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Benefits of Reading Your Electricity Meter
If your electricity distributor is sending out a meter reader, does it really matter if you know how to read your meter or not?
There are a couple of reasons you might want to read your electricity meter. First, it gives you an up-to-date picture of your electricity usage. Meter readings usually occur every 90 days, which can be a long time to wait if you’re monitoring your usage.
Second, meter readers aren’t always able to take an exact reading. If your meter is hidden behind foliage, guarded by a dog, or locked behind a fence, the reading has to be based on an estimate.
Estimated readings may be based on your usage from the same time in the previous year, or on usage statistics from similar households in your area. However, they’re not always accurate. If a meter reader takes an estimated reading, they will attempt to take an actual reading the next time; if there are any inconsistencies (for example, if you were charged too much or too little), they will be remedied in your next bill.
If you take an actual reading, it can sometimes be submitted to your electricity supplier as supporting evidence that an estimated read was incorrect. It’s important to make sure your meter is accessible, especially if you know a reading is coming up.
Find Your Electricity Meter
Before you can read your electricity meter, you’ll need to know where to find it! Meters are typically on the front or back of the house, though in older homes they may even be inside.
Electricity meters have a unique identifier on them, known as a National Meter Identifier, or NMI. This is a 10-digit number that links a meter to a property on the Australian electricity network. It also appears on your bill, so you can match the number to your meter and be sure you’re reading the right one.
Types of Electricity Meter
There are four main types of electricity meters. Newer meters have a digital display, while older ones have a display that looks like a clock face. Here’s how to tell which meter type you have.
Flat Rate Meters
A flat rate meter is also called an accumulation meter. It measures total electricity use, regardless of the time of day. With this meter, you’ll be charged a single rate for your electricity, since the meter is incapable of determining peak or off peak usage.
Interval Meters (time of use)
Also called a time of use meter, an interval meter keeps track of how much electricity you use and when you use it. Data is recorded electronically in intervals, generally every 30 minutes. With an interval meter, you can take advantage of peak and off peak plans offered by suppliers.
Smart meters (also called advanced or ‘type 4’ meters) are electronic meters that record
electricity in 15 or 30 minute intervals, but they can provide a greater depth of detail about your usage.
Data can be sent directly from the meter to your supplier, eliminating the need for an in-person meter read. With a smart meter, your electricity supply can be turned on and off remotely if required. Your distributor may also be automatically notified if there is a power outage.
Smart meters may come with an in-home display (IHD), a device that you can keep inside your home to monitor your electricity use in real time. Some IHDs can give complex information about electricity consumption for individual appliances, and even display the details of your electricity tariff.
If you have solar panels installed, you may have a separate meter to measure the electricity generated from the solar system. There are three types of solar meters:
- Net Meter: Shows the net consumption of power in a household. Displays the
difference between the energy you have generated and used.
- Bi-directional meter: A meter with three screens that shows a test screen, power coming from the grid, and power going to the grid.
- Dual/Production meter: Two separate meters; one shows the power you draw from the grid, the other shows the power you generate and feed to the grid.
The displays for these meters can vary depending on the make and model, so ask your installer for details or refer to the instruction manual if available.
Reading your Electricity Meter
Electricity is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). When you read your electricity meter, you’re recording the amount of kWh used to date.
A dial display has four to six dials that look like clock faces. Each dial has a range of 0 through 9. When reading the display, move from left to right, recording the number on each dial in order.
If the dial is between numbers, record the lower of the two unless it is between 0 and 9. In this case, record the number 9.
You may also see a separate, smaller dial labelled 1/10. This is not relevant to your reading so you can disregard it.
This is also called an odometer display, and works similarly to the odometer in your car. Record the number displayed; this is your kWh usage.
Digital displays usually have more features than other display types, and the specific features depend on your meter.
A flat rate digital display usually has a single setting that shows you the kWh used.
A smart meter or interval meter will likely have a range of display options, including total kWh.
You may also be able to scroll through the options to see your peak and off peak usage, controlled load usage, or solar usage.
Calculating Your Usage
To calculate how much electricity you have used since your last bill, subtract the reading from your last bill from your current reading. If you know your tariff rates, you may even be able to calculate the cost of the electricity by multiplying your usage by the rate per kWh.
Broken or Faulty Meters
When you’re regularly reading your own meter, you can identify if it is broken or faulty. It is the distributor’s responsibility to test and replace any faulty meters.
Do I Need a New Meter When I Switch Plans?
If you switch to a new electricity supplier, you may have the option of upgrading your meter to a smart meter. This will depend on your supplier and the plan.