Gas and electricity meters: everything you need to know
04 March 2021 | Aimee Tweedale
Energy meters are a part of every household in the UK. Just as the meter in a taxi counts your miles to work out your fare, gas and electricity meters track how much energy you’re using, so your supplier can bill you the right amount.
There are lots of different types of energy meter out there. If you use both gas and electricity at home, chances are you have a meter for each. And if you’re not on the gas grid, you may just have an electricity meter.
What are energy meters?
Energy meters measure how much energy you use at home. You might have both a gas meter and an electric meter, or just an electricity meter, depending on what your home uses.
Gas and electric meters
- Electricity meters work by measuring the amount of electricity coming into your house, to replace the amount you’ve used. They show that amount in kilowatt hours (kWh).
- Gas meters work in a similar way: they measure the amount of gas flowing into your home. They show this as either cubic metres (M or M³) or cubic feet (Ft or ft³). But, the price may be shown as per kWh.
Combined gas and electric meters don’t exist. Even if you have a dual fuel tariff, you’ll always have 2 separate meters.
What does a gas meter look like?
There are several different types of gas meters. For example, you could have a smart credit gas meter, or a standard prepayment gas meter.
Confused by all these terms? To find out more about what these different types of meter look like, keep reading, for our full breakdown.
What does an electricity meter look like?
Just like gas meters, there are multiple different types of electricity meter on the market. Keep reading, to find out more about the different types, and how to identify them.
Where to find your energy meter
Just moved in, and pulling your hair out trying to find your gas or electric meter? Don’t panic! Here are 3 simple tips for figuring out where it might be.
- If you can’t easily find it inside your home, it’s likely to be outside. A lot of meters have been installed outside properties, so readings can be taken without disturbing you.
- Live in a flat? The meter is probably on the ground floor, where all the meters should be labelled by flat number.
- The meter is likely to be inside a box or cupboard. Look for a white or metallic door.
If you’re a renter and you still can’t find your meter, get in touch with your landlord or property agent.
Types of gas and electricity meters
Meters come in many forms. Yours might measure gas or electricity. It might show your reading on a dial or a screen. And it might be “smart” or traditional.
Figure out what kind of meter you have by looking at the categories below. Your meter may fit into a couple of these categories at once – for example, you could have a standard prepayment meter, or a smart Economy 7 meter.
Standard meters, dial meters, and digital meters
These 3 different types of meter all perform the same function – but they show information a bit differently.
- Standard meters use a mechanical display to show their reading. This will look like 5 black numbers on a small grey screen.
- Digital meters have more modern displays. These look like small computer screens.
- Dial meters have 5 dials on the front. These look a little like tiny clocks, or gauges.
For more on how to read standard, digital, or dial meters, check out our Help page, which has more detailed information and diagrams to help you.
Smart meters are the fastest-growing type of energy meter. The UK government is aiming to get 27 million homes fitted with them by 20241.
What’s so smart about these meters? Essentially, they record how much gas or electricity you’re using, in real time, and send this information directly to your energy supplier, using the same kind of signals and networks as a mobile phone. Your supplier uses this information to make sure your bills are super-accurate.
You can also use your smart meter info to make savings on your bills. By tracking exactly how much gas or electricity you’re using, you can make note of how to use less energy at home, and reduce your carbon footprint in the process. Win-win!
There are 2 types of smart meter: these are known as SMETS1 and SMETS2. SMETS1 meters were the first generation of smart meters. The problem with them is that they’re not always compatible with different energy suppliers – so if you want to switch, you might have to change your meter, too. (They’re now being updated to fix this issue – find out more here about the second generation of smart meters.)
SMETS2 meters are the new kids on the block, and the good news is that if you have one, you can switch suppliers without also having to change your meter. Read more about the differences between SMETS1 and SMETS2 here.
Don’t get left behind – if you’re an OVO member and don’t have your smart meter yet, find out how to get yours for free.
Credit meters and prepayment meters
Most households in the UK have a credit meter for their electricity. This is a meter that simply tells you how much energy you’ve used. When you (or your smart meter) send that information to your supplier, they use it to work out how much to charge you.
Prepayment meters (sometimes called PAYG, or pay-as-you-go) are a bit different. They let you pay for your energy in advance, by topping them up. They work in a similar way to pay-as-you-go phone contracts.
A few years ago, you’d top up your prepayment meter by putting coins into a slot. These days, depending on what type of prepayment meter you have, you might have to go to the local shop to top it up, or you might be able to top it up from your online account.
Some people find that having a prepayment meter helps them budget more easily. But it does mean paying a higher rate for your electricity. Here at OVO, our PAYG company Boost offers both smart and traditional prepayment meters.
Find out more about PAYG meters (including how to change a prepayment meter to a credit meter) by reading our complete guide.
Economy 7 and Economy 10 meters
Economy 7 and Economy 10 tariffs give you a cheaper rate of electricity for a certain amount of time per day (7 hours on an Economy 7 tariff, and 10 on Economy 10). This lets you take advantage of the fact that sometimes, demand for electricity is lower – which makes it both cheaper, and greener!
If you want to switch to an Economy tariff, you’ll have to get a new meter installed. This will measure 2 different rates of electricity – usually labelled “low” and “normal”, or “night” and “day”.
How to read your meter
So now that we’ve given you the lowdown on different meters, and identified yours, it’s time to take your first reading.
How you take your meter reading will depend on how the numbers on your meter are displayed.
How to read a standard meter
Simply make a note of the first 5 numbers on the screen (or the first 4, if there are only 4). These should all be in black. Ignore any numbers in red.
How to read a digital meter
Reading a digital meter is pretty much the same as reading a standard meter. Just write down the 5 numbers shown on the screen in black, ignoring any numbers in red, or after the decimal point (if there is one).
If you see 2 different readings (e.g. if you’re on an Economy 7 or 10 tariff), write them both down, and send both to your supplier.
How to read a dial meter
- Take a note of the number each dial is showing, from left to right. Ignore the sixth dial, if there is one, or any red dials.
- If the pointer is pointing between 2 numbers, write down the lower number (or the number it has just moved past).
- If the pointer is pointing directly at a number, write that number down and underline it.
- If the next number in the sequence after the underlined number is between 9 and 0, reduce the underlined number by 1. (For example, if you have an underlined 4 followed by a 9, you should reduce the 4 to 3.)
How to read your smart meter
The best thing about smart meters is that you don’t actually have to take readings. They’ll automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier.
Most smart meters also come with an In-Home Display (or IHD). This is an easy-to-use little screen you can put anywhere in your home, to show you how much gas and/or electricity you’ve used. Find out more about how to use your IHD.
For more information on how to read your energy meter, read our comprehensive step-by-step guide.
Can I move my gas or electricity meter?
If you’re not happy with where your meter is right now, the good news is that you can move it. The bad news is that – depending how far you want to move it – it can be tricky.
Never attempt to move your gas or electricity meter yourself. This is illegal, and also potentially dangerous. Instead, call a professional to help you do it.
If you only want to move it by a metre or so (this time, we mean the unit of measurement!) then give your energy supplier a call.
Any further than that, you’ll need to contact your electricity Local Distribution Centre, or gas transporter. Find out more about how to move your meter, over at Citizens’ Advice.
Get smart about home energy with OVO
Smart meters help you track your energy use, saving you money and helping you cut your carbon footprint in the process. If you’re an OVO member and you’re eligible, you can get one installed for free.
If you’re not an OVO member, you’re missing out on all the fun. Get a quote today and you could reap the benefits of:
- 100% renewable electricity as standard2
- A tree planted in your name for every year you’re with us3
- Very competitive prices, all year round
- 3-5% Interest Rewards when your account has a positive balance4
- A £50 gift card every time you introduce a friend to us
Sources and references:
2 The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.
3 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.
4 Interest Rewards are paid on credit balances of customers paying by monthly Direct Debit. It is calculated at 3% in your first year, 4% in your second year and 5% in your third year (and every year thereafter) if you pay by Direct Debit.