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Energy bills: read your meter today before prices rise

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Phones and pens at the ready: Thursday 31 March will be “national meter reading day”.

With energy bills due to rise by an average of 54% on Friday 1 April, millions of households are being urged to take gas and electricity meter readings the day before.

The aim is to ensure you get the current, cheaper rates for all the energy you use right up until close of play on Thursday. Otherwise your supplier might charge some of it at the new higher unit prices.

Gareth Kloet, the energy spokesperson at the comparison site GoCompare, says: “We would urge all bill payers to take both gas and electricity meter readings on 31 March and make sure you submit these to your supplier.”

Money-saving guru Martin Lewis is encouraging people to do the same, to “draw a line” in terms of their usage.

If everyone does that, on Thursday there are likely to be a lot more people than usual phoning the energy companies and logging on to their websites.

EDF, one of the big energy suppliers, told Guardian Money: “We expect a lot of customers might try to contact us with meter readings on 31 March and would recommend anyone who can to submit a meter reading online – via our website, in MyAccount or our app, which are all available 24/7.

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“This will help keep our phone lines free for those who might need additional or urgent support, and mean customers can avoid waiting on the phone.” This advice is likely to apply to customers of other suppliers too.

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View image in fullscreenYou can submit your meter reading using an app on a smartphone. Photograph: Paul Melling/Alamy

There are often lots of ways you can submit a reading: online or via the supplier’s app, and maybe also via online chat or by sending a text.

If you have a smart meter, you will probably know that these send automated readings to your energy supplier. However, depending on how it is set up, your meter may not automatically send a reading on 31 March. That’s because in many cases the system will be set up to send a reading on a set date once a month. But you should be able to change the settings – some meters can take readings every half hour – or, failing that, log into your account and submit your reading that way.

British Gas told us that its smart meters take readings at set times determined by the customer, but there is nothing to stop them logging in and submitting an additional one on 31 March.

There are about 4.5m households with a prepayment meter, and many will be old-style “non-smart” ones. If you have one, MoneySavingExpert points out that you may be able effectively to delay the coming price rises and keep the cheaper rates for a little longer. It says that’s because, according to Ofgem, the price customers pay is fixed at the point they top up. This means any built-up credit is spent based on the price of energy when that credit was added.

So you should seriously consider adding as much credit as you can afford before 1 April. Though there will be limits on how much you can add. For example, SSE Energy Services says its meters will only hold up to £250 credit in total.

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If, for whatever reason, you have a problem trying to submit your readings, take photos on the day that clearly show them and the meter serial numbers.

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