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Your energy meter is an integral part of your property’s gas and electricity connections. Your meter is connected to your energy supply and measures the amount of gas and electricity you consume in your home or business. It’s these measurements that your energy supplier uses to calculate your energy bill.
Last update: March 2021
Every property that’s connected to mains gas and electricity in the UK will have an energy meter. Knowing where yours is, and how to read it, is important if you’re going to properly manage your energy connection, keep your supplier up to date and ensure your bills are accurate.
Understanding your energy meter, and what it means for your monthly payments, can help you reduce your energy consumption and minimise your spending. Here, we take a closer look at how to read your energy meter and what the device means for your home.
What is an energy meter and how does it work?
An energy meter is a device that’s installed in homes and businesses to measure the amount of gas and electricity used in a property. If you have mains gas and electricity in your property, you’ll have two energy meters in your home, one for each service.
The gas meter will be connected to the mains gas and the electricity meter to your power cables. Both will accurately measure the amount of energy you use in the property. If you look at your energy meters while you’re using gas or electricity, you should be able to see them ticking round or the numbers slowly going up.
Almost all electricity meters will measure power in kilowatt hours (kWh). All types of electricity meters will list the number of kilowatt hours you’ve used clearly on the front of the device. You’ll see a long line of numbers, possibly with a red number or dot at the end. When reading your electricity meter, you’ll need to write down all of the numbers that aren’t in red. This will be the number you need to send to your energy supplier.
Older-style electricity meters work by measuring the current and voltage coming into your home using conductor coils. The magnetic fields created by these coils turns a metal disc in the device and displays your energy reading. Some of these older meters have analogue-to-digital converters to allow the reading to be displayed digitally.
Newer electricity meters have AC sensors that detect voltage and amperage in the incoming wires. This type of digital meter is better at picking up all of the power in a circuit, and so is more accurate than older models.
While gas meters measure the amount of gas used in your property in thousands of cubic feet (MCF) or hundreds of cubic feet (CCF), your gas bill will display your usage in kilowatt hours (kWh). Like electricity meters, gas meters feature a row of four or five numbers. You’ll need to write all of these numbers down in order to supply your energy company with accurate readings. Again, there might be a red number at the end of the row of digits, you don’t need to include this in your meter readings.
Gas meters are driven by the force of the gas moving in the pipe. If you have a lot of gas flowing into your home, the meter will move quickly. However, if you’re only using a little gas, the meter will move more slowly and the numbers won’t go up quite so fast.
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What are the different types of energy meter?
Over the years, the design of energy meters has evolved. Different manufacturers and suppliers have also used different types of meters at different points. What’s more, some energy meters are designed for single rate tariffs and some for dual-rate tariffs. As a result, not all energy meters look the same. Knowing your energy meter will help you get an accurate reading and stay on top of your energy consumption.
The most common types of energy meter found in the UK are single-rate digital meters, dual-rate digital meters, smart meters and dial meters.
Single-rate energy meters
Single-rate energy meters are probably the most common type of energy meter found in the UK. These types of meters are very simple to use and list just one set of numbers. When reading your single-rate energy meter, write down all the numbers before the decimal point, ignoring any numbers that appear in red. Both gas and electricity supplies can be measured using single-rate energy meters.
Dual-rate energy meters
Dual-rate energy meters are used for customers who have Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs. These tariffs give customers a cheaper energy rates during the night, while charging them slightly more for daytime energy use.
If you have a dual-rate energy tariff, there will be two sets of numbers on your meter. You’ll need to take note of both of these numbers to send to your energy supplier. If you’re not sure whether or not you have a dual-rate energy tariff, give your supplier a call to find out.
Gas isn’t available on Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariffs, so you’ll only have this type of meter to measure your electricity consumption.
Dial electricity meters
Dial electricity meters are used to measure both gas and electricity. If you have a dial meter, you’ll see five or more dials – a bit like clock faces – on the front of your energy meter. Each dial will have a small hand that points to a number between 0 and 9. When taking a meter reading, write down the number on each dial, going from left to right. The resulting number will be the reading you need to give to your supplier.
Smart meters are the newest type of energy meter available. At the moment, they are only offered by some suppliers, but there are plans to make them available to all customers by 2024.
There are a number of benefits of having a smart meter. For a start, they automatically take meter readings and send them to your supplier. This means your energy bill will always be accurate and you won’t have to take manual readings.
Secondly, smart meters make it easier to monitor your energy consumption. If you’re trying to reduce your carbon footprint – or your energy bill – this can be very useful.
Last but not least, smart meters tell your energy company when you’re using the most electricity. This can help them to develop a more efficient, more sustainable network.
If you pay for your gas or electricity in advance, you’ll have a prepayment meter installed in your home. Understanding how to use your prepayment meter is very important as it will help you monitor your energy usage and ensure there’s always enough credit to cover your energy consumption.
To read your prepayment electricity meter, you’ll probably need to insert the key or card that came with your tariff. You’ll then be able to navigate through a number of different screens. These screens should display:
- Your current credit
- The total amount you’ve spent since the meter was last reset
- The total units of electricity used in the meter’s lifetime
- The current meter reading
- The price per unit of electricity
- Emergency credit limit
- Total debt (if applicable)
Prepayment gas meters are a little simpler. You probably won’t need a key or card to access additional information on the meter. Pressing different options on the meter should give you information including:
- The current credit on the meter
- Emergency credit and standing charge debt
- Your current meter reading
How can I test my energy meter?
Occasionally, energy meters develop a fault for one reason or another. If you get a bill that’s a lot higher than usual, receive a bill you weren’t expecting or if your meter is showing an error message, there may well be something wrong. If your energy meter is faulty, you may be paying more than you should for your gas and electricity.
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If you have a prepayment meter, get in touch with your supplier as soon as possible. This is important as a faulty prepayment meter could result in a complete loss of power to your home. Your energy supplier is obliged to send someone to repair or replace your meter within a few hours. This should help you get back online as quickly as possible.
If you have a credit meter, these are the steps you need to follow to:
- Switch off all the appliances in your home, including any pilot lights. Make sure everything is turned off at the plug
- Check to see if the numbers on the meter are still moving.
- If the meter is still moving, it’s probably faulty. Get in touch with your supplier as quickly as you can to arrange a repair or replacement.
- If the meter stops, turn on appliances one by one. Check the meter every time you switch something on. If one appliance makes the meter move very quickly, it could be the appliance that’s faulty.
When you get in touch with your supplier to report a faulty meter, they may ask you to take daily meter readings for seven days. This will give them a good idea of how your meter is performing. They will probably then send an engineer to your home to repair or replace the device.
How do you calculate energy consumption?
The easiest way to find out how much energy you consume is to look at your monthly energy bill. This should list how many kWh of gas and electricity you’ve used over the past four weeks. If you don’t have a bill handy, or want to find out your energy consumption before the next bill arrives, you can calculate it using your energy meter.
For example, if you want to find out how much energy you use per day, take a meter reading in the morning and another 24 hours later. If you take the first number away from the second, the resulting figure will be the number of kWh you’ve used in that period.
Your energy bill will list the price you pay your energy company for every kWh you use. If you multiply this unit price by the number you took from your meter, you’ll be able to calculate how much you spend each day on energy.
Why are my meter readings so high?
The number displayed on your energy meter is the sum of all the energy that’s been used in your property since the meter was installed or reset. This means the number will only ever go up, not down. This can make the number on your meter appear very high.
If you take regular meter readings and have noticed a sudden spike in usages, there are a number of things that could have caused it. These include:
- A faulty meter
- A change in your energy consumption habits
- A heat wave of cold spell that has resulted in excess energy use
- A faulty appliance
- Incorrect meter reading
If you’ve been through all of these possibilities and still feel your meter reading is high, get in touch with your supplier to find out what’s going on.
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Updated on 31 Mar, 2021