How to read gas and electric meters

It’s a good idea to take a meter reading before the 31 March. This lets you show your supplier exactly how much energy you’ve used before the higher rates come in. Here’s how you take a meter reading. 

Reading a meter

Why you should read your gas and electricity meters

Providing regular meter readings means that you should only be billed for the gas and electricity that you actually use. This ensures that you’re accurately charged, and potentially saves you money.

If you don’t provide readings, your energy suppliers estimate your energy usage, which could be higher or lower than what you’re actually using. 

Your meter reading might be higher or lower than the estimate, but in either case it’s better to be charged for the correct amount.

You don’t want to run up a huge energy bill by making underpayments, nor do you want to be paying more than you need.

Estimated readings (which are usually marked with a letter ‘E’ on your bill) are based on historic or average data.

For example, if you’ve moved by yourself into a house that was previously occupied by a family of four, it’s likely your estimates could be out. This is because one person usually requires less power.

Also, if you live in a flat, make sure that you know exactly which gas and electricity meter belongs to you. Your landlord should tell you which meter is yours.

If you live above a business property, make sure you’re not taking readings from the commercial meters either.

You could get hit with higher bills based upon business energy usage, and not your own.

 

Which meter is gas and which one is electric?

If your meters look the same it can be easy to get them mixed up. But there are relatively easy ways to tell them apart. 

Usually, your electricity meter has 5 numbers before the decimal point. You should also see it’s measured in kWh. 

Older gas meters are measured in cubic feet (ft3) and have 4 numbers before the decimal point. Newer models have 5 numbers and are usually measured in cubic metres (m3).

 

How often should I give a meter reading?

It’s always important to give regular meter readings, but now it’s more important than ever.

Energy prices are high at the moment. So you don’t want to face an even bigger dent in your funds by paying for more energy than you’re using. 

It’s a good idea to take a meter reading every month before your energy bill is due. Most suppliers make it easy to submit a reading, either on their website or app.

If you call your supplier, there might be an option to submit your reading via an automated menu without having to wait to speak to someone.

The energy price cap is rising on 1 April from £1,277 to £1,971. So some households could be charged around £693 more per year for their energy. 

It’s worth taking a meter reading before 31 March so you lock in the cheaper rates for your energy use in March.

 

How to read your gas and electricity meters

Usually your gas and electricity meter has the same style of display. It’s just the numbers that are different.

Remember that gas is measured in cubic feet or metres and electricity is measured in kWh.

 

Standard 

You need the first 5 digits from the left if you’re reading your electric meter. You need the first 4 or 5 numbers if you’re reading your gas meter. Ignore any red numbers.

 

Digital 

If you have a digital display, for both gas and electricity you usually use the first five digits from the left for your reading. Ignore the figures after the decimal point. 

 

Dial 

Dial meter 

These are slightly more confusing. When you come to take your meter reading, you should notice several dials. Each has a hand pointing to a number, or just past it.

You read the dials themselves from left to right. Dials without numbers or hands should be disregarded.

And an added level of confusion - sometimes the hand moves either clockwise or anti-clockwise. This is usually indicated by an arrow, so look out for this when you’re taking your reading.

If the hand is in between two numbers, record the number before the hand. If the next dial along is on 9, reduce the previous number by one.

For example, if one dial looks like it’s dead on 7, but the next dial reads 9, you would write the first number down as 6.

 

Economy 7

These include two different readings. 

The daytime or on-peak reading should either be the top one, marked as ‘normal’, or ‘day’ or the default display. 

The night-time or off-peak reading is the bottom one, marked ‘low’, or ‘night’.

Usually on digital and prepayment meters you can access each reading by pressing a button on the meter. Sometimes they’re marked Rate 1 and Rate 2.

 

Pre-payment meters

You don’t usually need to take a reading for a prepayment meter, as you usually pay for energy as you go along. But it can still be useful to keep track. 

You should be able to scroll through different screens on your prepayment meter. One usually displays how much credit you have left, and the other shows you your usage. 

 

I’m having problems reading my meter, what can I do?

If you’re still having problems, your utility supplier should be able to give you specific instructions over the phone.

What if your meter isn’t accessible - for example, if it’s awkward to reach, or you have sight problems? Your gas and electricity provider should be able to arrange for someone to come out and read it for you on a regular basis.

 

How do I read a smart meter? 

A smart meter allows you to see the actual cost of the gas or electricity you use. It also provides information for each appliance, so you can see exactly how much your Netflix addiction is setting you back.

The data can be accessed remotely via a digital display screen. Once you’ve started to give your utility supplier with regular meter readings, you can start to understand exactly how much energy you use.

If you’re looking to install a smart meter, the good news is that they’re currently being rolled out by most energy providers.

The government had a target to roll these out in all homes in Great Britain by 2020. At the last quarterly update in 2021, 35% of households in the UK had a smart or advanced meter.

This delay could be due to the pandemic.

If you’re renting, you might have to contact your landlord if you want a smart meter. But if you own your home, you could speak to your supplier about getting one fitted.

They might offer to install one for free, or offer an energy grant for you to get one fitted.