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. billybob says:

    If you ask your electric supplier to check your meter because you believe it to be faulty, then they are obliged to do so.
    The meter is removed and sent to an independent company who check the meter, if you are wrong your electric company charges you £30.( this is perhaps more now than in 2005 )
    They do not come to your house and check the meter themselves by switching appliances off and on as one person stated, that would be pretty stupid.
    There are a lot of meters out there that are faulty, when you think that the law requires that light meters or noise meters are required to be recalibrated every year why is electric or gas meters any different.

  2. billybob says:

    Just a thought if any one wants to double check their electric Maplin online are selling the plug in mains power and energy monitor for only £9.99 until 24/12 08. was originally £27.99 so a good saving.
    Also you can buy an Owl monitor which you clip round one wire of your electric that leads from the meter to your fuse box and that tells you what watts you are using constantly, it either tells you the units used or cost per day/week/month these are accurate to 2% either way you can buy the Owl for only £34 99p with free P&P from 2 Save Energy on the web or their address is ” Save Energy,Valley point , Valley drive, Rugby cv21 1tn
    or you can buy them from Electricity for £ 29.95p plus £ 2.50p Royal Mail Recorded Delivery. total = £32.45p so that gives you all a choice.

  3. FYI – 20 years in the UK before they legally need to change the meter not 10 years as Teresa stated. You would still have to pay for your electricity though even if your meter went over the 20 yr limit.

  4. meter man says:

    FYI Amy…. no meter has a set certified life! some need changing in 5 years others need changing in 10, 15 or 20 years… depends on when a meter starts to become inaccurate

  5. Maddi says:

    Hi, Can anyone tell me what the average unit consumption per day is for electricity or has comparisons to mine?
    I live in a small 2 bed flat. I work so I am out all day.
    I have a fridge and freezer, electric shower and switch all things apart from main cable tv off at the wall. I have gas central heating and cooker. I am very mindful on my electric usage and I average 8 to 9 units per day which I was told today by the energy efficency dept is a low usage. However I was also told today by scottish gas (dual fuel) that the average consumption per annum for a 3 bed house, 4 persons is 3300 units. I used 3360! Very confused as I do not have tumble dryer, dishwasher etc. I am querying a faulty meter and I am going to take my readings for 14 days plus invest in the energy monitor(thank u Billybob). Any information would be a great help..thank you

  6. tim says:

    When I looked for national statistics about this before all I could come up with was this page from 2003:

    I’d love to know current statistics for household electricity and gas usage.

  7. Maddi says:

    I would too.. I am aware that we all have a common denominator of appliances whether there is 1 person or 4 persons in a house. However their usage of washing machines, kettles etc must be more frequent than a single persons usage, logical I think..So how I can be using , according to scottish gas statistics the same as 4 persons is rather puzzling. I do believe the electric shower is 1 of the main culprits in my house!
    My neighbour down the stairs in a 24 hour period has used 12 units, she was doing a baking, using her tumble dryer etc so perhaps an average of 10 units per 24 hours is normal whether you are 1 or 4 people, who knows! One thing for sure, at the moment I am on a mission to cut down these units and talk to more friends. Unfortunately the electric shower I can’t do without but just wait till I get this combi boiler put in and by hook or by crook that electric shower will have to go! 🙂
    Thank you for responding to my previous post.

  8. Clawhammer says:

    Hi guys & gals, I to am monitoring electric usage, aren’t we all? there are a lot of questions re consumption of different sized homes, why not calculate what usage your appliances should be consuming ?? I have a spread sheet that roughly calculates what I should expect my total consumption to be!! (Impressed?? don’t be I stole it from someone else) but it does give me an idea of what power I can expect to consume. Pick up any appliance and you will see the power consumption figure printed on it, ie a Kettle may say 3000watts. Try this formula, Wattage(of the appliance) x hours(used per day) x days(per year) / 1000 = total Kwh used per year, x Average cost per Kwh( £0.0975). To test your formula 1000 x 1 x 365 / 1000 = 365 Kwhs x £0.0975= £35.59 cost per year. You can then add a further column to identify multiple units, say 6 light bulbs etc, try it, its free and will give you a reasonable idea of what power your appliances are consuming and what the likely costs could be.

  9. Hi Tim,

    If you are in the North West of England I’m offering a free mater testing service until the end of January. I can also supply, install, and calibrate a tandem ‘smart meter’ for 79.99, about the same as you would pay if you went out and bought one yourself.

    Best regards,
    Malcolm Snape

  10. linda says:

    Hi y’all. I’m a single person living in a 3 bedroomed house. I have most of the normal electrical appliances including cooker but no dishwasher or tumble drier. I try to conserve power as much as I can and switch off, at the plug, everything that is not in use.

    My meter was replaced a couple or so years ago. I made the mistake of not taking a final reading from the old one before it was taken out and think I got diddled there – so be warned – certainly the next bill showed more units used than I would normally expect for that quarter. This is the third meter I have had in this house. I got the original changed by telling my supplier that it was making funny noises (the wheel did intermittently give a ‘ting’ as it span). I was concerned my bills were too high and was proved right when they came down by over a third.

    Electricity meters are not the property of the power company and if you require one to be tested they have to pay the meter company to do this – that is why they then pass these costs on to you where they can. However, if the meter is faulty you will not be liable for the costs so it is worth making a few checks before contacting them. First (if in a shared property) check that you/they are reading the correct meter. Then switch off and unplug all electrical items and confirm that no power is being drawn – the spinning wheel or flashing light on the meter will stop. Next plug in one appliance at a time and note how much power is being drawn. If you don’t have a power monitor you can make an estimated judgement by watching how quickly the wheel spins or light flashes – the faster it is going the more power you are using. Remember that electrical goods can become faulty and this can cause them to use more power than they should. You should consider replacing anything that uses more power than it should.

    I have an efergy power monitor, keeping a track of my daily consumption in a spreadsheet. This gives daily, weekly and monthly figures and is a brilliant ‘toy’ for working where all my hard earned cash is going.

    Just keeping necessities like the fridge/freezers etc running consumes between 4 and 4.5 units a day. Showers, cooking and entertainment (tv/radio etc) pushes this up to 9+ units a day.
    As far as I can tell a standard shower runs at around 7kw/hr so 1 unit will give approximately 8.5 minutes of heated water.
    My cooker hotplate uses .86kw, the oven 1.8kw but the grill 2.3kw whilst my microwave/combination uses .65, 1.35 and 1.2 respectively.
    If heating water for cooking I always use a kettle – 2.6kw but much faster at heating so it works out cheaper than using the stove and I never boil more than required.

    All my light bulbs are low energy ones. I never leave my mobile ‘phone charger (or similar) switched on when not in use. Rather than using electric heating (mains gas is just a myth where I live) I use mobile gas heaters. These are much, much cheaper to run.

  11. keith macleod says:

    hi folks ;
    just been reading your comments on electricity prices.i have a 3 bedroom house and through a pre payment meter i pay £80-£90 per week .i have lived in this house for 16 years and its always been high.

  12. linda says:

    Keith, pre-payment meters are a more expensive method for paying for electricity. See Nonetheless the figure you quote would suggest that you are using something close on 20 times more electricity than I am. Even though do I try to be economical that still seems excessive.

    Are you using electric fires/heaters; these can use an awful lot in the way of kilowattage. As will an unlagged hot water tank especially if it is left on 24/7.

    You might, perhaps, carry out a home survey to find out just what electrical items you are running, when and for how long. See ‘Colin says’ July 9th 2008 above. Start by making sure that you switch absolutely everything off and ensure that NO power is being drawn through your meter. The cost of a hand held power monitor, like the efergy one I mentioned above or the owl that billybob suggested, might prove a worthwhile investment to help you do this. Once you work out what you are using turn off anything that is not needed, every time it is NOT needed

    Are you in rented property? I’m not sure what the position is nowadays but I do know that landlords used to be able to have the meter set to charge at a higher rate eg a 1kw fire running for 1hr should use 1 unit of power but the meter could be set to record 4 units used.

    Is it possible that there might have been a debt on the property before you moved in? I have heard of power companies ‘turning up’ pre-payment meters to recover debts. If it is possible that this has been done may the meter have not been reset when the debt was recovered?

    Gosh, I thought my £20 a month was expensive!!

  13. chris says:

    try 2000 pounds a year yes thats what we are using in a four bed house we have loads of electrical gadgets but this seems high

  14. John says:

    I recently challenged my electrical supplier on the accuracy of their meter readings. I must admit they tried everything to make me feel the fool and when that did not work advised me of the cost of having someone come out and test my meter if I was wrong.

    I went to Energy Watch and they got their customer complaints section involved and they then sent EON to do a Meter Accuracy Test instead of installing a check meter.

    The upshot was my meter was 24.95% reading too high. I have received an apology letter and then a rebate of the overpaid amounts.

    I have been doing power measurements on RF Systems for over 30 years so therefore I have both the equipment and the ability to test my meters.

    One of the “tricks” the suppliers like to try is to have you list the equipment that you have in your home and then they will inform you based on the current ratings of the equipment that their readings are accurate.

    The current ratings of the equipment in your homes is not the current draw of the individual equipment but rather a nominal indication of the current rating or maximum draw of the equiipment.

    For example many 1KW heater only draw 800 watts of power and if you were using this for a test of your utilisation you would not be accurate.

    The best test is to have a fixed resistive load placed on your system for a set period of time to see if the meter is really accurate. In my case I used a 52.5ohm load capable of handling 2500 watts.

    This load would reach 1kw in 54.7 minutes. So if I had set the meter to where it just clicked over in a unit that did not have a tenths reading. It would click over again in 54.7 minutes

    Since finding the defective meter and receiving my refund I have checked an additional 10 meters in my area and have found, not the 2% as told to me by my supplier but that 100% of the meters have been from 10 – 27% reading high.

    I can not reccomend enough to anyone with a question about their readings being high to get them independently tested.

    The reason I say independent is that the replacement meter arrived from my supplier and it is also 10% high.

    So I begin the procedure once again with my supplier. I will update as the Saga continues.


  15. Mike says:

    I purchased a large 6 bedroom house about 2 years ago and I was staggered by the massive bills I’ve been getting. I put it down to the size and thought nothing of it.

    Then I realised that, as we only have a small family (2 adults, 2 young kids) and a gas central heating system we shouldnt really be seeing much more electricity usage than other similarly sized families. The electrical equipment we use is all modern (less than 2 years old) and I tend to keep an eye on lights left on etc.

    So, I bought one of these Owl meters and after a few days it reckons my energy useage is less than half what my electricy meter shows for the same period. I’ve got an inline test meter on the way to sense check the loading of certain electrical items I have and that they show up on the Owl at the correct loading.

    If I can show that this meter is inaccurate I hope to be asking for a sizeable rebate on my bills for the past few years.

  16. Steve Jones says:

    To John (post on May 5th)

    I am in N west and having terrible time with EON. Meter was changed in Feb 08 for new digital type. At that time we were in credit with them. At each quarterly bill we were getting behind on what we were owing them and the payment steadily went up. For the last 4 months we have been paying £180 ( gas/elec) and at the latest statement we are now £780 in DEBIT the bulk of this being electric costs. They insist that the meter is correct but have not actually sent anyone to check it. Nothing has changed usage wise apart from a replacement electric shower in the kids bathroom.
    They said if I wanted a test meter fitted then it would cost me £80 if they found there was no issue with my meter. As they are now wanting to increase my payment to £260 a month I can ill afford to gamble another £80 with them. Do you know of someone independant who could test my meter ??

  17. Sonia says:

    Hi, reading through your comments makes me realise I am not alone with this problem.
    I live with my partner in a 1bed mobile home, 28′ x 10′. My bill for this last quarter is £800, Previous was £500 and approx £200 each for the 2 quarters prior to that. This makes a total of around £1700 pa. Hot water tank on for around 3hrs daily, biggest usage is undoubtably the oil filled radiator on for few hrs a day over the winter but that is the only form of heating I have. Electricity company are trying to get out of it but there has to be another way to check their findings. I am in Hampshire, does anyone know a reasonably priced independant person who can check if the meter is correct? Its dated ’89.
    Biggest problem I have is that the bill goes to my landlord and not myself so I have to tell a few porkies to get anything done as Im not the account holder!

  18. Ellyn says:

    Single person living in 3 bedroom house. Have the usual TV. computer, microwave, kettle, washing machine. Have just received my electric bill for £54 per last quarter. I think this is fair although I cook and heat house with gas. However, my query is my next door neighbour, also single, same appliances has received her bill for £96 plus she was away for one month out of the last quarter. Both houses have had their meters read… This just does not seem right. Her energy supplier refuse to check or change the meter…. it must be over 25 years old. My meter was changed a couple of years ago to digital.

  19. Shirley MacLean says:

    We are currently in the throes of a huge wrangle with E-on and I wondered if someone out there could help. Reading the posts it appears that a few of you are savvy with electric meters (which we are not). We have lived in this house since September 2002, and a new meter was installed when we moved in. By April 2007 the meter showed that we had used in the 5 years approx; 30,000 units. So on average we had used 545 units per month.

    In 2007 our meter stopped working, even though we reported the fact, it was not changed until December 2008. The new meter has been giving readings of anywhere from 130 units per day to now dropping to some 30 units per day. So far in 10 months the meter has clocked up 16660 units as being used. This works out pro-rata to 1660 units being consumed per month.

    I should say at this point that our house has 3 bedrooms, and we have the normal appliances including dishwasher, drier, washing machine. There are 3 of us living in the house. If anything the consumption should have gone down from 2007 as children have flown the coupe, meaning less washing, meals, computers, showers et al. I should also say that in 2007 I had no timer on my emmersion, and now I have. Comes on three times a day for 2 hours, whereas it was on all the time before.

    E-on have checked the meter, they installed a check meter for a week running along side this one. All was fine. We have had an electrician in to check every appliance, all is okay and I have got EDF (who supply the overhead cables) to check the supply into the house. All is fine, but they were puzzled as to the amount being shown as usage. Now I have a bill back dated for under charging since August 2007 and it states that we owe £8k..the whole thing is madness.

    Right now my consumption has dropped to 30 units overall for a day and night…Still quite high….anyone got any ideas?

  20. John Coleman says:


    We received a phone call on Saturday morning demanding £200 for a electricity bill we never received. Yesterday morning a threatening letter form SPM Collections arrived warning of legal action if the bill is not paid immediately. I have no problem paying the bill however on close inspection of the meter readings I discovered something has gone drasitically wrong in the month of August.

    We moved into the flat in the middle of June and the meter reading was taken as 067968.
    A meter reading was then taken on the 31st July (6 weeks later) of 068791 which showed we used 823 units of electricity since moving in. Then a further meter reading was taken on the 3rd of Sept (5 weeks later) and it read 070727. That’s 1,936 units used in the period 31st July to 3rd September (5 weeks).
    A final meter reading was taken on the 27th Oct (8 weeks later) and it showed that we had used 121 units of electricity in the 8 weeks.

    The meter readings are all over the place and I’m wondering if the meter is faulty. 1,936 units seems way too high and at the same time 121 units seems way too low.

    We have not changed our daily routines, therefor I