Monday, December 4, 2023


Paying an RV park for power? Read your meter!

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Spend any amount of time 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 are often presented with a bill for rates higher than the locals pay. We’ve all heard the “Cost of reading the meter,” “Administrative overhead,” “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 near 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 counter-clockwise. When the hand is between numbers, that hand is always read to the lower number.

Jc3s5h and wikimedia commons.

In the picture, the reading on the meter is 34065. Read from left to right. It may be difficult to discern that the second digit is 4 – it’s so close, maybe it’s a 3? 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. 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 “kilowatts” you’ve used, simply subtract the earlier reading from the present reading. Knowledge, as they say, is power.


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Joe Simpson (@guest_102451)
3 years ago

This is not necessarily correct. Different styles of meters operate differently. Some of them have a last dial that is read differently and some of a dial that is a multiplier.

Pat (@guest_55508)
4 years ago

Which states allow meter reads in Rv parks

Joe Simpson (@guest_102454)
3 years ago
Reply to  Pat

Electricity can be charged in any state. Some allow a “meter read fee” or “administrative fee” but none of them (that I could find) allow an RV Park or other business to upcharge the actual rate. I stayed in Las Vegas for a few months and they charged $8 to read the meter… for a week, my usage was about $5 but with that crazy $8 fee…

chris ledwidge (@guest_16611)
6 years ago

I’m confused. Please explain your statement about determining how to read the meter if the needle is very close to the number: ” 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.” It seems once the hand has passed zero, it will remain “past zero” during its entire rotation. The only time it is not past zero is when it is directly on zero. Thank you for the article and your anticipated help.

Ron T. (@guest_16308)
6 years ago

I’ve never been anywhere long enough to use a meter, but I’d expect to be billed for the correct amount of metered electricity, but at a rate slightly higher than what the utility charges the campground. That electrical pedestal and meter didn’t get installed for free and the campground owner deserves to make a little profit for providing that service.

Wolfe Rose (@guest_16223)
6 years ago

As others have said, arrive/depart photos are best arguing bills, but for your own knowledge (and brownout safety) install your own digital wattmeter inside your couch. Mine cost $7 installed, and reads Volts/ Amps/ Watts/ WattHours directly. The first two save your equipment, the third your generator, and the last your wallet. I can’t post photos here, so find me on rvillage if you need more info.

Wolfe (@guest_16285)
6 years ago
Reply to  Wolfe Rose

Here you go: 6-way meter :shows V/A/W/PF/KWh/Frequency… $9 delivered

Tommy Molnar (@guest_16212)
6 years ago

Taking pics seems to be the best way. We’ve never stayed anywhere long enough to have to do this, but in the future you never know. Thanks for the idea.

Jim Bennett (@guest_16205)
6 years ago

Many campground owners are making a fast buck from electric charges and many RV folks have little clue they are being overcharged.Having traveled extensively,I can attest to this problem and while electric rates vary from one area to another,there is little a person can do about it.CYA is your best protection.

Manny (@guest_16186)
6 years ago

I used to make a photo with my cell phone after hooking up the RV. For longer stays, I do it every day. so there is no discussion whatsoever.

Juan Camacho (@guest_16137)
6 years ago

Better yet take a picture of your meter that way there’s no question that who ever read it before you got there didn’t make a mistake.

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