Can You Trust Your Meter Reading?
If you open an electric bill from your energy supplier and your jaw hits the floor because it’s so outrageously high, there are many explanations. Perhaps you really have increased your energy use exponentially within a short period of time, or maybe you have a faulty electricity meter. Your meter is attached to the home and measures how much electricity you consume in units called kilowatt hours. When your meter readings are off, you might pay too much or too little for your energy use. Here are some ways to identify a faulty meter and what you can do if you have one.
The first indication of a faulty meter will be an extraordinarily high energy bill. Before you assume that a meter problem is to blame, assess the other possibilities. If you recently changed your billing cycle, for instance, this bill may cover a longer period of time than previous bills did. Water use is also a very large factor to consider. If you have been watering your garden with a hose or had extra houseguests taking showers, your electricity bill can be significantly higher. A leaking sink tap or toilet can waste more than 100 litres of water per week, which wastes energy, especially if the leak has hot water.
Different times of the year lead to different energy expenses; for instance, in the winter when the lights are on longer and your heat is up high your bill naturally increases. To get a true sense of a problem with your bill, compare the suspicious bill with one from the same time last year. If you still see a huge difference that usage habits can’t account for, you can better suspect that a faulty meter may be at play. Look at the kWh (kilowatt hours) data between the two bills. When the kWh number is too high for reason you should take further investigatory steps.
Start to take manual readings of your meter each month. If the kWh measurement goes down again, you may have indeed just had a high electricity usage during the time period of the suspicious bill. However, if the readings remain higher than your past bills suggest are normal, it’s time to report the issue to your energy supplier. Keep a documented copy of your readings, both written and photographic if possible. This will make for a stronger case if you want to request a refund from your energy company in the future.
Request a Check Meter
When you contact your electricity provider, ask that they install a check meter next to your existing electric meter. This will record your energy use, and can be compared against your current meter to see if any discrepancies exist. When the check meter detects less energy use than your regular meter, a faulty meter is confirmed. At this point your meter will need to be either repaired or replaced.
Get an Official Test
If you are unhappy with the results of the check test, you can also request an official test. In this case your energy supplier will carry out a battery of inspections on the meter itself, not just comparing it to another meter. While you will more than likely be responsible for the cost of this test, if the meter is in fact faulty you can expect to be refunded the money paid. If your meter is in fact bad, it will be replaced with a new one and your energy bills should return to normal. Make sure that you’re not overcharged for the time period where the bad meter was in place. During the time when you’re awaiting test results, you should continue to pay something to your energy supplier, if only the portion of the bill you estimate is accurate.
A faulty electricity meter is a costly problem that should be remedied as soon as possible. Don’t ignore several inexplicable high bills, as this will merely lead to a bigger dispute with your electricity supplier in the future. Begin your tracking efforts the same month that you notice a problem and inform your electricity provider about your meter readings so they are aware of the potential need for a meter check.