Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™

Activity: Meter Reading

Grade Level:
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Lesson Overview: Students will learn to read utility meters and compute energy use. Students will proceed to monitor the energy used in their homes and keep a daily record. At school the information will be compiled and discussed.

Time: 45 minutes for first lesson; 10 minutes per day over one week or more.

Materials: One Home Meter Reading Worksheet per student, one Sample Meter Reading Worksheet per group, Teacher Meter Sheet.

 Home Meter Reading Worksheet

 Sample Meter Reading Worksheet

 Teacher Meter Sheet

Vocabulary: kilowatts, meter, dials

Background Information:

To read your meter first identify if you have an analog or digital meter. An analog meter will have multiple faces on it, similar to a clock or watch face, while a digital meter will flash numbers, similar to how a phone shows time. Regardless of the type of meter you have, meter reading can be kind of tricky.

How to Read an Analog Meter:

  • Stand directly in front of your meter. Looking at dials from an angle can distort the reading.
  • Read your meter dials from left to right.
  • If the dial hand is between numbers, use the smaller of the two numbers.
  • If the dial hand is positioned exactly on the number, look at the dial to the right to determine correct reading. Has the dial to the right recently passed zero?
  • If not, use the smaller number on the dial you’re reading.
  • If yes, use the number the hand is pointing to on the dial you’re reading.

Note: Some meters are marked with a x10 or similar number. This number is called a constant, and the meter readings should be multiplied by the number shown. If your meter has a constant, it will show on the meter in the lower left.

How to Read a Digital Meter:

Your meter cycles through many numbers and letters when operating. Every display starts with a display identification number. Here is what those numbers mean (your meter may not display every item):

  • Your meter will cycle through displays of different modes.
  • At the beginning of each cycle, your meter will display all 8, referred to as the LED segment check.
  • Your total energy use displays as kWh (Kilowatt-Hours)

LED Segment Check

Display Identification: Kilowatt-Hours

Note: Some meters are marked with a x10 or similar number. This number is called a constant, and the meter readings should be multiplied by the number shown. If your meter has a constant, it will show on the meter in the lower left.

Setting the Stage:

Show the students a sample energy bill and how to read it. Ask them how a clock’s hands move. Ask if anyone knows where the meters are at their home or if they have ever seen meters in public.

Activity 1: Sample Meters

Give each student a sample meter reading sheet and display the teacher meter sheet on a screen for the class to follow along. Teach the class how to read their meters, reviewing the rules from the background section with them. Use pointers on your meters. Assign groups of four to practice “round robin” style with one student doing a problem and the rest checking and comparing with him or her. The next student does the next problem and so on.

Activity 2: Personal Meters–School and Home

Remember that electric devices can be dangerous if they are tampered with, so make sure an adult supervises this activity.

Explain to the students how they will be checking their electricity meters at home daily for the next week. They will compute a total for kilowatt-hours of electricity if possible (some students may have only one).

Each day in class, take a few minutes to discuss any problems or questions the students have. At the end of the week, subtract the beginning numbers from the last numbers to find the amount of energy used in that student’s home.

If possible, show the students the meter for the entire campus. Check this meter daily for at least one 24-hour cycle in order to show the huge disparity between home-use and large scale school use. You can also contact your building manager or district energy manager to see if they have this information for your class. Consider contacting the facilities director at a local factory, mall, or university to get another scale of magnitude for daily use.


  1. Does your family spend more money on gas or electricity?
  2. Can you think of five ways to use less gas and electricity?
  3. Where do your gas and electricity come from?
  4. How much gas and electricity would the families in the whole class use in a week? A year?
  5. How much gas and electricity would the families of the whole school use?


  1. Do a spelling bee activity with meter reading: set up a few dials on the board and change the arrows for each player.
  2. Chart or graph a year’s worth of your own energy bills and present them to your class. Discuss with the students the possible reasons for the fluctuations.


Math: 3.1 (A), 3.3 (A, B), 3.14 (A, C), 3.15 (A), 3.16 (A, B), 4.1 (A, B), 4.3 (A), 4.4 (D), 4.14 (A), 4.15 (B), 5.3 (A, B), 5.12 (A), 5.14 (A), 5.15 (A), 6.11 (A), 6.12 (A), 7.11 (A), 7.13 (A), 8.1 (B), 8.2 (A, B), 8.14 (A), 8.15 (A)
Science: 3.1 (A), 3.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 3.16 (A, B), 4.1 (A), 4.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 4.3 (C), 5.1 (A), 5.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 5.3 (C), 6.1 (A), 6.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 6.3 (C), 6.4 (A), 7.1 (A), 7.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 7.3 (C), 7.4 (A), 8.1 (A), 8.2 (A, B, C, D, E), 8.3 (C), 8.4 (A)

Watt Watchers of Texas is a Partner Program of Smart Energy Education.
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