6 different meter types explained

Did you know that the type of meter you have makes a difference to how you pay your energy bills? Do you know which meter you have installed?

There are many different types of meter out there, and it can be hard to know what the differences are. This guide explains the 6 main types of meters and the benefits of each.


Standard meters

This is the most common of the meter types, and also the type most people are tempted to tamper with.

They measure your usage based on how many times the dial on your meter rotates. You need to send your meter readings to your supplier regularly so you’re paying for the exact amount of energy you use.


Dial meters

Dial meters are more complicated to read – they usually look like clocks and have 6 dials. You take the reading by looking at where the hand is pointing on each dial face.


Digital meters

These are simple digital displays which show your meter reading on a small screen.


Smart meters

Smart meters are the newest form of energy meters and are being introduced to replace the older ‘traditional’ and prepayment meters. These meters have a digital display screen which shows you how much money you’ve spent on energy, helping you keep track of your spending and avoiding nasty surprises when the bills come at the end of the month.

Your energy supplier can tell you whether your home is suitable for a smart meter. It’s their responsibility to install the equipment safely, which includes the meter, digital display and communications hub. After that, your hub sends information to your supplier using the mobile phone network, so they will bill you for what you use.

People often worry that others can steal their electricity by ‘hacking’ their smart meter, but in reality, smart meters are very safe and can be really useful for keeping track of your spending and reducing the amount of wasted energy.


Prepayment meters

These are sometimes called ‘token meters’ or ‘key-card meters’. Prepayment meters let you pay for your gas and electricity in advance, either on an app on your phone, by text or through a key card at a shop.

If someone often struggles to pay their energy bills, or if they are in debt with their supplier, they might put be put on a prepayment meter to help budget for the amount of energy they can afford to use.

The price per unit of energy on these meters is usually more expensive, so you should be careful before choosing this option or moving into a property with a prepayment meter already installed. Read our article the pros and cons of prepayment meters here.


Economy 7/10

Economy 7 and Economy 10 meters use a special tariff which gives you a cheaper rate for the energy you use overnight. Economy 7 meters track your usage during the day separately from your usage during the night, giving you 7 hours of cheaper energy overnight.

Economy 10 meters are similar, but you also get 3 of your cheaper hours in the afternoon. This can save you money if you tend to use energy later in the evening.

If you want to switch to one of these meters, you’ll have to check with your supplier to see if you can have one installed.

To find out more about the different meter types, you can read Ofgem’s consumer guide to understanding energy meters.


How do gas meters work?

Gas meters work by calculating the calorific value (CV), otherwise known as your heating rate. This is typically a fixed value provided by your energy company. CV calculations will change daily and can fluctuate depending on what part of the country you live in. The UK is divided into 13 different local distribution zones, with your bill based on your zone’s daily CV during the latest billing period.

The temperature of your home also influences your gas bill. Readings will be different depending on the temperature, as gas expands with heat. Many energy suppliers set 15°C as a basic temperature, but if your meter is outside, you’ll have lower bills due to the lower temperatures.Another force that impacts the volume of gas is pressure. If your home or property is at a lower altitude, then you will get more gas for your money. The average height gas companies use for billing purposes is 67.5m above sea level.


How do electricity meters work?

Electricity meters measure the amount of electric energy used in a property. The electricity is typically measured in kilowatt hour (kWh), which measures the number of kilowatts you use over time. This is the number that energy companies will use to work out how much energy you have consumed and what your bill will be.


How do you read an energy meter?

Some energy suppliers will automatically get readings from smart meters. Others will ask you to provide meter readings.


How to read a digital meter

To read a digital energy meter, you will need to write down the numbers from left to right, ignoring any numbers in red or surrounded by red.

If you have an Economy 7 meter, you may have two rows of figures. Record both lines of numbers from left to right, ignoring any numbers in red. You can then refer to your previous bill which will outline which is a ‘day rate’ and which is a ‘night rate’.


How to read an electricity meter

On some electricity meters, you will need to press a display button to take you to the readings. Some will scroll automatically through various displays.

To read an electricity meter, you will need to write down the numbers from left to right, ignoring any numbers in red or surrounded by red.

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