Meter readings – everything you need to know

How to give an electricity and gas meter reading, to make sure you’re paying the right amount for your energy.

Unless you have a smart meter, which does it automatically, giving meter readings to your energy supplier is the only way to be sure you just pay for what you use. Without them your supplier will estimate (read: guess) how much energy you’re using and charge you based on that.

But when should you give a gas or electricity meter reading to your energy supplier? Why’s it so important? And why should you take a meter reading before the energy price cap goes up on 1 January? Here we’ll explain how and to give a meter reading, what it’s for, and when’s best to do it.

If you’re looking to switch energy tariff or supplier, check out how to find the best gas and electricity deals. And if you’re looking to lower your usage, see our energy saving tips.

Free Look After My Bills money-saving email

How do you read an electricity meter?

There are three types of standard electricity meters: single rate meters, two rate meters and dial meters. Electric meters always give readings in kWh (kilowatt hours), which are the units of electricity you’re using in your home. 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.
Single rate meter reading
This electricity meter reading is 01967.

Two rate meters

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

Economy 7 meter

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 its 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.

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

When the pointer is between two numbers, record the lower number. If it’s between 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 60168.

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 type 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).

Find out how to convert your gas meter reading into kWh.

To read your gas meter, the instructions are the same as for reading an electricity meter, so check out our guidance above.

How do you read a smart meter?

Most modern smart meters will send meter readings to your supplier automatically, so you won’t need to do a thing.

If you’ve recently switched supplier or have a first-generation smart meter, you’ll need to give the meter readings to your supplier.

Thinking about getting one? Find out the advantages and disadvantages of smart meters.

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

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’.

Just like with standard meters, ignore the numbers after the decimal point.

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 your second reading press 6 again until you see ‘IMP R02’ followed by eight 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. Or night, if you prefer.

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.

There are actually a wide range of smart meters, so if yours isn’t listed here, check out the following:

How to read a prepayment meter

To get your electricity usage on a prepayment meter, 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.

Someone using a prepayment meter

What do my meter readings mean?

Meter readings tell energy suppliers how much gas and electricity you’re using. If you don’t give your supplier meter readings, they’ll have to guess (sorry… estimate) your usage.

You usually end up paying too much or too little when this happens. This means you could be building up credit or slipping into debt accordingly.

If you’re in credit, great! You can reduce your monthly payments and put the extra money back in your pocket. Find out how to get a refund if you’ve built up too much credit.

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

The energy regulator, Ofgem, has classified usage into a low, medium or high. 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?

User type Gas (m3) Electricity (kWh) Electricity (kWh) economy 7 meters
Low 8,000 1,800 2,400
Medium 12,000 2,900 4,200
High 17,000 4,300 7,100

Should I give a meter reading before the energy price cap rises?

On Monday 1 January, the energy price cap set by Ofgem will rise by around 5%. This means that the average annual household bill for England, Scotland and Wales will be £1,928.

While it’s predicted that energy prices will fall a little in 2024, they’re still hovering just below two grand. As such, we’re still in the midst of an energy crisis.

This is why it’s important to only pay what you need to. It’s recommended to send your supplier a meter reading taken shortly before the price change, because this will avoid any disputes about what usage occurred before and after the drop.

Find out more about when to submit your energy reading to avoid being overcharged.

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

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

Find out what gas and electricity tariffs are.

There can be two energy rates applied to your energy bills.

First there’s a daily cost called the standing charge. This isn’t affected by how much energy you use: it’s a fixed cost applied to your energy bill. Secondly, there’s the cost of the unit rate per kWh which is applied to your usage.

24 hour energy usage (kWh) x unit rate cost per kWh + daily standing charge

= the price you pay

There are two main types of tariff:

  • A fixed-rate tariff – the unit rate is fixed for a period of time, usually one year.
  • A standard variable tariff (SVT) – these tariffs vary because they react to wholesale energy costs. This means your costs are likely to go up and down.

So what are the current energy rates? Check out this guide to the energy price cap and how it impacts your energy costs.

Are you struggling with your energy bills?

If you’re having trouble paying your bills, don’t suffer in silence. It’s always worth seeing what help is available with your energy bills. There may be hardship grants available for those in energy debt, for example.

You should also see if you qualify for the Warm Home DiscountWinter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments – especially as the temperature starts to drop.

How to get a good deal on your energy

Energy prices are finally starting to drop, and – at the time of writing – some fixed-rate deals are coming onto the market. That’s not to say you should switch just yet, but it is a sign things may be returning to normal.

If and when that happens, the best way to ensure you’re on a good deal every year is to compare tariffs and switch every time your fixed deal ends. If you’re not a regular switcher, don’t worry… It’s painless, and there’ll be no interruption in your supply.

Check out how to switch your gas and electricity supplier. And if you’re ready to make the leap, find out the best gas electricity deals for you before you commit.

Ways to save on energy