How to Connect an Electric Meter

Connecting an electric meter is an important task that should only be performed by qualified professionals. Improper installation can result in hazards such as electric shock, fires, and equipment damage. This guide will walk through the key steps involved in properly installing a new electric meter.

Planning the Electric Meter Installation

Careful planning is required prior to installing a new electric meter. Here are some key steps to take during the planning process:

Choose the Right Location

  • The electric meter should be installed on an exterior wall of the building, typically near the main electrical service panel.
  • It should be positioned at least 3 feet above ground level and have at least 3 feet of clear space in front of it. This ensures easy access.
  • Avoid locating the meter below windows or above doors. The location should not impede foot traffic or access to the building.
  • Never mount the meter on a shared wall since access will be limited.

Obtain Required Permits and Scheduling

  • Contact your utility company to obtain required permits and schedule the installation.
  • Inform them of the planned meter location and electrical loads.
  • They will ensure proper meter and service wiring sizing.
  • Arrange an installation time when power interruption will have minimal impact.

Inspect Electrical Service Components

  • Visually inspect the electrical service mast, weatherhead, and conduit for damage.
  • Ensure the mast is properly grounded using a grounding electrode system.
  • Check that service entrance wires are properly sized based on required electrical loads.
  • Replace any damaged or undersized equipment prior to meter install.

Gather Required Materials and Tools

  • New meter housing that is approved by the utility company
  • Weatherproof meter base cover
  • Compatible meter socket for the supplied meter
  • Grounding rods and copper wire
  • Conduit and fittings
  • Appropriate screws, nuts, lugs, and washers
  • Level, hammer, drill, wrenches, voltmeter, etc.

Step-by-Step Installation Process

With proper planning completed, you are now ready to install the new electric meter. Follow these key steps:

Step 1: Disconnect Electrical Service

The first step is to shut off power at the main breaker panel and contact the utility company to de-energize the service wires. Verify power is off by using a non-contact voltage tester. Failure to do so can result in electrocution.

Step 2: Remove Existing Meter

  • Open the outer meter housing and remove any sealing devices installed by the utility company.
  • Carefully extract the meter from the socket without damaging the meter or connections.
  • If an older socket type is being replaced, remove the entire socket housing as well.

Step 3: Install New Meter Housing

  • Mount the new meter housing securely to the exterior wall using appropriate lag screws.
  • It should be 5-6 feet above ground level if possible.
  • Ensure it is plumb using a level and affix a weatherproof cover.

Step 4: Install Meter Socket

  • Insert the new meter socket into the housing and tighten the retaining ring securely.
  • Attach the socket grounding lug to a proper grounding electrode using #6 AWG copper wire.
  • Verify socket rating matches the meter rating specified by the utility company.

Step 5: Connect Service Entrance Wires

  • Strip the service entrance wires coming from the electrical mast.
  • Insert each wire into the proper socket terminal and tighten the screw securely.
  • Double check connections are tight and that wire insulation properly enters the socket.

Step 6: Install Meter into Socket

  • Carefully insert the electric meter into the socket without damaging the connections.
  • Ensure it is fully seated then tighten all socket screws securely.
  • Reinstall any sealing devices provided by the utility company.

Step 7: Inspect and Restore Power

  • Visually inspect the complete installation for any loose connections or improper wiring.
  • Notify the utility company that work is complete and all covers are secured.
  • They will restore electrical service once ready.
  • Turn on main breaker then verify meter is properly registering electrical usage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions regarding electric meter installations:

How long does it take to install an electric meter?

The installation process typically takes 2-3 hours with proper planning. The majority of the time is spent safely disconnecting electrical service and then later restoring it. The actual mounting and wiring of the meter itself can be completed in under an hour.

Can a homeowner install their own electric meter?

In most regions, only qualified licensed electrical contractors can legally install an electric meter. This ensures proper building codes and utility regulations are followed. Homeowners should never attempt to install a meter on their own unless approved by the utility company.

Where should the electric meter be located outside?

The meter should be positioned on an exterior wall approximately 5-6 feet above the ground. It requires at least 3 feet of clear space in front for access. Locate it close to the main electrical panel but away from windows, doors, and other obstructions. Never mount indoors or in garages/carports.

What size of electric meter do I need?

The utility company will specify what amperage rating and meter socket type is required for your electric service. Common residential meters range from 100 amp to 400 amp services. Never install a socket that doesn’t match the meter specifications they provide.

How much does it cost to install an electric meter?

Average costs for a licensed electrician to install a new electric meter and socket is $500 – $1000 in most areas. Complex installations or long service mast runs can cost much more. Contact local electricians to obtain accurate price estimates.

What wiring goes to an electric meter?

The service entrance wires that run from the utility transformer should connect to the meter. Typically these are 2/0 or 4/0 AWG wires encased in conduit. Smaller branch circuits distribute power downstream from the meter to the main breaker panel inside the building.

Can I relocate my electric meter?

Meter relocations require approval from the utility company. Contact them to evaluate your new proposed location. They will determine if service wires extensions are needed and provide relocation guidelines. Expect added costs for relocating versus new installs.

How often should an electric meter be replaced?

Electric meters normally last 15-20 years before needing replacement. Some newer smart meters may last up to 25 years. If you notice any damage, corrosion, malfunctioning, or burned wires, contact the utility immediately for a replacement.


Installing an electric meter requires meticulous planning, proper materials, and strict adherence to electrical codes and utility standards. While complex, the potential hazards make this a task that is best left to trained electrical professionals. Contact certified local electricians to examine your unique situation and obtain detailed quotes for your meter installation project. They can ensure the job is performed correctly and safely.

How Electric Meters Work

Electric meters measure and record the amount of electrical energy used in a home or business. They track precise power consumption which the local utility company uses for billing purposes. Electric meters operate by continuously monitoring the flow of incoming and outgoing electrical current. Here is an overview of how residential electric meters work.

Key Electric Meter Components

The main components of a typical single-phase electric meter include:

  • Outer Metal Housing – Protective enclosed case that contains the meter electronics and terminals. Includes a transparent sealed cover to read meter dials.
  • Meter Disk – Rotating non-magnetic metal disc that turns proportionally to power usage. Visible through the clear cover.
  • Voltage Coils – Coils of fine wire that electrical current flows through. Their magnetic fields drive the meter disc rotation.
  • Current Coils – Coils which incoming and outgoing service wires pass through to measure amperage.
  • Registers – Dials and displays that show accumulated energy usage over time. May be mechanical or electronic.
  • Connections – Terminal blocks or blades where incoming service wires connect.
  • Circuit Board – Modern solid-state meters contain circuit boards that track and record usage data.

How Electricity Flows Through a Meter

Here is a simplified overview of how residential meters measure electricity usage:

  • Service entrance wires carry current from the utility transformer to the house’s main circuit breaker panel.
  • These incoming hot wires first pass through the meter’s sealed current coils.
  • The current produces a magnetic field within the coils that interacts with the voltage coils.
  • The voltage coils have a fixed magnetic field produced by the incoming 240V power.
  • As current increases, its magnetic field distorts the voltage coil fields.
  • This rotation force causes the aluminum meter disc to spin proportionally to the amount of current flow.
  • Outgoing wires pass through the other current coils that subtract the magnetic effects.
  • The disc rotation speed determines usage, displayed on the register dials or LCD.

Meter Accuracy and Calibration

Electric meters must precisely record energy usage to properly bill customers. To ensure accuracy:

  • Meters meet national standards for calibration – often within 1% plus or minus.
  • Their components are precisely calibrated at factories during manufacturing.
  • Seals prevent tampering or adjustments after initial calibration.
  • Periodic testing may be performed by utilities after installation using calibration equipment.
  • Faulty meters are quickly replaced before inaccuracies occur.
  • New solid-state “smart meters” perform self-diagnostics to verify proper operation.

Key Types of Electric Meters

There are several common types of meters used for single family residential buildings:

  • Mechanical Meter – Consists of a rotating metal disc, registers, coils, and magnets with minimal electronics. Common for decades.
  • Digital Electronic Meter – Battery operated with no moving parts. Precisely tracks usage data electronically.
  • Smart Meter – Digitally measures usage and also communicates data remotely to the utility. Enables automatic meter readings and other “smart grid” functions.
  • Pre-Pay Meters – Allow users to purchase electrical service in advance via tokens, cards, or mobile payments as needed. Power is disconnected when credit runs out.
  • Net Meter – Bidirectional meters measure both power usage and surplus renewable energy generation fed back into the grid (from solar panels, wind turbines, etc).

Regardless of type, all electric meters used by utilities must meet accuracy and reliability certification standards to ensure fair billing. The sealed meters prevent tampering by customers. Modern smart meters provide added usage data, communications, and self-monitoring capabilities for improved grid efficiency.

How to Read Your Electric Meter

Learning to properly read your electric meter can help track power usage, estimate bills, and identify potential issues. Here is a step-by-step guide to reading residential electric meters:

1. Locate the Electric Meter

  • Find your electric meter mounted on an exterior wall or pole outside the home.
  • It should be installed around 5 feet above the ground with the display angled downward.
  • The meter display has numbers that spin to show usage and may also contain status lights.

2. Read the Meter Face

  • The meter face displays 5 or 6 rows of digits used for reading usage.
  • Each dial spins clockwise as energy is consumed. Read digits from left to right.
  • Write down all numbers shown on the dials, including non-spinning leading zeros if present.

3. Read the Meter Type

  • Determine if you have a digital electronic, smart, or mechanical meter. This affects how it is read.
  • Digital electronic meters show usage numbers on an LCD display.
  • Smart meters may have a digital readout and communication capability.
  • Mechanical meters have 4 or 5 numbered metal dials that physically rotate.

4. Record the Meter Reading

  • For mechanical meters, read dials from left to right, recording all numbers shown. Include non-moving zeros.
  • For electronic meters, simply write down the full number exactly as displayed on the screen. No zeros need to be added.
  • Mark the reading date and unit type (electric, gas, water) for reference.

5. Verify Your Reading

  • Double check that all numbers from displays or dials are recorded accurately. Mistakes can lead to incorrect usage and bill estimates.
  • If the reading doesn’t make logical sense based on previous usage, re-read the meter.
  • Call your utility company if still uncertain – they can verify the proper reading.

6. Calculate Usage

  • Subtract the new reading from the last known reading to determine the total energy usage over that period.
  • Multiply the usage by your electric rate to estimate costs. Rates vary by region, season, and consumption level.
  • Compare usage to the same month last year. Look for unusually high usage that indicates problems.

Learning to properly read your electric meter provides useful information on your home’s energy use patterns and helps identify issues before they appear on your utility bill. Contact your energy provider if you need assistance.

How to Troubleshoot Electric Meter Issues

Electric meters that are damaged, faulty, or operating abnormally can lead to a variety of problems. Here are tips for troubleshooting common electric meter issues:

Meter Stopped or Slow

If the meter dials or display are no longer spinning/incrementing, it indicates a loss of electrical supply.

  • Check your main breaker panel – a tripped breaker or blown fuse could be the issue.
  • Contact the utility if power is on at the panel but the meter remains stalled.
  • They will inspect for service wiring problems, transformer failures, or faulty meters.

Meter Spins Backwards

Meters should only spin forwards as power is consumed. Reverse spinning indicates wires were crossed during installation.

  • This is a potentially hazardous situation – disconnect power at the main breaker immediately.
  • Do not attempt to use any electronics or switches until the utility has corrected the issue.
  • The utility will repair the supply wiring connections and reinstall the meter properly.

No Power in the Home

If your home has no power with the meter still running, the issue is likely downstream of the meter:

  • Check your main breaker and reset or replace tripped breakers and blown fuses.
  • Inspect supply wires, splices, and connections for damage. Contact an electrician if needed.
  • Ensure all individual branch circuit breakers are switched on and functioning properly.

Flickering Lights and Electronics

Irregular meter disc spinning accompanied by power fluctuations points to a problem with the electrical supply or meter:

  • Loose or corroded supply wire connections can cause arcing as the meter operates.
  • Extremely high usage on a circuit overloaded beyond capacity can affect nearby wiring.
  • Defective components within an older spinning disc meter may be wearing out.
  • Contact the utility if flickering persists – the meter may need replacement or service upgrades.

Higher than Expected Bills

If your usage and bills seem excessively high, there may be metering inaccuracies or undiscovered loads:

  • Compare the usage increase during similar billing cycles year-over-year to identify anomalies.
  • Consider additional appliances, devices, or occupants that could be boosting usage.
  • Contact the utility to re-check the meter calibration if unexplained increases persist. Faulty meters are replaced at no charge.

Safety Hazards

Electric meters that spark, smoke, give off burning odors, or feel hot to the touch are extremely dangerous.

  • Immediately shut off the main breaker and contact emergency services and your utility if hazardous conditions are detected around the meter.
  • Keep a safe distance away and do not tamper with the meter until the issue has been corrected.

Electric meters are very durable but issues can still occur over time. Contact certified electricians or your utility company immediately if abnormalities are noticed so any potential hazards with your electrical service can be promptly corrected.

Electric Meter Safety Tips

Electric meters operating under hazardous conditions pose serious risks of fire, shock, and electrocution. Here are important safety tips when dealing with electric meters:

  • Never attempt to open or tamper with an electric meter. This is extremely dangerous and illegal in most regions.
  • If the meter emits smoke or sparks, contact emergency services and your utility provider immediately.
  • Always keep flammable materials and overgrown vegetation well clear of the electric meter.
  • Never spray water or other liquids directly at an electric meter.
  • Avoid hanging decorations or irrigation systems above a meter. Dripping water can create shorts.
  • Call an electrician if you notice discolored wires, burning smells, or hot spots near the meter. This may indicate loose connections or overloaded wiring.
  • Warn children to keep away from electric meters. Ensure pets do not urinate on meters. Urine causes corrosion.
  • For meters mounted directly on homes, periodically inspect the wall for moisture intrusion, mildew, or damage around the base. Address any issues promptly.
  • If the meter LCD or dials are no longer operating, contact your utility provider to inspect for outages or faulty equipment.
  • Always keep 3 feet of clear space in front of the electric meter. Do not obstruct access to it.
  • Only hire qualified electricians experienced with meter wiring and connections to perform any needed repairs.
  • When landscaping, do not install plants with Thorns, bushes, or structures too close to the meter. Maintain the clearance zone.
  • Never assume downed power lines are safe after storms. Contact emergency services and the utility before approaching damaged meters.

Electric meters are precisely calibrated devices that should only be serviced by authorized utility personnel. Contact them immediately about any potential hazards or abnormalities to prevent tragic accidents.


Connecting a new electric meter requires careful planning, high quality materials, and strict adherence to electrical codes and utility best practices. While the process is complex, it is a task best left to qualified electricians to ensure safety and proper operation. Use this guide to understand key steps involved in a meter installation project so you know what to expect. And