Electric meters: Everything you need to know

You probably don’t give all that much thought to your electric meter. But this humble piece of machinery is integral in driving down your energy bills. This faithful machine dutifully records your energy usage. So don’t be a stranger! Visit it at least once a month and report what it tells you to your energy supplier. This will ensure that you are billed accuracy and you don’t throw money away on estimated electricity bills. Here we’ll look at everything you need to know about your electric energy meter, so you can get to know yours a little better.
Last update: April 2022

As you may have heard on the news, the UK energy market is currently under an immense amount of stress as a result of a global gas shortage driving up costs and putting several energy suppliers out of business. To learn more about this and stay updated on a daily basis you can read our page on the UK energy crisis.

Getting to know your electric meter

Your electric meter is working hard on your behalf, every minute of every day. It records every single kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity you use so you can ensure that you are billed properly by your electricity supplier.

What is an Electric Meter?

If you haven’t consulted your electric meter in months, you may be overpaying for your electricity. In lieu of meter reads, your energy supplier will be basing your usage on estimates. These are based on historic usage in your property that may not necessarily be yours. So you could be one of thousands of energy consumers that’s overpaying for their electricity. You’re not alone, either. It’s estimated that UK energy consumers are overspending on their energy by over £800 million between us.

With that in mind, maybe it’s time to get to know your electric meter a little better…

Where is the electric meter?

It’s possible that you haven’t even met your electric meter yet. Poor little thing! You may not even know where to find it. Why not get acquainted today. You can usually find your electric meter in one of the following locations:

  • On an outside wall
  • Inside or outside your porch or entrance hall
  • Inside a cupboard in your lounge or sitting room

If you live in an apartment, your meter will be grouped together with the meters from other apartments. There will likely be a meter cupboard for your floor or your building. Ask your building manager where your meter cupboard is and how you can access it. It may be that you are unable to access your electric meter and instead request a meter read from the building manager.

How much does it cost to put in an electric meter?

If you have no current electrical connection in your property, you will receive an electric meter as part of your new connection. The average cost of a new domestic connection is around £1,790. However, your costs may vary depending on your location, your property type and your area’s Distribution Network Operator.

On the other hand, if you already have an electric meter and want to upgrade, your energy supplier will be able to do this for you, and cost will depend on the type of meter and your supplier. For instance, switching from a standard credit meter to a dual-rate Economy 7 meter will cost around £100-£150. Switching from a prepayment meter to a standard credit meter may be free if you are with one of the “Big 6” energy suppliers. Likewise, if you want to replace your existing meter with a smart energy meter, your supplier will do this for you free of charge.

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Can I install my own electric meter?

No. It is actually illegal to install your own electric meter unless you are a qualified and registered electrician.

Moving your electric meter

Sometimes your electric meter may be in a position that’s hard to access for meter readings. Especially if your mobility is restricted. If this is the case, you may be able to get your meter moved by an engineer provided by your supplier or your area’s Distrubution Network Operator (DNO).

How much does it cost to move an electric meter?

That really depends on how far you want to move it. If you only need to move it a few centimetres (e.g. to make it more accessible) your energy supplier may do this free of charge. Most energy suppliers will not charge you to move your meter 15cm (roughly 6 inches) or less. If you want to move your meter up to 90cm along the same wall, our supplier will likely charge you around £60-£80 for this, unless you’re on their priority services register.

If you need to move your meter to another room or outside, you will need to contact your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to arrange this. Costs can vary between £400 and over £1,000 depending on your location, your DNO, and how far you want to move your meter.

Who can move your electric meter

It is illegal (and staggeringly unsafe) to move your own electric meter. You also cannot get your own electrician to move your meter for you. The only people who can move your meter are you energy supplier (for short moves) or your Distribution Network Operator (for longer moves).

Your safest bet will be to contact your energy supplier and ask them for a quote to move your meter, including the distance you would like it to be moved. If it is beyond their capability, they will tell you that you need to contact your DNO.

Who is responsible for electric meter?

When your energy supplier takes you on as a customer, they assume responsibility for your electricity meter and ensuring that it remains in good working order. If your meter readings seem off to you, they will be able to carry out an investigation to see if your electric meter is faulty. As long as it is proven to be faulty, there will be no charge for the investigation or repairs. If the investigation proves that your meter is in working order, however, you may be liable for the cost of investigating.

What happens if you bypass your electric meter?

Bypassing your electric meter involves meddling with live wires. As such, it is incredibly risky. Aside from the risk of injury or death, you run the risk of starting an electrical fire. There is absolutely no good reason why you should try and bypass your electric meter.

Types of electric meter

There are numerous different types of electric meter, and the type you have in your home could have ongoing implications for your energy usage and billing.

These include…

Standard credit meters

A credit meter is a standard electric meter that logs your energy consumption as you use it. They have one fixed rate for electricity that is the same during peak and off-peak hours. How they work varies depending on whether it’s a digital or analogue meter. We’ll get to that shortly.

Dual rate meters

Dual rate meters log energy usage within peak and off-peak times so that you are billed less during hours when electricity is cheaper. Dual rate meters broadly fall into two categories. These are Economy 7 and Economy 10. Economy 7 meters provide 7 hours of off-peak energy per day (typically late at night / early in the morning). Economy 10 meters provide 10 hours of off-peak energy across the morning, afternoon and night.

Prepayment meters

A prepayment meter allows energy consumers to pay for their electricity on a Pay As You Go basis. Instead of reporting your usage to your energy supplier, you top up the credit on your meter (usually with a smart key or card) when it gets low.

If you have this kind of meter, you may pay slightly more for your energy. However, the Papernest team can find a cheaper tariff from an energy company that specialises in prepayment meters.

How to top up an electric prepayment meter

There are lots of ways to top up your electric prepayment meter. You can take your smart key or card to any PayPoint location to top it up. Alternatively, you can top up your credit through the customer portal of your supplier’s website or through their mobile app.

You can pay up to £49 in a single translation, and your prepayment meter will hold up to £249 in credit.

How to activate emergency credit on electric meter

If your credit expires but you don’t have the opportunity (or funds) to top up, don’t worry. You needn’t be left in the dark. Energy suppliers will provide up to £10 emergency credit which you can activate by doing the following:

  • Access the home screen by pressing the A button twice.
  • If EmCr starts flashing, it means you can accept emergency credit.
  • Press the A button again. A prompt will ask you to “activate EmCr”.
  • Press B button to activate.
  • The screen should show “EmCr Accepted”.

Your emergency credit will be deducted from your balance the next time you top up.

Smart meters

Smart meters transmit your energy usage data directly to your supplier. There are two generations of smart meter. The first is called SMETS1. SMETS, by the way, stands for Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications. SMETS1 meters use a 3G network. Unfortunately, this means they will stop reporting your usage when you change energy suppliers. However, there is a remote upgrade that energy companies are administering in 2021 to fix this. Next-generation SMETS2 meters will continue to function fully no matter how many times you switch suppliers.

How does an electric meter work?

Ever wondered how an electric meter keeps track of how much energy you use? This varied depending on the type of electric meter you have:

Mechanical meters

These analogue meters use two conductor coils to create magnetic fields. Together these turn a thin disc made from aluminium at a steady rate. Dual rate meters move faster during peak usage times and slower during off-peak times. The disc drives a series of gears that in turn measure your energy usage.

Digital meters

There are two kinds of digital meters that you may have in your home. Older models use a similar mechanism to their analogue counterparts to measure electrical flow from the service wires coming into the building. These use a converter to transform the measurements into a digital signal.

Newer digital meters, however, have special alternating current sensors that detect the voltage and amperage in the wires to calculate your usage more accurately.

How to read an electric meter

Of course, if you are to accurately report your electric meter use, you need to know how to read it. Electric meters have lots of different interfaces, depending on type. Here we’ll look at how to read your electric meter so that you can provide accurate readings to your energy supplier and benefit from accurate bills.

How to read an old electric meter

Traditional analogue meters use a series of wheels imprinted with numbers that turn as you use more electricity. You will see 5 digits followed by a 6th in red. You can disregard the one in red. Report the numbers going from left to right.

How to read an electric dial meter

Some older meters use a system of 6 dials. You can ignore the dial furthest to the right, and report the numbers the hand points to on each dial going from left to right. Where the hand is between numbers report the number that the dial has just passed, rather than the one it’s approaching.

If you have a dual rate meter, there will be two displays, which will be labelled “Day” and “Night”.

How to read a digital or smart electric meter

Reading a smart meter is even easier, as your meter comes with an In-Home Display (IHD), a device that tracks your usage both in kWh and monetary terms. Of course, the whole point of a smart meter is that you don’t have to report your usage to your energy supplier. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to keep track of your usage so you can see the effects of energy-saving measures in real-time.

Reading the display on a digital meter is much the same as an analogue meter. Again, you can ignore any digits that are surrounded or underlined in red. Some meters will cycle through day and night usage (if you have a dual-rate meter). For others you will have to press a button on the meter to cycle through displays (usually either 6 or 9).

How to calculate electric bill from meter reading?

Estimating your energy bill from your meter reading is fairly straight forward. Here are some simple calculations to help you work it out:

  • Deduct the usage in kWh on your last bill from your current meter reading.
  • Multiply the number that’s left by your energy supplier’s unit rate per kWh.
  • You now have one half of your estimated bill.
  • Now multiply your tariff’s standing charge by the number of days since your last bill.
  • Multiply these two figures together to see your energy spend since your last bill.

How do I give my electric meter readings to my supplier?

There are lots of ways to report your electric meter readings to your supplier. These include:

  • Report it online by logging into your customer portal.
  • Report it using your energy supplier’s mobile app.
  • Report it over the phone.

Or, you could make an appointment to get a smart meter fitted to ensure that you never have to take and report a meter reading again.

How can I check my electric meter is accurate?

If you suspect your meter may be faulty, you can report it to your energy supplier to investigate. But be warned! If your supplier finds no fault in the meter, you may be liable for the cost of testing.

Fortunately, there’s an easy self-test that you can do:

  • Switch off every electrical appliance in your home.
  • Make a quick note of your meter reading.
  • Choose an electrical device with a high energy output like a fan heater. Check the wattage on the label.
  • Run the device (and nothing else) for an hour
  • Make a note of the new reading and deduct it from the first.
  • What’s left over should be equal to the wattage of your device (give or take 5%).

What do I do if I have problems reading my meter?

If your digital meter is not displaying any information, you should contact your energy supplier as soon as possible. If you’re concerned about accuracy, you may find it easier to send a photo of your meter to your energy supplier. They can update your bills accordingly.

how to read an Electric Meter

Types of electricity tariff

No matter what kind of electric meter your home has, the Papernest team can match it with the perfect energy tariff. There are lots of different types of electricity tariff to choose from, so it’s easy to find one that’s suited to your unique needs. These include:

Fixed Rate

Fixed-rate tariffs lock their prices in for a set period (usually 12 or 24 months). These are generally cheaper, and can protect you from rising energy costs in the future. However, you may incur an early exit fee if you switch to a different tariff before your contract expires.


Variable-rate tariffs rise and fall in line with the cost of wholesale energy. They are often (but not always) a little cheaper than fixed-rate tariffs, but have no early exit fees. This makes them good for energy consumers who want more freedom.

Dual fuel

Dual fuel tariffs offer a discount for customers who get their electricity and gas through the same supplier. This can also make your energy bills easier to manage.

Paperless / online-only

If you don’t mind eschewing paper bills and managing your account online, you may be able to get cheaper energy with a paperless or online-only tariff. Because there are fewer administrative costs, energy companies can pass the savings on to you. However, online-only tariffs typically do not offer call centre support.

Green / renewable

Finally, green tariffs offer electricity from 100% renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass. The good news for eco-conscious energy consumers is that many renewable tariffs are also among the cheapest.

Whatever your electric meter, let us help you find the perfect tariff

The Papernest team can help you to find the perfect energy deal for your needs, whatever kind of electric meter you have. We can even manage your switch for you from end-to-end. So you can enjoy cheaper energy quickly and completely hassle-free.

Want to know more?

Call us today on 0330 818 6225 to see how much you could save.

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What is a high electric meter reading?

Curious about whether your meter reading is higher than average? Energy companies consider 4,300 kWh electricity per year to be high. Dividing this by 12 gives us a rough monthly usage of 358 kWh. So if your monthly meter reading goes up by increments equal to or higher than this, you are classed as a high energy user.

How do I tell if electric meter is faulty?

If your meter seems to be reporting usage that is significantly higher or lower than your estimated energy consumption, there may be a fault with your meter. Try switching off everything in the home, then taking a meter reading. Then leave a device such as a fan heater on for one hour. Check the meter again. Unless the difference between your new and previous meter reading is roughly equal to the wattage of the device, your meter may be faulty. Your energy supplier will be able to test it for you.

If I have a faulty electric meter who is responsible?

Your energy supplier is responsible for maintaining your electric meter. If you believe there is a fault with your meter, it is up to them to test and rectify it.

How do I reset my electric meter?

If your prepayment meter should reset automatically when prices change. However, if you need to carry out a manual reset:

  • Press and hold the illuminated “B” button on your meter’s interface.
  • Press A twice, followed by B.

Updated on 24 Jan, 2022

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