Citizens Advice: how to read your gas or electricity meter 

Person reading the natural gas meter in the boiler room of private house, counter for distribution d

Reading your gas or electricity meter can be confusing -  Citizens Advice have provided this guide - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you have a smart meter, it will typically send the readings to your provider and you may have an 'in-home display' to show you what you are spending - one thing off your mind. However, if you don't have a smart meter, it can be confusing knowing how to read or even set your meter up. This is where we can help. 

Let's start with where your meter is. If it is not easily reachable then your supplier should be able to help you read the meter, or even move it.  

When you first move into your property you’ll need to set up the meters for the first time. The landlord or letting agent should show you where the meters are. If you are unsure who the supplier is, you can find the gas supplier here or call the Meter Number Helpline: 0870 608 1524.They can also give you your Meter Point Reference Number.  Calls to this number cost 7p a minute, plus your phone company's access charge. 

You can find your electricity supplier here:

Let’s start with electricity meters. 

A digital meter has a display that shows five numbers in black or white. To read the meter, write down the first five numbers that appear from left to right. Ignore any numbers in red. 

A two-rate digital meter shows the energy used for day and night, as the cost varies between these two periods. This digital meter has two readings, one for each of the two rate periods. The first line should be for the low or night period and the second line should be for the day or high period.  

You would read this meter in the same way as the single rate meter - write down the numbers left to right and ignore the numbers in red. 

The two-rate single display meter is the same as the two-rate digital meter with the only difference being that one screen shows the readings. It will usually show each rate period on a cycle or there will be a button to switch between the two rates. To read the meter, write down the numbers shown left to right. Make sure you get both readings. 

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Probably the most confusing type of meter is the dial meter. 

An electricity dial meter has five or more dials. They each turn to point to a number between 0 and 9. 

Each dial on your meter will turn in the opposite direction to the ones next to it. Some dial meters start with a clockwise dial and some start with an anticlockwise dial - check the direction of your dials before you read them. 

To read the meter, read the first five dials from left to right - ignore any red dials or dials marked 1/10. 

 If the pointer is between two numbers, write down the lower number - if it’s between 9 and 0, write down 9. 

 If the pointer is directly over a number, write down that number and underline it. 

If you’ve underlined a number, check the next dial to the right. If the pointer on that dial is between 9 and 0, reduce the number you’ve underlined by 1.  

For example, if you originally wrote down 5, change it to 4. 

Still confused? Speak to your supplier and see if you can get some help with reading the meter or changing it to a more user-friendly meter. 

Gas meters 

A digital metric meter will have an electronic or digital display, showing five numbers then a decimal point, followed by some more numbers. 

To read the meter, write down the first five numbers shown from left to right. Ignore the numbers after the decimal point, sometimes shown in red. 

A digital imperial meter has an electronic or digital display, showing four black or white numbers, followed by two numbers shown in red. 

 To read the meter, write down the first four numbers from left to right. Ignore the rest of the numbers, shown in red. 

A gas dial meter has four or more dials. Each one turns to point to a number between 0 and 9. 

Each dial on your meter will turn in the opposite direction to the ones next to it. Some dial meters start with a clockwise dial and some start with an anticlockwise dial - check the direction of your dials before you read them. 

To read the meter, read the first four dials from left to right - ignore the large dials or red dials. 

If the pointer is between two numbers, write down the lower number - if it’s between 9 and 0, write down 9. 

 If the pointer is directly over a number, write down that number. 

 You can see illustrations of all these different meters, showing how to read them, on the Citizens Advice East Devon website

Don’t forget that if you are struggling to pay your bills this winter, there are local council schemes with funding pots available to help you.  Citizens Advice East Devon can help with gas and electric prepayment meters, and local councils can help with direct debits.  

Call us: 01395 265 070 

Email us: Enquiries@citizensadviceeastdevon.org 

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