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One Utility Bill • 4 mins

What does an electricity meter look like?

How to Meter readings electricity
What does an electricity meter look like?

Quick links:

Why you need to send gas meter readings

What's an energy tariff?

How does my supplier use my meter readings?

How to read different types of electric meter

More utility bills advice


Why do I need to send electric meter readings?

Regular meter readings keep your energy supplier up to date on exactly how much electricity you've used. Opening and closing meter readings mean you'll only be charged for energy you've used, and not energy used by people who used to live at your address.

guide to reading a gas meter

What does a supplier do with my electric meter readings?

Your electric meter measures your energy usage in kWh, which is a unit of energy. Energy companies use the data from these meters to make sure you get billed for your actual energy consumption.

How much you're charged for the energy you use depends on the energy tariff you signed up for. More on that below. 

How are my energy bills calculated?

If you have a traditional capped energy deal:
  • Electricity bills for a traditional capped package are based on estimates, which use typical energy usage for a household of your size to figure out how much you should be charged.

  • They divide the cost of this energy by the number of months in your contract so you pay the same each month.

  • This makes your finances easier to manage, but you can choose to just pay for the energy you use each month if you prefer.
    • This means less predictable outgoings, but does mean you'll have smaller payments in summer and much bigger ones in winter. If you're good at keeping track of your money, this can be a better option.

  • If your meter readings show a difference between your estimated and actual usage, you need to pay the difference.

  • Sending regular meter readings means that your supplier can take action to make sure you don't end up in debt:
    • They can adjust the direct debit for your utility bills so you make up the difference monthly
    • If you don't send regular meter readings, you'll be sent a bill at the end of your contract, which can be hundreds of pounds!

  • Smart meters automatically send the info about your energy usage to your supplier, so you don't need to send anything.
    • If you still have a traditional meter, the pics and info below should be really helpful, so keep scrolling!
If you have an Unlimited Energy deal your monthly payment will be calculated differently.

An Unlimited Energy deal allows you to use all the energy you need for one monthly payment. You can even get a fixed rate on an Unlimited Energy deal which makes for super predictable outgoings!

Find out more about Unlimited Energy and out it works.

A lot more than energy usage goes into your actual bill, but we have a full explainer of how energy bills are calculated in our bills guide.

What is an energy tariff?

  • An energy tariff is the amount you pay per unit of gas or electricity you use.
  • Energy you use is priced per kWh at the rate set by your energy tariff, so your supplier will estimate your usage for your contract.
  • It also sets a standing charge that you pay each day to have a source of power at your address.
  • Energy tariffs can be fixed, which means prices stay the same for your whole contract, or they can be variable, which means the price of your energy changes with the Ofgem energy price cap.
  • Check out our complete guide to fixed vs. variable tariffs, or our complete bills guide for a a breakdown of how bills work.

There are a few types of meter, and it's not always clear how you should get a reading from them. A credit meter is what you have if you don't have a prepayment meter or a smart meter.

How to read different electric meters

Here's a collection of credit electricity meters below. Electricity is measured in and displayed in KiloWatt Hours (kWh).

Single Phase Electricity Meter

Reading - 34331

This type of digital meter is pretty easy to read. You just need to take note of the reading on the digital display. 

A pale grey single phase electricity meter -  it has a digital  display

Single Phase Electricity Dial Meter

Reading – 62963.

Dial meters look confusing, but don't panic. They're pretty outdated now, but if you have one in your new place, here's how to read it: 

  • Take note of the numbers on the dials from left to right.
    • Ignore dials that are red or marked 1/10. 
  • If the dial is pointing between two numbers, you need to note the lowest one. If it points straight at a number, write the number down and underline it. 
  • Look at the dial to the right of any underlined numbers. If the dial is between 9 and 0, subtract 1 from the number you underlined.
    • e.g. If the dial was pointing at 3, change it to 2.


A black box containing a single phase electricity dial meter - there are six dials in the box, most are black but one is red

Single Page Meter Reading – 65626.

Ignore any red digits on this type of analogue meter, reading only the black numbers. 

A black and red electricity meter

Single Phase Meter

Reading 68116

This meter is slightly easier to read - you just read the numbers left to right on the digital screen.

A grey single phase electricity meter showing a reading of 68116

How to read a smart electric meter

Smart meters are becoming more common, and there are a few different kinds. They all look something like the meter below, but might be white or grey or some other (usually light) colour

Thankfully for all types of electric smart meter there's just one simple set of steps to follow that should work for all. 

What does a smart meter for electricity look like?

An electric smart meter is usually a large white or grey box with a small digital display, and usually some buttons. 

Make sure you're looking at the smart meter for electricity, not gas. The readings will be followed by KWH if you're looking at the right meter.

Wake the smart electric meter display

Pressing the buttons on the front of the meter will usually do this!

Make sure you can see a row of numbers followed by KWH
  • If the numbers are followed by M3, you're looking at your gas meter.
  • Check out how to write down a gas meter reading, note the numbers, then go and find your smart electric meter! It should be nearby.
Write down the numbers from left to right

Ignore any zeroes at the beginning of the number, and any after the point.

  • There might not be a decimal point though, so don't worry.

Two smart meters on a wall. One smart meter is a large white box with a red button and a blue button close to a small digital display.

More handy utility bill advice: