How to read a smart meter
Many people think that a smart meter is the small digital screen you receive from your energy provider that tells you in real time what your energy usage is. But this is just a small part of the overall smart meter system. When they’re installed, your gas and electricity meters can be updated so that they’re ‘smart’ too. As you use energy, the meters will track what’s being used and display this on the screen so you can keep an eye on how much you’re spending per day.
This means that you no longer need to send your meter readings to your energy provider - this is done automatically. It also means that your bills are based on the energy you actually use and not an estimate. However, you may occasionally want to check your meters yourself, either to ensure that the data being sent to the provider is correct or just to see your usage. You can either check the digital screen or the meters themselves. Here’s how you can do both.
How do you read a smart meter?
There are different types of smart meters and how you read them will depend on what type you have. Below, we’ve listed the most common ways to find your meter readings. If you’re still unsure of how to do it, you can contact your energy provider.
How to read an electricity smart meter
If you’re on a standard electricity tariff, your meter will only show one row of numbers on the screen (not two). There should be five numbers in black or white and one number that’s red.
This is also known as a single-rate digital meter. Some meters don’t have any buttons or keys at all, whereas others may have a keypad of numbers and A and B buttons, as in the image above. We’ve explained how to read the two different types below.
...with a keypad
To see the readings from this kind of meter, press nine on the keypad. Wait a few seconds and “kWh” should appear on the screen. Then, the digits will be displayed.
Some displays show as eight digits instead of five. For example, the reading might show as 12345 or 0012345.6, depending on the type of single-rate smart meter you have. This measurement is in kilowatt hours (kWh), a unit that can be used to determine how much gas your boiler uses or how much electricity you use.
Your meter may show two rows of numbers and not just one. If this is the case, then you’re on an Economy 7 meter, otherwise known as a two-rate smart meter. You’ll have this kind of meter if you pay different rates for your electricity. For example, you may pay less for your electricity at night as there is less demand for it compared to the daytime. The top reading shows the reduced rate and the bottom reading shows the standard rate.
To take a reading, press the number six on the keypad. You may need to press it multiple times until you see the phrase “IMP R01 appear”. Depending on your meter, the screen might show this as just “R01”. This will be your night time reading. Take a note of the figures on the screen. Around every five to 10 seconds, the screen will switch to “R02” and back again. You can continue to press the number six to take it back to R01.
Once you have this reading, you’ll want to take your daytime usage. Press the number six until the screen shows “IMP R02”, or “R02”, and note down these five figures.
...with A/B buttons
Some meters may not have keypads. Instead, they’ll have two buttons - A and B. You can generally press button A to activate the screen and the reading should appear instantly. For instance, a British Gas meter requires you to push button A a few times until you see “Rate 01 Act Imp” or “Rate 02 Act Imp”.
How to read a gas smart meter
Unlike electricity meters, where you could have a single- or dual-rate variety, there’s generally only one type of gas smart meter that you’ll have in your home. However, they can vary in design and therefore your gas meter may have a keypad, A and B buttons or something else.
If your gas smart meter has a keypad, as shown above, press the number nine to activate the screen. The word ‘Volume’ should appear, followed by your reading. Again, it could be five digits or eight digits. Whichever variety it is, take a note of the numbers.
For a gas meter that simply has an A and B button, press button A to activate the screen. Continue to press this button until the screen shows ‘Meter Index’. Wait a few seconds and your reading will be displayed in metres cubed.
If you still can’t work out how to take a manual reading, you should contact your provider for information on how to do so.
Can smart meters give wrong readings?
As smart meters are still a relatively new technology, there have been some issues with meters providing inaccurate readings. However, it’s been found that it may not be the meter that is the problem, but the energy-saving devices in our homes.
A study completed by the University of Twente in the Netherlands found that energy-saving devices, such as LED light bulbs, change the way in which electricity usage is measured. This in turn can alter what the smart meter thinks you’ve used compared to what has actually been consumed.
However, this shouldn’t put you off having a smart meter. Instead, you should manually check your meters every now and then as described above to ensure that they match what you’re paying. Alternatively, you could compare your usage against an energy bill that you received prior to having the smart meter fitted.