I manually flipped a breaker before doing work in my bathroom and noticed that the apartment hallway light is controlled by my unit's circuit breaker. Does this mean that I get billed for the hallway light usage? Are electric meters and breakers always linked?

  • 2
    That's a question for your superintendent. We can't possibly know with the information at hand.
    – isherwood
    Jul 9, 2019 at 17:10
  • 2
    Is it just the light in front of your door? Yes, one electric panel is always running off of one meter. One meter could conceivably have more than one panel.
    – JPhi1618
    Jul 9, 2019 at 17:17
  • 1
    If the breaker that controls your bathroom also controls the hall light, then it is likely you are paying for the hall light energy use.
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 9, 2019 at 17:34

1 Answer 1


Yes, a lamp is on one circuit. A circuit is powered by one circuit breaker (hopefully!!) In North American practice (and most others), a circuit breaker sits in a service panel. Any service panel is fed by only one electric meter, because of billing and safety/Code*.

Modern building and landlord codes require either a) a separate meter for the Commons Areas separate from any tenant meters, b) everything on one meter and the landlord pays the electricity, or c) the landlord uses sub-metering to divide the complex as in a). However, these are fairly recent Code changes, and old buildings are grandfathered (do not need to be upgraded simply because Code changes).

However, this may not mean you're paying for the hall light. Lights which are on at certain specific times use a known amount of power. For instance, look at any town's street lights. They do not have meters. Nor does the city have its own power distribution system; they are simply clipped onto the utility's 120/240V/277V/480V distribution. How are they billed, then? Easy: it's known how much energy the light fixture draws, and most parts of the world, night averages 12 hours a day.

So in similar vein, you could compute the lights' draw and ask the landlord for a rent concession for that amount; however most likely, he'll tell you that's already been done and is already factored into the rent. So, there you are.

* If someone really, really, really wanted to power a panel from 2 meters, one could use a generator-style interlock to isolate them but allow the meter to power from one or the other. It would be sheer madness to wire it to draw from 2 meters at once.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.