If you learn how to read your electric meter, you can monitor your energy usage more effectively. You’ll also be able to verify your power company’s meter reading for your billing cycle. Standard meters use a set of gears to move dials underneath a glass dome that each counts the kilowatt hours used. The readings are displayed in a series of numbers, and you must subtract the previous month’s reading to calculate your current consumption.


Whether you have a dial electric meter or one of the newer digital models, your process will be the same. Subtract the total kilowatt hours from the number shown on your last electricity bill to get your monthly usage. You can do this by analyzing the numbers displayed on the meter or by using the numbers on your monthly utility bill to find the starting point of your billing cycle.

When examining your meter’s dials, read them from right to left. If the pointer lands directly on a digit, note the dial to the left. If it’s between two numbers, record the lower number.

With a little practice, you can learn to accurately read your meter like how energy suppliers are reading it. This knowledge can help you take control of your household energy usage, ensuring you are appropriately charged for services you don’t use. It can also help you identify areas where you can make changes to conserve energy, saving money and the environment. It’s also important to learn how to read your electric meter to understand why your energy bills are so high and to be confident that you’re receiving the correct amount of service each month.

Peak & Off-Peak Readings

Learning to read your electric meter to monitor your home’s usage can help you save money and avoid over-using energy. It can also help you spot discrepancies between your meter reading and monthly bill. It would help if you took peak and off-peak lessons to get the most from your meter.

If your meter has a dial with a hand pointing directly at a number, look at the dial to its right to see if it has passed the number you are looking at. If the dial to its right has not passed the number you are looking at, record the lower number instead.

This process works the same for digital meters as for mechanical meters with dials. If you have a rotary display, read the numbers from left to right and ignore the decimal points (these only make up a small portion of your reading).

If you are taking peak and off-peak readings, subtract your daytime reading from your nighttime reading. The resulting difference is your total kilowatt-hours used during the month. You can then compare this number to the reading(s) on your most recent electricity bill, and you should be able to find out why your electric account is higher or lower than usual. 

Digital Display

While your electric company takes a reading each month to calculate your bill, you can also monitor your energy usage by tracking the numbers on your meter. It can help you stay on track to meet your conservation goals and prevent surprises in your monthly energy bill.

Unlike dial meters with pointers that move clockwise and counter-clockwise, digital electric meters show your energy usage in clean, easy-to-read digits. Depending on your meter, it may have four or five digits that represent the number of kilowatt hours you consumed.

Stand directly in front of the meter at eye level to read a digital display. Please write down the digits as you see them on the show. If the pointer is between two numbers, always record the lower number. If the information is so close to a number that it is pointing directly to it, look at the dial to the right of that one. If the hand on that dial has passed 8, you’ll want to count the number as 9.

The digits on your electric meter reflect your overall power consumption since your utility company installed the meter. Each month, you’ll need to subtract your previous billing period’s total kWh consumption from the current number on your meter to calculate your new kWh usage for that billing cycle.


If your meter has dials that look like clock faces, you can use them to track your electricity usage in kilowatt hours (kWh). The first three or four dials record daytime consumption, while the last dial records nighttime consumption. When reading a meter with dials, stand directly in front of it and keep the number you want to record in focus. The pointers on each dial move in the same direction as the hand of a clock. If the tip is between two numbers, read the lower number. If it’s between 9 and 0, always read the number that appears closer to 9.

Some meter models have a digital display instead of dials. Press a button to lighten the display screen to read a digital meter. Then scroll through the numbers until you see a line that says “METER INDEX.” The first seven digits are your electric meter reading.

For a monthly comparison, subtract the previous month’s reading from the current one to determine how many kWh you used since then. It will give you an idea of whether your efforts to conserve power are having a positive impact. To get an even more accurate picture of your consumption, write down the meter numbers at the start and end of each period. It will give you the average kWh daily usage over that time frame.

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