Meter readings – everything you need to know

meter readings

Meter readings and energy rates are the two most important elements that make up energy bills. 

Giving meter readings to your supplier ensure you pay for the correct amount of usage. Without them your supplier will estimate how much energy you’re using. 

Energy rates on the other hand are how much your supplier charges for each unit of energy that you use.

We explain how to give a meter reading but also how to make sure you’re on the best deal.

How do you read an electricity meter?

There are three types of Electricity meters: single rate meters, two rate meters as well as dial meters. Electricity meters are always in kWh (kilowatt hours). Pictured below is a single rate meter and a dial meter.

Dial meter readings

Single rate meters

Read the numbers from left to right and don’t include any numbers in red or after the decimal point. This electricity meter reading is 01967. 

Single rate meter reading

Two rate meters

Two rate meters are mainly used for economy 7 or economy 10. It records two readings, one for your day usage and one for night usage. Day usage is called ‘normal’ and night usage is called ‘low’.

Two rate meter reading

For instance the electricity meter above would be recorded as:

Low (night): 80506 

Normal (day): 97192

Two rate meter on one display (digital meter)

Some two rate meters have one digital display. To view the day and night usage you’ll need to press a button to cycle through the readings.

Digital meter reading

The readings may be labelled as RATE 1 (R1) and RATE 2 (R2). You may also have other rates or readings on the meter which could be the live usage or the total usage. 

The rate number and it’s correlation to day or night depends on how the meter was set up. For example RATE 1 could mean ‘day’ for one meter but ‘night’ for another.

To figure out which is which, make a note of the readings in the morning and see which reading has advanced by midday.

Dial meters

Dial meters can be quite confusing but they’re not too bad once you get used to them.

The dials go around in alternating clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. You read the meter from left to right. Similarly to single rate meters you ignore any numbers in red.

When the pointer is between two numbers, record the lower number. If it’s between the 9 and 0, record 9.

When the pointer is directly on a number, first check the next dial to the right. If the dial on the right reads 8 or 9, then lower the reading for the dial with the pointer directly on the number.

For example the reading for this dial meter would be 60169.

How do you read a gas meter?

Gas meters look similar to electricity meters and can be read in the same way. You can identify the types of meter by the units. Gas meters are always in ‘m3’ or ‘ft’, although suppliers convert this into kWh on your energy bills. Electricity is always in kWh.

To read your gas meter, follow the same instructions as those for how to read an electricity meter

How do you read a smart meter?

If you switch suppliers with a 1st generation smart meter or if your new supplier doesn’t work with smart meters yet then you will need to give the meter readings to your supplier. The meter will no longer be able to automatically send meter readings to the supplier, but you will be able to manually take down meter readings from your smart meter.

Smart meter reading

Smart meters with a Keypad

Press 9 on the keypad to see your reading. 

Your electricity reading will be followed by ‘kWh’ and your gas reading will be a number followed by ‘m3’.

Similarly to standard meters, ignore the numbers after the decimal point.

smart meter keypad

If you have a two rate meter or economy 7 meter then press 6 on the keypad until you see ‘IMP R01’ followed by 8 digits. This is your first reading.

For you second reading press 6 again until you see ‘IMP R02’ followed by 8 digits. 

The readings can also be listed as Rate 1 and Rate 2, or Rate 1 and Rate 4. To find out which is day and night, record which number advances during the day/night.

Smart meters with a Green button labelled 'A'

Press the green button until you see ‘Total Act Import’. A reading should appear followed by ‘kWh’.

For two rate meters or Economy 7 meters your meter will have a ’01’ and a ’02’ reading, which you’ll find by pressing the ‘A’ button. You should record both numbers. 

Smart meter green button

Smart meters with 'A' and 'B' buttons

Press the ‘A’ button until you see ‘Credit On’, then press it again to show ‘Meter Index’, and again to show your readings. Remember not to include any numbers after the decimal point.

Meter readings for electricity will show in ‘kWh’, for gas readings it will be in ‘m3’. 

Smart meter A/B buttons

Smart meters with no buttons

The screen will cycle through the readings. The number starting with ‘R1’ is your electricity reading.

How to read a prepayment meter

To get your electricity usage press the blue button to cycle through the screens. Each screen is labelled with a letter. To find your meter reading you need to cycle to screen ‘H’. 

If you pay different rates for day and night then these will be on screen ‘H’ and ‘J’.

To see your gas reading press the red button or the ‘A’ button and cycle through to the ‘meter index’ screen. This is your gas usage.

Prepayment meter

What do my meter readings mean?

Meter readings tell energy suppliers how much gas and electricity you are using. If you don’t give your supplier meter readings they will estimate your usage.

You usually end up paying too much or too little on estimated usage. This means you could be building up credit or slipping into dept accordingly.

If you’re in credit, great! You can reduce your monthly payments and put the extra money back in your pocket.

If you’re in debit you could be hit with a steep payment increase and be prevented from switching supplier. Safe to say, it’s better to pay for your exact usage by giving meter readings.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, has classified usage into a low, medium or high (this is what Look After My Bills use if you estimate your usage with us). They calculate these figures from the median usage of dual fuel customers paying direct debit.

Do you know if you’re a low, medium or high user?

Ofgem energy usage figures

What are energy rates and how do they affect the cost of my energy bill?

Energy rates are the defining factor in energy tariffs or deals. Therefore the rates are what you use to compare energy tariffs and deals to make sure you’re not paying over the odds for your energy. 

There can be two energy rates applied to your energy bills. First there is a daily cost called the standing charge. This is not affected by how much energy you use. Secondly there is the cost of the unit rate per kWh which is applied to you usage. 

24 hour energy usage (kWh) x unit rate cost per kWh + daily standing charge = the price you pay 

There are two types of tariff:

A fixed rate tariff that fixes the rates for a period of time, usually one year. Fixed tariffs are normally the cheapest deals on the market. 

Whereas a variable tariff can vary because it reacts to wholesale energy costs. This means your costs are likely to go up and down. Supplier standard tariffs are variable and are normally the most expensive tariff you can be on.

The standard tariff is what suppliers roll you on to once your fixed term deal ends. It’s vital to switch energy tariff each year to avoid paying the extra costs. This is why auto-switching services have become so popular in the last few years because it’s all done for you.

How do you know if your energy rates are expensive?

The most expensive rates are for the standard variable tariff, however suppliers give these tariffs different names so they are not always easy to spot on your bill. 

For example someone who uses a small amount of energy, but is on their suppliers standard variable tariff could be paying more than a medium user on a great fixed energy deal.

One indication is whether you have exit fees on your bill because standard variable tariffs do not have exit fees.

You can also compare your energy rates on a recent bill with the rates of cheap deal on comparison websites.

If you don’t want the fuss, another way to know whether you have expensive rates is to sign up to a service who will check for you. 

Our service, Look After My Bills, finds you a great energy rates and we manage the switch process every year. As a result you’ll always be on a cheap tariff and you don’t have to lift a finger! Find out how it works.

what is Auto-switching image

How to get a good deal

If you compare the market and have moved to a fixed energy deal in the last 12-18 months then you’re probably on a decent deal. You should set a reminder for when the deal ends though to avoid being rolled to the standard variable tariff.

If you haven’t changed your energy deal in the last 12-18 months then it’s highly likely you are on your suppliers standard variable tariff – the most expensive.

The only way to ensure you’re on a good deal every year is to compare the market and switch every time your deal ends. 

There are 4 ways to switch energy supplier, but the most important thing to remember is that you need to stay on top of switching.

We found switching energy supplier each year was hard to keep up with. So we created a solution. Our service does all the comparing for you! With one, free, two minute sign up to Look After My Bills we find you the best available deal and switch you to it every year!