Electric meter reading: everything you need to know

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The electricity meter is something that virtually every home in the UK has but that we almost never think about. But it’s there at all times, ticking over and monitoring our electricity usage. Lots of people are confused about how to read their energy meters, so we have compiled this guide to everything you need to know about electric meter reading, what the numbers all mean and how to give an accurate reading for a better bill.

Last updated: March 2021

Electric meter reading

When it comes to electric meter reading, it’s important to remember that not all meters are the same. However, even though there might be some differences in their appearance, the basic principles always remain the same.

Single rate digital meter

It’s likely that you will have a single rate digital meter. To make sure just check that your meter doesn’t say ‘multirate’ on it in large grey writing at the top. If it does, then skip to the next section of this guide.

If you have a single rate meter, then to read it you simply need to write down the five digits as you read them from left to right, including any zeros that might be at the start. So, for example, you would produce a reading that says 34456. This will be displayed on the small digital display screen.

Two rate digital meter

If your meter says ‘Multirate’ at the top, or ‘Multirate Single Phase Watt Hour’ then you have a two rate digital meter. You can ignore the advice in the above section about single rate meters.

For two rate meters you will need to take two readings. These are known as reading 1 and reading 2. The display will alternate between the two at intervals and there will be a number on the left hand side which tells you which reading is which. Again, write down the numbers from left to right, including any zeros you find at the start.

To get the best results, take your readings between 10am and 10pm and if you see any numbers that start with the letter ‘t’, you can ignore these. Whichever of the two readings is flashing, enter this number into the ‘Electricity (Day/Normal)’ section. The non-flashing reading goes in the ‘Electricity (Night/Low)’ box on the form.


More than ever, our team of experts remain on deck to help you make savings on your energy. We understand how deeply the lives of many are affected by these trying times and we want to support you the best we can. More on your energy supply during COVID-19 in our article.

Dial meter

There is another kind of meter you will find called a dial meter. It may look complicated but it’s actually very easy to read. First, you should ignore all the red dials as you won’t need these to take a reading. Just read the black dials from left to right, and include any zeros. If the point is between two figures, then give the lowest one.

If the pointer is right at the top, then make a note by underlining it when you write it down. If any of these underlined numbers are followed by a 9, simply subtract one from that number to get your reading.

What do my meter readings mean?

You need to give your supplier your energy reading because:

  1. It shows how much energy you have used
  2. If you don’t they may estimate your usage and you may end up paying more or too little
  3. You may then end up being in credit or debit which will need to be paid off at a later date

electric meter reading

What are energy rates and how do they affect the cost of my energy bill?

These are the key factors of any energy tariff. They are the rates that you can use to see which tariff is most suitable for you and to make sure that you are not paying over the odds.

There may be two energy rates applied to your bill. The first is a cost called the standing charge which is the amount you pay per day for your supply. It is not affected by how much you use and remains the same throughout your contract. The second charge is the rate per kWh you pay, applied to how much electricity you use.

Fixed rate tariffs charge you the same for every kWh of power you use throughout the time you have a contract. A standard variable rate can change the amount you pay per kWh depending on the wholesale price of energy at that time. This is the default rate that you are put on to automatically when your tariff deal expires and is generally more expensive.

How to calculate your electricity bill from your meter reading

It’s possible to work out your electricity bill from looking at your meter reading by doing the following:

  1. From your current meter reading subtract the meter reading reported from last month’s bill. This gives you the total kWh you have used since last reading
  2. Take this figure of kWh used since last reading and multiply by the charge per kWh listed on your bill to get a total energy charge
  3. Your total energy charge plus your fixed monthly fees equals your final bill

How to work out kWh from your meter reading

To work out your kWh usage since your last reading, simply perform the first step from the list above. Subtract the meter reading reported from last month’s bill from your current meter reading to give you the total kWh you have used since the last meter reading.

Are your energy rates too expensive?

Standard variable rates are generally the most expensive but they often have different names, so it can be hard to see if this is the rate you are on. The standard variable rate generally has no end date but also no exit fee, so it is easy to switch to another tariff. If you don’t, then you could end up paying more for your energy than you need to.

It is easy to see if you are paying too much no matter what tariff you are on. Simply look at the rate per kWh you are being charged, then use this to shop around for a better rate.

What is a high electric meter reading?

What constitutes a high bill very much depends on your circumstances. What is high for one household is regular for others. So, the only comparison you can make is against your own bills. Compare your kWh usage against last month’s and if it is much higher, try to figure out why. Have there been guests staying? Have you had the heating on more? If there is no reason why one bill is much higher than another then it may be worth querying it with your energy company.

Also , if you have any questions about your distribution network operator, you can find more information on the market regulator, OFGEM’s, website.

Call us to switch your energy supplier for free!

0330 054 0017



Written by eleanor

Updated on 31 Mar, 2021


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