How to Read Your Natural Gas Meter at Home

Your home’s natural gas meter registers your household’s consumption. The supply line running from the meter into your house branches into drop lines and risers to fuel each gas appliance and fixture. Like electric meters, they display readings on a series of dials. The dials are read from left to right, and the pointer on each dial turns faster as the number increases.

Read the Dials

It’s important to read your meter correctly. Your meter is an accurate and reliable measure of energy use, but if you read it incorrectly, it can throw off your estimates. Read your natural gas meter in the same way that the gas company reads it. When you read a dial meter, you must stand directly in front of the meter so that the pointer is not at an angle. A small amount of tilt can distort the reading. Always read the dials from left to right and record the number each pointer hand is pointing to. Write down the lesser number if the pointer is between two numbers.

When you have completed your reading, look at the numbers on your meter and compare them to those listed on your most recent bill statement. It will show how much gas your home used since the last meter reading. It is normal for the numbers on your meter to fluctuate over time due to weather and other factors. That’s why reading your meter the same way each month is important. It will help you keep track of your usage and be more aware of conserving energy.

Diaphragm Meters

The diaphragm meter is one of the most common types of gas meters. Developed in the 19th century, this positive displacement gas meter uses chambers formed by diaphragms and deformable walls that alternately fill and empty. As the gas passes through, the sections push against a set of levers that connect to a crankshaft. This crankshaft can either drive a traditional odometer-style counter mechanism or, in more advanced versions, produce electrical pulses that get fed to a flow computer for calculation.

Each crankshaft revolution generally equals a specific volume of gas that gets measured and recorded by the odometer or index. However, since these meters have moving parts, they can also create friction and wear that will cause the meter to lose accuracy over time. Ensuring that all mechanical meter components are in good working order is important.

Fortunately, most of the mechanical parts in these meters are relatively easy to maintain. For example, keeping the meter clean of debris, such as dirt and weld slag, is a good idea, and applying meter oil regularly for lubrication. In addition, the meter should be checked periodically to ensure that it’s operating within its specified tolerances and at an acceptable temperature.

Electronic Meters

Most homes have an electric meter that shows energy usage in kilowatt-hours. While they may look complicated with all those dials that spin and rotate in opposite directions, an electric meter’s operation is relatively simple. An analog electric meter works through various coils, each impacted by voltage and current.

This interaction produces changing magnetic fields that a metal disc responds to by spinning proportionally to the electricity used. This spinning moves gears that record the results on a series of clock-like dials. This display may be of the cyclometer type where, for each dial, a single digit is shown, or it can be the pointer type where, for each number, there is a corresponding pointer that rotates.

Modern electronic meters use digital signal sampling of analog values (voltage and current) to convert them into a sequence of digital numbers. It is then compared to the stored information on a register, and the results are displayed or transmitted.

Meters today also include additional features like power factor, real energy and demand, reactive energy, harmonic distortion and even wave and event capturing. A networked smart meter is designed to communicate directly with the company, eliminating the need for a utility worker to visit your home. While this is great for the environment and convenience, it also puts that person out of work, which some communities struggle with.


Your gas meter records your energy usage in one of two ways: hundreds of cubic feet (Ccf) or thousands of cubic feet (Mcf). For billing purposes, Ccfs are converted to the heating unit used for natural gas — 100,000 British thermal units (Btu). Start with the first dial to the left when you read your meter.

If it is a dial with arrows that move in different directions, note the order in which they move. If it is a dial with numbers that look like clock faces, notice that the pointer on the first dial moves counterclockwise while the other three move clockwise. Record the number that the tip stops on, as well as the number of the dial directly to the right.

You can also subtract the reading on your last utility bill from the manual meter reading to determine your current usage. By becoming familiar with your meter, you will be better able to track your usage and become more aware of conserving energy. In addition, by reading your meter, you can double-check the accuracy of your monthly bills and avoid the possibility that the utility company may have to estimate your usage between actual meter readings.


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