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Gas Meters: Troubleshooting & Submit Readings

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Meter and blue box containing gas flame

If you’ve not yet taken advantage of the government’s smart meter rollout, chances are you still have a traditional electric or gas meter installed. Read on to learn more about how gas meters work, where to find yours and how to save money by submitting regular meter readings.

What does a gas meter do?

Gas meter

Gas meters measure how much energy you have used and provide a fairly precise picture of how much you should be paying. The most common type of gas meters are known as ‘positive displacement’ meters. These work by measuring the force at which the gas moves through the pipeline. As the gas flow increases, the dials on the display turn to demonstrate how much gas has been used.

Typically, your energy provider will make an estimate based on previous gas usage for billing purposes, which can be more or less than you actually use. And sure, paying less for your energy use sounds great, but it will still end up costing you the same at a later stage, often as a lump sum added to your bills.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that these energy provider estimates do not take into account any changes you make to your daily routine to try and cut down on your energy use.

Your meter provides a far more accurate record of how much gas your household has been using, so it’s well worth familiarizing yourself with.

Where is my gas meter located?

If you’re taking a gas meter reading, firstly you’ll want to know where to find it! Your gas meter box will typically be located under the stairs, in a kitchen cupboard, or on a wall outside the property.

You can usually tell the difference between a gas and electric meter by the unit of measurement displayed. Although customers are billed in kilowatt-hours (kWh), gas meters record how much gas has been used in cubic feet (ft³) or cubic meters (m³). Somewhat confusingly, this is then later calculated in kWh and appears on your bill as such.

I can't find my MPRNIf you’re looking to switch gas suppliers you’re going to need to know your Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN), which you can find on previous bills.

How do I take a gas meter reading?

If you don’t submit regular meter readings, your energy use will usually be estimated by the supplier, either depending on your household’s previous usage or based on the typical use in your postcode.

Therefore to get the best value out of your tariff, it’s a good idea to learn how to read your gas meter and submit readings to your supplier on a regular basis to avoid any nasty surprise charges, particularly during the cold winter months, when you’re using more gas. We would recommend taking your meter reading at least once every three months to keep on top of your energy costs.

What types of gas meters are there?

Gas meters come in many different shapes and sizes and you may even require a gas meter key to gain access to yours. Read on to learn more about the most commonly found models in the UK.

Standard mechanical gas meter

A standard mechanical gas meter uses a line of rotating numbers to represent how much energy has been used. Generally, there will be four black numbers and two red numbers. To take a reading, simply jot down the first four numbers from left to right, ignoring the ones shown in red.

Dial gas meter

A dial gas meter may not seem to make much sense at first glance, with its small, clock-like dials all displaying different numbers. However, these are surprisingly simple to read.

To take a dial meter reading, you’ll want to note down the numbers of the first four dials from left to right, ignoring the sixth, which is usually coloured red. If a dial is between numbers, you will use the lower of the two. For example, if a dial is between 4 and 5, the reading will be 4, even if the hand seems closer to the number 5.

Dial meter showing reading
Reading: 4
dial meter showing reading
Reading: 73753

Digital gas meter

Probably the easiest to read, digital gas meters feature an LCD digital display. To take a reading, note the first five digits from left to right, again ignoring the sixth number, which should be placed after a decimal point.

Prepayment gas meter

If you are on a prepay or ‘pay-as-you-go’ tariff, you may have a prepayment gas meter installed. You’ll know you’re on a prepayment plan if you have a key or card which you need to ‘top-up’ to activate your gas supply.

Your prepayment gas meter will typically display the amount of credit left before your account needs charging again. There is usually a button to switch between your account credit and the meter reading.

Gas prepayment meters can be a good option for those who like to budget and know their energy costs ahead of time. However, prepayment tariffs are usually overpriced when compared to those available on standard credit meters. If you're in a financial situation to do so, we recommend switching from a prepayment meter to Direct Debit in order to access the most competitive energy deals on the market.

Smart gas meters

Another way to keep an eye on your energy usage is to have a smart meter installed. Rather than relying on estimated gas bills or manual meter readings, smart meters remotely record your energy usage and send this information directly to your supplier.

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Gas meter readings for customers who need extra assistance

If you have a condition affecting your ability to submit meter readings, such as a chronic illness or disability, your energy supplier may be able to provide you with extra assistance.

There are a number of schemes that your supplier may participate in, including the Priority Services Register (PSR) and other government-backed programs.

Among the services provided on the PSR are quarterly meter readings performed by qualified technicians and, depending on logistics, your provider may even be able to relocate the meter to somewhere it is easier to reach.

If you’re eligible for the Priority Services Register, you may qualify for other grants and schemes that your gas provider participates in, such as the Cold Weather Payment and Warm Home Discount.

Can I move my meter?

If you’re having trouble gaining access to your gas meter or renovating your home, you may be able to have your gas meter relocated - though doing it yourself is illegal and highly dangerous.

In some cases, your energy supplier may be able to move your meter for you. Though whether they can or not depends on a few different factors, including, though not limited to:

  • Where the meter is currently located.
  • How far you want to move the meter.
  • Whether the meter has a flexible hose connector or not.
  • The reason you want to move it.

For more information, contact your energy provider directly. You will usually be charged a fee to have your meter moved if you’re not on the Priority Services Register.

If your energy supplier won’t move your meter, you’ll need to contact your local gas distributor to see if they can carry out the work instead. However, keep in mind that this could cost you anything from £400 to more than £1,000 just for moving your meter - you could also be charged for any other preparatory work a gas engineer may need to do.

I don’t think my gas meter reading is correct

Magnifying glass and energy bill

Your energy provider is obliged to ensure your gas meter is accurate and providing a true reflection of your energy use. Contact your supplier immediately if you feel that you’re being billed too much and suspect that your gas meter reading is incorrect. Your supplier is required to arrange for your gas meter to be sent to a laboratory for testing by an expert and have a replacement installed in the meantime.

If it turns out that your gas meter is faulty and you have been overcharged, your energy provider will be expected to refund you for the period you were overpaying and you may also be eligible to claim extra compensation to boot.

On the other hand, if you’ve been undercharged, you may be expected to pay the difference between the new charge and what you’ve already paid.

If the gas meter is tested and it is proved not faulty, the customer could end up paying for the cost of the test.

Meter tampering

Energy theft is a growing concern in the UK, with an estimated £400 million worth of gas and electricity stolen every year. Meter tampering is the act of adjusting the meter so it no longer accurately reads gas usage and therefore in theory lowers energy bills.

The penalties for those found guilty of meter tampering can vary from a hefty fine to five years imprisonment. Besides being illegal, interfering with a gas meter could cause a gas leak and lead to headaches, a loss of consciousness and even a fire or explosion.

There are a number of telltale signs that your meter may have been tampered with:

  • A strong smell of gas.
  • The numbers or dials aren’t visible.
  • The number or dials are visible, but not moving.
  • Your prepayment meter is still working, even though it has no credit.

If you are concerned that somebody may have tampered with your meter, you can use the number below to contact CrimeStoppers and report gas theft. You should also turn off the main gas source, if possible, and arrange with your supplier to have a Gas Safe registered technician called out.

CrimeStoppers Energy Theft Hotline
Telephone 0800 023 2777

*Freephone. Lines open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

I’ve lost my gas meter key

Some gas meter boxes will require a key to access them. This is a one-size-fits-all tool that can be used with most meters. If you’re unable to find your gas meter key, you have a couple of options.

  1. You can get in touch directly with your gas supplier to request a new one. Keep in mind, however, that some providers will charge a fee for a replacement gas meter key.
  2. If you need immediate access to your gas meter box, you may be able to find a replacement gas meter key in hardware stores. Failing this, you could also opt to use a small set of pliers.

Switch gas supplier

Now that you’re fully equipped with all the know-how on gas meters, you’re also better placed to compare your current energy supplier with cheaper alternatives on the market. Check out our guide to the cheapest gas suppliers to see how much you could potentially save just by switching supplier.

The services and products mentioned on this website may only represent a small selection of the options available to you. Selectra encourages you to carry out your own research and seek advice if necessary before making any decisions. We may receive commission from selected partner providers on sales of some products and/or services mentioned within this website. Our website is free to use, and the commission we receive does not affect our opinion or the information we provide.

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