 It may seem intimidating to look at an electrical meter, especially an analog one. Digital meters are pretty straight forward; they display the total amount of kilowatt hours (kWh) consumed by your whole home. Analog meters have four to six dials that are constantly spinning. Some work much like the mileage counter in a car, others have individual dials with needles, each needle spinning the opposite direction of the one before it. On a meter with five dials, the first, third, and fifth needles spin clockwise, while the second and fourth spin counter clockwise. This is due to the arrangement of the gears inside the meter that rotate the needles on the dials.

Now that we see the reason for how they rotate, we can actually read what they say. To get the most accurate reading, ensure your are facing the dials straight on, so they are clearly visible. Each dial has ten digits, 0 through 9. When reading the meter, always read the number the needle has just passed. For example, if the needle is between 3 and 4, read it as 3. If the needle is between 9 and 0, read it as 9. If the needle looks to be precisely on a number, read the next dial to the right to see if it is past 0. If not, count the number on the first dial before the number the needle is over. For example, if the second needle from the left looks to be directly on 6, but the third needle is between 8 and 9, the second needle is actually 5. Reading the above set of dials, we can now determine that it reads 25866 kWh. You may be wondering how this information can help you. First of all, a kilowatt hour is 1000 watts of electricity consumed over the course of an hour. This is equal to running ten 100 watt bulbs at the same time for an hour. By reading your meter over a given period of time, say once a week for a month, you can determine how much electricity you are using on average. To do this, at a precise time, like noon on Saturday, read your meter.

Let’s say it reads the above example of 25866. The following Saturday, it reads 26126. Take 26126 and subtract 25866 from it, giving you a difference of 260. This means you used 260 kilowatt hours for that week. Repeat this for the following three weeks. We’ll say the following three weeks’ results were 245, 258, and for a week that was abnormally hot, 300. Add these four results up, totaling 1063. Now divide that by four (the number of weeks) to get an average electricity use of 265.75 kWh for that month.

You can keep track of your monthly energy expenditures this way, and thus give yourself an idea on what to expect your electricity cost to be. Granted, there may be some weeks where your energy expenditure will be higher than normal due to hot or cold weather, but you can take another measurement for a more normal week and replace the abnormal week’s results with the normal week’s to get a more accurate average energy use. Meter readings are very important because they affect your average consumption of electricity.

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