Have you ever received a nasty shock when your electric bill arrived? Maybe the amount you owed skyrocketed when you turned on the air conditioning for the summer, or the refrigerator started breaking down and consumed an excess of electricity. No matter what the cause of your sky-high electric bill, once you use the electricity, you have to pay for it. One way you can get a heads-up on any unusually high consumption is to keep an eye on your electric meter. Read on to learn how to read the meter so you are prepared when the bill shows up at your door.

Is Your Meter Digital or Dialed?

If you're lucky, you have a newer electric meter with a digital display, making it a cinch to see how much current is coming in. Simply compare your consumption from one month to another and you'll quickly be able to figure out if you're using up more energy than normal.

Traditional electric meters are a bit trickier to read, but you don't have to be an electrician to decipher them. These older meters have dials instead of a digital display, and they don't all spin in the same direction. With a little practice, however, you can figure out how much power you are using and get a ballpark idea about what the bill will be.

Spinning Clockwise, Spinning Counterclockwise

On a traditional electric meter, there are five dials that go between 0 and 9. To read the meter, follow these steps:

  • Start at the leftmost dial, which should be marked “10,000.”
  • If the dial points directly at a number, write down that number.
  • If the dial is between two numbers, write down the smaller number, regardless of which is closer to the dial.
  • If the dial is between zero and nine, write down nine.
  • Repeat for each dial, going from left to right. The resulting five digit number is your kilowatt hour reading.

There's one more twist -- if the dial is pointing exactly to a number, and the next dial to the right points to a nine, you should subtract one from the dial that points to the exact number.

Now you've got your reading, and you can simply track how much it changes from month to month to get a handle on your energy use.

Getting Smart About Your Meter

If your utility has already implemented smart electric meters, it's even easier to follow your consumption. Not only is the display in easy-to-read digital form, but the meter can provide updates on how much you're using as often as every fifteen minutes. That way, you can get an alert in real-time if your usage spikes so you can track down the culprit before you have to shell out a fortune in bills.

In addition to monitoring your own consumption, it's a good idea to watch the meter so you will know if the utility company accidentally overcharges you. If you need any help figuring out how to read your meter, call Mister Sparky® at (800) 906-4577 today!