 You can read your own meter to help monitor your electric use. During the heating season, your energy use should be compared to the number of heating degree days for the same time period; during the cooling season, compare your energy use to the number of cooling degree days.

Heating and cooling degree days are a simple measure of the effect of weather on your energy needs: using the average temperature for each day, each degree Fahrenheit below 65°F is counted as one heating degree day, and each degree Fahrenheit above 65°F is counted as one cooling degree day. Your heating and cooling use should be proportional to the number of heating and cooling degree days for the time period in question.

The basic unit of measure of electric power is the watt. One thousand watts are called a kilowatt. If you use one thousand watts of power in one hour you have used a kilowatt-hour (kWh). Your electric utility bills you by the kWh.

The standard electric power meter is a clock-like device driven by the electricity moving through it. As the home draws current from the power lines, a set of small gears inside the meter move. The number of revolutions is recorded by the dials that you can see on the face of the meter. The speed of the revolutions depends on the amount of current drawn — the more power consumed at any one instant, the faster the gears will rotate.

When reading an electric meter, read and write down the numbers as shown on the dials from right to left. When the pointer is directly on a number, look at the dial to the right. If it has passed zero, use the next higher number. If it has not passed zero, use the lower number. Record the numbers shown by writing down the value of the dial to your extreme right first and the rest as you come to them. Should the hand of a dial fall between two numbers, use the smaller of the two numbers.