# Electric Meter

If you live in a house, somewhere on it should be an electric meter. It might be hard to find it if you live in an apartment building or a condo. If you can find your electric meter, you can look at it and see how fast your family uses electricity. First, you can tell if you're using electricity at all by looking at the round metal disk that sticks out from the face of the meter. If the disk is spinning, your family is using electricity.

In my house, the disk and the dials often spin BACKWARDS. That's because my house makes its own electricity! When my house makes more electricity than it uses, it sends the extra electricity back through the wires to the electric company. The electric company ends up owing me money for the electricity I make!

The dials on your electric meter keep track of how much electricity your family uses. The dials look like this:

These are crazy meters because the dials all go different directions! That's why the numbers go different ways on the different dials. You read this meter by writing down the number that each dial has already passed. Write the numbers down from the left dial to the right dial. For instance, the dials above say 17269.

Sometimes you can't tell if the dial has passed its number or not, like the fourth dial above...is it just before the 7 or just after? When that happens, look at the dial to the right of it. If it's on a big number like 8 or 9, the dial has not passed the number yet, so you should write down the next smaller number. In the example above, the dial to the right says "9," so you should write down the next smaller number, in this case, "6." If the dial to the right is on a small number like 0 or 1, then you write down the number the dial seems to be pointing to.

If you know where your electric meter is, you can find out how much electricity your family uses each day. Read the electric meter, and write down the numbers. Then wait until the same time a day later. Read the meter again and write down the numbers. Subtract the first day's numbers from the second day's. This is how much electricity your family used in a day.

Electricity is measured in kilowatt-hours. A typical (40-watt) light bulb left on all day will use about one kilowatt-hour. How many light bulbs could your family light up with the electricity you use in one day?

By keeping track of how much electricity your family uses, you can see for yourself how much electricity is used by different appliances in your house. Electric dryers, hairdryers, and electric ovens all use a lot of electricity. Try measuring your family's electric use on a day when your parents are doing a lot of laundry or baking, then comparing it to a day when they aren't. How do they compare?