If you have an Economy 7 meter you should benefit from cheaper electricity at night but you'll pay more for using it in the day. These meters use Economy 7 tariffs but it can be confusing to get the balance right.
Here we shed some light on how Economy 7 meters and their tariffs work, how much money you could save, and whether an Economy 7 tariff can benefit you.
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What is Economy 7?
Economy 7 is an electricity plan or tariff that charges 2 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 also need a special electricity meter capable of measuring 2 different rates.
It’s called Economy 7 because you get 7 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 2 different prices for the electricity you use, then you’re on Economy 7.
The 2 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.
Economy 7 vs standard energy tariff
The cost of your energy bill will be dependent on the amount of electricity you use. If you have an Economy 7 meter you'll pay 2 different rates.
If you're able to use the cheaper rate for the majority of your usage - such as for running the dishwasher and washing machine - it may work out cheaper than a standard energy tariff.
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 probably want to put timers on your machines, otherwise you might 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.
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 should be reaching its coldest point – just before the heating process starts again the following night.
To take most advantage of Economy 7 you 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 could end up paying more in the long run.
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 should 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 Economy 7 could save you money will depend on a number of things:
- 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 should 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.
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. Many experts recommend that if you don’t have electric storage heating then Economy 7 isn’t worth it.
Can I get a smart meter with Economy 7?
A smart meter records how much gas and electricity you're using in real time. You can look at the smart meter and find out how much you're using on a day-to-day basis. This information is also sent to your supplier, so you don't need to make manual readings.
You may be able to get a smart meter with Economy 7. Your provider should be able to tell you if this is possible or not and it should be free to be installed.
What is Economy 10?
Economy 10 is a similar tariff to Economy 7, but as well as the 7 cheap hours overnight you also get 3 hours at the reduced rate during the day. The other 14 hours are 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.
Although due to the current cost of living crisis, it may be best to wait until the energy market stabilises before looking to switch and getting the best prices.
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Tips on cutting costs with an Economy 7 tariff
There are lots of ways to cut your energy costs if you have an Economy 7 meter. Here we look at some of the easiest ways to shave pounds from your bill:
- Reduce your usage: ultimately your bill reflects the amount of energy you use. By cutting down how much you use such as by lowering the thermostat and reducing the number of showers and dish washer cycles you use, you'll be able to cut your bills.
- Keep your meter updated: Keep an eye on the clock on your meter to make sure it's changing from the day to the night rate at the right time.
- Tell your supplier if your day-time bill rises: If you find you're not able to use more electricity at night, when it's cheaper, and you're spending a lot on energy in the day it might be worth changing to a standard tariff.
- Check your rates: It might not make sense to switch tariffs or meters, but it's worth keeping an eye on how much different providers are charging to make sure you're getting the best deal possible.