How to Read an Electric Meter to Find Out How Much Power Your Home Uses

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Electric Power MeterThere a many reasons why knowing how to read an electric meter can be a great skill to have. Several years ago we moved into a new house and after receiving one outrageous power bill after another, we decided to take matters into our own hands and figure out why the bill was so high. My husband decided that he would read the power usage meter every day and keep a journal of how many kilowatts of electricity we were using every day.

Our plan was initially to just identify the rogue appliance that was using so much electricity. Strangely enough, we weren’t able to find the culprit but what we did find might surprise you. When the next electricity bill came in the mail, Jeff quickly called the power company to find out exactly what day they came out and read the electric power meter. To our amazement, they weren’t actually coming out and reading the meter! They were estimating what it should read based upon the power usage of the people who were renting the house before we were!

Ever since then, we have always tried to keep a close watch on our electric usage meter to “keep the power company honest”. This is just one of many reasons why knowing how to read your electric meter might come in handy.

Before we get started with the actual instructions, you should know that power is rated in “watts” and 1,000 watts equals one “kilowatt” or one kilowatt hour. Your home’s electric power meter’s sole purpose is to keep track of how many kilowatts your home consumes. The power company charges you by the kilowatt so knowing exactly how many kilowatts you’re using might be very useful to you.

How To Read A Power Meter if it is an Analog Meter

Most electricity usage meters will be the old analog type that have either four or five dials with a pointer on each dial. Since most of you will have this type of a meter at your house, I’ll show you how to read this type first. Okay, let’s get started. As I mentioned, your electrical power meter is going to have either four or five dials. Three of the dials turn clockwise and and two turn counter clockwise. When reading electrical power meters, you will have to read the dials from right to left (not like you read a book).

  1. Dial #1 – Turns clockwise
  2. Dial #2 – Turns counterclockwise
  3. Dial #3 – Turns clockwise
  4. Dial #4 – Turns counterclockwise
  5. Dial #5 – Turns clockwise

Starting from the right, look at the dial and determine where the indicator is pointing. If it has passed a number but it has not yet made it to the next number, you will write down the lower number. If the pointer is really close to being directly over a number, you look at the dial to the right of the one you are reading. If that dial hasn’t passed zero, you record the lower number. If the pointer on the dial to right has already passed zero, you record the larger number that the indicator is pointing towards.

The image below is a good example of when you would have to look at the dial to the right to find out if you should record the number that the pointer is on or if you should record the lower number.

electric meter reading

This reading for this meter is 39,803

Remember, you read the dials form right to left but the actual kilowatt hour reading that you get is read from left to right. In the example above dial 1 reads 3, dial two reads 0, dial three reads 8, dial four reads 9 and dial five reads 3. The way you interpret this reading is that for this meter 39,803 kilowatt hours have been used since the meter was installed on this particular house.

How To Read a Digital Electric Meter

If you have a digital meter, reading it is even easier. All you have to do is look at the numbers that are displayed on the meter and write them down. In this case, you read the meter from left to right just like you are accustomed to reading a book.

How To Calculate Your Electric Bill

Let’s imagine that when you receive your electric bill, the number 39,803 is listed as the electricity meter reading for the last time your meter was read. Since you have this number, it’s easy to calculate your what your bill is going to be at any time of the month. You’ll just need a couple of bits of information. The first is how much your power company charges for each kilowatt hour (kWh) that you use and the second is amount of any standard fees that you are charged just to have electricity at your house.

Once you have that information, you just need to get a current electric meter reading and subtract the current reading from what the reading was when the power company last read your meter. This will tell you how many kWh’s you have used since then. Next, you simply multiply the kWh rate by the number of kWh’s you have used to find out what you total energy charges will be. Lastly, add any of the standard fees to this number and you’ll know exactly how much your electricity bill should be!

how to calculate your electric bill

Here’s a short video that will show you just how simple reading an electric meter actually is.

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Now that you know how to read your electric meter, take a minute and read my article called: You Don’t Have To Give Up Your Computer To Live Off The Grid. I think you’ll really enjoy it!

6 Responses to “How to Read an Electric Meter to Find Out How Much Power Your Home Uses”

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  1. Isaiah Aikens says:

    I really must that I found this site very informative and helpful. Please allow me to extend my gratitude to you and your staff. Very truly yours Isaiah Aikens Jr.

    • SK says:

      Thank you for all your information, I am having our “Old Analog” meters installed in a few minutes…PGE is sending someone out and they are charging me $75.00 to make the switch back to get rid of the smart meters, we have been so ripped off since they installed them and have had headaches and severe fatigue!

  2. Brittany Sikorski says:

    This was very helpful to me, we currently live in a cabin where the electric bill is not in our name. Our landlady gives us a bill every month, but I just noticed that the bills we have from her, there are bills from three different accounts. Three different account numbers. Our first bill was normal, then since December, they’ve gone up by $100, this month, it’s $400… For a 2br cabin. There’s no way we are using that much power. Of course, since it’s not in our name, the power company wouldn’t give me any info at all, they wouldn’t even tell me what account number goes with our meter. So I’ve been watching the usage, since we just got a new “smart meter”, and trying to figure out what our bills SHOULD be. I’m at a loss as to what to say to her, although I know I’m either being screwed or there is some major problem with the electric here.
    But your info on reading the meter and calculating the bills has been incredibly helpful.

    • Patty Hahne says:

      Hi Brittany,

      Sorry to hear that you’re having to deal with this issue but I’m glad that my article was helpful to you!


    • JC Tora says:


      I suggest go find another house/appartment/etc. I doubt that your landlady is not even a technical person so she would probably won’t believe to anything you say.
      Here’s my tip:
      *When you first occupy your home find your utility meters (electric,water,gas…) and read it together with your landlord/lady. This is to make sure that you have the same reading, also take note of the date and time you read your meters. By next month do it again together with them so at least you know how they compute charges to their tenants, they should based their charges based on your consumption.
      *Also ask for a copy of the main meter this is to get their base rate they’ll use. Since it’s a confidential info don’t expect they will give it to you, if you can talk it out then good. 😀

  3. Jason says:

    So I have a question on calculating power usage after the meter has rolled over.

    My readings at the beginning of this cycle were 99678 now it is 09762. How would I determine how much power ice used in the last two days?

    Thank you

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