How to read a digital electric meter

Updated February 21, 2017

Electric meters are devices that measure the amount of electrical power used. They are typically used by power companies to measure how much electricity a household or apartment uses. The electric companies take readings on these electric meters, typically monthly, and charge the electricity user for the amount of power consumed for the month. Digital electric meters have numeric displays that show numbers in kilowatt hours. A kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. If you have a 100-watt light bulb that is turned on for one hour, then 100 watt hours or 0.1 kilowatt hours is consumed.

Locate the digital electric meter. They are typically mounted on the side of a house or apartment building where the electric power line comes into the house through a conduit. Bring a notebook and pen with you so you can write down the reading.

Read the numbers on the digital electric meter display. Pay particular attention to where the decimal point is. Failure to properly locate the decimal point will result in a reading that is grossly wrong. Write the numbers in your notebook. If your electric meter has small clock faces with needles pointing at numbers, this is an analogue electric meter and not a digital electric meter.

Note the time and date that you took your reading of the electric meter.

Repeat the reading of your electric meter at a later date. Note the date and time. Subtract the first reading from the second reading and you'll arrive at the number of kilowatt hours used during that time frame.

Continue taking readings to gauge the amount of electricity that is used during different time periods. By coordinating your readings with the readings performed by the electric company, you can double-check the accuracy of your power bill.


Keep a record of your digital electric meter readings so you can keep track of variations in your electricity consumption at various times of the week, month and year.


Tampering with your digital electric meter is taken seriously by electric companies and can result in prosecution.

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About the Author

Doug Hewitt has been writing for over 20 years and has a Master of Arts from University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He authored the book "The Practical Guide to Weekend Parenting," which includes health and fitness hints for parents. He and his wife, Robin, are coauthors of the "Free College Resource Book."