Having a broad understanding of the different types of energy meters, will help you with taking meter readings, which are important to ensure your energy bills are based on the correct usage. It will also aid in researching whether there may be a more suitable energy meter for your home.
The most common types of energy meters in the UK are standard meters. These meters are characterised by their simple display of revolving digits. In line with your energy consumption, your display will show your energy usage in kilowatt hours.
To take meter readings, simply read the digits from left to right, ignoring any numbers in red.
Households with standard energy meters typically have their payments taken via direct debit or cheque, on a monthly or quarterly basis. This has the benefit of accessing the largest pool of deals available on the market.
Digital meters are functionally similar to standard meters, with the difference of a LED display. These type of meters give you access to the same variety of energy deals as standard meters, with the added bonus that the display may be easier to read.
To take a meter reading, simply press the button to view the figures, and make a note of the last 5 digits on the screen.
As the name suggests, dial meters have a different type of mechanism in place, using a number of dials resembling small clocks.
Taking meter readings becomes a bit more complicated, as each dial represents a number of the reading. These dials should be read from left to right, ignoring the red testing dial marked as 1/10.
Prepayment or pay as go meters are quite different from other types of energy meters. Payments are taken in advance, and are made via a top up key card which has to be physically inserted into the meter.
The meter itself has a digital display, which shows both your energy consumption and how much money is left. For meter readings, a button needs to be pressed to show your usage.
Generally, prepayment meters limit the choice of available deals. According to Citizens Advice, prepayment deals on average are also more expensive than those available to different energy meters.
As a result, many are moving away from prepayment meters.
Variable Rate Meters
Another different type of energy meter is a variable rate meter. They operate similarly to standard meters, with the crucial difference of providing not one but two electricity readings. The most common ones are Economy 7 meters, whereby a cheaper night rate applies for 7 hours a day.
When taking readings, both the day and night digits have to be taken down for your supplier to calculate your usage.
Similarly, Economy 10 meters offer 10 off-peak hours throughout the day. However, there are downsides with this. Firstly, there are only small number of energy deals available for this type of meter. Secondly, it is important to keep in mind that day rates will be significantly higher!
Smart meters are compatible with standard, prepayment and variable meters, but with an important distinction. They send meter readings automatically to your supplier.
A further difference, is that the meter will be inside of your home. This allows you to monitor your energy usage in kWh, and your spending in real-time.
Therefore, smart meters are handy for two reasons. One, you never need to worry about your bills being based on outdated or estimated usage figures.
Two, you are able to see exactly how much energy you are consuming. Ultimately, this could lead to more energy conscious behaviour, such as turning off your appliances when they are not in use.
How Do I know which type of Energy Meter I have?
Check your meter
Does it match the description of any energy meter types listed above? Many meters have distinct differences, such as the look of the display or the number of electricity readings.
Check your bill
If you have a prepayment meter and therefore a prepayment deal, you can be sure this will be labelled as such on your energy bill.
Alternatively, the payment method listed on your bill could give you some clues. Monthly/ quarterly direct debit or cheque payments would indicate that you have a standard meter.
Economy 7 or Economy 10 meters other other hand, can be identified by two separate electricity readings on your bill, one for day and one for night.
Check with your supplier
If you are getting confused with the different types of meters out there, you can always give your energy supplier a ring, or shoot them an email. Suppliers have access to industry data, and will be able to tell you exactly what energy meter you have in your home.
What's the best choice of meters for your home?
You live with a family and value flexibility
If you live with a family where people come and go throughout the day, a standard meter would be a solid choice.
Standard meters give you access to the widest variety of energy deals, with prices that stay the same throughout the course of day, unlike variable rate meters.
You have an electric vehicle, or spend most of your day outside
If this sounds like you, an Economy 7 meter would make a great match. Although variable rate meters only work with deals that have a higher day rate, you can make savings by simply consuming the most energy during reduced-rate night hours.
When switching energy meter types just bear in mind that there are generally more Economy 7, than Economy 10 deals available on the market!
You like to be in control of your spendings
If you have a habit of forgetting to put enough money on the side for your energy bill by the end of the month, you might want to pay in advance. This is possible with a prepayment meter.
Just keep in mind, if your meter runs out of credit, your electricity and gas supply will be shut off!
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