How To Read An Electric Meter: 4 Steps To Help You

We are using more electricity now than ever before. From large, power-eating appliances to small electronics, a regular household now has more devices that use electricity. In order to know what your energy consumption is, you need to learn how to read the electric meter. This usually lives in your main panel.

With the increase in power usage, it’s only natural that costs follow. Many homeowners are concerned with increasing utility bills and are constantly trying to keep costs under control. But before you start thinking of ways to lower your bills, your electric meter reading will give you a pretty accurate starting point.

What Is An Electric Meter? 

electric meter

An electrical meter is a device that measures electricity consumption in your household. It is usually installed where the power lines enter your home or building. Similar to the mileage display installed in your car, which shows you the distance your car has travelled, the electrical meter tells you the amount of power that was used since it was first installed. Energy consumption is measured in kilowatt-hours. 

But how does knowing the total energy consumption help you when trying to lower your electricity bills? Well, there is a method which you can use to determine how much energy you’ve consumed within a set period. You need to take two readings, one at the start of a certain period and another at the end of that timeframe, then calculate the difference.

Electrical meter types 

There are four types of electrical meters: 

  • Flat-rate meter
  • Interval meter
  • Smart electricity meter
  • Solar meters

Smart electricity meters come with additional features, which help you get a better notion of your electricity consumption and costs. For instance, if you have such a meter in your home, you also have the option of buying a home display. These are great investments because the displays provide you with additional information such as where in the house you register the highest level of energy, as well as at what times.

 However, when it comes to components, all types of electrical meter include the basics: 

  • a display of total electricity consumption
  • A unique meter number to identify your consumption

How to calculate consumption? 

The amount of electricity used is calculated in kilowatt-hours. A watt represents the product of the voltage and current in an electrical circuit. Basically, 1 volt multiplied with 1 amp represents 1 watt. However, you need to add the element of time. 1-kilowatt hour is 1,000 watt-hours. 

How To Read An Electric Meter? 

how to read electric meter

As mentioned above, learning how to read an electric meter is a useful step towards understanding your energy consumption, your habits when at home and how you can adjust in order to save on power. Before learning the steps involved, there are a few things you should keep in mind when reading it: 

  • stand in front of the meter so you can see the location of each pointer; 
  • when the pointer is located between two numbers, consider the one the pointer has passed;
  • always read 9 if the pointer is situated between 0 and 9; 
  • it is important for the pointer to have passed zero. Unless this happens, if the pointer seems to be exactly on a number, read the next lowest number;
  • make a note of your meter number. 

Step 1: Understand the parts of your analog electric meter 

Usually, electric meters have between four and six dials, connected to the central disk. When this turns due to energy consumption, the dials start moving. This way, a readout is given showing how much electricity is used. The readout is given in kilowatt-hours.

Step 2: Read the dials on your meter

The dials on your electrical meter should be read from left to right, as usual. Write down the numbers as you go. Once you are done reading the numbers of each dial, the electric meter reading is complete. 

Remember the aspects mentioned above. Don’t allow the number connected to each dial confuse you. 

Step 3: The last dial 

Some companies choose to round up to the next highest number. Others choose the number the arrow is closest to. To properly calculate the kilowatt-hours you need to find out where your electrical company stands as far as the last digit is concerned. 

Step 4: Calculating the kilowatt hours

If you want to calculate the number of kilowatt-hours you have used, you will need to keep track of your readings. Not all companies reset the meter to zero, once the reading is done. So, what you will need to do is subtract the current reading from the last one. 

How To Read a Digital Electric Meter 

how to read digital electric meter

Digital meters are simpler to read than analog ones because the amount of electricity used is displayed electronically. Really, all you need to do is read the numbers on your meter. If your device has different other numbers displayed, you shouldn’t let them confuse you. The only numbers that matter are the ones part of the large string displayed on the screen. 

As far as calculating the kilowatt-hours you have used, you should know that digital meters do not reset after readings, which means that you will need to apply the second method, subtracting current readings from the previous ones.