilowatt hours (abbreviated to kWh). Some older ones have a series of five dials, like little clock faces (see picture, below). To read this kind of meter, start with the dial on the left, even if the dials are arranged slightly differently from the picture.
Write down the number that the pointer has just gone past, in this case ‘0’, then move on to the next dial. This looks as if it’s showing ‘6’, but, remember, we want the number that it has passed which is ‘5’. Note that the numbers go 'anti-clockwise on the 2nd and 4th dial (nothing's simple, is it!).
Sometimes a pointer may be directly above a number, so it is difficult to tell if it has passed it or hasn’t quite reached it. If this is the case, look at the dial to its right. If that one shows a high number, then the pointer has not passed the digit that it is hovering above. If it shows a low number it has.
The full reading for this meter is 05846. When reading an electricity meter, you should always end up with a five-digit number.
Other electricity meters look like car milometers (second photo). These are easier to read, and again, if a digit is ever in-between, look at the one to its right to work it out. This one reads 07576.
While electricity is measured in kWh, gas is measured in cubic metres or cubic feet (like in the third picture above). Gas bills use cubic meters (before, confusingly, converting this to kWh) but should explain how they’ve converted from cubic feet if that’s what your meter uses. See our webpage ‘Understanding your gas bill’.
Again, to read the meter, start on the left and note the digit that the pointer has just passed. If the pointer is directly above a number, you can tell if it has passed it or not by referring to the next dial. The meter in the photo reads 7120. When reading a gas meter you should always end up with a four-digit number.
Key or card prepayment meters also display some other information. For guidance on using these, see our prepayment meters advice leaflet. You can also contact your energy supplier who will send you a guide to using your meter.
Over the next few years, energy suppliers will be gradually providing everybody with smart meters. This is good news, as it means that you won't have to read your meters any more. Instead, your smart meters will communicate directly with your supplier to let them know how much energy you're using. There will be no more estimated bills, so you should always be billed accurately for the amount of gas and electricity you have really used. Some homes are already being offered smart meters. See the leaflet on the right to find out more about them.
This information is available to download as an easy read leaflet.
All photos from istock.com | Fred Dimmick; Manuel Velasco; Derek Audette
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For more domestic energy advice, view all our advice pages.
You should receive smart meters in the next few years, which will mean that you don't have to read your meters any more.
Read this leaflet to find out more.
Key or card meters allow you to 'pay-as-you-go' for your gas and electricity.
Have a look at this leaflet to find out how to read and use them.