Did you know that your utility company can bill you based on estimated gas usage? If you ever receive an exorbitantly high energy bill, you may just want to double-check the numbers. Estimated gas bills often lead to much higher gas bills.
For instance, if your gas meter is difficult to access or you have a dog guarding the property, the meter reader may not be able to check the meter for the actual usage number. In many cases, the utility company will estimate your gas usage and bill you based on assumptions rather than actual usage.
The Public Service Commission requires utility companies to read the meters at least quarterly (unless it is customer read). While most utilities try to read the meters every other month, if they aren’t read, you will receive an estimated bill based on prior usage rates.
Luckily, you can contact your utility company if there is a discrepancy between the estimated bill and the actual meter reading. Take a picture of the meter to dispute any estimated charges.
If you are unable to solve the problem with your utility company, contact your state’s Public Utility Commission.
In order to check your gas bill for accuracy, we recommend monitoring your gas meter every month.
How to Increase the Chances of Your Meter Being Read
Sometimes it’s not the utility company’s fault that your meters are not read. In order to maximize your chances of an actual rather than an estimated bill, double-check the following:
- Trim back shrubs and trees from the meter to provide easy, unobstructed access.
- Unlock your gates. If you choose to keep your gate locked, contact your local utility company to make arrangements to have your meter read on a scheduled date. The scheduled read date is normally printed on your gas bill.
- Keep dogs in a separate area.
Warning: If the meter is located inside your house, always ask to see the meter reader’s employee ID. Do not let a meter reader into your home if they don’t have ID.
If you notice your meter is damaged, contact your utility company.
How Does a Gas Meter Work?
The standard gas meter works by measuring the force of the moving gas through the pipeline. The speed of the dials (clock-like devices) is determined by the flow of gas.
Natural gas is usually measured by the cubic foot, so you will be billed by thousands of cubic feet (MCF) or hundreds of cubic feet (CCF).
Your meters are not reset every month. They will increase from month to month. To know your monthly usage, you will need to subtract last month’s reading from this month’s.
Warning: Tampering with utility meters is illegal. If you notice anything wrong with your meter, contact the utility company.
How to Read Your Gas Meter
Locate the Gas Meter
Your utility company installs your gas meter between the incoming gas lines and the point of distribution for your home. The meter monitors your daily usage and the utility company normally sends someone to read your meter to record the building’s usage.
- You gas meter is normally located outside of the house. Look on the side of your house or in the back.
- If you have a business or multi-family residence, your meter is probably located inside the building.
- Check your property inspection report or contact your building manager or utility company if you need assistance finding your meter.
Determine What Type of Meter You Have
There are two types of gas meters: dial and digital.
Digital meters are much easier to read since they simply display the reading like a digital alarm clock. The reading is whatever number the digital meter displays. Take a picture and write down the numbers exactly as you see them.
If you have a dial meter, however, it’s still very easy to read.
Reading a Dial Meter
Reading a gas meter is similar to reading a clock. Most gas meters will have four or five dials that look like clock faces. You will notice that some of the dials move clockwise while some move counterclockwise. They will all go in the direction of 0 to 9 though.
- Take a picture of the dial for your records.
- Ignore any red dials that are marked “100 per rev” or any dial that is significantly larger than the other dials.
- Read the dials from left to right.
- Starting with the furthest left dial, write down the number that the dial hand hovers over.
- If the dial falls between two number, write down the lower number (even if it is closer to the higher number). If, however, the dial is in between 9 and 0, write down 9 since technically the 0 marks the beginning of a new rotation and hence a higher number.
- If a dial is in between 9 and 0, write down 9 and then reduce the previous number by one. For example, if your second dial was 2 and the third dial fell between 9 and 0, write down 1 for the second dial and 9 for the third dial.
In order to get your daily, weekly, or monthly reading, simply subtract the first reading from the second reading to get the energy usage for that time period.
Again, if there are any discrepancies with your energy bill and actual meter reading, contact your utility company.
Checking your gas meter more frequently than once a month will give you a better idea of your usage patterns. If you do choose to check your meter daily, make sure to check it at the same time of each day.
For more energy-saving tips and tricks, read:
- How to Winterize Your Home
- Year-Round HVAC Energy Savings
- How NOT to Heat Your Home
- How to Improve HVAC Efficiency
Contact Service Champions with all your HVAC and energy-saving questions and concerns. We are your reliable HVAC experts for Northern California.