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

Electric Meter

Originally contributed by • last updated 3/2/2021

Electricians Atlanta
Electricians Atlanta

Although some homeowners still need to provide a manual meter reading to their electricity provider, having to record and submit the numbers on your meter is pretty much a thing of the past. Nowadays, many utility companies are replacing older electric meters with newer smart meters, hoping to be able to provide more timely and accurate readings without having to manually inspect and record each one. Nevertheless, 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 the designated electrical system. Typically enclosed in a square or round metal box with a glass or plastic bubble shield to hide numbered dials, these devices measure the amount of consumed electricity, typically in kilowatt hours (kWh). They are really only used by utility companies for monitoring and billing purposes. Modern smart meters provide almost instantaneous feedback and may have additional energy saving applications, but are typically not installed by homeowners and are supplied only by the power company.

What Do The Numbers Mean On An Electric Meter?

If you’ve ever looked at the electric meter on the side of your home and wondered what the little numbered dials were for, they are moving in accordance to how much energy is being consumed by the home’s electrical system. In many cases, homeowners will probably never have to read theirs 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.