Reading your electricity meter

27 August 2007

Isn't it frustrating when you receive your electricity bill, you think it's too high but you can't really remember what you did to increase it. When I started cutting back and living on less, one of the things I did was to get a better understanding of our electricity consumption by reading the meter. Doing this helped us go from an average three monthly bill of around $400 to our current bill which is always under $200, and usually around $140.

Although there are a couple of different types of meters, most of them are the five dial ones like mine pictured here. Disregard the dial at the bottom with the red pointer.

The reading on my meter, when I took this photo last evening, was 16863 kiloWatt-hours (kWh).

When reading a meter and the pointer is between two figures, your reading is the lower number, as the pointer hasn't yet progressed passed the next figure. You can see this clearly on my first dial. The pointer is between the 1 and 2, but hasn't passed 2, so the reading on that dial is 1.

It gets trickier when the pointer is sitting ON a figure, like it is on my second dial. That pointer is sitting on 7. When this happens, look to your next dial - dial three in this case - and see where that pointer is, it will be somewhere between 8 and 0. Here my dial is coming up to 9, indicating it hasn't yet passed 0 and therefore the previous dial is still on 6, even though it looks like it's on 7, it hasn't passed it yet.

Okay, so far we've read my dial to be 16. Dial three hasn't yet moved onto 9, so that dial reads 8. Dial 4 is between 6 and 7, so that reading is 6. The last dial hasn't yet fully moved to 4, so that reading is 3. Write your reading down in a notebook.

You'll also notice a spinning flat wheel below your dials. That indicates how much electricity you're currently using. If it's spinning fast, you're using a lot, if it's slow, you're not using much at all.

I know it sounds complicated, but just remember your reading is always the lower of the two when the pointer is between two figures. When it's sitting on a figure, check the next dial and if it isn't yet on 0, then your reading on the previous dial is the lower number. You'll only have to read the meter a couple of times for it to become clear to you. It sounds complicated but in practise, it's not.

Remember, just reading the meter won't save you money. You have to act on the information you have to lower your bill. When you first start readings, write down what electrical appliances you're using that day. If you read your meter every day, you probably notice spikes in usage when you use the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, heater or air conditioner. Often seeing how much something spikes your meter, makes you think of ways to lower your usage.

If you have teenagers or younger children, encourage them to do the readings with you. It will make them think about electricity in a different way. Show them how much you pay for each kWh. We don't think much about our usage because a kiloWatt hour doesn't mean anything to us. That is, until you start your readings, then you can't fail to know.

Make sure you do your reading at the same time each day. After you get a good idea of your usage via daily readings and recording your figures, then monitor your usage weekly. If you see a spike over the week, reassess what you're doing in the home with electricity and see if you can bring it down again. Doing this will allow you to reduce your electricity consumption, and your bill, how much you get it down is in your hands.


  1. I've just done my first reading ~ I have 2 meters. I am going to call Ergon Energy today and ask them to explain the times for the off peak meter as nothing is mentioned on the bill!!

  2. good for you, ali. The more info you have, the better you'll be able to assess what you're doing. : )

  3. Fascinating - I've never looked that hard at an electricity meter before - I've been known to be mesmerised by the spinning disc speeding up when you turned something on, but had not really thought about the numbers. LOL
    This is a bit like the old (non-digital) odometers in cars, isn't it? When they got close to the '000, you could see the nines almost there, over your dad's shoulder as he drove (without a seatbelt!) and would wait with bated breath for ...999 to click over to ...000, then cheer like a madman.
    Looks like the red arrow guage is the 10ths of a KWH, and that is calibrated to the rate of your spinning disc - in your case looks like its 266.6 spins per KWH or something like that. So every time the big flat disc turns 26.66 times, the red arrow moves through a segment and every time the red arrow completes a full circle the right-most counter guage moves on one segment etc. etc. up the line.
    Very interesting. You live and learn. Thanks Rhonda!

  4. I took my first reading for the week this morning.

  5. Hi Rhonda Jean,
    I took my reading on Friday and have started me a notebook to keep my reading in. I plan to read every Friday But check the dial everyday.
    I have a question about basil. I noticed my plant today has gotten really tall. It is growing straight up. I did cut the white flowers off the top. Is basil suppose to grow up like that?

  6. I'll do mine tonight when I get home - if I don't fall asleep too early! Been at the hospital watching my best friend give birth - photo on my blog of me holding the beautiful baby girl!

  7. Now I know how to read that thing!! I'm going to read it tomorrow...

  8. It would seem that my meter is digital. We've only been here 2 and a half years and this is the first time I've tried to read it. Last time I opened it there was a red-back spider in there so I closed it again real quick! LOL.

    So - I have written 2 numbers down. 21322.8 and 3230.2 but don't know which one I'm supposed to be using. They're the most likely 2 numbers but other numbers and stuff was flashing across the screen as well so I'm not 100% sure. It was hard to take it all in before the screen would change so I'm all a bit confused.

    Anyone else have a digital meter?

  9. Just checking in with my number: 78785


  10. I've got my book and we all went out and took the reading. The girls were excited that they could make the disc slow down by running around turning things off. Good start.

  11. Some electric companies charge a different rate for off-peak hours. In other words, if you run the dishwasher late at night, it's cheaper than running it during the day. Check with your local company to see what rates they charge when.

  12. This is going to be really fun, Rhonda! I've never paid attention to my daily use before. And I consider myself lucky because when I went out to look at my meter on Friday evening, lo and behold - it's been changed to a digital meter! (i.e., very easy to read)
    I've also gone online to my power company & printed out my usage history. Enlightening. I've been trying to cut back by doing certain things - seems to be paying off. This past month's bill has my usage at 377 kilowatt hours! I have to add a note here: I live alone; work away from home 8 hours/day, 5 days/week. I really shouldn't be using ANY electricity! Don't know what those cats do while I'm away, though...(smile)
    Carla in North Idaho

  13. Marg, your comment made me smile. I do remember lots of those things. Now come away from the spinning disk. LOL

    Elizabeth, you can prune basil as it grows. Always remove the flowers and cut the plant back by about half when it's small and a third when it's bigger when you're harvesting your leaves. The more you cut it back, the bushier it becomes.

    Polly, how often do you check yours now?

    Lisa, I hope we have a new baby by now. How wonderful.

    That's great, marianna. : )

    Lightning, the digital meters are easy to read. It's just the number you see there, that's it.

    Kim and San, thank you.

    Alita, how great to get the kids involved. I bet it's a real eye opener for them.

    Carla, sounds like your cats are partying while you're at work. LOL

  14. FYI I have done my meter reading the last two days :) Am looking forward to have enough stats to analyse the usage...

  15. Wow, I'm so glad my meter was switched to a digital readout last year. As I was reading this I got quite nervous about all the dials and then remembered the new meter. Whew! I'll keep you posted.

  16. I looked more closely at my meter yesterday after work when I took my reading: now that I have a digital meter, I no longer have the spinning disk. Nothing interesting about it at all, just the numbers. :(

    Carla in North Idaho

  17. thanks for the post.

  18. Cool i'd like an EMAIL M-3 like that to add to my collection someday, I use a meter on various things around the house, it's interesting to see just how much energy you can use on something like a pedestal fan or even a PC!!



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