Gas and electric meter reading: how do I take one? When to do it for Ofgem energy price cap October 2023

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The latest Ofgem energy price cap means energy bills will come down slightly this autumn - although gas and electricity prices will actually be more expensive than last year

Energy bills will fall to their lowest level in 18 months this autumn, after Ofgem’s energy price cap dipped below £2,000 for the first time since March 2022.

Gas and electricity prices for the average UK household will drop from the current level of £2,074 per year to £1,923. This 7% reduction will knock around £12.50 off a typical energy bill.

Despite the slight fall, bills are set to climb in real terms compared to last year as the government has not announced a successor to the £400 energy bills grant. There have also been grumblings about the price cap’s suitability for the post-energy crisis world, particularly for households on low incomes.

But the lower price cap will come as good news to Rishi Sunak, as it means he will be more likely to hit his pledge to halve inflation in 2023. Energy bills are reflected in official inflation figures, and were behind the significant drop in the Consumer Prices Index recorded in July. Another decline is now expected in October’s data.

So, with energy bills set to come down, when should you take a meter reading to ensure the latest price cap rates are reflected in the bill from your supplier - and how do you take a reading in the first place?

Why is it important to take meter readings?

Taking meter readings is a crucial way of keeping on top of your energy usage and bills, particularly if you do not have a smart meter. By giving your provider regular updates of your gas and electricity usage, your bill will be more accurate - meaning you will be charged no more or no less than you should be.

While not being charged enough may sound appealing in this era of rocketing household bills, it is likely to mean you face a much larger bill down the line. This can create issues if you have to carefully control your cashflow.

Not all homes have smart meters (image: AFP/Getty Images)Not all homes have smart meters (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Not all homes have smart meters (image: AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Meter readings are also vital for when you move into or out of a property, as the energy company will be able to work out how much of your home’s energy usage is down to you. Almost all energy providers accept readings over the phone, but many have websites or apps you can put them into (NationalWorld has listed all the major supplier’s contact numbers below).

In March 2022 ahead of ‘Bleak Friday’ - the day when energy bills soared 54% under the Ofgem cap - provider phone lines were jammed as thousands of people scrambled to submit their meter readings. So, it may be better to submit your readings online.

When should you take a meter reading for October price cap?

It will soon be time for you to submit meter readings again to ensure you’re being charged the correct amount. Energy prices are going to change once the next energy price cap comes in.

From 1 October, unit rates will fall to 6.89p per kilowatt hour (kWh) for gas and 27.35p per kWh for electricity. It means you should be taking and submitting a meter reading on or before 30 September to show your supplier exactly how much you have used under the current Ofgem rate.

How do you take a gas meter reading?

How to take a meter reading depends on the type of meter you have. Citizens Advice has identified three principal types of meter you may find in your gas cupboard. These are:

  • Digital metric meter: has an electronic or digital display that brings up five numbers then a decimal point, followed by some more numbers. You should only record the numbers before the decimal point.
  • Digital imperial meter: again, this meter has an electronic or digital display. But it will only show four black or white numbers and two red ones. Only record the first four numbers and ignore the ones in red.
  • Dial meter: this type of meter has four or more dials carrying numbers from zero to nine. The different dials move in the opposite direction to the ones next to it, so be sure to check whether they’re going clockwise or anticlockwise before reading them. You should then read the dials from left to right, ignoring large dials or red ones. If the pointer is in the middle of two numbers, write down the lower number. And if it’s between nine and zero, write down nine.

If you’re still unsure, your supplier will usually inform you of the criteria it is looking for in a reading.

How do you take an electricity meter reading?

Electricity meters are similar to gas meters, with the dial meter being a common type that’s read in exactly the same way as a gas dial meter (see above). But the other types of electricity meter have subtle differences:

  • Single rate digital meter: this kind of meter has an electronic or digital display containing five numbers in black or white, and a further set of numbers in red. When reading the meter, write down the first five numbers and ignore the ones in red.
  • Two rate digital meter: if you have a tariff that’s split into day and night rates (night ones often being cheaper), you might have a ‘dual rate’ meter. This will give you two sets of numbers. One will be labelled either as ‘low’ or ‘night’ and shows how many units of cheaper electricity you’ve used. The other will be labelled as ‘normal’ or ‘day’ and gives you the number of standard-price electricity units you’ve used. To read this kind of meter, take the numbers from both rows (being sure to record which is which) and ignore any numbers that come up in red.
  • Two rate single display meter: the other type of electricity meter with two different rates has a single digital screen that flicks through different rate readings in a cycle or has a button you can press to scroll through them. Write down the numbers you’re given (your supplier will tell you how many numbers you’ll need for a reading) and be sure to get both sets of readings.

How do you take a smart meter reading?

Usually, you won’t need to submit smart meter readings because they automatically go through to your supplier. The only times you need to give a reading is if:

  • You’ve just switched supplier
  • You switch provider and they say they can’t connect to your meter (can happen with older smart meters)
Electricity meters can have day and night rates if you’re on a dual tariff (image: PA)Electricity meters can have day and night rates if you’re on a dual tariff (image: PA)
Electricity meters can have day and night rates if you’re on a dual tariff (image: PA) | PA

When your smart meter is installed, it comes with an ‘in-home display’ (IHD) or a ‘smart energy monitor’ that allows you to track your energy usage. But it also comes with a meter that’s fixed to a wall.

If you need to read this device for a gas reading, follow the instructions on the Citizens Advice website. If you need to read this device for an electricity reading, follow the instructions on this page from the Citizens Advice website.

How do you submit a meter reading?

As we have already mentioned, you can submit a meter reading online. Usually, you can do so by visiting the account section of your supplier’s website and putting in the relevant digits. But, in case you’re not website savvy, NationalWorld has listed the six largest suppliers’ phone numbers so you can submit a reading over the phone:

  • British Gas: 0330 054 5340 (if your account number begins with ‘A’ or ‘BGX’) or 0330 100 0056 (if your account number starts with ‘85’) - both numbers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • Octopus Energy: 0808 164 1088 (9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday; 9am to 4pm on Friday)
  • E.On Next: 0808 501 5200 (9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday; 9am to 4pm on Friday)
  • EDF Energy: 0333 200 5100 (account numbers starting with ‘67’) open Monday to Friday 8am until 6pm; 0333 006 9950 (account numbers starting with ‘A’) operates 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday; 9am to 4pm on Friday.
  • Scottish Power: 0345 058 0002 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)
  • Ovo Energy: 0330 303 5063 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday)

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