Meter Breaker Test

Breaker tests can help you evaluate causes of power usage at home and better understand how using an appliance causes your meter to move and affect your electric bill.

High wattage appliances such as ovens, air conditioners, water heaters, dryers and electric heating will cause a meter to cycle rapidly. In the case of the digital meter, the black boxes will move quickly.


You may benefit from simply seeing how high usage items cause the meter to move quickly. However, seeing rapid movement on the meter may not indicate a problem; it simply shows the meter moves when an appliance is running.

A breaker test will pinpoint a problem on the rare occasion when there is a short circuit or when something is running that you may not be aware of, such as heat tape.

A breaker test on a digital meter can be done 2 ways...

1. Timing a sequence

Time how many seconds it takes for the first box to appear on the left until you see it disappear on the right. That is one sequence.

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Here’s the formula:

# of sequences per minute x .36 = kw
Kw = breaker at that moment

2. Timing Dots

Count the number of dots you see in a minute.

Here’s the formula:

# of dots per minute x .06 = kw
Kw = breakerat that moment

Below are a list of some common examples you might run into while conducting your breaker test:

Example 1
  • Customer 1 says that it takes his meter 60 seconds to complete a sequence.
  • There would be one such sequence in a minute.
  • Formula: (#sequences per minute x .36 = kW (kWh/hr, roughly.)
  • 1 x.36 = .360 kW
  • .360 = 360 watts
  • 360 watts might be some lights and a television – nothing really powerful.
  • A breaker pulling under 700 watts is less likely to be responsible for high billing.
Example 2
  • Let’s assume the digital display cycled through 4 times in a minute.
  • (4 x .36 = 1.44 kW (roughly 1440 watts)
  • A breaker pulling 1400 watts represents more significant load. Note: heating and cooling equipment may pull 5-10 times this amount.
Example 3
  • Customer 1 says they’ve been watching their meter and only 3 dots appeared in one minute.
  • Formula: (#dots per minute x .06 = kW (kWh/hr, roughly.)

3 x .06 = .18 kw
= 180 watts

If you have questions, please call us anytime toll free at 1-888-221-7070.