How to Read an Electrical Meter

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Many homeowners trust the electric company to read their meter every month in order to bill properly. Understanding how to read your own meter, however, not only ensures that you can verify the electric company's reading but that you can monitor your daily, weekly or monthly electricity usage. Monitoring your electricity usage is critical if you are planning energy-saving renovations to your home. You need to know how much you're using now to know how much you will save in the future.

Things You'll Need

  • Notebook
  • Pencil
  • The electric meter is frequently mounted on the outside of the house in a gray or black metal box. Electric meters in some older homes are in the basement. If this is the case with yours, you will know it because you will have to let the electric company meter reader into your home every month.

  • Read the numbers on the dials. A standard electric meter is made up of five dials, some of which turn clockwise and some which turn counter-clockwise. The dials mark off from 1 to 10. Each number represents part of the reading. In order to determine which number to use for each dial, examine whether the indicator is pointing directly at the number, before the number or after the number. For example, if the dial is pointed between the numbers 7 and 8, mark down 7. If the indicator is pointing to an exact number, look at the number on the dial to the right. If that number has passed zero, then write down the number the indicator is pointing to. If the indicator has not passed zero, choose the next number down.

  • Calculate your electricity usage. Subtract the prior month's reading from the current reading to come up with the kilowatt hours of electricity you have used in the month. Some meters run on a factor of 10, so you would add a zero to the end of the subtracted result.

  • Compare your electricity usage over time. If you are investing in energy-saving technology, you will want to see the kilowatt hours used drop, although it may take time for new systems to start generating savings.

  • Compare your calculated electricity usage to your monthly bill. You now have a much better chance of catching irregularities in the electric company reading.

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