Knowing how to read your dial face electricity meter is an important part of understanding your energy use. By reading your own electricity meter, you can check that you are being billed correctly. You can also note down your consumption more frequently instead of waiting till the end of each quarter for your bill.
Even if you have a wireless energy monitor installed, being able to read your meter is a good skill to have. Note that if you're after the consumption of individual appliances you are best off using a plug-in power meter.
The new digital or 'smart' meters are quite intuitive to read (they have a simple digital read out). But most households in Australia still have the older style 'mechanical' or 'dial face' meters. These are a little more difficult to read - they require you to read the clock faces to get a number for total kilowatt-hours (kWh) consumed.
How to Read Mechanical Dial Electricity Meters
1. Stand at eye-level with the dials on your meter.
2. Read each dial one at a time from right to left and note the direction of the numbers. Dial A in the example above is read anti-clockwise.
3. To read the dial, we note the lower number, not the number that the dial is closest to. For example, E is between 0 and 1 so we would read it as 0. An exception to this rule is if the dial is between 0 and 9 in which case it is read as 9 (dial C).
4. If the dial is right on top of a number, you cannot assume that it is that number. For example, in B it might not be right on 5, it might actually be a little to the right, between the numbers 4 and 5 which would be read as 4. To be sure, check the reading of the next dial.
If the dial on the right reads 8 or 9, the left dial is read as the lower number. If the right dial reads 0 or 1, the left dial is read as the number that the dial appears to be on. For example, dial C, is read as 9. This means that dial B is between the numbers 4 and 5 so it would be read as 4 (the lower number).
The meter Example 1 above reads 04980.
Now, try reading these electricity meters with dials
Note that the last dial in the example below (black with a red arm) has no numbers. This is the decimal point, showing increments of 1/10th of a kWh. To note its direction, follow the arrow (this one is going from 0-9 clockwise).
The reading for this Example 2 is 04434.1
All the dials are clearly between numbers except for the last which appears to be on 4. To read this, look at the decimal dial. Because the decimal point (in this case rotating clockwise) reads 1, the previous dial is between 4 and 5, so it reads 4.
This is a hard one. The reading for example 3 above is 63599.8
The last dial appears to be right on 0, so we look at the decimal dial (in this case rotating anti-clockwise) which reads 8. This means that the last dial reads 9.
Because the last dial reads as 9, the dial to the left of it (which also appears right on 0) is actually read as 9 as well, which makes the dial to the left of that 5.
How to make use of the meter readings
A meter reading all by itself is not of much use. You need two readings to get total kWh over a period of time by subtracting one reading from the other. If you want to analyse specific usage (such as using the reverse cycle air conditioner or not) take a reading once per day and compare days when it used to those when it is not used.
Otherwise, even taking a reading once a week or once a month can be quite informative.
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- Alegria Alano