Be Your Own Meter Reader: How to Read Water, Gas and Electric Meters

by Kaia Koglin
Gas meter in basement

There are many reasons why you might want to read your utility meters. You can track your usage, make changes to become more energy efficient and make sure you budget enough money to pay the bill.

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Knowing how to read water meters also allows you to determine if you have a leak that needs to be fixed. And keeping track of your usage and comparing it against your utility bills can help you spot discrepancies.

How Do You Read Utility Meters?

Whether it’s water, gas or electricity, your utilities run through the meter before entering your house. The meter tracks and displays how much of the utility you're using.

Utility meters are relatively easy to read; it’s just a matter of locating the meter and looking at the numbers. However, there are different types of meters, and it’s important to know how to read and interpret each.

Can You Read New Smart Meters Yourself?

If you’re worried about how to read digital meters for electricity, don’t be. The new smart meters are simple to use. In many cases, you don’t even need to locate the meter to do a reading; you can track your utility usage on a mobile app or the company’s website. If this isn’t a possibility, you can still read usage on the meter at your home.

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How to Read Water Meters

The first step in reading your water meter is to locate the meter. Places to check for the meter include:

  • Outdoors or inside, near where the water enters the home
  • In the basement, garage or utility room
  • In a heated area of the home to prevent it from freezing

They are sometimes located in a concrete or transparent box. If you can’t find it, contact your water company.

To read a digital meter:

  1. Locate the front of the meter.
  2. Look at the screen to see the water usage on display.

Most smart meters show a reading of the total gallons used, but you may want to double-check that with your company. It's likely that there's information about how to read the meters on their website.

There are two types of analog water meters. A straight-reading meter displays usage on an odometer that looks very similar to the one in a car. To read it:

  1. Locate the front of the meter.
  2. Read the numbers from left to right.

There are generally other dials on the meter, but the odometer is the only one you need to track usage.

A round-reading is the most complicated water meter. It’s made up of six dials with indicator needles that are labeled as 100,000, 10,000, 1,000, 100, 10 and 1. These refer to cubic feet.  To read a round-reading meter:

  1. Locate the front of the meter.
  2. Start at the 100,000 dial, look at where the needle is pointing, and record this number.
  3. Move through the dials, reading each dial and recording the number.
  4. Stop at the cubic foot dial.
  5. Put the numbers together to get your water usage.

For example, if the dials read 0, 1, 5, 7, 2 and 8, your water usage is 15,728 cubic feet. As analog water meters show usage in cubic feet, you need to multiply the number by 7.48 to find out how many gallons you’ve used. Once you know how to read water meters, you can regularly check usage against your water bill.

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How to Read Gas and Electric Meters

As they’re very similar, you only need one set of instructions to learn how to read electric and gas meters. The biggest difference is where they’re located. All gas meters should be within 10 feet of the front corner of your home. Electricity meters don't have a consistent location. To find it, try searching:

  • Near the foundation
  • Indoors near your breaker box
  • On nearby power poles
  • On nearby light poles
  • At a cluster of meters that monitor multifamily homes

Again, if you can’t find the meter, ring your utility company. They can give you the exact location.

It’s easy to learn how to read new smart electric meters. They show usage on the display screen. To read:

  1. Locate the front of the meter.
  2. Read numbers in order.

There are analog meters called cyclonic dial meters that have an odometer. These can be read by using the instructions listed for digital meters. However, most analog gas and electric meters have multiple dials, like a round-reading water meter. To interpret these:

  1. Locate the front of the meter.
  2. Read each dial from left to right.
  3. Write down each number.
  4. If the needle points between two numbers, write down the lower of the two.
  5. If the number is resting directly on a number, check the dial to the right; if that hasn’t passed zero, write down the lower number.

Electricity meters record the number of kilowatt hours (kWh) of power you use. Natural gas is measured by cubic feet.

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Elocal Editorial Content is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Editorial Content should not be used as a substitute for advice from a licensed professional in your state reviewing your issue. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the eLocal Editorial Team and other third-party content providers do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of eLocal or its affiliate companies. Use of eLocal Editorial Content is subject to the

Website Terms and Conditions.

The eLocal Editorial Team operates independently of eLocal USA's marketing and sales decisions.

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