Knowing how to read water meter can be a very helpful skill to learn. For instance, you can use the water meter to figure out how much water your household uses on a daily basis. To do so, read your meter at the start of the day and again at the end of the day and compare the totals. A water meter can also help you check for leaks. If you suspect a leak, turn off all the taps in your home then look at your meter. If it’s still turning, you most likely have a leak somewhere. 

Of course, in order to measure daily usage or monitor leaks, you need to know how to use your water meter in general. Here’s how you can locate and read your water meter.

Locate Your Meter

To start, you’re going to need to locate your meter. Your water meter is generally located near the front curb of your home. In colder climate areas, you may find it inside, usually in the basement. If your meter is outside, it can be found in a concrete box in your yard marked “water” or in a meter pit with a cast iron lid.

Gently remove the lid with a screwdriver or pliers. Be careful: spiders or other little critters may have taken up residence in your meter. 

Reading Water Meter

In the U.S., water meters typically measure volume in cubic feet or gallons. Water charges on your bill are based on 100 cubic feet or 1000 gallon units.

There are two basic types of water meters—a round-reading meter with several separate dials or a straight-reading meter that looks a lot like an odometer in a car. The straight-reading meter tends to be the most commonly found.

Straight-Reading Meter

On a straight-reading meter, the numbers found below the words “cubic feet” are where you will take your reading. Say the meter reads 81710.03, this is the total number of cubic feet or water recorded since the meter was first installed. If your utility bill comes in units of 100 cubic feet, then your utility company would just read this as 817.

On some straight-reading meters, a small blue triangle can be seen next to a two-digit number. This number is the low flow indicator. This triangle will spin if water is flowing through the meter. This is one way you can check for leaks.

On straight-reading meters, the size of a meter is printed on the dial. If you see that the final number on your meter has “turned over” but the big sweep hand hasn’t passed the 0.6 mark, be aware that this meter number isn’t completely correct. For example, if the number shows 2426 and the big sweep hand is at 0.9, the correct reading on your meter is actually 2425.92 cubic feet.

Round-Reading Meter

A round-reading meter is a bit older and less common, but many are still in service. This kind of water meter has several small dials, which means it can be a bit more difficult to read. For water meter reading of a round-reading meter, each dial is marked off in divisions of 10 and can be read more like a clock, although the hand on every other dial turns counterclockwise. In order to read this kind of meter, start with the 100,000 dial and then read each dial around the meter to the one-foot dial. If the hand sits between numbers, use the lower number.

Reading a Digital Display

Today, some water meters will have a digital display. Knowing how to read a water meter gallons or cubic feet is a lot easier on these than analog meters. Digital water meters need light for activation, so grab a flashlight and shine it on the display for a minute or two. A digital display will alternate between the flow rate and meter read. The flow rate equals the number of cubic feet or gallons per minute that flows through the water meter, while the meter read equals the cubic feet or gallons used. A few digital display meters let you review your water use history. This can help you track your water use trends and even show when leaks have occurred.

You can check your water provider’s website for more information surrounding your water meter. Keeping an eye on your meter can ensure you stay on top of leaks and ensure your household’s water usage is within a reasonable range, so check your water meter out today!

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