Do you know how to read Con Ed meters?

I swear it’s the 19th century down in my basement. It looks just like pictures of a Five Points gang hideout. You expect to see a bunch of Dead Rabbits pop up around the corner with whiskey bottles and knives.

I went down there to photograph the meters because I’ve been meaning to challenge Con Ed about my bill for decades. I know everyone’s bill shot up in the last few months, but mine has always been high. I live alone in a small one bedroom, with almost no devices: tv, radio, computer, stove, refrigerator, sometimes a blow-dryer, and lights. If I use a space heater it’s only for a couple of hours at a time, and yet my bill is usually over $100, sometimes way over. I went into the basement and photographed the meters. The first one is electric, I’m guessing, and the second one is the gas meter? (Totally guessing, what do I know?)



Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

8 thoughts on “Do you know how to read Con Ed meters?

  1. The top one is the electric meter. Read each dial (rounding off)and record each digit)
    0254 Kilowatt hours (you may have to add a 1 to the beginning). This is your total usage for some period of time. On your bill you will see the last reading. Subtract that amount from this reading and you will get your monthly or bimonthly usage (however they do it there). You should be paying based on that amount ( the difference between last reading and this one.

    I hope this helps.

  2. Note: to check properly, you have to do your reading on the same day they do it. But you could track your daily or weekly usage for your own purposes this way (to see how much you heater uses, for example).
    I was wondering why the first and third dials have the numbers running counter clockwise. Do those dials turn counter clockwise too?
    When it stops raining I will check mine to see if it is the same.

  3. The first and third dials do turn counter-clockwise.
    It’s an internal gearing thing. And because it makes no difference to the electric company, or the meter manufacturer which way the dials turn. Whatever turns out to be cheapest way to build them,

  4. Hi Stacy, I know this is an older post but I just wanted to point out that the info christine gave about reading your meter above is INCORRECT!!

    The dials work exactly like the odometer in a car; just imagine it is counting miles instead of kilowatt-hours. One full revolution of the least significant (furthest right) dial will move the next-least significant (2nd furthest right) dial 1 unit, and so-on and so-forth…

    In other words, looking at your electric meter in this picture, the reading is 0153kWh. When the furthest right dial points to 4, it will be 0154kWh. When the furthest right dial comes around and points to 0, the next dial will have moved from 5 to 6 and the reading will be 0160kWh.

    The gas meter works the same exact way, only with different units (reading: 276 therms). The meter itself reads in hundreds of cubic feet, but just ignore that. 1 therm = ~100 cubic feet.

    FWIW, having a bill over $100 is pretty typical even for a studio apartment in NYC. Electricity and gas, like seemingly everything else here, costs mad $$$

    It’s possible the meter isn’t recording properly, but with meters this old (your electric meter is at least 60 years old!) that usually works in your favor – i.e. they tend to go slower and slower as they get older.

    It also sometimes happens that another apartment or another circuit in the building is tapping into your service. Sometimes this is just an honest mistake by a contractor, sometimes it’s intentional. If you want to check, you can unplug everything in your apartment and go down to the basement to see if the disk on the electric meter stops spinning. And by everything I mean EVERYTHING. Fridge, computer, TV/cable box – even stuff that’s plugged in but not turned on. If it’s still spinning at that point, then something outside your apartment is drawing a load on it and you should call up Con Ed!

  5. Thank you so much for the explanation! That was GREAT. I’m going to print this out and go back down and see if I can read the meter properly now.

    I made an effort to unplug things in my apartment, and to use less electricity to see and I brought my bill down. So I think the meter might be okay.

  6. Oy vey… a year later I come across this completely by accident Googling something similar, and realize I’ve made a huge mistake: the gas meter reading is 176 not 276 :O

    But everything else is still accurate, just bad eyesight on my part… my sincerest apologies!

    Hope all is well and the Con Ed bills aren’t too painful!

  7. Haha. It’s so okay, and thanks for coming back and correcting your post!

    I got my bill down a little by unplugging things when I’m not using them.

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