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Taking Meter Readings

Taking Meter Readings

What is a meter?

Gas and electricity meters are fitted to the fuel supply in each home so that the supplier (Scottish Gas, ScottishPower etc) can measure how much fuel has been used, and bill the customer accordingly.

Why is it important to take readings?

Over a third of bills are based on the suppliers estimate of your usage. This can result in bills which do not accurately reflect what you have used. Fuel suppliers are only legally obliged to read your meter once every two years so it is sensible to check estimated readings against your meter. If there is a large difference, either higher or lower, it is best to provide your energy supplier with an accurate meter reading. The details of how to give your energy supplier a customer meter reading will be on your bill. One of the main causes of fuel debt is previously underestimated bills.

Different Types

There are different types of meters and you will have one for electricity and one for gas. Meters are usually found either in a cupboard near the front door or in a box on the front outside wall.

Whether for gas or electricity a meter will either be:-

  • Credit - fuel is used and a bill is sent at a later date.
  • Pre-payment - fuel is paid for as it is used.

This is used to measure the volume of gas passing into your property. This is usually measured in cubic meters (m³) although some older models measure in cubic feet (ft³). Although gas is supplied by volume, it is actually billed in kWh, and the way to work this out is shown on your bill.


Electricity consumption is measured in kWh. The meters can either have one or two counters. If you have a meter with two counters, your electricity usage is charged at two different tariffs; a daytime 'on-peak/normal' rate and a cheaper night 'off-peak/low' rate. 'Off-peak' meters are usually known as 'Economy 7' or 'White Meter' depending on your fuel supplier.

Reading Credit Meters

The majority of credit meters are 'digital' i.e. a straight row of numbers. However some older types are 'dial' these consist of a number of dials to be read in a set order.


All digital meters are read in the same way. For modern gas meters which measure intake in cubic meters (M³) and electric meters read the first five digits. For older gas meters which measure in cubic feet use the first four digits. Read from left to right, including all 'zeros' but ignoring the red number(s) or any number(s) after a decimal point. Once you have read the meter, you can work out how much electricity or gas you have used by taking the previous total (found on your last bill) away from the new total. This will give you the number of units you have used in that period of time.

For example if your meter looks like this (modern gas digital meter), use the first five numbers:-

Meter example
The reading on the example above is: 32764

If your meter looks like this, use the first five figures:-

Example meter
The reading on the example above is: 07519

If your meter looks like this, use the first four figures:-

Example meter
The reading on the example above is: 7519.


These have rows of dials/clocks with pointers which move from 0 - 9. Read from right to left. For electricity read the five dials from 10,000 to 1. Ignore the dial marked 1/10 of a unit; this is for testing only.

For the following example:-

Dial meter

Always write down the number the pointer has passed (this is not necessarily the nearest number to the pointer). So if the pointer is anywhere between for instance 2 and 3 (see dial 4), write down 2.

  • If the pointer is directly over the figure i.e. the 8 in dial 5, write down that figure and underline it.
  • The sample meter reading shown above will read 4 5 9 2 8.
  • This reading now requires adjusting to eliminate small variations to the pointer positions. Look at the figures underlined. If one of these is followed in the next dial by a 9, reduce the underlined figure by 1. The correct reading in this example is 44928.

Gas dial meters have mostly been phased out. However if you encounter an imperial (cubic feet) gas dial meter it is read in the same fashion as the instructions above except with only four dials.

Reading Prepayment Meters

Prepayment meterVisual displays are available usually by pressing a button, the display will 'scroll' through to show:-

  • Units of fuel consumed.
  • Fixed charge.
  • Rate per unit of fuel.
  • Credit inserted.
  • Current credit.
  • Outstanding debt.
  • Debt repayments per week.
  • Emergency credit.

This list is not exhaustive and other information may also be displayed depending on the model of meter.

Electric Prepayment Meter & Gas Smart Card

Comprehensive details of prepayment electric and gas prepayment meters can be found at

For Further Information Contact

Home Energy Advice Team
Kilncraigs, Greenside Street, Alloa, FK10 1EB
Tel: 01259 450000