a smart electric meter with a digital display reading on the front

Electric Meter

Originally contributed by Jeff Butler • last updated 2/18/2021

Nowadays, many utility companies are replacing older electric meters with newer smart meters, hoping to be able to provide more timely and accurate readings. However, outside of billing and monitoring, most homeowners will never need to operate or work on their electric meter.


The term electric meter (sometimes called an electricity meter or an electrical meter) often refers to a device typically located on the outside of a home or building that links the incoming power supply to a home or building. The electric meter measures the amount of consumed electricity, typically in kilowatt hours (kWh), and is used by utility companies for monitoring and billing purposes. Modern smart meters provide almost instantaneous feedback and may have additional energy saving applications.

How To Read An Electric Meter?

In many cases, homeowners will probably never have to read their electric meter because most utility companies will monitor it accordingly. However, sometimes, you may be required to report your reading:

  • If you receive a card with a request to submit your electric meter reading, follow the instructions and fill in the card with the appropriate numbers. Read the numbers from left to right and record the numbers (or shade them) as they appear on each dial.
  • Calculating your energy costs from a meter reading can be a bit tricky. Energy companies don't typically reset the numbers back to zero after each reading so you’ll need to have information from previous billing periods to calculate the costs properly.