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Home & garden.

23 September 2021

Gas and electricity meters explained

Smart meters, prepayment meters, Economy 7 meters, Economy 10 meters and standard meters – what you need to know to save money on your energy bills.
SI
Sarah Ingrams
Gas smart meter 2
Smart gas meter

Your gas and electricity meters are the key to you getting accurate energy bills. Find out what type you have, if you need to read your meter, and what you need to know about different gas and electricity meters to keep your energy costs in check.

Your meters are there to record how much gas and electricity you use. Your energy company bases your bills on them. But if they don’t get regular meter readings, they’ll estimate your bills instead.  

Making sure that your energy firm has recent meter readings is the key to getting accurate bills or keeping your direct debit in check. 

If you move home it’s important to read your gas and electricity meters shortly before you move out of your old home, and as soon as you move into your new place, so you pay only for the energy you have used.

Plus giving regular meter readings could help alert you and your energy supplier if there’s a fault. If you’re concerned about this, keep reading to find out what to do.

Keeping an eye on your meter will also help you know how much gas and electricity you’re using to help:

  • Reduce your energy bill by finding ways to save
  • Reduce your carbon footprint
  • Make it easier to spot if your meters are faulty

Smart meters make this easier but it’s still possible to do this without them.

Don't pay more for energy than you need to – compare gas and electricity prices with our independent energy switching site Which? Switch.

Man reading a smart meter

Electric meter and gas meter readings

Smart electric meters and smart gas meters should send your meter readings to your energy supplier automatically. Many in-home displays will also show your meter readings (you may need to scroll through the menus) to save you going outside or into a tight cupboard to access your meter.

If your smart meter isn’t sending automatic meter readings, or you want to check, you still take a reading manually. How you see the reading depends on the meter. If it’s not immediately visible, you may need to press a button. Check your supplier’s website for instructions or contact it if you’re not sure. 

Digital electricity meter

Traditional gas and electricity meters require you to take a reading from the front of the meter. Read our guide to how to read your electric meter and how to read your gas meter.

If you’re not able to read your meter safely, for example because it’s not accessible for you, contact your energy firm for help. 

How to identify your gas meter and electricity meter

Not sure what type of gas and electricity meter you have? Scroll through the images to see the main types of gas and electric meters in the UK. 

Gas and electricity meters

A large collection of images displayed on this page are available at

You’ll typically find your gas and electricity meters in boxes outside your home, under the stairs, or in kitchen cupboards. If you live in a flat, your meters might be located in a communal cupboard or the basement.

Smart meters

Smart meters enable your energy supplier to record your gas and electricity use remotely. You won’t need to send meter readings and your bills need not be based on estimates. 

More than 22m smart meters have been installed in homes – that’s around 42% of all meters in homes. Energy companies are aiming to install smart meters in all homes. You’ll be contacted to arrange your installation, or you can ask your energy firm to book an appointment. 

Smart meter in a meter box

Smart meters enable time-of-use tariffs (where you’re charged different amounts for electricity used at different times of day, similar to Economy 7 tariffs). They can be set up in ‘credit mode’ (if you pay by direct debit or when you get a bill) or ‘prepayment mode’.

Find out more about smart meters including what to do if your energy company can’t read your smart meter.

Traditional electricity meters and gas meters

All gas and electric meters should clearly display a set of numbers showing your energy use to date. This might be a digital display, rotating dials or clock-style dials. 

Traditional meters won’t send your meter readings to your supplier automatically. So you’ll need to send them, or contact your energy supplier for help if you are unable to do so.

Woman reading a gas meter

We recommend that you submit meter readings every month, or every three months as a minimum. Take a note of the reading and date it was taken. Or take a photo of your meter. This means you’ll have evidence of the reading in future, just in case.

In the past, energy suppliers had to read your meter every two years. This rule was scrapped in 2016.

See other ways save money on your energy bill.

Inserting a top-up card into a prepayment meter

Prepayment meters for gas and electricity

Prepayment meters require you to top-up before you can use gas and electricity. 

In the past you had to go to a shop to top-up your card or key, or to buy tokens. You added the credit to your meter by inserting your key, card or tokens into the front of your prepayment meter.

Now you can top-up remotely with many energy firms, especially if you have a smart prepayment meter. Top-up is usually available via their website, app, or over the phone. This makes pay-as-you-go energy much more convenient than previously, though your electricity or gas can still cut-off if you run out of credit, unlike customers who pay by direct debit or when they get a bill..

Find out whether a prepayment meter is right for you, including how to change your prepayment meter to direct debit. Check our energy supplier reviews to see whether they supply prepayment meter customers and if you can get friendly or emergency credit.

Economy 7 meter dials

Economy 7 meters

Economy 7 meters track daytime and night-time electricity use separately. Coupled with an Economy 7 tariff, they can help save money on power used overnight. They’re often found in homes with electric central heating and storage heaters.

Economy 7 meters provide two readings:

  • one for more expensive electricity used during the day
  • the other for cheaper night usage. 

Different meters label the two rates in different ways. 

Pricier 'peak' rate
Cheaper 'off-peak' rate
Day rate
Night rate
Normal
Low
Rate 2
Rate 1

If you have an Economy 7 meter and tariff, make sure that you’re making the most of them. Using less than 30% of your electricity during the cheaper night-time hours could mean that you’d pay less on a single-rate electricity tariff (where the charges are the same, regardless of time). 

Check your latest bill or your online account to see how much electricity you’re using at the different rates. To access a single-rate tariff you might need your energy firm to replace your meter or sometimes your two meter readings can be added together.

It’s also worth checking that the clock on your meter is telling the correct time. If not, then you could be using electricity at a higher rate than you realise. Back in 2014 we found that 16% of Which? members with two-rate meters, such as Economy 7, had meters telling the wrong time.

Contact your energy supplier if you’re unsure of your cheaper hours or think your meter’s clock is incorrect.

Find out more about Economy 7 tariffs and how to get the best energy deal.

Economy 10 meters

Like Economy 7, Economy 10 meters record how much electricity you use at ‘peak’ and ‘off-peak’ times. Economy 10 tariffs then charge different rates for these. 

But Economy 10 gives 10 hours of cheaper electricity – usually in three blocks. These are often overnight or very early morning, late evening and mid-afternoon.

In Scotland, these meters are often referred to as ‘white meters’. They’re also called Heatwise.

To make the most of your Economy 10 meter, you should try to use as much electricity as possible at the times when it’s cheaper for you. Economy 10 times vary depending on where you live and your energy supplier. Check with your energy firm if you’re not sure when yours are.

Economy 10 tariffs don’t work with existing smart meters and many energy firms don’t sell tariffs for them.

Read our tips on how to use less electricity.

Man reading an energy bill and frowning

What to do if you think your electric or gas meter is faulty

Unusual bills or meter readings are often the best clue to a faulty meter. 

If you suspect your meter is faulty, record regular meter readings to help prove your case. If you have a smart meter that’s taking daily meter readings then you may be able to track your usage in your online account or app.

You can also try turning off all your appliances and watching your meter. It shouldn’t still be registering significant amounts of energy. 

If you have a smart meter, you can use your in-home display (IHD) to help check your real-time energy use. It isn’t a fool-proof way of checking meter accuracy, but it can be a helpful guide if you already have suspicions.   

Smart meter in-home display

Gas meters approved under UK law must be within 2% accurate and electricity meters within +2.5% and -3.5% accurate. 

Contact your energy supplier if you think your meter is faulty. Energy firms have a legal obligation to ensure all gas and electricity meters are accurate. So they must investigate.

Meters can be tested at your home or sent away to an independent laboratory. The actual testing is free but suppliers can charge for the cost of removing and replacing your meter. Some reimburse the cost if the meter is found to be inaccurate. Find out more in our consumer rights guide to faulty meters. [LINK]

It’s also worth checking that the unique identification number of your meter matches your bill. Occasionally these can get muddled, especially if your meter is in a cupboard with lots of others. Look for:

  • Gas meter: Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN) 
  • Electricity meter: Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN)