How to Read a Water Meter Like a Pro


How to Read a Water Meter Like a Pro

Reading a water meter is one of those small chores that you don’t spend much time thinking about until your water company needs to know how much water you’ve used and you’re at a loss for what to tell them. Fortunately, much like reading a water meter, learning how to read a meter is a relatively simple and painless process. 

Where can I find my Water Meter? 

The first step of learning how to read a meter is to find your water meter. Your meter is usually either located near your home’s front curb (in older neighbourhoods it might be in your backyard), or in your basement. Basement meters are usually located near the furnace or hot water heater, but this location is more common for homes located in colder climates. If your water meter is outside, you’ll probably find it encased in a concrete box that’s embedded in your lawn, it might also be covered with a cast iron lid. The enclosure will likely be marked “water” and can be opened with a screwdriver or a pair of pliers.  

How can I tell how much water I’ve used?

U.S. water meters usually measure the volume of water you’ve used by Gallons or Cubic Feet. One cubic foot is equal to 7.48 gallons of water. Your water company will probably charge you in increments of 100 cubic feet or CCF for Centum Cubic Feet, which equals 748 gallons. Your water company may also bill you for 1000 gallon units. You might be charged to the nearest 10 gallon increment of water you use, but it’s unlikely you’ll be charged per single gallon.  

Types of Water Meters

Once you’ve found your meter and taken note of the increments your utility company measures your water use in, you’ll also notice that your meter is probably either a straight-reading meter or a round-reading meter. Straight-reading meters are more modern and consist of one circular dial with a read out of the amount of water that’s been used since the meter was installed somewhere inside. Round reading meters can be more difficult to read, as they require you to read the number from several dials that resemble the face of a clock. 


How to read a straight-reading meter

To record your water usage from a straight-reading meter, simply write down the numbers that appear printed inside the dial’s rectangular reader. Some dials will have the last two numbers marked in a different colour to indicate that your water company only bills your water usage by 100 cubic feet. To find out how much water you’ve used since your last water bill, subtract your last reading from your current reading. The sweep hand is the large dial that rotates around the meter every time a cubic foot of water flows through your pipes. To convert a CCF reading to gallons, you would multiply your reading by 748. 

How to read a round-reading meter

Round-reading meters have multiple dials that may turn either clockwise or counterclockwise. Start your reading at the dial labelled “100,000” and read each dial counterclockwise until you reach the dial marked “1,000”. If the dial’s hand is between two numbers, always record the lower number. You’ll still need to subtract your reading from the previous reading to determine your water usage during the billing period. On a round-reading meter, the dial labeled “ONE FOOT” can be used to detect leaks like the leak indicator dial on a straight-reading meter. 


Using your leak indicator

A leak indicator in a small triangular shaped dial that spins when water is being used in your home. You can use it to check for leaks by turning off all of the water sources inside and outside of your home, waiting for 15 minutes, and then checking the leak indicator dial. If the dial is still moving, then you home has a water leak. A sign that there’s a leak in the pipe running between your home and your meter is patches of healthier (thicker and greener) grass on your lawn. Leaks can cause spikes in your water bill, so make sure you contact a plumber as soon as possible to find and fix any water leaks you observe with your leak indicator. 


Congratulations! You’ve taken a few minutes to learn how to read a water meter and now you can impress your friends, family and/or roommates who’ve yet to master this skill. You can make sure you’re accurately billed for the amount of water your household uses, you have a handy way to detect water leaks so you know when a plumber is an order. Not to mention, now that you’re on top of monitoring your water bill, you’ve earned the right to complain if someone living under your roof is wasting water. 

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