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A beginner’s guide to electricity meters and boxes

Rollouts of new types of meters and different tariffs across the country mean that not every home has the same meter. In shared buildings, meters may even have been installed by the landlord. Here are the main types of meter you are likely to encounter.

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The ‘standard’ meter

It is not really standard anymore but was once the most common. These have a succession of mechanical dials, each providing a digit of the current consumption reading. You need to subtract the previous figure to see what you have used over a particular period.

Economy 7 meters

These provide two readings, one for day and one for night. This enables different prices to be set for each, encouraging you to use power in off-peak hours to help the National Grid and power producers.

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Prepaid meters

Old-style prepaid meters are topped up using cards or smart pegs that you have to buy from an outlet. These meters are for people who need or prefer to closely control how much electricity they use and avoid unpredictable bills.

Smart meters

Older meters are being replaced with digital smart meters as fast as possible. They are complicated devices that communicate with the power providers using wi-fi and the internet, so nobody has to come and read the meter. They can be set to bill monthly or automatically add credit when you prepay at an outlet or using a laptop or smartphone.

Occasionally, there are connection problems due to the meter location or if it is inside the wrong kind of cabinet.

Meter boxes

Although you can’t touch the meter, you can often replace or repair an electric meter box. They can’t be metallic for smart meters but must be robust, weatherproof if outside, and the right size for the equipment. Some boxes are proud of the wall, while others are recessed. You can buy an electric meter box from a supplier such as Many boxes are now optimised for the new smart meters and can be decorated to match your home.

Moving the meter

Meters are often in the most inconvenient locations possible – too high, too low, at curious-child height, or in the way of furniture and radiators. You are not allowed to move them yourself and this can sometimes be an expensive job. Contact your electricity supplier for advice.


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