Meter readings – everything you need to know

'meter readings' 'smart meters'

Exciting as they sound, meter readings 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. Your meter readings enable your supplier to accurately cost how much energy you’re using. This prevents you from underpaying or overpaying for your energy.


How do suppliers use these readings?

Suppliers bill you based on the amount of electricity and gas you use in kWh (Kilowatt hours).

For electricity, your meter will also read in kWh. 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.

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). Suppliers will 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 on your bill, as it depends where you live in the country. You can use our energy partner Energylinx’s Converter to help you work it out.


Why is it important to give meter 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 you are 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 you are and you’re 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!

Giving suppliers regular meter readings is important, we recommend sending readings at least once every couple of months just to make sure everything’s 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.


Won’t smart meters mean no more meter readings?

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 meter 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. Ofgem, the energy regulator, has stated that by 2020 everyone will have a smart meter compatible with all energy suppliers.

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 are in her house.


Ok, ok, I get it, meter readings are important. How do I read my meter?

Well, this is the easy part.


How to give digital meter readings

meter readings
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 or numbers after a decimal point.
  • 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.


How to give dial (analogue) meter readings

meter readings
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, for example, in the image above, the first dial moves clockwise, the second anticlockwise and so on.
  • To read this meter look at the numbers the arrows point to on each black dial, 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

smart meter

  • If you’re still with the same supplier that installed your smart meter it will automatically update your supplier with your meter readings.
  • If you’re not with the same supplier then not to worry, you can still manually read your smart reader.


How to give smart meter readings

  • To read a smart meter start by pressing the number “9” on the keypad on the meter itself. This will mean the meter run through options which will include a meter reading.
  • For electricity meters, you will see ‘IMP kWh’ and a reading with ‘kWh’ on the side. For gas meters, you will see ‘VOLUME’ and a reading with ‘m3’ on the side.


How do I read my smart meter with economy 7?

  • For economy 7 electricity meters, press 6 on the keypad until you see ‘IMP R01’ followed by 8 digits. Press 6 again until you see ‘IMP R02’ followed by 8 digits. Some meters only display day readings during the day, and night readings during the night period.
  • The readings can be listed as Rate 1 and 2, or Rate 1 and Rate 4. Which rate day or night is classed as varies from meter to meter. But it may say ‘low’ for night and ‘normal’ for day. Also, it’s worth checking the meter itself as it may be written on the outside.


It can be confusing something, but we want you to know if you ever need help reading your meter, you can call us on 020 3950 1166 or email a picture of your meter to [email protected]


We don’t just offer advice 

We are energy experts and we offer a lot of advice on gas and electricity matters, but that’s not all we do! We’re actually a free auto-switching service! We switch you to the best energy deal every year so you’re never overpaying for your energy. We’ve even saved some people £400!

What to find out more? Check out our ‘what is auto-switching?’ blog.

Do you want to find a better energy deal but without all the effort? Let us do the legwork for you and make sure you’re always on the best deal!


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