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Blog Mar 15, 2012

How to Read An Electric Meter


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electricity meters

Have you ever looked at those curious spinning dials on that round glass box attached to your house and wondered what it was. For those who know, that handy device is an electric meter. Even if you can identify it, you may still be left wondering how to read your own. Payless Power, your retail provider of cheap electricity in Houston, can explain how to make some sense of those dials and help you understand how to calculate your household’s monthly electricity usage. Knowing how to read your electric meter will enable you to compare your figures with what the electric company is charging you. It is also useful to monitor and record the amount of electricity you use each month to compare the changes from month to month, season to season, or from the current year to the previous years.

Something important to remember about your monthly electricity bill is that it is often based on company-specific calculations and is therefore subject to rounding while your electric meter notes the exact amount of energy you have used. As a result, you’ll be able to work with the actual figures to determine what your bill should come out to. It can pay to stay on top of your readings too, as maintaining a vigilant eye each month can help you avoid being overcharged for service.

How to Read Your Electric Meter

Types of Electric Meter

Electric meters have several basic types that are determined according to various factors including their method of display(analog or digital), type of metering point(primary and local distribution, grid, and secondary transmission), and how they are used in concert with payment(prepayment meters). These meters are read in different ways, so the first step to reading your own is determining what kind it is. Of the varieties, the easiest to read is the digital electric meter while the dial-based meters require the most amount of work. Below are step-by-step instructions aimed at teaching you how to read the different types of electric meters. An important note is that many electricity companies will not make adjustments to the number called out on the meter, meaning you will have to keep track of the updates over time as you continue to read your meter.  

Electric Meters

An electrical meter is located outside of the home or business and is responsible for measuring the electric energy consumed. This value is later used by service providers when determining the amount that must be billed at the conclusion of the month. The output of your electric meter will appear in kilowatt-hours, which can be simply multiplied by the rate your energy company is charging you to determine the total cost of your bill. Reading your electric meter is critical because when your bill comes, you do not want to be guessing how your energy company determined the amount you are responsible for pay. Even more important, you don’t want to pay more for your electricity than you need to.

Analog Electric Meter

The typical electric meter you are probably familiar with is a round glass and metal box that is usually attached to the outside of your house. The meter is enclosed in a clear container and has four or five dials inside it. Each dial is numbered 0–9 and they record the amount of kilowatts of power being used. To read the dials each month you will need to:

  • Record the numbers you see starting from the left and going towards the right. If you notice that the pointer on the dial is between two numbers such as 3 and 4, you should record the lower number except when the ticker is between 0 and 9. You will always record 9 then.
  • Once you have the number jotted down, subtract it from the figure from the last time you checked the meter. The answer you get will be the number of kilowatt-hours you’ve used.
  • You can take the number of kilowatt-hours you’ve calculated and then multiply it by your rate to see how much you will have to pay for electricity.


electricity meter reading

Following the steps listed out above, read the dials moving from left to right. At the conclusion of this you’ll find that the number you have recorded reads 05000. Last month your reading was 04000. Now you need to subtract last month’s reading from the current month’s reading: 05000 – 04000 = 1000 kilowatt-hours used. In the event you rate is 11.3 cents/kWh you’ll multiply the 1000 kilowatt-hours used by 11.3 cents/kWh and come out to a total of 11300 cents or $113.


Digital Electric Meter

With a digital electric meter, the amount of energy consumed is calculated electronically and displayed on the meter, so no decoding of dials is required. Instead you can simply consult your meter when it is time to determine how much energy you consumed. With this particular type of meter, newer types can make it possible for energy providers to receive the reading without consulting the physical device. Still, you may be able to request the ability to maintain your traditional meter. In that case, you can read your meter easily enough:

  • Examine the digital display for the string of numbers listed out, which will indicate the amount of kilowatt-hours that you have used
  • Subtract the number displayed on your meter from the number you recorded during your last check, which will give you the number of kilowatt-hours you’ve used in the span
  • Multiply that figure by the the rate you are charged each month and you will know how much you will be billed


reading electricity meters

Just as before with the analog meter, following the steps for the digital meter has us first note the number listed. It is considerably easier due to the fact that it is already displayed instead of noted out on dials. If in our last reading the meter was 10487, simple subtraction would leave us with 11987-10487 = 1500 kWh. Holding our rate at 11.3 cents/kWH our answer would be 16950 cents or $169.50 as our total monthly bill.

Prepayment electric Meters

With a prepayment meter, you are required to pay for service before you are able to receive it. In having electricity provided, individuals consume until they have used up the amount that corresponds to their initial payment. From there another deposit will have to be put down, lending itself to the name “pay as you go electricity”. Prepayment meters are largely digital, making it a bit easier to read them when the time comes. It is important to keep your meter from hitting zero or you risk having your power shut off. Though the manner for reading some prepayment meters may vary, many can be deciphered in a few easy steps:

  • To begin, see you’ll have to spot the button responsible for adjusting the meter’s display from how much service is left to be used to the actual usage(this may be a blue button)
  • Once the display changes, you can note the number of kilowatt hours and you can multiply that by your rate to determine how much of your payment you have already consumed in dollars

Economy 7 and Economy 10 Meters

Some electricity plans are aimed at helping households pay less by adjusting the price at different hours of the day. This is the case for Economy 7 and Economy 10 meters that are able to decrease the expense in the evening. This difference between the two is that the Economy 7 offers seven hours of reduced cost electricity in the evenings while Economy 10 offers ten. This type of meter is best for individuals who engage in the most energy usage in the evenings and requires a special type of meter. Usually Economy 7 meters are digital display, so you’ll likely be able to get your reading from them easily, but you’ll need your day and night usage.

  • In the event your meter has a button that allows you to toggle through your time of day use, note the daytime use and nighttime use. You may have three numbers in the toggle sequence and the third will represent the total usage.
  • Multiply the amount you’ve used by the rate you incur for the use

Picking The Right Electric Meter

For those trying to determine which electric meter is right for them, there are several things to take into consideration. Those factors can include your level of usage, your previous experience with paying for electricity, and your living needs. In the event you have a family, not having to think about constant electricity payments will likely be prefered lending to purchase of a non-prepayment meter. However, if you are trying to cut back on the amount you pay for electricity each month, considering a prepayment meter or Economy 7 meter may be in your best interest. This is also the case should you have a spotty payment history, as some energy companies may not be willing to provide you with standard service.

Learning how to read your electric meter and keeping track of your household’s monthly electricity usage is not as difficult as you might have feared! 

To start saving money on your energy bill and to learn about the advantages of using Payless Power, contact us today at 866-936-9353 or visit us at www.paylesspower.com.


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