Understanding your gas bill

The first thing people look at when opening a gas bill is the amount owing - but there is much more information in your bill such as:

  • meter numbers
  • average daily usage
  • whether your last meter read was estimated.

Our guide helps you to find what you are looking for and provides an explanation of what each component means.

If you have any concerns over something on your bill, or if you need further help understanding it, you should first contact your gas supplier.

What is your bill telling you?

Many people have trouble understanding their gas bills or where to find specific information.

Some of the things you will find on your bill are:

  • your supply address
  • payments you have made since your previous bill
  • any amounts still outstanding, as well as new charges for the current period
  • the billing period for the current bill
  • your average daily usage in units and dollars
  • your meter number(s) or Meter Installation Registration Number (MIRN)
  • the previous and current readings taken from the meter(s)
  • an approximate next scheduled meter read date.
Have you asked your supplier?

Many suppliers have a section on their website where they explain their bills. They are also able to explain the details over the phone. To find our your supplier's contact details, please click here.

What should you check for on each bill?
  • Your account or customer number.
  • Whether the meter readings are actual or estimated
  • If there are any amounts outstanding from previous bills.
  • If there are any messages from your supplier relating to changes to your bill (i.e. rate increases, notice of no access leading to estimated usage).
Breakdown of your bill

Your will usually find the following on the front page of your bill:

  1. Issue date: The date that the bill was generated by the retailer.
  2. Account number and/or customer number: This is your account number. You should quote this you any time you call your gas retailer.
  3. Your name and postal address: The postal address may differ from the supply/service address (i.e. Post Office box).
  4. Due date: The last day by which you must pay your bill.
  5. Billing period: The range of dates that the bill covers (e.g. 1 January 2018 – 1 March 2018).
  6. Opening balance: The amount that was owed, or in credit, when the previous bill was issued.
  7. Payments received: The amount that has been paid towards the account since the previous bill.
  8. Balance carried forward: The difference between the opening balance and the payments received. If you did not pay your last bill in full by the due date, a balance may be carried forward and added to your new charges. It is possible that you may have a credit carried forward.
  9. New charges / current charges: The new charges for the billing period covered by this this bill.
  10. Discounts or credits: Any discounts that are applied to your account in accordance with your plan, such as ‘pay-on-time’ discounts.
  11. Total amount due: The total amount that you currently owe. This may be split into two amounts if your plan has a ‘pay-on-time’ discount (with and without discounts if paid by due date).

The following items are commonly found on the second or third page of your bill, although some elements may appear on the first page.

  1. Service address / supply address: The address the retailer is billing you for (this may vary from the postal address).
  2. Next scheduled read: The date that your meter will next be read (it may be two days either side of this date).
  3. Last meter read: The last date that your meter was read (this will be the end date of the billing period).
  4. MIRN (Meter Installation Registration Number): This is a unique 11 digit number assigned to your gas service by the distributor and used by the gas distributor and retailers to identify your delivery point.
  5. Meter number: The numerical equipment number on your meter.
  6. Bill days: The number of days in the billing period.
  7. Previous read: The read taken from your meter at the end of the last period/start of this period.
  8. Current read: The read taken from your meter at the end of the billing period (which will become the previous read on your next bill).
  9. Actual (A) / Estimated (E) / Substituted (S) / Final Substitution (F): Indicates the type of meter read carried out and is located near the previous or current meter reads.
  10. Volume: The cubic meters / cubic feet of gas you have consumed during the billing period.
  11. Correction / pressure factor: The correction factor takes into consideration changes in the volume of gas-based pressure as well as temperature.
  12. Heating value: The heating value is the amount of heat released by burning a set quantity of the gas supplied.
  13. Usage (MJ): Your total consumption, in mega joules, for the billing period.
  14. Unit price/rate: The amount you are charged per megajoule.
  15. Supply charge / service charge: A charge applied for the supply of gas to the property. It covers the costs involved in the transmission and distribution of gas, including maintenance of the network infrastructure.
  16. Average daily usage: The total number of megajoules consumed in this billing period divided by the number of days of the billing period.
  17. Same time last year: Your average daily usage from the same period last year.
  18. Average daily cost: The dollar value of your average daily consumption.
  19. Indicative greenhouse gas emissions: Total amount of greenhouse gas emissions for the billing period of this bill.
Are you concerned about your bill?

If you feel that there is an issue with your current bill, you should first take the time to thoroughly read it, compare it to previous bills (especially the bill from the same time last year), and write down the issues that you wish to raise with your retailer, including why you believe there is an issue (and any supporting information) and what you are seeking as a resolution.

When you have a clear understanding of the bill and the issue, you will be better equipped to ask the right questions when you speak with your retailer. Click here for your retailer's contact details.

Understanding a high gas bill

Many factors can contribute to a high gas bill. It not necessarily a mistake. Understanding why your bill is high is a process of elimination. Is it because your rates have changed and you are now paying more for what you do use?

It is important to understand your bill before contacting your gas supplier.

Taking time to read the bill properly and comparing it to previous bills (including the amount used and the rates charged) will help you understand why the bill is higher; and then you will be able to address the issue more effectively.

Let us guide you through some of the most common causes of high bills.

Has your usage been estimated?

Check your current and previous bills for the word ‘estimated’ (or the letter ‘e’) or 'substituted' (or the letter 's') next to the meter read. Your meter read may have been estimated rather than actually read.

When a bill is estimated, it can often result in your estimated usage being lower or higher than your actual usage. If your circumstances have changed in the last year your usage may be different. For example, you may have acquired new appliances or had additional people staying.

Your next bill, based on an actual read, will bring your account back in line with the current reading on your meter. If your previous estimated bill was too low, your next bill may be higher than you expected. Similarly, if your bills have been overestimated, you will eventually receive a reduced bill.

No matter how many estimated bills you have received in a row, once an actual read has been obtained, you will be billed for - and pay for - only the electricity you have actually used.

Your meter should ideally be read at least every three months and the distributor must use their best endeavours to obtain an actual meter read at least once every 12 months.

Equally, you have an obligation under law to provide safe and unhindered access to your meter location at all times.

Have you used more gas?

Every gas bill contains valuable information about your usage.

Next to the graph on the bill, you will see your ‘average daily use’ for the current bill as well as for the same time last year.

‘Average daily use’ is calculated by taking the total megajoules (MJ) of gas used in the billing period and dividing the number by the number of days in that period. How does your current average daily use compare with that of the previous year? Is it a higher number? Does it indicate you have used more gas than last year?

To understand why you may have used more gas, look at the billing dates on the bill and think about what happened during that period.

  • Did somebody in your household spend more time than usual at home, or did you have guests staying?
  • Did you use more heating during a cold period?
  • Did you use more hot water, or did you cook with gas more than you normally do?
  • Did you buy or use any additional appliances?
  • Is the billing period itself actually longer?

You can do your own estimation of how much gas you use on a regular day.

To do this:

  • Take a meter read at a set time on a typical day.
  • Take another read the next day at the same time.
  • Then translate the difference between the two meter reads into megajoules by multiplying the figure by either:
    • 38.61 if your meter records cubic meters; or
    • 1.09 if your meter records cubic feet.

When you compare your meter read with the ‘average daily use’ on the high bill and find that you are using a high volume of gas, you may need to seek advice on how to manage your usage and reduce future bills.

Remember, a small amount of additional usage each day adds up to a high dollar value. Even a few extra megajoules per day can equal a significant increase in your bill.

Consider the following scenario:

  • Your usage for the same quarter last year was 100 MJ per day.
  • This year your usage has increased slightly to 130 MJ per day.
  • So on average you have used 30 MJ extra per day across a 90-day bill.
  • 30 MJ x 90 days = 2700 MJ of additional usage in the quarter compared to last year.
  • If you were paying 3c per MJ for your usage that would equal an additional $81 on your bill.
Have your gas rates increased?

Your gas contract will outline how your retailer is required to advise you of increases to your gas rates.

They may notify you in writing, by a letter with the bill or by a notice on the bill itself.

Compare the rates on your high bill to the rates on your previous bill, or to the bill from the same time last year. Are you paying more per megajoule?

Keep in mind that a high bill may be a combination of an increase in your gas usage and an increase in what you pay for your usage.

If you have any questions about your rates or increases, you should contact your gas retailer.

Is there a 'balance brought forward'?

Did you pay all outstanding amounts before your current bill was issued? If not, then your bill is likely to include any previously unpaid amounts as well.

Your bill will show you two figures:

  • ‘Balance bought forward’ – any balance (still owed or in credit) at the time the new bill was issued
  • ‘New charges’ – the charges for the current billing period.

You may think you have received a high bill when in fact your new charges are in line with your previous bills. If charges from a previous period remained unpaid, they will be added to the new charges for the current period and the total owing will be a higher figure and appear to be a ‘high bill’.

If you need assistance with payment options you should contact your gas retailer.

Have you checked the meter details?

Check that the meter number on your bill matches meter number(s) at your property.

If they do not match you should immediately contact your retailer.

Additional charges or missing concessions?

Are there any establishment fees, administration fees, connection or disconnection fees, late fees, early termination or exit fees?

Are any expected concessions missing? (Please note that the SA Energy Concession covers both fuels but is only applied to the electricity bill.)

If so, you should contact your gas retailer.

Understanding your gas meter

Knowing how to read your meter can be helpful and it is not difficult to learn.

Being able to read your meter will allow you to:

  • monitor your daily usage
  • check the use of individual appliances
  • check for possible gas leaks
  • discover issues promptly and take action instead of finding out from your next bill that something may be wrong.

The information below provides details about your meter, about the rights and responsibilities regarding reading your meter and provision of access.

Meter identifiers

Each gas meter has a unique serial number located on the front.

You should quote your meter number when you contact your retailer, especially if you are moving house and arranging a final read, transferring to a new provider, or if your address is difficult to locate.

As each meter has its own meter number, your meter number changes when you meter is replaced.

Your property may have more than one gas meter. You can find the meter number on the gas meter and on your gas bill.

There is also a second identifier called a Meter Installation Reference Number (MIRN).

The MIRN is a unique identification number attached to your address and not your meter. You can find your MIRN on your gas bill.

Where is your meter?

Meters are usually in obvious places at the front or back of a property.

If you are in a unit complex it is likely that all the meters are in a central location.

Some older units may have a meter inside the unit, or there may be one central meter where the consumption is recorded and the landlord determines how it is apportioned.

Who reads your meter?

The gas distributor Australian Gas Networks is responsible for reading your meter.

Your meter should ideally be read every three months and the distributor must use their best endeavours to obtain an actual meter read at least once every 12 months.

All meter readers must carry official identification when accessing your property.

Access to your meter

You must provide clear access to your meter at all times for readings, connections or disconnections and maintenance.

If the meter reader cannot access your meter, your read will be estimated. If you do not make alternative arrangements to provide access to your meter, your retailer may disconnect your supply.

You should contact your retailer to make alternative arrangements.

Are you being billed for your meter?

The meter number on your bill should match the number on the meter at your property.

If they do not match, or any are missing, you should contact your retailer and provide the correct meter number.

If your meter is grouped with many other meters, you may want to check which meter is yours. Turn off the gas tap to your property for a few minutes and see if the meter you believe to be yours stops recording usage (the dial stops spinning and the numbers stop progressing).

If the meter does not stop it could mean:

  • it is not your meter. Check to see if one of the other meters has stopped - that may be your meter.
  • there may be something else connected to your meter that you are not aware of (a shed, or something from a neighbouring property or common areas).
  • the meter may be faulty. You can contact your retailer and arrange a meter test. Be aware that the test is at your cost unless the meter is found to be faulty. It is not common for meters to be faulty, so a meter test should be the last resort.
How to read your meter

If you know how to read your meter you can keep track of your usage between bills and check that your bills are correct when you receive them.

There are different types of gas meters.

Dial gas meters:

  • record your usage in cubic feet
  • are read left to right

Only read the first four dials from the left.

The dials rotate in different directions and you should take the lower number if the hand is between two numbers (except if between 0 and 9, which would be recorded as a 9).

Digital gas meters:

  • record your usage in cubic metres
  • are read from left to right

You ignore any red numbers.

If you have any doubt or are not sure about the reading, you should contact your retailer.

Calculating your usage

Your gas meter records your usage in cubic meters or cubic feet.

By taking the current read and subtracting the previous read, you can calculate your usage for the billing period.

For digital meters recording cubic meters, take the number between the two readings and multiply it by 38.61

  • e.g. 12 cubic meters x 38.61 MJ/cubic meter = 463.32 megajoules (MJ) of gas 

For dial meters recording cubic feet, take the number between the two readings and multiply it by 1.09

  • e.g. 425 cubic feet x 1.09 MJ/cubic feet = 463.25 megajoules (MJ) of gas

You can now divide the number of megajoules you have used by the number of days between the readings to get your average daily usage.

How to check your gas usage

Understanding how to use your meter to monitor your household gas use can be extremely beneficial, especially if you receive a bill that is higher than expected, or if you think you may have a gas leak.

You can use reads taken from your meter to estimate the cost of your next gas bill and adjust your usage accordingly, so you will not be shocked by the amount of your next bill.

Reading your gas meter requires a conversion of the read to megajoules to be enable comparison with your bill and we have prepared some easy instructions on how to do that.

How to measure your gas usage

Digital/metric gas meters (records consumption in cubic meters).

  1. Metric gas meters are read from left to right, reading the black and white digits only.
  2. Take a meter read and note the time you have taken the read.
  3. Take a read at the same time the next day.
  4. Subtract the previous read from the current read and you will have the gas used in cubic meters.
  5. You need to convert this to megajoules by multiplying it by 38.61
    e.g. 12 cubic metres x 38.61 MJ/cubic metre = 463.32 MJ of gas.

Dial/clock face meter (records consumption in cubic feet.)

  1. The dials on clock meters rotate in different directions so stand directly in front of the meter.
  2. Read only the four dials closest to the left.
  3. Reading the dials from left to right, write down the number the hand is pointing to on each face.
  4. If the hand is in between two numbers, write down the lowest number – except when between 0 and 9, in which case you should write down 9.
  5. Take a read at the same time the next day.
  6. Subtract the previous read from the current read and you have the gas used in cubic feet or cubic metres (dependent on the meter).
  7. You need to convert this to megajoules by multiplying it by 1.09
    e.g. 425 cubic feet x 1.09 MJ/cubic feet = 463.25 MJ of gas.
How to measure the usage of an appliance

You will find the gas consumption listed on the appliance or in its manual.

If the listing is in joules – divide the joules by 1,000,000 to give you the Megajoules (MJ).

What is the cost to run an appliance?

Look on your gas bill to see how much you pay per unit (or MJ) for your gas (if you don’t have your bill 3c per MJ is a good estimate).

Make sure the figure is in megajoules (use the calculation above if necessary).

Multiply the megajoules by the unit price and you will have the running cost per hour for your appliance.

  • 15 MJ x 3c = 45c per hour

If you run the appliance for 5 hours a day, it would cost approximately $2.25 per day to run.

  • 0.45c x 5 hours = $2.25

If you run the appliance for 5 hours every day for the duration of your billing period, then that one appliance alone would cost you approximately $202.50 for a quarter.

  • $2.25 x 90 days = $202.50

You can see how quickly the costs of using an appliance can add up.

If the above appliance was a gas heater being used during a cold period, even using it every second day for 5 hours (or every day for 2.5 hours) would still add approximately $100 to your bill.

We recommend you compare your bill to the same period last year for a realistic comparison.

What if you think there is a gas leak?

If you think there is a gas leak at your property you should immediately contact Australian Gas Networks on 1800 427 532.

Australian Gas Networks will be able to determine if there is leak and where the leak is located.

If the leak is on your side of the meter then the gas will need to be turned off until you have had a gas fitter attend and repair the leak.

If the leak is on Australian Gas Network's side of the meter they will arrange to fix the leak as soon as possible.