Watching the electricity meter

When the electicity bill comes, I usually phone up to give a meter reading. They use an estimated reading, but I like to keep it accurate in order to avoid any surprise charges at the end of the year. Last July I decided to jot down those readings myself in a spreadsheet, and take my own reading every few weeks just to keep track of how much electricity I use.

The reading is in kWh (kilowatt-hours), which is to say that if our house were to use 1kW for an hour, the meter would go up by 1 unit. In my spreadsheet I’ve noted the date in column A and the reading for that date in column B. On each row I’ve calculated our average power consumption for the period since the last reading, so cells in column C have a formula like “=(B7-B6)/(24*(A7-A6))” (kilowatt-hours used divided by hours between readings).

When I started, the average electricity usage for our household was 403W. In the last month, this has gone down to 312W (or 2,734 kWh in a year).

What’s the average power consumption of your household? I tried to find out the average UK domestic household power consumption, but got lost in a maze of statistics. At one point I wrote down that it was 3,300 kWh/year, which works out as 377W. I didn’t save the link though, so I don’t remember where that came from.

70 Responses to “Watching the electricity meter”

  1. bubble121 says:

    i’m really upset at the moment 🙁

    I spent an hour on the phone to SWALEC today and they simply refuse to send anyone to check my meter as they are adamant that there is nothing wrong with it based on my usage. they said that “as the meter is not actually sparking” and i’m “still recieving an electricity supply” they will not send anyone.

    SWALEC seem to think that an average of £20 a week for my electricity (oh did I mention, it’s a 1 BEDROOM FLAT that I live in? ) is not excessive at all.

    i’ve been through my statements for the last few years and it averages around 27 units per day. this fluctuates emensely though, ranging from an average of 7.3 units per day during one quarter to an average of 53.57 units per day for another quarter (is that even possible in a 1 bed flat?)

    march – june 2005 – 665 units total
    march – june 2006 – 4037 units total ??????????

    does this make any sense? same time of year, same 1 BED FLAT – extra 3372 units used??? wouldn’t i have to have been doing something crazy like trying to fill a hot air balloon using only multiple hairdryers or something to have used that much more electricity?

    it’s just awful living like this, i have the lights off all the time, i don’t have any storage heaters or anything, just one oil filled radiator which i don’t use most of the time because i can’t afford it. i try to only use the washing machine twice a week. all my lightbulbs are energy saving too.

    dec 05 – march 06 – they recon i used 5143 units, i had to pay £430 that quarter. that’s more than my friends pay for their whole farm’s electricity.

    i’ve got my first baby due in march and i will have to start heating this place properly and using the washing machine. How much will it say i am using then? i’m so worried.

    sorry for the rant but any advice on who i could speak to about this would be great,


  2. Isabel says:

    bubble – there are a few things you need to check out. when did you move into your flat? are you certain that swalec used the right meter reading then? did you give them a reading and do you still have it?

    has your bill been estimated? if it has, then they may be using the wrong readings – check your bill to make sure. it may be that they underestimated bills for a long time and suddenly an accurate reading has thrown up a huge bill. it might be right as your oil fired radiator will be very expensive to run.

    how do you get hot water? if you are using an immersion heater, that’s terribly expensive too.

    it’s unlikely but not impossible that your meter is faulty – it might be a good idea to ask for a check meter to be fitted for a while.

    if you live in a block of flats with a communal meter area, are they reading the right meter?

    have you ever switched supplier? did they use the right transfer readings?

    if you think your bills have been wrong for a long time, ask them about the ‘backbilling code’. if you complained to them over 12 weeks ago and the problem is still going on, ask them for information about the energy supply ombudsman.

  3. Teresa says:

    Last year my electric meter was changed and I was told by the person who did it that meters have to be changed by law every 10 years. If they aren’t then you don’t have to pay your bills because the meters cannot be guaranteed to be correct. The meter in question was 11 years old, if only i’d known sooner lol.

    Does anyone know if there is any truth to this. I’m asking because come july 2008 I will have lived in my current accomadation 10years, and the gas meter is still the same one as when I moved in.

  4. Teresa says:

    One more question, I have read in previous comments about socket meters, What are they and how can i get some?

    Also is there anything that you can attach to you gas meter to see if it’s actually taking accurate readings??

    A friend of mine is currently arguing with his gas supplier because apparently his meter was so bad it couldn’t even be tested to see if it was ok.

  5. Cliff Watkins says:

    Dear Tim,

    Is a unit of electricity the same regardless of which supplier you buy your electricity from.

    I ask because my brother lives in small studio flat and has very appliances. Yet he uses 50% more units of electricity per day than my wife and I who live in a spacious three bedroom house and make great use of almost every electric appliance.

    I think my brother in law’s meter must be faulty or connected to someone else’s flat in his block. His electricity supplier have told him that he will have to pay £75 to have his meter checked. Is this right?


    Cliff Watkins
    020 8650 7347

  6. tim says:

    Cliff: all the meters I’ve seen measure electricity in units of kWh. 1 kWh is the same amount regardless of which supplier you have.

    I’ve no idea if having a meter checked is chargeable.

    Martin Lewis has a forum for gas and electricity discussions, so perhaps you would do well to ask there.

  7. Ben says:

    If you’restill collecting electricity usage, my 2 person household in the midlands for the last quarter used 3,518 kWh. Which is about average for us during this time of year, summer will be a bit higher (air conditioning, disadvantage to having so many electronic devices/computers), dead of winter is lower (advantage to having so many electronic devices/computers, helps keep the place warm 🙂 ) I’m currently with E-On (powergen) , but am debating switching to Click Energy 5 with british gas as it would have saved 70quid from the last electricity bill. I’ve emailed E-on to see if they could come close to meeting British gas prices, we’ll see.

    Glad that a few of you have usage like this expat yank 🙂

  8. Peter says:

    we are in a house built in 2001 gas combi boiler and central heating.
    2 adults and 2 children under 7 in the house.

    Our annual consumption should be about 2000 kw/hours.

    the only things that are left on are fridge freezer, freezer, phone and smoke alarms.

    We bought a monitor for the power usage this showed us that the 2 old hifi’s that we had ( we could not turn off as the cd’s stopped working) were costing us £30 per year to run (31 watts per hour for the pair in stand by)

    we now have a background electricity usage of 31 watts per hour ( this must be for the phone and the smoke alarms.

    every thing else is turned off when not in use TV, digi box computers etc.

    CFL’s all over the house light turn off when leaving the room

  9. Richard says:

    Single guy, use my computer pretty much all the time when not at my 9-5, been working out my electricity usage over the past week and am currently clocking approximately 1100kWh/year. Pretty good going methinks!

    Of course when winter kicks in and the nights get cold, I have to rely on nasty electric heaters (my flat doesn’t have gas), which bump up things quite a bit. (Just got my bill from, amazingly enough, exactly 1 year ago and it’s 3946kWh’s to today). Not actually that great.

  10. CHRIS says:

    Hi there,

    i think my meter could be faulty!

    i’m with N-Power for gas & electric and pay £45 per month for gas but for electric i’m always in credit.

    my dd is £15 a month but cause i’m nearly £200 in credit they keep putting it down to £2 a month!

    obviously this is a good thing but when i compared my own meter reading in mid march and then now 3 months on my meter says i’ve only used 6kwh! my wife, child & i live in a 2 bed semi and not overly cautious with the electric.

    as this may sound amazing to some i am worried that a problem may be found and i’m gonna get a huge bill!

    should i worry or just plead ignorance?

  11. tim says:

    CHRIS: Unless you are really running your entire house on slightly less power than a modern TV on standby, your meter is definitely faulty…

  12. Kerry says:

    I have never visited a “blog” before. How useful the advice I’ve just picked up in two mins far better than those confused and supermarket websites. My electricity for three people in a four bedroom house out all day and overseas 20% of the year was just short of £3000 per year (and no I haven’t got carried away with the zero’s) aacording to my bills I think they are charging me 10000 kwk per annum. By the way this is the beloved NPOWER.

    After reading not quite all the postings on here I will be :

    1 More green with my electricity usage (already had stopped using tumble dryer which seems to have been a problem)
    2 Log a daily reading during my green mission
    3 If no joy contact NPOWER for an attempt at getting some help

    I’m on a mission now – thanks everyone for your insiration

  13. tim says:

    Kerry: are your bills based on actual or estimated meter readings? Might be worth checking your actual meter reading to see if the bills are right.

    Good luck with your green mission!

  14. meter info says:

    reply for teresa and everyone. you have been told by the meter engineer that your new meter has 10 years certified life, this is correct but your meter stays legal for up to 15 years…. depending on what type of meter you have had installed. if you have had an ampy digital meter installed they have a shorter life span than the old fashioned mechanical meters which have a 20 certified life (usually single rate tariff meters). i know this information is accurate for the central networks area (midlands) but could be different for other parts of the country.

    also someone asked how to take a read from there new meter, we install meters when customers are out (outside meter) so i can understand the new ampy meters can be confusing.

    This only applies to the ampy 5254ex and 5246c models.

    You will always find a reading when you look at the meter, either R1 or R4, depending on the time of day. R1 is your rate one (normal) read and R4 is low E7 read. if you read your meter in the day time you will find the R1 read indicated by the 1 flashing. If you read the meter during the E7 hours (12.30am – 7.30am) you will see R4 flashing at the left of the meter readings.

    1. Record the reading on the first screen (check what rate the meter is on R1 or R4)

    2. Press the Blue Button on the top left of the meter twice, you will see the second read appear. check the rate either R1 or R4 and record the reading.

    its that easy…

    one more thing. saving money

    alot of people dont use the E7. during the night usally between 01.00 and 08.00 am you have 7 hours of cheap electricity if you can try using washing machines, tumble dryers, water heater ect during these hours you will save money.

    anyway i hope i have been of some help

  15. Colin says:

    If you suspect your meter is over reading the only way to be sure is to test it. This involves switching everything off and connecting a known test load. This is what the electric companies will do if you can get them to do it.

    Meanwhile you can do your own crude test using something like a 3KW fan heater and a plug in power meter (£10 from Amazon, Maplin or ebay). Turn everything in the house off and unplug as much as possible. Keep going unti the meter stops turning. Take a meter reading and plug the fan heater (on max) in via the power meter. Couple of hours layer check the power meter agrees with the regular electricity meter. Say you do this for three hours. Both meters should show somewhere closr to 9 units used. It may vary quite a bit because the fan heater won’t be exactly 3KW but both meters should agree to within about 5% or so. If they differ by more than say 10% it would probably be worth trying to get a proper test done.

  16. Mike says:

    You blokes should not complain….my house in the US uses an average of 3,000 kwh a month !!! it is an average size house here and 3 people live in it. We do use natural gas for water heater and for a gas furnace during the winter but 1 run a 5 ton air conditioner during the spring and summer. oh well, I stay comfortable and just smile when i send the power company their check each month….btw, I also work for them so its like we just trade $$ back and forth!!! LOL

  17. jennie says:

    you should forgat the big 6 and switch to Utility Warehouse for gas elec mobile broadband and phone – you will all save an absolute fortune – they are the only ones who guarantee to be cheaper than all the big boys – they don’t spend all our money on advertising!

  18. panface says:

    i have just had a massive SHOCK, 16,500 units of electric per year!
    but gas for heating and water Combi Boiler 2,800 per year!?
    4 bed house
    2 adults
    3 kids under 10

    can this be right?

    please help me

  19. Rose says:

    Hi – does anyone know of a website where I can find out how much electricity an average 1 bedroomed flat (with no Gas facility) uses per month ?

    We just rented our flat to a foreign family and we think the electricity usage is excessive and we need proof to confront them with.

    We are talking about 150 KW per week for normal rate plus 150 KW per week for the economy rate. We are responsible for paying the bill due to the nature of the contract.


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