A Beginner’s Guide to Meter Readings

There have never been more reasons to understand your meter. If you don’t, you could be paying too much for your energy.

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In the 1960s the meter man was a welcome sight. Most meters overcharged, so when emptied a stack of coins was returned to the householder – a lifeline for a population living in poverty. Householders were happy, and the meter man got a cup of tea.

State-run utilities were happy too – cheap British coal powered both gas and electricity production. Even those living in relative poverty could afford to heat their homes. Alas, those happy times didn’t last.

Today the householder must navigate a gaggle of competing energy suppliers whose names seem to keep changing. Energy “suppliers” don’t actually produce the fuel or maintain the grid, pipes or meters. Even the data supplied by smart meters goes through a contractor other than the company your account is with. Each “supplier” operates a variety of tariffs, and almost none has local offices open to the public.

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So make sure you understand your rights and how much you’re charged.

Begin with Your Meter

An electric or gas meter box is the householder’s responsibility. Many are 40 years old and damaged. You can repair a door or fit a new electric or gas meter box from https://www.meterbox.co.uk/, but you are not allowed to dismantle the meters.

Older meters have rows of rotating numbered wheels. You read the number across the middle and subtract the number recorded on a previous occasion to see how many kWh or cubic feet of gas you have used since. Your bill shows how much you’re being charged for it.

Electric meters may consist of a row of “clocks” instead. The principle is similar – read a digit from each.

Smart Meters

The meters may be smart, but their designers were not. Householders are confronted by tiny keypads that many will be unable to see or operate. Although you can get lots of information from these meters, the buttons you need to press are cryptic and arbitrary.

Usually you press the number nine to start it scrolling through a variety of screens. One of them will have your meter reading. Another will display your tariff. Unfortunately, your smart meter won’t tell you the number of your supplier’s customer service department.


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