How to Read an Electricity Meter

Reading an Energy Meter

You may want to learn how to read an electricity meter to track your monthly energy consumption, so you and your family can become more efficient energy consumers.

Or learning how to read an electric meter may be your way of keeping your energy coop or provider honest, checking up on their figures and seeing they aren’t cheating you on your electric bill.

Whatever your reason for reading the meter on your energy usage, reading an electricity meter is a good skill to have.

Once you learn the basics and start keeping your own records, the process will become second nature. That might happen right from the start, if you have the type of energy meter that’s easier to read.

How to Read a Digital Electricity Meter

A digital electricity meter looks quite similar to the odometer on your car. It should have a face on the gauge with five numbers showing, and these numbers should roll over like an odometer. Reading this meter is as easy as reading the mileage on your car.

The fifth number (going left to right) on the digital meter is going to change often. Every time this number increases, you have used another kilowatt-hour of energy in your house and around your property. When the meter reader comes to your house to read this gauge, or when the electric company’s machines back at the home office are transmitted this number, they are able to determine your energy consumption for the month by subtracting last month’s number from this month’s number.

You’ll want to do the same, so get a small notepad and jot down your monthly meter readings. Make certain to note what day (day, month, and year) you check your electric meter. Learn about the local rates, so you can figure out what your energy bill should be for the month.

How to Read a Dial Meter

The dial meter is going to be a lot harder to read. You’ll probably wonder why in the heck the electric company would use such a complicated device. I couldn’t really give you a clear answer to that question, but I can tell you how they’re read and make it much easier to decipher.

Once again, you’ll see five dials, so your electric reading should include five numbers. In this case, though, the dials look a little bit like a clock face, except the numbers go from 0 to 9, with the zero at “12 o’clock” on the dial. You’ll also notice that two of the dials–#2 and #4 running left to right–go counterclockwise, while dials 1, 3, and 5 go clockwise.

Reading the Dials Carefully

Read each dial carefully, taking note which way the dial runs (clockwise or counterclockwise). Whichever way they go, read them as if they start at 1 and go to 0. If the dial has passed a number, count that as that number. If it’s between a number (say the “1” and “2”), read this as the last number passed (“1” in this case).

Do the same for all four dials. The number you arrive at should be your electricity reading for the month. Most of the time, the higher numbers (or the ones furthest on the left) shouldn’t move very often, while the lower couple of numbers should move every month. Once again, this electricity gauge is tracking the number of kilowatt-hours of electricity you’ve used.

To get the amount of electricity consumption for the past month, simply subtract last month’s reading from this month’s reading.

When the Hand is Directly on a Number

When a dial hand is directly on a number, you might have trouble determining exactly how to mark the number. Let’s take an example of a dial that’s pointing at a “5”, but you’re uncertain whether it’s really on a five or only in the high fours.

Take a look at the hand on the right. If that dial has passed “0”, then you should assume it’s rolled over to the next higher number, in this case a “5”. The number on the dials should be “50”.

If the number on the dial to the right hasn’t yet passed the “0”, then assume it’s not rolled over and choose the lower of the two numbers, in this case a “4”. The number on the dials should read “49”.

Track Your Electric Bill – Read the Meter

That’s how you track your electricity meter. If you intend on keeping track of your own energy consumption, remember to keep track from one month to the next. Keep your notebook in the same place, preferably somewhere secure, but somewhere near to the electric meter, and keep the electric company honest.

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