Gas and Electricity meters: Ultimate Guide

What are energy meters?

Energy meters are devices which measure the amount of electricity or gas consumed by a household. Energy suppliers install gas or electricity boxes at households in order to issue accurate energy bills and to monitor usage levels. Today there are several types of energy meter available, including, standard meters, digital meters, dial meters and more. You probably don’t think about what type of meter you have in your home until you need to check it or provide a reading.

Do I own the meter?

No. The owner of your gas or electricity meter will depend on which energy distribution network you fall into. Your supplier is in most cases responsible for any servicing, maintenance and repair of your energy meters. Although distribution networks may install the meters, they are responsible only for all parts of your supply up until it reaches your meter. If you have any questions about your meter, your energy supplier should be your first port of call.

Where to find your energy meter?

Your meter could be located in a number of places throughout your property. If you’ve recently taken ownership of your property and are trying to find where your meter is, you could ask a neighbour of a similar property nearby as if the property build took place at the same time. There’s a good chance the energy meters will be in a similar location. In many cases your gas meter will be in the kitchen, hallway or outside. Electricity meters could be located in a cupboard, cellar or under the stairs, it may also be in a meter box elsewhere. If you live in a rented accommodation your landlord can tell you where your meters are located if you are in any doubt.

What type of electricity meter do I have?

There are a number of different types of energy meters available depending on how old it is and what type of energy supply you receive into your house. The meter may also vary depending on the type of tariff. Here is our guide to the most common types of meter you will find in your home:

Economy 7 and 10 meters

Economy 7 and 10 tariffs are energy plans that give cheaper electricity rates for 7 hours at night charged at an off-peak or lower rate. The rest of the time the charge is at the higher normal rate. The idea is to save you money during the nighttime off-peak hours, they track day and night electricity use separately. If you have storage heaters or run your appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers overnight, these types of tariffs could benefit you.

Economy 10 (also known as heatwise) operates in a similar way, the difference is you get 10 hours of electricity at a lower rate per day. With economy 10, 3 of the 10 lower rate hours are during the day, usually in the afternoon. Please check with your supplier for clarification as it can vary by location.   If you are on an economy 7 or 10 tariff you will have a specific electricity meter that will display two readings. One for your low or off-peak rate or one for your peak or daytime rate.

You will notice on your Economy 7 and 10 meter have two rates displayed which are your readings for peak and off-peak times. If your meter display is digital you simply need to press the button to see R1 and R2. Doing this will usually show the low or standard reading. With Economy 7 or 10 you pay a different rate depending on what time of day it is. In most cases you pay the lower off-peak rate overnight, for example between midnight and 7am and at weekends. Or with economy 10 overnight and three hours during the afternoon. When you give your meter readings you will need to make sure you note down your reading for each part of the tariff.

Prepayment meters

Prepayment meters allow the user to pay for their electricity or gas on a pay as you go basis. As well as a meter you’ll have a prepayment card or key which you can use to top up your energy balance. You can do this online or at your local shop. With prepayment meters, you are essentially buying your energy before you use it. The benefit of this is you know exactly how much energy you are using and when it is going to run out. It gives the user complete control over their energy spend.

Prepay customers will never receive a separate bill for their energy use.  Prepayment customers will be able to benefit from the smart meter roll out program. This will make topping up even easier via an app and interacting with your energy display monitor instead of having to go in a dark cupboard with a torch.

However, there are a couple of drawbacks to prepayment meters, they are not a cheap option; the rate is often higher than standard meter tariffs. Also, running out means exactly that. When you run out of energy on prepayment you will not be able to use any appliances that use electricity or gas until you top up. This can be annoying especially if it happens at night when the shops are shut if that is your only way of topping up.

Dial meters

If you’re looking at your gas or electricity meter and it has a number of small dials that look a bit like analogue clocks, you likely have a dial meter. They look complicated at first sight. However, once you learn how they work they are not hard to read. When you are about to take a meter reading, take note dials next to each other and go round in the opposite direction. You read the number the needle is pointing to on each dial, ignoring any red dials. If it is pointing between two numbers, write down the one it has just passed.  Noting each number down separately and ignoring any red numbers will give you your reading.

Standard meters

A standard meter is what you will find in most UK homes today. They have a clear, easy to read mechanical display. In most cases, they display your energy usage in kilowatt hours (kWh). This is the number of energy units you use in one hour. With a standard meter your bill will be issued monthly, quarterly or annually. This depends on your contract or agreement with your energy supplier. You’ll need to take regular meter readings to ensure you are not being over or undercharged. Taking a reading is straightforward. You just need to read the numbers from left to right and ignore any red numbers.

Smart meters

Just like a standard gas or electricity meter, smart meters measure your energy use. The feature that makes them different is that this is done automatically over a secure closed network. This means you will never manually have to give a meter reading. With your smart meter you will receive an energy monitor or in-home display as well. This allows you to monitor your energy use at a glance. This will show you in near real-time how much energy you are using, and exactly how much it is going to cost you. The idea is that by giving you all this information you can start to look at ways to save on your energy bills. By understanding your habits and working out where you can cut back. It gives you better control of your energy use if used correctly.

Smart meters are being rolled out as part of an £11 billion government initiative. The target is to have them in all homes by 2025. There are two generations of smart meters in circulation, SMES1 first-generation and SMES2 second generation. In most ways their operation is identical. The only difference is with first-generation meters, when you switch suppliers they are known to go temporarily dumb. This means they lose their functionality. While this can be rectified by the new supplier, while this is happening you will need to give a manual meter reading. After a few weeks your smart meter will go back to being smart and automatically send readings to your supplier.

Digital meters

Much like a standard meter, digital meters have a clear, easy to read display that is digital rather than mechanical. The meter will display your energy use in kWh for electricity or m3 for gas. The meter can be read from left to right as with other types of meters. If nothing appears on your meter automatically you may need to press a button to see the meter reading in kWh.

Why do I need to take a meter reading?

Your meter reading and your tariff rates are the two key elements that make up your electricity and gas bills. You need to take meter readings for your energy supplier. This is so your energy bill can be based on your actual usage. If you do not take a meter reading for your supplier you run the risk of receiving an estimated bill. This is usually calculated by looking at your past usage and taking an average. The result can be a bill that is much higher or lower than your actual energy use.

How to read my electricity meter?

How you read your electricity meter will depend on the type of meter you have installed. Your supplier will need to know the reading for the kWh usage of your electricity metre.  In most cases when you look at your metre the current reading will be shown on the display. You simply need to note down the reading from left to right. This is the same regardless of the type of meter you have installed. When taking your reading you ignore any numbers in red or after a decimal place and do not include them as part of your reading.

If you have a smart meter, you will most likely need to press 9 on the keypad or cycle through the display screen using up/down or left and right arrows until the reading shows on the display. Usually, the smart meter will not manually need to be read except for when you change energy supplier and you have a first-generation SMES1 which can temporarily lose its functionality.

If you have a two-rate meter such as economy 7 or economy 10 you’ll see two rows of figures on your digital or mechanical display. One will be marked low, the other normal. Low is for your nighttime usage at the lower cost per kWh, normal is your standard day rate. To take the reading you just need to note both numbers down as you would with a standard meter.

Dial meters, although they appear confusing work in the same way. You just jot down the numbers from left to right. If the needle is between numbers you should go with the lower number and jot those down. As with all other meters, ignore any dials that are red when taking a meter reading.

How are gas meters read?

Gas meter readings are taken in a similar way to electricity meters. There are three main types of gas meters: Digital metric meters, imperial meters and dial meters. As with electricity meters, the numbers reading is shown from left to right. When taking a reading you should ignore any digits in red or after a decimal point. If you have a dial meter with more than one row of dials you only need to pay attention to the bottom row. Write each number down to get your reading.

How do I submit my meter readings to my supplier?

Most energy suppliers give their customers various ways to submit meter readings. These can include:

  • By telephone. Usually, there is an automated service you can call and put your meter reading into your telephone keypad when prompted.
  • Through your account area on your supplier’s website.
  • By text message. Your supplier will have a specified number you can text your reading to.
  • You can form on your supplier’s website, you will need your account number for this.
  • By posting your meter reading card to your supplier.
  • On a smartphone app.

Smartphone apps are becoming increasingly popular. Some suppliers just ask for a photograph of your meter and others use your smartphone camera to take the reading and transmit it to your supplier.

What if I’m having problems reading my meter?

If after going through the above information on how to read your meter you are still stuck, it’s worth contacting your energy supplier who can talk you through how to read your meter step by step while you are on the phone. In some cases you may simply send them a photograph from your smartphone which will give them all the information required to take a reading. Depending on your circumstances you may be able to sign up for the priority services register which can offer additional support to certain groups of people who may struggle to read their meters and need additional support from their energy supplier.

What if I get my meter reading wrong?

If you submit a meter reading which is incorrect to your supplier, it’s likely your bill will be higher or lower than your actual usage. If you receive a bill and notice the reading is wrong you should contact your supplier as soon as possible to give an accurate reading. They may ask for a photo of the correct reading to be sent to confirm the error. Usually the energy company can adjust the bill if you contact them to advise that you made a mistake and give them the correct reading instead.

What to do if my gas or electricity meter is faulty or isn’t working?

Faults are rare. However, they can still happen. If you notice any of these signs there could be a fault with your gas or electricity meter:

  • You are paying much more than usual
  • A bill for an unexpected amount arrives
  • Your prepayment meter displays an error message

In all cases it is the responsibility of your energy supplier to make sure your meters are working correctly.

If you are a prepayment customer and an error message shown on the display or the screen is black then you should contact your supplier otherwise you risk being left without gas or electricity. Your supplier will either attempt to fix the fault remotely or send someone out the same day to rectify the issue.

If you have a standard meter and suspect it is faulty, we suggest carrying out the following checks in the first instance:

  • Switch off all appliances, including any pilot light.
  • Check if the numbers on the display are still moving

If your meter completely stops, turn one appliance at a time back on. Sometimes one appliance in particular can cause the meter to count up very fast. it may be that the appliance is faulty.

If the meter is still moving with everything switched off, it’s probably down to a fault. In the case of a gas meter you might have a leak so it’s important you contact the national grid on their emergency line straight away.

After the above checks if you suspect your meter is faulty you will need to contact your supplier who will investigate the fault and carry out any testing required. Some electricity suppliers ask their customers to take meter readings over a seven-day period before carrying out further testing. This is so they can determine if there are any patterns that occur and to check your usage. If this is not conclusive then they will arrange to carry out further testing of your meter.


What is an opening meter reading?

This is the meter reading you take for your supplier on the day you take ownership of a new property or move into rented accommodation. You also need to give an opening meter reading when you switch energy suppliers. It is the meter reading they then use to start your supply, and they will measure your energy use from this reading onwards.

How to top up a smart meter?

Prepay smart meters makes topping up your meter easy. You can top up either through your energy supplier’s website or through a smartphone app. All payments are done online and are automatically added as credit to your smart meter. You can also view your balance and set auto top up options through your in-home display monitor.

Can I move an electricity meter?

It’s illegal to move your electricity meter yourself. You can put in a request with your energy supplier to have it moved if you have a specific reason. For example, you find it difficult to access in the current location or you are doing building work. This is a chargeable service. You will need to speak to your supplier to find out if they can move it and what it will involve.

Can I get a new electricity meter?

Your electricity meter will have a certified lifespan and a replacement will be fitted after it is reached. In the case of a faulty meter, it may be more cost-effective to replace the whole unit before its lifespan expires instead of attempting to repair it. You can’t usually ask for a new electricity meter without a specific reason if your current one is functioning without any problems. It’s also worth noting if you do not yet have a smart meter installed, the government is aiming to roll them out to all households by 2025.

Can I change from a prepayment to a credit meter?

Maybe. Not everyone is eligible to change the type of meter at their property. Check with your supplier if they can switch you to a credit meter to find out for sure. None of the big 6 energy companies charge when changing from a prepayment meter to a credit meter. If you can change your prepay account will need to be debt free. Some suppliers may run a credit check to make sure you are a good candidate for a direct debit plan.

What is an MPRN number?

MPRN stands for Meter Point Reference Number. This is a unique number for individual electricity supply. You’ll usually find this number on your bill. This number is linked to your property so if you change suppliers it will not change.

What is an MPAN number?

MPAN stands for Meter Point Administration Number. It works in the same way as the MPRN number but refers to your gas meter. This also stays the same when you move suppliers as it is linked to your property.

What is a meter serial number?

This is a unique series of numbers and letters that identifies your energy meters. The meter serial number that appears on your bill should match the one on your gas or electricity meter. If it doesn’t, it’s possible your bills will be incorrect. When you move into a house, it’s important to check if the serial number matches your energy bill.


Hi, I'm Rob and I run I initially started this project 5 years ago when I was looking to switch energy suppliers and found there wasn't a website that provided simple, data backed reviews on all the suppliers available. Since then, I spent have a lot of time (too much some may say!) looking at all publicly available data about each supplier and writing reviews using this information. These reviews are updated as regularly as possible and any data is backed up by a source where necessary. I have also started writing guides on various energy related topics which hopefully you will find useful. If you find any issues, please use our contact form to let us know.

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