A typical residence in urban Seattle receives resources like drinking water, natural gas, and electricity through the city's infrastructure of pipes and wires. On the way into a residence, each resource flows through a meter that is read intermittently by a city utility employee in order to charge you appropriately for your usage.
It's notable that on the way out of a residence, very few quantities are measured. Exceptions are garbage, recycled materials, and yard waste. In contrast, sewage fees are based on how much water goes in. The products of combustion and production of heat are not measured.
Although meters are beginning to be automated so that they can be monitored remotely by the utilities through telecommunications connections, you may want to know how to read your meters by yourself. The procedure is not too hard to learn (with a bit of practice). And it's worth it if you are interested in being able to monitor your impact and improvements precisely. Because the readings on your bill typically are averages for 1 or 2 month periods, to resolve changes in your usage that happen more quickly you need to acquire meter readings more frequently.
Here's an example of what typical Seattle meters look like.
Water meter access box in driveway or near street
Water meter hookup in access box
Water meter face
Reading: 137,953 cubic feet
Gas meter hookup outside house
Gas meter face
Reading: 0976.1 cubic feet
Electric meter hookup on roof and wall
Electric meter face
And here's some quick lessons on how to read them...
From Energy Right:
Electric meter reading
Gas meter reading
How to read Seattle electric meters
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