Meter readings

How to read your gas and electric meters: Step-by-step guide

From when and why to do a meter reading, to learning how to actually take one, here’s where you can find out all you need to know. Help keep your bills accurate and your records up-to-date, with our ultimate guide to meter reading.

Energy suppliers want to make sure your bills are as accurate as possible – and regular meter readings help us do that. How? Because with meter readings, you only get billed for the energy you're actually using! 

The good news about meter reading is that smart meters are making the process much easier. Smart meters are the newer type of energy meters now being installed right across Great Britain. But yours may still be one of the older energy types – known as an analogue meter (more on those below).

If that’s the case, you’ll definitely need to send regular meter readings, so your supplier can work out how much energy you’re using. 

If you already have a smart meter, there’s usually no need to give regular readings, as they’re sent automatically. But there are some situations where you may still need to send a manual reading from your smart meter. For instance: 

  • If you’re a new customer
  • If a technical issue means your energy company can’t automatically connect to your smart meter
  • If your smart meter has only recently been installed

Read more about smart meters and how they work, in our handy guide. 

What kind of energy meter do you have? 

Electricity and gas meters come in all shapes and sizes! So before we get into the practicalities of meter reading, here’s how to work out which type of energy meter you have. Below is just a quick summary of each – but for more info, check out our complete guide to different energy meters.

Traditional (non-smart) meters  or credit meters 

Homes had these types of analogue meters until the smart meter rollout began, back in 2011. If your meter’s older than 2017, and has dials, or a non-digital display with 4 to 6 black, white and red numbers, you still have a traditional, non-smart meter.

traditional gas and electricity meter

Want to get yourself a smart meter? We’ll install one for free when you switch to one of our energy plans. Find out more about how to join OVO.

Smart meters 

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters – and as the name suggests, they’re pretty clever. They send automatic meter readings to your energy supplier using a secure wireless network – which usually means you don’t have to lift a finger! Read more about how to get a smart meter, and how they can help save you money.

Traditional meter credit meter

Economy 7 meters 

An Economy 7 meter gives you a cheaper electricity rate at night, and a more expensive one in the day. If you have one of these, you’ll see 2 different sets of numbers – one for the cheaper rate, and one for the more expensive. Learn more about them in our handy guide to Economy 7.

Pre-payment meters 

These are pay-as-you-go meters – which means you pay for your energy before you use it. In short, they work in a similar way to a pay-as-you-go phone. Read more about them in our guide to prepayment meters.

How to read a gas meter 

First of all, where is your gas meter?

This is not a silly question! You’d be surprised how many of us don’t actually know. In most homes, the gas meter will either be in the kitchen, hallway or outside in a cupboard or meter box. If you live in an apartment building, the meters for your building might even be all together in a special meter room.

Make sure you find the right one for your home! It should be clearly labelled – but if you’re having trouble, check with your landlord or letting agent.

Digital metric gas meters

Digital metric gas meters have 5 main numbers, and look something like this:

Digital metric gas meter

To read correctly:  

  • Read the 5 main numbers from left to right, in the order they appear
  • Ignore any numbers in red/in a red box
  • Ignore any number after a decimal point (sometimes shown in red)
  • In this example, the meter reads 00461

Digital imperial gas meters 

Digital imperial gas meters have 4 main numbers, and look something like this:

Digital imperial gas meter

To read correctly:  

  • Read the 4 main numbers from left to right, in the order they appear
  • Ignore any numbers in red/in a red box
  • Ignore any number after a decimal point (sometimes shown in red)
  • In this example, the meter reads 2684

Dial gas meters 

Dial gas meters look something like this:

Dial gas meters 

To read correctly:  

With a dial meter, each dial turns in the opposite direction to the one before. So before you take a reading, check the direction of your dials. They may not be exactly as illustrated above. Every dial on every meter revolves from 0 to 1 and on to 9, before continuing to 0 again.

  • You may see 4 dials, or there might be even more – but you only need to read the 4 main ones. 
  • Take down each number, from left to right, as it appears.
  • If the pointer falls between numbers, always use the lower number. The only exception is if it’s between 9 and 0 – in which case, write 9. 
  • Ignore red dials, ones marked '100 per rev', and the largest dial.
  • In this example, the meter reads 2577.

How to read your electricity meter

There are 4 kinds of electric meter: digital, 2-rate, dial, and smart. Here's how to read them.

Finding your electric meter 

Electricity meters are usually on an outside wall, inside a porch or entrance hall, or inside a cupboard in a living room. You might also find it in a basement, utility room, or garage.

How to read a digital meter

Digital electric meters look something like this:

Digital electric meters

  • Pretty simple! Just write down all the numbers you see, from left to right
  • Ignore any numbers in red/with a red box
  • Ignore numbers that appear after a decimal point

How to read a 2-rate/Economy 7/Domestic Economy meter 

If your tariff gives you lower-priced off-peak electricity – such as Eco 20:20, or Economy 7 – your meter may have 2 rows of figures, as shown below:

2 rate Economy electric meters

To read correctly:

  • Write down all the numbers from left to right in each row
  • Ignore any numbers in red/with a red box
  • Write down both sets of numbers, and give them separately, as “day rate” and “night rate”
  • If you’re not sure which is which, check the previous meter readings on your bill, to find out which is the “day rate” and which is the “night rate”

Your exact 7 or 10 hour “off-peak” depends on your meter set-up. Most Economy 7 meters run between midnight and 7am. That’s when the meter switches back to “peak”. Check your online account, to find your off-peak times, if you’re not sure. 

And if you’re not sure whether or not the meter clock changes from GMT to BST when the evenings get lighter, you can check that with us (or your current supplier) too.

It doesn’t matter when you read your meter (day or night) – it’ll always give you accurate readings.

How to read a dial electric meter

Dial electric meters looks something like this:

dial electric meters

Dial meters are slightly trickier. Each dial turns in the opposite direction to the one before. Before you take a reading, check the direction of your dials. They may not be exactly as those illustrated above. Every dial on every meter revolves from 0 to 1 and through to 9, before continuing to 0. 

To read yours:

  1. Write down the reading for the highest-numbered dial first (in this example the dial is 10,000 and the reading is ‘5’).
  2. Then write down the other readings you see, from left to right, including any zeros.
  3. If the pointer is between 2 numbers, use the lower number. But if the pointer falls between 9 and 0, write down 9, and reduce the reading you've already taken for the dial to its left by one. For example, if you originally recorded 5, reduce it to 4.
  4. If the pointer is directly over a number, write down that one.
  5. Don't read the last dial on the right.
  6. Ignore any red dials/numbers in red.

In the example above, the dial meter reading is 56206. If you get stuck, feel free to message us via your online account. It can be handy to have a recent photo of your meter, just in case we ask you to send one.

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How to read a smart electric meter

You’ll probably already know if you have a smart meter – but if you’re not sure whether it’s a smart meter or one of the older ones, an instant giveaway is if it has a digital LCD screen, rather than any of the ones shown above.

There are currently 2 types of smart meter – the older generation SMETS1, and the latest SMETS2. The rollout of SMETS2 meters began in 2018. If your smart meter was installed before then, it’s likely to be a SMETS1-type meter. Find out more about how to tell the difference between SMETS 1 and SMETS 2 smart meters.

Another way to tell the difference is to look at your electricity meter’s serial number. If it starts with 19P, this indicates it's a SMETS1 meter. If it starts with 19M, then this means it’s SMETS2.

How to read a SMETS 1 smart meter 

To read a SMETS 1 smart meter, press 9 on your smart meter keypad to show the meter reading in kilowatt hours (kWh) for electricity, and cubic meters for gas.

If your smart electricity meter is on an Economy 7 tariff (where you pay a standard price during the day and a lower rate for 7 hours overnight), press 6 and then press it 3 more times, until you can see IMP R01. This shows your off-peak (night-time) reading in kWh. Press 6 again and you’ll see IMP R02. This gives your daytime reading.

If you’re still not sure, we’ve also put together a special guide to take you through reading your smart meter

How to read a SMETS2 smart meter

Pretty easy, this one. For SMETS2 electricity meters, just press A 3 times.

Again, check our article on reading a smart meter for more info. 

Where can I submit my meter readings? 

We’re asking anyone who doesn’t have a smart meter to submit their readings through their online account, or in the OVO app. It’s really easy to submit readings this way. To help, we've created some short videos showing you how.

If your online account looks like the picture below, you can watch a video on how to submit meter readings:

“Meter readings” screen for members with single-rate electricity and gas: 

how to submit gas and electricity meters

Screen to submit gas readings:

how to submit ovo meter readings

Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing it via your online account:

  1. Log in to your online account
  2. Click on Meter Readings
  3. Enter your 5 digit reading (for electricity) and/or 4 or 5 digit reading (for gas) into the boxes, excluding numbers after decimal point, and press Submit
  4. You’ll then be able to see a record of all the readings you’ve given

If you’re not with OVO, you’ll likely be able to do something similar in your online account – or call them to give your meter reading over the phone.

Use your smartphone to read your digital meter 

With the OVO app, you can scan the reading on your digital meter with your smart phone’s camera. It only takes a few seconds.

Just select the option to scan with your camera, and line it up with the reading on your digital meter. Once the reading has been captured, tap the Submit reading button. And viola, your reading will be registered. Clever stuff, eh?!

Your electricity meter questions answered

Do I need to give meter readings? 

You sure do! Giving us regular monthly meter readings will make your bills more accurate, so you're paying the right amount to cover your energy use (if you pay by monthly Direct Debit).

Why are opening meter readings so important? 

An opening meter reading (ie. the first reading you give after signing up) lets us open your account with all the right details, so you pay the right amount from day one. We also send them to your old supplier, so your final bill with them is spot on, too.

When should I give opening meter readings?

Between your supply start date and 5 days after your supply start date – but don’t worry, we’ll send a letter or email reminder. If you don’t give your opening meter readings when we ask for them, we’ll use estimated ones. With estimated readings you’ll either pay too much, or (even worse) you’ll pay too little – which means you’ll end up with a negative balance.

It’s easy to give opening meter readings. It takes literally seconds in your online account – or one of our advisors in our live online chat will be happy to help.

How often should I read and take meter readings? 

If you have a smart meter, we won’t usually “take” meter readings. Instead, your smart meter will send them to us automatically. But if you’ve got a traditional meter (or a smart meter that’s stopped sending readings since you changed energy supplier), you’ll need to send us meter readings every month. 

Why do we need regular meter readings?

It’s so we can work out how much energy you’ve used, so we know how much to charge you.

We like to get a meter reading from you the day before we calculate your bill, so we know exactly what you’ve used. If we don’t get a current meter reading, we’ll create your bill by estimating the amount of energy you’ve used since the last meter reading. 

We’ll take into account any meter readings given since the last bill, and estimate any missing days – even if it’s only one. Or if we haven’t had a meter reading at all, we’ll estimate your entire use since the last bill.  

How do I take a reading for a prepayment meter? 

If you’ve got a traditional prepayment meter, you’ll need to take a meter reading when you move into your home, and send it to your energy supplier. To do that, check out our guide to reading the screens on your prepaid meter.

If you have a smart meter, it’s really simple to see how much credit you have left. Your meter reading should appear in your app, and will be sent directly to your energy supplier.

How do meter readings help me manage my monthly Direct Debits?

Up-to-date meter readings show us exactly how much gas or electricity you've used, and how much we need to charge on a monthly basis, by Direct Debit.

Over the 12 month period of your billing year, we aim to make sure you pay just the right amount – not too little, and not too much.

Which means that at the end of your billing year, you don't owe us any money, and you haven't paid too much, either. (Though,  if you're with OVO and have a positive balance, you’ll earn 3-5% interest on that!) Accurate meter readings help us to see whether or not you’re on track to do that.

What happens if I get into energy debt?

If you’re in debt, we’re here to help you find a way to pay it off. If you’re struggling to pay your bills, check out our advice on how to manage that debt, and find ways to work with your supplier to help you keep on top of bill payments.

Smart meters send meter readings to us automatically. Ready to get a smart meter?

Already an OVO member and ready to jump in? Book an appointment to get your free smart meter fitted. You’ll start reaping the benefits as soon as the meter is installed. It will send readings automatically from the get-go, and you’ll get real-time feedback via the In-Home Display that comes free with your smart meter.

Plus, you'll be able to see your readings, spending and much more in your online account! Find out more about how to get a smart meter, with our handy guide.

If you need more help

We understand that meter readings can sometimes be a little fiddly – so if you need a hand, don’t hesitate to get in touch. There’s more help available in the OVO Forum. And if you don't find the answers you need, feel free to ask a question, and one of our forum users will be happy to help!.

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