Impacts of Learning How to Read Your Electric Meter

How to Read Your Electric Meter
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Most home energy usage is tracked by an electric meter, which is usually located outside or in a basement, depending on the location of your home. Every month, a utility company worker will visit each meter to take its reading, which will be used for billing purposes.

Learning how to read your electric meter can be intimidating, but it’s pretty simple.

Save Money

Your meter records energy use in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and is a key component to understanding your electric bill. It also helps you identify energy hogs in your home so you can cut back on usage.

Most electric meters are read monthly by a utility company worker who either visits your home or sends data to the meter via smart meter technology. Whether you have a traditional or digital dial meter, learning to read it yourself gives you better insight into your energy use.

If you have a standard meter with dials, read the numbers from right to left. When the pointer falls between two numbers, read the lower number. You can use the LCD and wait for it to cycle to code 10 for digital meters. Then subtract 18,000 from this reading to receive your kWh demand for the billing cycle. This meter reading will be used to calculate your electricity bill for the month. This is also a great way to check for a meter accuracy issue, like a creep, that could cause inaccurate bills.

Save Energy

Whether you live in an apartment or a single-family home, there’s likely an electric meter somewhere outside your house near where your building joins the power grid. Your electricity company will read your meter monthly to determine how much you consume to prepare your bill.

The number on your meter represents how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) you consumed that month. Each kWh is equal to 60 minutes of thousand-watt usage. Knowing how to read your meter gives you insight into the times of day when you use the most energy, so you can take steps to reduce consumption.

To read your meter, stand with it at eye level and look at the dials. Each turns in the opposite direction of the previous and has numbers between 0 and 9. Record the number that sits directly below an arrow. Write down both numbers if your meter displays both day and night readings. If you have a digital meter, press the display button and copy down each number (except for any red or surrounded by a red box) from left to right.

Reduce Waste

Many people waste energy because they need to understand how their usage affects their bills. Having access to your meter readings can help you become more aware of how much you are using. It could also alert you to discrepancies between your meter and billing statement, allowing you to take corrective action as needed.

Electric meters are generally located outside the home, often near where power lines come into it. However, homeowners who use natural gas (piped to the house for heating and appliances like stoves) may have their meters installed inside their homes in places such as basements or kitchens.

Smart meters can communicate with the utility company to transmit daily readings. Direct feedback also helps customers identify waste areas and reduce their electricity consumption. Prior research indicates this direct feedback can cut residential electricity usage by 10% to 15%. If you have a smart meter and don’t receive daily feedback, you can still reduce your consumption through voluntary conservation.

Avoid Surprise Bills

Getting a surprise electricity bill is boring for everyone. Learning how to read your electric meter and find the electric cost of various appliances by the electric cost calculator will help you avoid surprises and get better insight into your home energy usage and costs.

Many homes in Texas use both electricity and natural gas for heating purposes. If this is the case with your home, you may have an analog meter for both energy sources. Traditionally, this device is a clock-like machine with multiple dials and a pointer that moves when power flows through it. Each dial’s number reflects the kilowatt hours (kWh) used since the meter was installed.

You can read your meter by standing directly in front of it and reading each dial from right to left, taking note of where the pointer is pointing. If the hand on a particular dial points directly at two numbers, write down the lower number. You can also use a digital electric meter with a display screen showing your home energy usage in kWh. Remember to subtract last month’s number to calculate your energy usage for this billing cycle.

Increase Efficiency

Whether you have a digital or traditional dial electric meter, learning to read it will help you track your energy use. Your energy utility bills you by the kilowatt hours (kWh), which is how much electricity you use in an hour. You’ll need to know how many kWh you use each month to determine your average monthly cost.

The meter is installed, operated, and maintained by the energy company—and they’re the ones who visit each meter or collect the data electronically for digital meters each month to generate your electricity bill. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t track your usage between bills personally.

Most of us can benefit from regular feedback on how we use our homes and businesses. Research indicates that households receiving daily written feedback reduce their residential electricity consumption by 10% to 15% compared to similar households without daily feedback. Reading your electric meter will give instant, accurate feedback on your residential electricity use. It’s a great way to get in the habit of saving energy.

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