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Electric power: Learn to read the meter at your campsite

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Spend any amount of time at all in a commercial RV park and you’re apt to get a power bill. Since power is expensive anywhere, it’s a bitter pill for RVers when they’re likely to be presented with a bill for rates higher than the locals pay. We’ve all heard the “cost of reading the meter,” “administrative overhead,” and “Huh?” excuses.

How do you know if you’re actually being billed for what you’ve used? In many parks, old-style clock-type electric meters are used, and many folks just don’t have a clue as to how to “read” them. Digital meters are a lot easier, but not nearly as common.

Here’s how to read a clock-type meter

Remember that each of the hands represents a single digit of the present reading. It’s helpful to recall that some hands turn clockwise, others counterclockwise. When the hand is between numbers, that hand is always read to the lower number.

In the picture, the reading on the meter is 43304. It may be difficult to discern that the second three (or the third hand reading from left to right) is really a 3. Why difficult to discern? When the pointer is close to being directly on a number, you have to determine whether it has actually reached the number yet, or not. The giveaway is simple: If the hand to the right of the one in question is past the zero, then the hand in question is to be read as higher. And remember: When meters are read they are NOT reset to zero.

So when you “check in” to your RV site, read the meter and write down the figures, or take a picture with your cell phone. To practice, you might read it every day to get the hang of it, and to see how little power RVers use — unless of course, you’re running the air conditioner! To know how much power or kilowatt-hours you’ve used, simply subtract the earlier reading from the present reading. Knowledge, as they say, is power.

##RVDT1987

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McTroy
1 month ago

We like our Hughes Power Watchdog. We reset it at each campsite or monthly at our summer site. It is easy to track our usage this way. This is helpful at home too. We leave the trailer plugged in. If the usage increases I know something was left on.

John the road again
1 month ago

Many RV surge protectors now also track energy usage, so you can use that to backstop what the meter says.

Jim Johnson
1 month ago

Unlike most (all?) electric companies or coop’s, RV parks generally just invoice what they say you owe as opposed to also giving you their beginning and end meter readings. Nor do they tell you what the rate is or if there are any surcharges from the power company that are spread across the sites.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t ask how the usage is charged and do your own meter readings and calculations. Any reputable park management shouldn’t have a problem telling you.

Based on the energy values for propane published in this newsletter, I checked the local propane supplier’s rate and asked for current electric rate from the park office. There was no hesitation. It allowed me to build a simple spreadsheet and determine in our case that it was much cheaper over time to heat our RV water electrically rather than via propane.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago

Great article. And be aware that campgrounds are not legally allowed to mark up kWh costs. So if they are charged 15 cents per killo-watt hour by the power company, they are not supposed to charge you 20 or 30 cents per kWh. But many of them do this anyways.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mike Sokol
Bob p
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

And I’ll bet that when the park reads the meter they go to the next higher number when the pointer is in between numbers instead of going backwards to the lower number. The park we live in has a lady employee who reads the meters, if she’s sick someone else reads the meters who may not know how to read it properly, since we don’t get a meter reading just a bill we don’t know how they’re doing it.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob p

It would be pretty simple to get them to take a picture of each meter face and include it in the bill, but that’s not likely to happen.

Jesse Crouse
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

Simple and honest and not only “not likely” but bet the family farm “it ain’t going to happen”!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Sokol

What would be even better is adjust the c.g.’s rates to include average electricity usage- the way most do anyway.