Hello there, and welcome to the first of a new series of blogs about your energy bills, our first topic is meter readings. Exciting as they sound, they are nonetheless essential to ensuring you pay the right amount for your energy. In this article, we’ll explain what meter readings are, why you need to give them and how to read your meter!

What are meter readings?
  • Meter readings are simply a snapshot of the numbers that are shown on your electricity and gas meter. The number on the meter will move slowly upwards as you use more electricity or gas.
  • Suppliers ask for these numbers so they can make sure you’re being billed correctly for what you’re using, rather than underpaying or overpaying for your energy.
How do suppliers use these readings?
  • Your supplier’s bills you based on the amount of electricity and gas you use in kWh (Kilowatt hours).
  • For your electricity, your meter will also read in kWh, this means that each time your meter goes up by one unit, you will be charged the price for one unit of kWh of electricity by your supplier.
  • Your gas is a little more complicated. Your gas meter will read in either metric cubic metres (m3) or in imperial hundreds of cubic feet (ft3), your supplier will then convert the readings you give them into kWh and then bill you.
  • The calculation your supplier uses to do this conversion of gas to kWh will be printed on your bill, as it depends where you live in the country. You can use our energy partner Energylinx’s converter here to help you work it out: https://www.energylinx.co.uk/gas_meter_conversion.html
Why is important to give these readings?
  • Usually, when you agree to switch your energy, you’ll be providing an estimate of your usage rather than accurate figures. Giving meter readings ensures you’re paying for the energy you’re actually using rather than too much or too little.
  • If you’re using more than your supplier thinks and you pay by Direct Debit, they’ll probably up the Direct Debit slightly to cover the extra amount. This is to make sure you don’t fall into debt or don’t get hit with a massive bill when you leave.
  • And if you’re using less than your supplier thinks and are building lots of credit you should ask them to lower your Direct Debit, you don’t want them keeping all your money. You could spend that on other things! Some suppliers even give interest on any credit balance to give them the incentive to ensure you’re not overpaying for your energy.
  • You should give suppliers regular meter readings, we recommend at least once every couple of months just to make sure everything right!
  • And remember, in a fixed tariff it is not the amount you pay per month that is fixed but the rate you per unit of gas and electricity. So if you use more or less, you’ll pay more or less.
Don’t suppliers have to come and read my meter?
  • The short answer is no. Some of the larger suppliers will employ meter readers to come to your home and read your meters, but many of the smaller suppliers do not.
  • They rely on their customers to read the meters for them – some are helpful and regularly ask for readings, whereas others do not.
  • Suppliers are obliged to come and check the meter for faults, but these visits can be years apart, so it’s not worth waiting for a supplier to come and visit your home.
Won’t smart meters change all this?
  • In theory, yes. The whole of idea of smart meters is to stop suppliers using estimated readings as they’ll get regular readings sent automatically from the customers home. It’s a great idea.
  • However, in practice, it’s not working 100% correctly yet.
  • First, if you switch suppliers, usually the smart meter and the new supplier will not be able to communicate, so you may have to go back to sending readings yourself – more on this later. Once the central database (The DCC) is online, smart meters should work no matter which supplier you’re with, but it’s years behind schedule.
  • Second, not all homes can have a smart meter fitted – for example, my Grandma was told she couldn’t have smart meters because of where the meters where in the house.
Ok, ok, I get it, meter readings are important. How do I read my meter?

Well, this is the easy part.

If you have a digital meter

A digital meter (not a smart meter!) - easy for meter readings!

  • These meters are one of the easiest to read.
  • This type of meter has several black numbers, which show the amount of electricity or gas you’ve used.
  • To read the meter simply read the numbers and round down any numbers that are not whole, ignore any red numbers. The meter in the image above reads 01967.
  • Sometimes these meters have an LCD display, again the principle is the same, read any numbers in black and ignore any numbers in red or after a decimal point.
I have a dial (analogue) meter

An analogue meter (definitely not a smart meter!) - easy(ish) for meter readings

  • These are slightly older meters and are a little trickier to read, but hopefully, we should be able to help.
  • A dial meter has four or five black dials, which show the amount of electricity or gas you’ve used. Each dial moves the opposite way to first, for example, in the image below, the first dial moves clockwise, the second anticlockwise and so on.
  • To read the meter look at the numbers the arrow on each black dial is pointing at and write them down the numbers, round down any arrows that are not pointing at a number, ignore any red dials. The meter in the image above reads 60169
I have a smart meter

This one is a smart meter! (fairly easy for meter readings)

  • Some smart meters will automatically cycle through your meter readings, others will show a blank display.
  • Usually, you can read a smart meter if you press the number “9” on the keypad on the meter itself. This will mean the meter cycles through information which will include a meter reading.
  • As above, the meter reading will consist of several numbers. Read all the whole numbers but ignore any numbers in red or that follow a decimal point.
  • Often if you have the In-Home Display that came with your smart meter you can read the meter from that. Which is easier than having to go up to your actual meter.

Check out our second blog in this series – What to do in a power cut!