Energy meters are a mystery to many people but spending just ten minutes to find out a bit more about how yours works could save you lots of cash. That’s because regular meter readings can help you pin down how much energy you are using – and identify where you might be overpaying. In addition, meters break and do go wrong. If your meter is playing up then you need to tackle the problem now so you don’t get overcharged in error.
Here are some of the most common meter problems – and how to deal with them.
First things first: many meter reading errors come from the energy firm misinterpreting the information you give them. I’ve seen a number of examples recently of people moving in to new properties, giving readings and being hit with totally unrealistic bills. There are lots of reasons for this, but usually it’s the energy firm’s own system refusing to accept that it’s previous estimates were miles off and applying the wrong rates. Remember the firm should be working off the readings you give when you move in, not estimates – so check that bill.
Analogue energy meters – the ones with four of five clock-like dials – are the source of much meter reading confusion. That’s because each dial reads either clockwise or counter clockwise and each dial works the opposite way to the one before! Look closely to see where the arrow is pointing on each dial and pick the number closest to it.
The best way you can avoid problems is to photo the meter display and save the picture. Many energy firms allow you to send in pictures of meter readings. If you’ve got lots of pictures on your phone why not email the pics to yourself with ‘energy reading’ in the subject box, so you can find them? Oh and you should jot down your meter serial number as well, as this will be needed if the business suspects there’s a problem with the meter.
If you’ve got an Economy 7 meter, then you may well have ‘day and night’ readings. These aren’t always easy to figure out. If you’re not sure how the meter works, take a reading in the morning and evening of the same day (with pics) then ask the energy firm to confirm which is which. Make sure you write down the date and time too. Once the correct readings have been clarified the firm can update their system. Read the dial from left to right and leave off the red number.
Smart meters were supposed to usher in a brave new world of automatic meter readings and accurate assessments of energy usage. However, due to the botched rollout of first-generation meters, technical problems, training issues for engineers and non-compatibility of the meters with new suppliers, the campaign was ditched. While the new, second-generation meters are much more effective, things can still go wrong. The meters communicate through a wireless network, which anyone with WIFI or broadband will know can be fallible. Technical problems can abound and the buttons on the meters can be confusing. If the meter seems wrong, ask the energy firm to conduct a test, which may include manual readings each day for a week. They will talk you through this.
If you have a credit meter, it can be even more complicated if the readings seem wrong. If you’re getting through energy too quickly, then unplug the electrical items in your home and pop one item back on. Watch the dial and if it’s moving too quickly while, say, the kettle is on, you have a problem. If it’s not moving much at all after a few hours then it’s probably packed in. Why not use this as an excuse to go back on a cheaper prepayment meter?
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