Understanding electricity meters

There are different types of electricity meters in South Australia:

  • Accumulation meters are digital, dial or clock face meters that record the amount of electricity that has passed through the meter since it was installed. Your bills are based on the differences between meter readings, which are done every few months when a meter reader visits your property.
  • Interval meters are advanced digital meters (smart meters) that record the amount of electricity passing through the meter electronically every 30 minutes, and transmit the data to the electricity distributor/retailer. This means no one needs to go to your property to read your meter.

Digital electricity accumulation meters

Digital electricity meters record the amount of electricity used in your home in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The record is cumulative.

  • Read the number from left to right.
  • If necessary, scroll through other screens (like date and time) to get to the reading. Look for numbers starting with:
    • 03 or 003 for the peak electricity meter reading
    • 07 or 007 for the off-peak electricity meter reading.
  • Homes with solar panels will have an import/export meter. Look for numbers starting with 09 or 009 to see what has been exported to the grid. Refer to the manufacturer’s instruction manual or contact SA Power Networks to find out how to read this type of meter.

Dial or clock face electricity accumulation meters

Dial or clock face electricity meters record the amount of electricity used in your home kWh. The record is cumulative.

  • Read the dials from left to right, ignoring the dial marked 1/10 as it is only for testing.
  • Each dial revolves in a different direction from the one next to it, eg anti-clockwise, then clockwise.
  • Always note the number the pointer has just passed, eg if it is between 7 and 8, write down 7.
  • If the pointer is directly over a number, underline that number when writing it down.
  • If any of the underlined numbers are followed by an 8 or 9, reduce the underlined number by one.

The example shows a meter reading of 73958 kWh.

Off-peak metering

'Off-peak' or 'controlled load' tariffs are only available for certain appliances. Power is supplied during night-time hours, when overall demand on the electricity network is lower, at times determined by SA Power Networks.

Appliances that can be run on an ‘off-peak’ or ‘controlled load’ tariff include:

  • permanently installed storage water heaters with a capacity of 125L or more
  • underfloor (slab) heating
  • some swimming pool and spa heaters.

If your home has a dial or clock face electricity meter, you may have two meters – one for peak and one for off-peak – and you will have two different meter numbers and readings on your bill.

If your home has a digital electricity meter, it can record both peak and off-peak usage. You will see two charges on your bill for peak and off-peak, but only one meter number.

Contact your retailer to find out when your off-peak hours are and to confirm what appliances can be connected to the off-peak meter.

Calculate electricity use and costs

The electricity meter reading shows you the total amount of electricity used over the life of the meter.

You can determine how much electricity has been used over a period of time by subtracting a previous meter reading from the current meter reading.

Electricity meters are straightforward, as they measure your energy use in kWh, which is the measure shown on your bill.

  • [ the difference between readings] = kWh of electricity used.


Multiplying the amount of electricity used in your home by the tariff on your bill will give you an indication of your energy costs.

  • [difference between readings] x [tariff on your bill ] = estimated cost of electricity used

You can also calculate your appliance running costs for specific appliances in your home or do a home energy audit to find out where energy is being used in your home.

Providing access to meters

Energy retailers must do their best to read meters as frequently as is required to prepare bills, but at least once every 12 months. You are required to provide clear and safe access to meters to allow them to be read.

Your retailer is allowed to estimate your energy consumption to prepare your bills, which they may do if they can’t access your meter. Estimated bills may lead to high bills if your usage is over-estimated, or large catch-up bills if your usage has been under-estimated - see Billing errors for more information.

If you fail to allow access to the electricity and/or gas meter for three consecutive scheduled meter readings, you risk having your energy service disconnected.

If accessing the meter at your home is difficult, eg it is inside your home or behind a locked gate, contact your retailer to negotiate a mutually convenient time for a meter reading.

Incorrect meter readings

Incorrect meter readings are a rare occurrence but can mean you receive a very high or abnormally low bill. See Billing errors for information.

Faulty meters

Meters are rarely found to be faulty. In most cases a high bill will accurately reflect your household’s energy use.

If you think your meter is faulty, you can ask your retailer to check it. If the meter is checked and found to be operating correctly, you will be billed an inspection charge.

If the meter is found to be faulty, your account will be adjusted accordingly and you should not be billed an inspection charge. If the retailer tries to charge you for inspecting a faulty meter, contact them to resolve the issue. If the retailer will not remove the charge, contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman SA.

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Page last updated 9 November 2022

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