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Understanding How Natural Gas and Residential Electric Meters Work

3 minutes
An illustration of an electric meter, left, and a gas meter, right, with different digital readings. The graphic reads "Understanding how natural gas and electric meters work"

Learning to read your meter can be of great use. It will help you better understand how things work and how you should further manage your electricity consuming habits. Anyone can figure out how to put together a few numbers which represent energy use. Remember to always compare your readings with the exact same periods of time. Keep tabs of what your numbers were during last winter and see how you are doing during the next cold season. If you feel like it, you can even go a step further and keep tabs on temperatures daily throughout an entire month.

Tips On How To Properly Keep Track Of Your Energy Consumption Rate

If you live in an area which has linear temperatures throughout the seasons, you will have no trouble pinning down the right results. If you live in an area which goes through all four seasons and has a fluctuating character, you will need to adapt. To find out what your energy needs are and what limits, you can use as guidelines use average temperatures. Heating and cooling processes should be proportional to what your readings indicate.

Another great way to get information is to get in contact with the local utility companies responsible for delivering energy to your home. Give them a call and ask as many questions as you can regarding your meter and how it works. Take a good look at your bills, which can sometimes be more revealing than any other individual reading. Remember to ask your company for information which is actually real and not estimated. Also, remember to ask the exact dates when the meter was read so as to avoid registering bad data.

Measuring Electricity Consumption

As most already know, electric power is measured by using a basic unit called the watt. A kilowatt, which is a very common term used to describe your energy needs, is made up of 1000 watts. Bills usually come after measuring how many kWh you used per hour during every month.

An electric meter is basically similar to a clock. It is set in motion by the electricity which goes through it each time you turn on an appliance or any other device which needs to be powered. The entire mechanism is actually a lot simpler than you might think. The current, which comes from the power lines, moves a series of small gears incorporated in the meter’s design. The revolutions made by those gears can vary in speed depending on how much electricity runs through the device.

If you need to get a better idea of how you should use certain appliances or devices within your home, get a pen and a piece of paper. Write down the numbers and remember to start from right to left. You will notice a pointer directly over one of the numbers. There is a dial on the right which you have to check out. Always consider the next higher number if the previous digit is 0, and it is already half gone. If the indicator has not passed 0 yet, consider the number registered before.

Measuring Gas Consumption

A gas meter is a bit different from an electric meter. The volume of gas used for various purposes is measured by the cubic foot. The bills come with values reaching thousands or hundreds of cubic feet. Some devices register gas consumption by the Therm. This billing method uses a different name if you consider that 1 Therm is the equivalent of 100 cubic feet of gas.

The gas meter uses the same principle as the electric meter in terms of measuring your consumption rate. As gas flows through the pipe, numbers start turning. The digits change once every complete revolution made by the dial with the lower value. Reading gas meters is done from left to right. Also, remember that both meters have dials with opposite directions to each other.


Technology has advanced, and most utility providers use electric meters nowadays. They are a lot easier to read and manage, but not all people use them yet. If you do have the more outdated dial design, use the information as best as you can and reduce your energy consumption rate with a few simple steps.