Understanding electricity meters can be tricky, which is why we’re here to break down the basics. We’ll cover the different types of electricity meters and how they can help you save on your bills.
What is an electricity meter?
An electricity meter measures the electricity use of your household or business within a billing period. Your energy usage data is recorded and sent to the electricity retailer that provides your electricity bill.
Learning about your meter can help you monitor your energy usage and prepare for your next bill. Electricity and gas are recorded separately, so learn about reading your gas meter here.
Types of electricity meters in Australia
There are several types of electricity meters. Depending on your location and when your house was built, you may have up to two of these meters:
- Electricity flat-rate meter
- Electricity interval meter
- Smart electricity meter
- Solar meter.
While these all measure your electricity consumption, the newer models (i.e. smart electricity meters and solar meters) are more advanced and can help you identify potential savings.
Electricity flat-rate meters
Also known as an accumulation meter, this meter will record how much electricity you use in kilowatt-hours (kWh). As an older model, the only way to check how much electricity you’ve used within a specific period is to compare the numbers between two consecutive readings. These meters come in three types: cyclometer display, digital display and dial display.
For instance, if your meter reads 345 kWh in the morning (shown below on a cyclometer display), then 386 kWh the following morning, you’ve used 41 kWh in a 24-hour period.
Electricity interval meters
The electricity interval meter is an advanced version of the flat-rate meter. It records your energy use electronically in either 15- or 30-minute intervals. With an interval meter, you can be alternatively charged using a time-of-use (TOU) tariff, meaning you’re charged at different electricity rates depending on the time of day. However, it still requires a meter reader to take the readings.
Smart electricity meters
Also known as an advanced meter, a smart meter records your energy usage as you consume energy. It’s similar to an interval meter; however, the data is collected remotely and doesn’t require a meter reader. The availability of the data helps you discern your specific energy habits throughout the day and identify areas in your life where you could potentially create energy savings.
This type of meter is ideal for those on a time-of-use tariff because TOU rates will vary throughout the day depending on when you use electricity.
You can read your smart meter and energy habits remotely through an app on your mobile phone instead of going to your meter box to get a reading; your retailer usually provides this through their online services. By being able to monitor when there’s high energy consumption in your home, you can observe your energy habits and adjust them to reduce your consumption.
Without a smart meter, you may still be able to track your energy usage with an electricity monitoring device.
If your home has a solar PV system or solar battery, you’ll have a solar meter to help you read how much energy your household consumes. A solar meter tracks the imported electricity for your household and exported solar power to the grid. Additionally, depending on your solar meter type, it can help you see how much excess energy your system generates.
By observing the excess energy production from your solar panels, you can calculate how many kilowatts (kW) you’re selling back to the grid. The amount you make from the excess energy is referred to as feed-in-tariff credits, And you can receive these credits at the end of each billing period. When comparing energy retailers you can also compare solar feed-in-tariffs.
Where is my electricity meter?
Your distributor or meter provider will typically install your meter on the side or front of your home in a safe and easily accessible area so they can conduct meter reads. Depending on when your home was built, some providers will install it inside, so you’ll need to be home for them to access your meter.
Although the meter is typically installed on your premises, it’s not something you purchase or move with. A qualified and licensed electrician installs an electricity meter when a house is first built, so your home will usually already have one. If you change meters, your old meter will be removed by the installer and returned to your electricity distributor (the company that distributes energy produced by generators).
Your energy retailer is responsible for meter installations, upgrades to a smart meter, and internal repairs and replacements. You may incur an out-of-pocket fee if the work is outside of the standard maintenance requirements for that meter, such as a voluntary meter upgrade.
How to read an electricity meter
You may have either a digital or analogue electricity meter. Digital electricity meters are straightforward in showing how many kilowatts your household has consumed in a certain period. The below image shows a reading of 78,722 kWh.
If you have an analogue electricity meter, each dial represents a digit.
The numbers on each dial (from left to right) in the above image read 7, 6, 9, 6 and 1, meaning your household has used 76,961 kWh of electricity. To find the usage per quarter, you’ll need to take note of the number at the start and end of the quarter and compare the figures.
Who takes my meter reading?
The distributor takes a reading and sends it to your retailer, who will calculate the bill. Distributors are required to take a reading at least once a year. If your meter reader can’t access your meter for any reason, you may receive an estimated bill rather than an actual one. Read more about estimated versus actual bills here.
An estimated read is based on past meter reads and is used when an actual read isn’t available. An actual read may not be available for a number of reasons, including:
- If your distributor isn’t able to access your meter
- If your meter isn’t able to send your meter data to your retailer in time for the next billing.
If you’d like to know more about your bill, check out our articles on how to read energy bills or ways to track your energy usage.
How can an electricity meter help me be more energy efficient?
Smart meters can help you identify when your energy consumption increases or decreases throughout the day. By identifying these trends, you may be able to re-evaluate your energy habits and lower your consumption. You could also shift your usage of different appliances to off-peak times if you have a time-of-use tariff.
For example, if your energy consumption is still high despite no one being at home, you may want to evaluate what appliances you’re leaving on throughout the day.
It’s difficult to work out your consumption habits with your electricity bill alone, which is why seeing when you use energy through the data from your smart meter is a handy way to work out what appliances you were using during those heavy usage hours.
If you have a flat-rate or interval meter and want to better track your electricity supply but aren’t eligible for an upgrade, you can look into alternate energy monitoring methods, like energy monitoring apps or home electricity usage monitors.
Find out how you can be more energy-efficient through our guide to technology energy consumption and guide to energy-efficient appliances.
Looking to save on your energy plan?
Understanding your electricity usage can help you save on your bill. Another way you could save is by looking for a great-value plan with our energy plan comparison service.
Compare prices, features, discounts and more! You can get a quote in minutes from a range of Australian energy providers. Looking for energy savings has never been more simples.