How to Read Your Electric Meter

Reading your own electric meter is one way to save energy on your energy bill. This is because, often, electricity usage is estimated and then charged, which can vary from the actual numbers on your electric meter. By reading your own meter, you eliminate the need for estimation.

Before we get started, here are a few things you’ll need to know:

  • The basic unit of measure is the watt.
  • One thousand watts equals a kilowatt.
  • Using a kilowatt (one thousand watts) of electricity in one hour constitutes a kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is the unit that your bill is measured and charged in.

The standard electric meter is a device that looks very similar to an analog clock. Your electric meter is actually powered in a similar way: as your home draws in electricity from the power grid, small gears slowly move the meter inside, powered by that same electricity. However, your electric meter differs from a regular clock in one important way. The rate of electricity consumption influences how quickly the gears will turn and therefore how much energy usage is recorded by your electric meter.

So how do you go about actually reading your electric meter? When one of the arms on the meter is pointed directly at a number, check the dial to the right: if the number is greater than zero, use the next higher number. This process ensures that you are rounding to the nearest kilowatt-hour. Similarly, if the arm lands between two numbers, round down to the lower number. Lastly, remember: when you read it, you should write down the numbers shown on the dials from right to left.

However, it is possible that your electric meter might be digital instead of analog. If this is the case, it is actually much easier to read your electric meter. Your digital electric meter will only show one number, and it will become larger and larger until it is reset. Therefore, to track your electricity usage from month to month, simply keep a record of what the meter reads at the beginning of each month. By subtracting your new number from the last month’s total, you’ll learn how much total energy you used throughout the month.

If you have any questions or are still uncertain about how to measure your electric meter, contact your local utility company for more information. Some utilities may even offer to send someone out to read your meter for you.