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18 Dec 2019
Steve Ramsey avatar Steve Ramsey

Economy 7 explained

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Landscape in both day and night

Do you have an Economy 7 meter? Are you confused about how it works? Or are you thinking of getting one and not sure if it’s worth it? We shed some light on how these meters and their tariffs work and whether they can benefit you…

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What is Economy 7?

Economy 7 is an electricity plan or tariff that charges two different prices for the electricity you use. The price charged depends on when you use the electricity – a bit like peak time and off-peak phone calls. You’ll also need a special electricity meter capable of measuring two different rates.

It’s called Economy 7 because you get seven hours of cheaper electricity every night. The price you pay at night might be 50% less than the daytime rate.

However, during the day you’re likely to pay a lot more for your electricity than you might on a standard fixed or variable tariff.

In Scotland, Economy 7 is known as ‘white meters’ because the meters supplied by energy companies are white.

Do I have an Economy 7 meter?

The easiest way to tell if you’re on Economy 7 is to check your bill. If you’re being charged two different prices for the electricity you use, then you’re on Economy 7. The two rates might be labelled ‘low’ and ‘normal/high’ or ‘day’ and ‘night’. Your meter might also have these rates labelled on it. If you’re still not sure if you have Economy 7 then call your energy supplier and check.

What times is Economy 7 cheaper?

The hours that you get the lower rate with Economy 7 depend on which electricity supplier you’re with, as well as where you live. Your off-peak hours could be 11pm to 6am, or 1.30am to 8.30am, or anything in-between. The hours may also change when the clocks go back or forward. You’ll need to check with your supplier for their specific off-peak hours.

During peak time, the cost of electricity on Economy 7 could be as much as double the normal rate. Therefore, you need to be sure that Economy 7 is right for you before getting it.

Will Economy 7 save me money?

Whether or not Economy 7 could save you money will depend on a number of things, like:

  • when you use your electricity
  • what fuel (gas or electric) you use to heat your home and water
  • how many electrical appliances you use.

Economy 7 works best in houses that have a hot water tank and/or electric storage heaters. This is because you can use the cheap night-time electricity to charge them up at night, ready for use during the following day.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your hot water tank is lagged with a fibreglass or foam cover. This will reduce the amount of heat lost and keep your hot water hot for longer.

If you don’t have electric storage heaters or a hot water tank, then Economy 7 tariffs probably won’t be your best choice.

Who is Economy 7 good for?

Economy 7 can work really well for shift-workers or people who work nights. If your lifestyle involves wanting a warm house of an evening then it may be less useful. This is because by the evening your heating and hot water will be reaching its coldest point – just before the heating process starts again the following night.

To take most advantage of Economy 7 you’ll need to be organised with your electricity use. As the daytime rate is so much higher, if you don’t strictly limit your daytime usage then you’ll probably end up paying more in the long run.

How to use Economy 7

Economy 7 will work best for you if you’re heating electric storage heaters or a hot water tank during the cheaper hours at night. You can then use that heat during the following day.

And you should plan to use your washing machine and dishwasher at night in order to take advantage of the reduced rates. You’ll probably want to put timers on your machines, otherwise you’ll be up at all hours to switch them on!

It also makes sense to charge your phone, tablet and other portable devices overnight, ready for use the next day.

Is Economy 7 worth it if I have gas central heating?

As we mentioned earlier, Economy 7 works best with electric storage heaters. If you use gas to heat your home, then you won’t see many advantages with Economy 7. Most experts recommend that if you don’t have electric storage heating then Economy 7 isn’t worth it.

What is Economy 10?

Economy 10 is a similar tariff to Economy 7, but as well as the seven cheap hours overnight you also get 3 hours at the reduced rate during the day. The other 14 hours will be charged at a much higher rate, so your electricity during these times is much more expensive.

Can I switch to Economy 7?

If you think Economy 7 will work for you, then contact your energy supplier to talk about getting a meter installed and switching to an Economy 7 tariff.

If you already have an Economy 7 meter, get an energy quote to make sure you’re using the cheapest provider. By switching to the cheapest Economy 7 tariff you’ll be able to save even more money on your energy bills.

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