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How To Check If Your Electric Meter Is Broken

Broken Electric Meter

Electric meters like most metering equipment can, over time, lose efficiency. These meters are manufactured to specific metering compliance standards known as UL. Look for the UL symbol on electric metering equipment. "UL is a global, independent safety science company that validates, certifies, tests, audits, inspects, educates and advises" the public on metering devices. 

You may find the UL symbol on a wide variety of electrical devices, appliances and other hardware. The UL symbol validates the efficiency of your meter.

Electric meters should be inspected and re-calibrated by the local electric utility supplier. There is usually no charge for this. Depending on the electric utility supplier, these meters should be inspected and re-calibrated at least every five years or sooner, especially if the meter is located outdoors where weather can affect it.

How to Check if Your Electric Meter is Broken
One clue your electric meter is broken is a sudden, unusual spike in the use of your electricity. After all possible causes, such as old household or business appliances, are ruled out; the electric meter may not be properly calculating kilowatt hours due to malfunctioning of internal metering devices.

There are different types of electric meters installed in homes and buildings. In older homes, there may be analog meters. In new homes, the electric meters installed are likely to provide digital read outs.

The actual monitoring mechanisms inside electric meters may be miscalculating your electricity usage. On analog electric meters, this is more readily visible through the clear front cover.

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Take note of the speed of the movement “clocks” on the meter. If these seem too slow, your electricity usage will be lower than normal on your monthly bill.

If they are moving too fast, the bill will be unusually higher than normal. However, if the electric meter has a malfunction, such as frayed wiring or other electrical connections, it will be more difficult to check for meter malfunction.

Tips on Monitoring Your Electric Meter
One suggested method on how to check if your electric meter is broken is to document read outs for a specific period of time, for example, a week or two. If the read outs seem erratic, contact your electricity supplier.

In some areas, electric suppliers already provide this information on a cumulative basis on your monthly bill. If this is the case, this makes it easier to check if your electric meter is broken. The data on your monthly bill will help determine if there is a problem and if the meter should be recalibrated or replaced.

However, be aware that if the electric meter has been gradually malfunctioning, you may need to rely on a prior year's data on your electricity usage. It is recommended to keep your electricity bills for at least 12 months in order to detect any electric meter malfunctions. This assumes the meter is still operating and the internal mechanisms have not failed entirely.

Conclusion
No one likes "sticker shock" when it comes to their monthly electricity bills. It is better to take the time to monitor your electric meter at least two or three times a year. Keep a record of readings taken directly from the meter.

This is also a big help in the event that the electric utility company has made a clerical error in their calculations. Think of monitoring your electric meter in the same way you monitor your monthly bank balance.

Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.

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