Energy Meters: How to read your meters


What’s in this guide?


Your meter is the gateway to your energy consumption, with your supplier using it to estimate your monthly bills.

That means that there is a lot of power contained in that little box.

If it starts to break, you could end up being under or overcharged £100s, and the more you know about it, the more money you can save.

Let’s take a closer look at electricity and gas meters, including what they are, the different types and how you can read them.

What is an energy meter?

An electricity and gas meter typically sits on the outside wall of your home.

It will be placed where your power enters your home, so you may be able to look it up to find out where it is located.

Your meter tells you exactly how much electricity you have used.

This makes it far more accurate than energy companies who often try and estimate your bills based on the size of your home or the people living in it.

It is also why your supplier will ask you to send readings. So you won’t be under or overcharged for your energy due to estimates.

How do I read these meters?

Electricity Meter

Single rate digital meter

If you have a single rate digital meter, you will have a digital or electronic display.

You’ll notice that you will see five numbers that are usually either black or they might be white, then they might be followed by numbers which are red.

To read the meter:

  1. Note the first five numbers starting from the left and going to the right
  2. Don’t write down anything else

Two rates digital meter

If you get your electricity for different prices at different times, for instance with an Economy 7 tariff where you get a day rate and a night rate.

The top row is the ‘night’ and shows you how much cheaper electricity you used.

The bottom row is ‘day’ and shows you how much regularly priced electricity you have used.

To read the meter accurately:

  1. You need to first take a reading of both the top and the bottom rows
  2. Write the numbers down from the left going over to the right
  3. Don’t write down any numbers in red

Two rate single display meter

Some meters that are two rate meters only have one digital display to view.

To read the meter:

  1. Write down the letters from left to right
  2. Ensure you get both of your readings

Dial meter

A dial meter often has five or more dials.

Each of these dials will ultimately turn to face a number between zero and nine.

To read the meter:

  1. You need to first read the five dials starting from the left going to the right
  2. Note down the digit that the indicator has passed
  3. Underline any number that the indicator is highlighted

Then, with any underlined numbers check the next dial to the right.

If the indicator has a number between 9 and 0, lower the digit you’ve underlined by 1.

For example, a 3 followed by a 9 should be written as a 2, you should also underline this.


Digital metric meter

This has an electronic display, usually showing five numbers and then a point which is decimal, followed by more digits.

To read the meter:

  1. Write down the first five numbers, from left to right
  2. Don’t write down any red numbers

Digital imperial meter

This meter will only show four numbers in either black or possibly white, usually followed by two numbers in red.

To read this meter:

  1. Note the first four numbers from left to right
  2. Don’t write down any red numbers

Prepayment meter

While with a credit meter you pay for your energy after you have used it, a prepayment meter as the name suggests means that you pay for your energy before you use it.

This can range from paying for a week in advance or a month depending on your preferences, and if you are using a prepayment meter to pay off debt, an agreed upon amount will be removed to help pay that debt off.

To do this, you can usually purchase a card or a key fob from your local Paypoint, Payzone or Post Office®, which you would then insert into your prepayment meter.

Prepayment meters are usually used in low-income households that might fail to pass a credit check needed to be able to pay for your energy monthly.

Unfortunately, prepayment meters are often actually more expensive when it comes to the cost of your energy per unit, and the cheapest prepayment tariff is far more expensive than the cheapest fixed rate tariff.

Smart meters

A smart meter is a meter that will track your energy usage in real time, which you can view thanks to the in-home display monitor that attaches to one of your walls.

As well as telling you which appliances are costing you the most and when you use your energy, it sends this information to your energy supplier so they can bill you accurately, meaning an end to estimated billing.

With a smart meter, you won’t need to read your meter, as it sends this information to your supplier automatically.

✔ Get billed only for the energy you use
✔ Track your energy use, saving you money
✔ Be able to budget better, thanks to knowing what you’re paying
✔ As smart meters develop, they will make it easier to switch suppliers


Did you know that you could be saving up to £500 on your energy bills every year?

Take a look at the EnergySeek guides to find out more about your energy, or see reviews of the top 7 energy switching sites to compare gas & electricity.