Meter readings – everything you need to know

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

Giving meter readings to your supplier is the only way to be sure you just pay for what you use. Without them your supplier will guess how much energy you’re using and charge you based on that.

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

Although energy prices are still high compared to pre-covid levels, energy prices are going down from what households were paying on energy bills last October. 

The energy price cap is dropping by £151 from 1 October, bringing more fixed energy tariffs back on the market. You can use our sister site Go.Compare to shop around for the best energy deals right now.

In this guide, we’ll 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 3 types of standard Electricity meters: single rate meters, two rate meters and dial meters. Electric 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.
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’.

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 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).

You can multiply by 11.2 in order to calculate the kWh yourself.

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.

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 your 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.

Citizens Advice has guides on how to take meter readings manually from other various gas or electricity smart meters.

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.

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 will have to guess 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.

If you’re in debt 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. 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

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.

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,  it is a fixed cost applied to your energy bill. Secondly, there is 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.

How do you know if your energy rates are expensive?

Generally the most expensive rates are on standard variable tariffs, 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 supplier’s 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 deals on comparison sites.

Our service finds you great energy rates and we’ll send you a reminder before your fixed deal ends. As a result you’ll always be on a great tariff! Find out how it works.

what is Auto-switching image

How to get a good deal

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

The only way to ensure you’re on a good deal every year is to compare tariffs and switch every time your fixed 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. Check our guide on how to switch your gas and electricity supplier.