Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or have owned your home for years, understanding how to read a digital water meter is a powerful tool in your arsenal of home maintenance supplies. There are several reasons why you may want to locate and read your water meter.
First, you may be interested in how much water your household uses in a day. By reading your meter at the beginning and end of the day, then comparing the two totals, you can estimate your amount of water use.
Second, you may suspect you have a leak on your property and would like to check. To do this, turn off all the taps in your house and look at your meter. If it is still running, chances are that there is a leak somewhere on your property.
A water meter measures the volume of water being delivered to your property. Once the water has been registered by your meter, you have paid for it.
If you have a leak on your property and it runs past your water, you are paying for water that isn’t making it to your faucet.
Locating your meter is easier than it sounds. It’s possible you’ve already noticed it outside your home or place of business. Water meters are typically located at the front of your property, near the curb and main road. They are enclosed in concrete boxes that are typically labeled, “WATER”.
When you find the concrete box, remove the lid using leveraging tools such as a large screwdriver. These lids are heavy, so be weary and avoid harming yourself by using tools, not your bare hands. Insert the tool into one of the holes and pry the lid off.
Before reaching into the concrete box, be sure to visually examine the area to ensure there are no harmful insects or animals in the box.
There are two types of meters: analog and digital.
How to Read an Analog Water Meter
The large, red sweep hand on an analog meter is used to measure water in gallons or cubic feet. When the large sweep hand moves from one number to the next (e.g. 0 to 1), then 1 gallon or 1 cubic foot of water has passed through your meter.
A complete rotation of the large sweep hand is equal to 10 gallons or 10 cubic feet of water that has passed through your meter.
You may notice a small triangle, star, or gear on your analog water meter. This shape is a “low-flow indicator,” which is used to detect even the smallest amount of water. If you turn your water off and the low-flow indicator is still moving, you may have a small leak, possibly from an appliance or pipes.
How to Read a Digital Water Meter
The first thing you need to understand about digital meters is that they are solar-powered. If you have identified your meter as being a digital meter, shine a flashlight on the meter to give it power.
After your meter is charged, notice the display changes. The meter is alternating between “meter read” and “flow rate.” The “meter read” will equal the gallons or cubic feet of the water used, while the “flow rate” will equal the gallons or cubic feet of water that is used per minute and registered by the meter.
Depending on your digital meter, you may also be able to access a history of water use, which will help track trends in water usage, such as when leaks occur. For more information on your particular digital meter, go visit the manufacturer’s website.
The Smart Home Water Guide has excellent examples of how to read these two different meters:
“Analog Example: The sweep hand is on the “1” so the read is 1,356,411 gallons. The last number on the right is a static zero (does not change). When the sweep hand is on the “3” the read will be 1,356,413 gallons. When you record your reading in the Leak Detection Test, make sure to use the number indicated by the sweep arm as the final digit.”