What Does My Water Meter Look Like and How Do I Read It?

What does a water meter look like?

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This essential gadget plays a big part in helping you know and control how much water you use. However, you’re not alone if you have no idea how to find or read it. Taking a look at your water meter and knowing how to read it can save cash and water, and help you find leaks fast.

In this article, we’ll look at what water meters are, how they work, and other important things to know. When you finish reading, you’ll be a water meter expert (almost).

Look and Location

Your water meter is usually near your main water shut-off valve. If you’re in a single-family home, look for it in your basement, crawl space, or utility room.

In warm climates, it might be in an outdoor “pit” near your property line. If you live in an apartment or condo, your meter is likely in a shared utility area.

Most residential water meters are about the size of a large can of coffee. They’re typically made of brass or plastic and have a dial or digital display. You’ll see numbers (like an odometer) or a set of dials that look like small clocks.

A water meter can look a bit different, depending on the type you have, but they're generally located in roughly the same place.

Types of Water Meters

There are three main types of water meters.

  • Positive Displacement Meters have a chamber that fills and empties, tracking each cycle. They’re precise but can clog if there’s gunk in your water.
  • Velocity Meters have a propeller or turbine that measures water flow rate. They’re less exact than displacement meters but handle debris better.
  • Smart Meters use sensors and wireless signals to give real-time water use data. They can spot leaks and help you use water wisely.

How to Read Your Water Meter

Once you’re more familiar with the various meter types, reading them is simple.

  • Analog meters with dials: Read the numbers on the dials from left to right, noting the position of each hand. When a hand is between two numbers, read the lower number.
  • Digital meters: Just peak at the numbers displayed, similar to an odometer on a car.

To accurately track your water usage, record the meter reading at regular intervals, such as monthly or weekly.

Using Your Water Meter to Detect Leaks

Detecting and fixing leaks promptly can save water and money! Plus, it’s not a tricky task. So, to check for leaks using your water meter:

  1. Turn off all water-consuming appliances and fixtures.
  2. Locate your water meter and take an initial reading.
  3. Wait 15-30 minutes without using any water.
  4. Take another meter reading. If the numbers have changed, you likely have a leak.
Look at the water meter to see whether it has an analog meter or a digital meter, and read it accordingly.

Other Recommended Maintenance

While you’re learning the look and function of your water meter, there are a few easy care tips to keep in mind. If you live in a cold climate, it’s a good idea to add some insulation around your outdoor meter to prevent freezing. This will help protect your meter from the elements and ensure it continues to function properly.

Another simple maintenance task is to keep the area near your meter tidy and clear of debris. This not only makes it easier to access your meter when needed but also prevents any potential damage from accumulated gunk or critters.

Lastly, make it a habit to periodically take a peek at your meter for signs of wear or damage, such as cracks or corrosion. Catching these issues early can save you from bigger headaches down the line.

When to Call a Professional

While monitoring your water meter is essential, some situations require the expertise of a licensed plumber or utility company:

  • If you suspect your meter is malfunctioning or providing inaccurate readings.
  • If you notice visible damage to the meter or surrounding pipes.
  • If you are unable to locate or access your water meter.

Never attempt to repair or replace the water meter yourself, as this can lead to further damage or inaccurate readings.


Now give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve mastered the art of reading your water meter! Keeping a watchful eye on your meter and taking a regular look at your usage will help conserve water, save some money, and catch any leaks before they cause trouble.

Remember, if your meter starts acting up or looks a little worse for wear, don’t hesitate to call in a professional for backup. For questions or inspections in MA, PA, VA, and WV, reach out to Fox Mountain Property Inspections.

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