How to Read an Electric Meter and Calculate Energy Usage

How to Read an Electric Meter and Calculate Energy Usage

Learning how to read an electric meter is something that anybody can master. All it takes is a quick look at the electric meter itself. That and a basic understanding of what those numbers and dials represent. (Numbers and dials in the case of analog meters; just numbers in the case of digital meters.)

Analog Meters vs. Digital Meters

Analog electric meters are also known as electromechanical meters. They have an analog display in the form of those spinning dials that many of us are familiar with. Actually, even if we’re not that familiar with them! Anyone who’s even glanced at an analog meter has likely seen the spinning dials.

“Analog electric meters are useful for monitoring electricity use on a periodic basis,” says

They’re also helpful “for checking the accuracy of electric bills from month to month.” And, they caution, they’re “best read by qualified electricity company representatives.”

(And of course, folks like you who visit the Prairie Electric blog!)

Digital electric meters (sometimes called “smart meters”) perform the same function as analog meters. Instead of spinning dials, however, the numbers are shown on a digital display (LCD or LED). These smart meters can send data directly to the utility company, eliminating the need for meter readers.

Now, let’s get to the “read an electric meter and calculate energy usage” portion of our blog.

Depending on your type of meter, we’ll learn to read the dials or read the numbers. From this, we can calculate the amount of electricity used. This leads to figuring out the energy you consume, overall electric usage and energy consumption.

There are several figures to keep track of — the number of kilowatt hours (kWh), for example. But we’ll stick to the basics and keep it simple.

The calculations from the meters that are read will include a couple of things. The watt-hours and the hours per day average for a month reading. This can vary, of course. It depends on how many and how often electronic devices and appliances are used over that course of time.

Reading an Electric Meter

Analog meters can be baffling at first glance. They have a central spinning disc and several (usually four to six) numbered dials. The dials spin in different directions. One goes clockwise; the next one goes counterclockwise, and so on down the line.

But don’t let that confuse you. The mechanical process is quite simple — as is reading the meter itself.

The dials display kilowatt-hours. One kWh equals the energy required to power a 100-watt gadget for 10 hours.

To read an analog electric meter, go left to right. Determine where the arrow points. If it’s between two numbers, the number to jot down is the lower number of the two. If an arrow points directly at a number, glance at the dial to the right. If it’s past zero, then the dial to the left should be read as the number the arrow is pointing at. If the dial to the right is not past zero, then the dial to its left should be read as the previous number.

For the last number in the row, you’ll need to find out how your local electric company determines that number. Then keep that in mind each time you read your meter.

Digital meters are even easier to read. They display the number itself. So you just have to make note of it and perform the calculation below.

Calculating Energy Usage

To determine the month’s energy use, you’ll need to know what the dials or digital display read the previous month. Once you have both figures, simply subtract your current reading from the previous month’s reading. This will give you the kilowatt-hours used.

For example:

This month’s reading: 33015

Minus last month’s reading: 32015

Equals: 1,000 kWh

If your electric company charges 10 cents per kWh, then 1,000 times 10 cents (or .10) equals a $100 bill for energy usage. (Plus taxes, regulatory fees, etc.)

Easy peasy, yeah?

Contact Prairie Electric with any questions.

Interested in a good-paying job in a growing industry and want to work in an encouraging work environment? Prairie Electric looks forward to hearing from you.

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