One way of effectively understanding your household energy consumption is to keep an eye on the electricity meter. The meter measures how much energy is being used by the whole household – in other words, how much energy is being drawn from the main grid to run various powered appliances and systems in your home.

How to read your electricity meter

There are two types of electricity meters: digital (these are standard in most modern homes) and clock (which are the ones you’ll find in older homes).

How to read a digital electricity meter

Display panels on digital meters are easy to read: they simply show you a figure. If your consumption has reached 12,385 kilowatt hours, you’ll see the figure ‘12385’ displayed on the screen.

How to read a clock electricity meter

electricity meterCredit: wikipedia

The display panels on the clock meters are made up of between five and seven little wheels that run in opposite directions. If your consumption has reached 12,385 kilowatt hours, the meter will display that figure one digit per wheel: a ‘1’ on the wheel to the extreme left, ‘ 2’ on the wheel to its right, ‘3’ and ‘8’ on the next wheels, and ‘5’ on the far right wheel.

How to monitor your energy consumption

Monitor your background energy consumption

Choose a time when it is neither very hot nor very cold (so you don’t have to factor in heating or cooling) and go out. Check the meter reading when you leave, and then again when you return. Subtract the first figure from the second to work out how much electricity was used while you were away. Divide that by the number of hours you were away to estimate how much electricity is being used every hour by the fridge, hot –water system and any appliances that are in standby mode. This is background energy consumption – the minimum amount of energy being used in your home every day.

Monitor how much extra energy you are using during summer and winter

Take another set of readings in winter or summer when the heating or air-conditioning is on, and compare those figures to the basic background figure you worked out earlier. You’ll get a clear indication of how much extra electricity you’re using when either the heating or the air-conditioning system is running.

Monitor the energy you use when cooking

stove top cookingCredit: walmartEstimate energy use when you are preparing dinner by reading the meter before you start cooking and then an hour later, and compare that figure to your background energy consumption figure. This gives you an idea of how much electricity goes into making the evening meal every night.

Monitor how much energy your office equipment is using

Use the energy meter to work out the energy consumption of your home office. Check the meter at the start of your working day and then again an hour later. Compare that figure with the background consumption figure and you will see just how much power goes into running your office equipment.