How to Read Your Electric Meter
The electric meter located next to your main service panel is what the utility company uses to gauge the amount of energy you have consumed from the grid. Although the meter may look somewhat intimidating, it is actually quite easy to read once it is broken down and explained. Understanding your electric meter is key if you want to keep track of your energy consumption and production each day, after having a solar energy system installed.
There are two main types of electric meters used, analog and digital. Digital is much easier to read, as the numbers are presented outright. The new Edison Smart Meters are all digital, and much easier to understand. However, many homes still have the analog style meter. The analog electric meter is explained below.
Electric Meter Layout
Your electric meter is actually quite simple. If you split your electric meter into three sections, top to bottom, it is easy to understand. The top portion is the most important, as it shows you the current kWh count, and is explained in detail below. The middle is the dial that spins forward (to the right) when you are using power from the grid, and backwards (to the left) when you are feeding power to the grid, such as with a solar power system. The faster this dial spins, the more power currently being drawn/fed. The bottom portion of the meter describes the type of service you have, specifically the voltage and frequency.
How to Read the Number of Kilowatt-Hours
Kilowatt-Hours (kWh) is a unit of energy, not power. For more information on the kilowatt-hour, see our electricity 101 tutorial. The dials which mark your current kWh reading, are analogous to a speedometer in your car. Looking at the picture to the right, each of the dials represent a digit in the kWh reading, most significant to least significant going from left to right. As an example, the meter on the right would read "36592 kWh."
Now that I know the number, how do I use it?
The electric company charges you for the number of kWhs you have used that particular month. They simply subtract the previous months kWh reading from the current month's reading to get the total number of kWhs you used the current month. This is clarified on our page of How to Read an Edison Electric Bill.