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Types of residential energy meters in the UK

Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of August 20, 2021.

Gas and electricity meters measure the amount of energy you use so that you can be billed accordingly. It’s important to understand the basics of your meter, so we’ve put together some guides to help you out. As always, we’ve got you covered!

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Types of gas and electricity meter

There are a number of different electricity and gas meter types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. We’ll look through some of the most common meter types to help you understand yours better.

What is a prepayment meter?

With a prepayment meter, you pay for your energy before you’ve used it. It’s often compared to a pay-as-you-go phone as you’re given an electricity key or gas card which you have to top up in order to use your energy. If you don’t have any credit, you won’t have any gas/electricity.

How to top up your meter

If you have a prepayment meter, you’re fairly limited on tariff choices, even with providers who focus solely on prepayment meters. They’re often quite expensive, however, they’re a great option for those who want to keep an eye on their spending. You know exactly how much you’re paying for your energy and you can’t use more energy than you pay for.

What is a credit meter?

Most households in the UK have a credit meter. With these meters, you pay for your energy after you’ve used it. In order to make sure that you’re paying for the right amount of energy, you’ll have to read your meter regularly so your provider knows how much to bill you.

Having a credit meter means that you have a much wider range of tariffs to choose from, meaning you can switch and save more easily. Unlike with a prepayment meter, you can pay in many different ways, the most common being direct debit or on receipt of bill. This tends to be the most cost-effective meter choice for most households.

Should you have a prepayment or credit meter?

What is an Economy 7 meter?

An Economy 7 meter, sometimes referred to as a ‘variable-rate’ meter, offers nighttime energy at a lower rate. For an agreed 7-hour period overnight, any energy you use is a lot cheaper than the energy used during the day.

Your meter will have two different readings on it – one reads your daytime usage and the other reads your 7 hours of discounted usage. You’ll have to give both of these to your provider so they know which rates you should be paying.

Economy 7 meters are good for those who like to charge their electric vehicles overnight, have a storage heater, or just tend to use a lot of energy at night.

Is an Economy 7 meter right for you?

Another variable-rate meter available is an Economy 10 meter. It works in the same way, but you get 10 hours of cheaper energy rather than 7.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are being rolled out across the country at an alarming rate thanks to the Government’s goal of becoming carbon net-zero.

Smart meters are available for all different meter types and can help you become more aware of your energy usage. You won’t have to keep reading your meter, but you will be given a small in-home display which can tell you in real-time how much energy you’re using. Seeing your energy usage in monetary terms, you can understand more where your money is going – you can work out how much appliances cost you to run!

All energy providers are installing smart meters at no extra cost, so what’s stopping you from upgrading?

Learn about smart meters

Why do I have to read my gas and electricity meter?

It’s important that you read your meter regularly to make sure you’re paying the right amount for the energy you’re using. Your energy provider uses your gas and electricity meter readings to track how much energy you’re using and how much to charge you for it.

When you pay by direct debit, you can use your meter readings to compare how much energy you’re paying for against how much you’re using. If you’re using more energy than you’re paying for, you might end up with an unexpected bill at the end of your contract. However, if you’re paying more than what you’re using, you can cut down on your bills and save money easily.

If you have a smart meter, you don’t have to take or submit meter readings. This is because your meter sends them to your provider automatically without you having to do anything.

Automatic meter readings!

Did you know that with a smart meter you’ll never have to submit a meter reading again! 100% accurate bills, all the time. Give us a call to find out more about automatic meter readings.

What happens if I don’t read my gas or electricity meter?

If you don’t send your energy provider your electricity and gas meter readings, you’ll be sent an estimated bill on how much energy they think you will have used. More often than not, this will be higher than your actual usage so they can make sure they’re getting paid enough.

If you receive an estimated bill, you can contact your provider with meter readings and request a new bill, or you can have the excess taken off of your next accurate bill.

Find out the hows and whys of meter reading

Can I change my meter type?

If there’s a different meter you think might suit you better, you can get in touch with your energy provider and ask them to change it.

It might be a bit trickier to swap from a prepayment meter, however, and you might be asked to pay a deposit so that your provider is confident you can afford to pay. This is because people are often placed on prepayment meters if they struggle to afford their energy bills as it’s an easy way to pay back debts that you owe.

No matter which meter you have, it’s free to upgrade to a smart meter. Some providers might not support smart prepayment meters, however, there are a lot out there that do.

Can I move my electricity or gas meter?

It’s illegal for you to move your meter yourself, however, you can absolutely hire a licensed engineer to do it for you. Your energy provider should be able to help you with this.

If you want to move your gas meter more than 90cm or outside, you’ll have to get in touch with your Gas Network Operator so that they can survey your meter and make sure it’s safe to do so.

When you call, they’ll ask for:

If you want to move your electricity meter more than 15cm, you might have to call your District Network Operator (DNO). This is because there might have to be some adjustments to your mains supply before your meter can be moved.

They’ll ask for:

Before you start, bear in mind you might have to pay to have your meter moved and for any work done.

If you need some more help...

Give us a call and speak to one of our utility experts who will guide you through your query and help you get it solved ASAP. Who knows, you may even save some money by giving us a call as well via one of our panel partners!

0203 992 7717

This page was written by...

Polly Tyler

I've loved writing since I was a child and have worked on a number of different projects since I left school, including journalism, copywriting, and marketing. Utilty Switchboard has given me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and experience and I've loved every minute!

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