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Is Economy 7 right for you?

Cheap electricity at night

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Marcel | Edited by Jenny

Updated July 2016

An Economy 7 tariff gives a cheaper electricity rate at night and a more expensive one in the day. Done right, it can save you money. Done wrong, it can cost you more.

This guide shows how to check if it's right for you and how to maximise the gain.

How Economy 7 works

Back in 1978, the first Grange Hill series aired, the Bee Gees topped the charts with Night Fever, and energy providers launched the first Economy 7 electricity tariffs (there are no gas tariffs). Fast-forward to 2016 and there are now around 3.5 million people with Economy 7 meters.

They give cheaper rates in the dead of night and pricier ones in the day. They're intended mainly for people with storage heaters, which draw electricity in the evening or night-time, then release their heat in the day when needed.

The cheaper, off-peak rate runs from midnight to 7am, while the more expensive daytime rate covers the rest of the day, although precise times can vary by supplier.

Economy 7 is often called a 'time-of-use' tariff, as what you pay depends on when you use electricity. There are other time-of-use tariffs such as Economy 10 – see Is Economy 10 any good?

Few energy providers push this tariff now, and the problem is many people are still on Economy 7 when it's not right for them. Daytime rates can be hideous, so you can end up massively overpaying.

This is all about the price of the units and when you use them. The table below shows you the cost difference between the cheapest Economy 7 tariff and the cheapest electricity-only tariff. If used right, on average, an Economy 7 tariff could save £45/year.

Cheapest Economy 7 vs cheapest electricity-only
Tariff Peak rate Off-peak rate Standing charge

Average cost (1)

Cheapest Economy 7 12p/kWh 6.3p/kWh 13.6p/day £431/year
Cheapest normal electricity-only 9.4p/kWh 9.4p/kWh 19.8p/day £476/year
(1) Based on 4,300kWh/year. Economy 7 assumes 55% off-peak usage. Last updated: July 2016
Quick questions

How do I check if I'm on Economy 7?

How exactly do Economy 7 meters work?

Do I actually save by using electricity at night, on the cheapest Economy 7 rate?

Economy 7 user? See if it's right for you

Used correctly, Economy 7 can help you save cash. Yet if it's not right for you and you use nearly all your electricity in the daytime, opening bills could be a painful experience.

Thousands are on the wrong tariff. About 38% of 'time-of-use' customers don't have storage heating, or don't use any appliances at off-peak rates, according to a survey by former campaign body Consumer Futures (now subsumed into Citizens Advice). And these are the key things you usually need to make it work.

In a nutshell, if you use 40% of your electricity at night, and you use electric storage heating in the cheap period as well as setting appliances to run at this time, then it's worth sticking with. This usually works in households where everything's powered by electricity.

To be sure it's good for you, check these simple rules.

Rule 1: You usually need storage heaters

Rule 2: You need to use as much electricity as possible at night

Rule 3: The more electricity you use at night, the more you save

Rule 4: Having a hot water tank helps too

Rule 5: Compare to find the cheapest Economy 7 deal

How do I leave Economy 7?

If you're on Economy 7 and decide it's not for you, you may be able to switch to a normal meter for free. There may be a few instances where you'll be charged around £50 for a new meter. There is a way to beat this charge though. Follow these steps:

Step one: Check if your supplier will switch you for free

Ask your current provider to switch you to a normal, non-Economy 7 meter. The vast majority of suppliers don't charge.

Step two: If your supplier charges for a new meter, see if you can switch to one that doesn't

If you find your current supplier DOES charge for a new meter, check the following table to see if you can switch to a new provider that will do it for free.

Charges for Economy 7 meter changes
Switch from British Gas SSE Scottish Power Npower EDF Energy E.on
Economy 7 to standard Free Free Free Free Free Free
Standard to Economy 7 Free Free Free Free Free Depends on meter (1)
(1) E.on may charge depending on what meter you currently use. Call E.on for confirmation if you're thinking of switching to it.

SSE told us it would not charge a customer if ultimately a meter change would help that customer to save money overall – if it was in the customer's best interests.

Step three: Do a comparison

The supplier will probably automatically move you to a standard tariff on your new meter. As soon as you move onto the new meter, do a comparison on our free Cheap Energy Club and jump ship to the cheapest deal.

Note: If you've got storage heaters and move to a electricity-only tariff, using them on a normal rate can be expensive.

9 Economy 7 cost-cutting tips

If you've decided Economy 7 is worth sticking with, and you're certain you're on the best Economy 7 deal, here are nine tips to push it to the max.

Double-check your off-peak times

Always check exactly when your off-peak period begins and ends. The cheap periods on Economy 7 can vary between each supplier and by region. Off-peak usually starts at midnight and ends at 7am.

But even if you're on those hours, off-peak might start at slightly different times each day. For example, one night it might start at 12.05am, but another night it may begin at 12.15am. It should only vary by a few minutes though.

This happens because companies don't want all customers to turn appliances on at the same time, as it could overload the network, so they change the times.

Get your supplier to tell you when your meter switches from the pricey rate to the cheap one.

Max your night-time usage

Using Economy 7 successfully means making sure you stick to putting on appliances through the night. Here are some tricks:

  • Grab cheap timers. Install timers on washing machines (if not already built in). You can get them from £5 from They're easy to install – just plug the machine into the timer, then the timer plugs into the mains, like an adaptor.

  • Charge gadgets at night. Charge as many gizmos as possible during the cheap hours, from phones to laptops and rechargeable batteries.

  • Use energy-efficient appliances. Economy 7 brings pricey daytime rates, so make sure the appliances you use during peak hours don't rack up your bill. Try using energy-efficient light bulbs for a start.

  • Warning! Set tumble dryers to come on just before you wake. Fire brigades advise against setting tumble dryers to come on while you're asleep. Set it to come on at, say, 5am if you'll be waking up soon after.

Be careful when the clocks change

Many Economy 7 meters are set to Greenwich Mean Time. And some use clocks which STAY on GMT, even when the clocks go forward at the end of March.

"That's bonkers in the 21st century," you might think. It causes problems because you could end up using electrical appliances during what you think is off-peak, when in fact you're paying the pricey peak rate. If you set the dishwasher or washing machine to come on just after midnight during British Summer Time, the Economy 7 meter might still be on GMT.

This means the meter still thinks it's just after 11pm – a peak period – so you might be shocked when you discover this has all been charged at the expensive rate. Sometimes the cheap rate period moves from something like 1am to 8am during GMT, to between 2am and 9am.

Find out EXACTLY what your cheap hours are during BST. Sometimes a supplier will slap a sticker on your meter, telling you off-peak and peak periods during GMT and BST.

Ensure your meter's clock isn't on the blink

Older mechanical clocks have been known to go on the blink. Check yours to make sure it hasn't thrown your off-peak hours completely out of sync.

If the daytime reading on your Economy 7 meter is ticking over at night, or vice versa, call your supplier pronto to get it fixed.

Maximise the energy efficiency of your storage heaters

There are broadly three types of storage heaters. The first is a manual one with only really basic controls – an input/output dial.

Another is a heater with a thermostat. This one releases heat depending on the temperature of the room it's in.

The third type is a combination of the previous two. It has a convector heater to use as a booster during peak hours.

If you've got a manual storage heater, with just the input/output dial, make sure the output is set to low before it comes on in the night. The output dial normally goes from 1-6, so make sure it's set at 1.

This will ensure the storage heater charges up through the night without releasing heat – and wasting your electricity.

Got a top Economy 7 tip we haven't listed? Feed back in the Economy 7 discussion.

Call your supplier if your day usage soars

If you start to use electricity far more during the day while on Economy 7, check the meter or call your supplier to find out how much you're using – and how much it's costing you.

Don't leave it and let inertia get the better of you, that's often how energy companies make money out of customers.

Do the energy-saving basics

There's no point switching to Economy 7 if you wander round the house in boxers or bra 'n' knickers with radiators on full and windows wide open.

Sensible changes can save you large, from draught excluders and setting washing machines to 30°C to low-energy light bulbs and notching down the thermostat.

See our Energy Mythbusting guide for full details.

Do a meter reading every time you get a bill

Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate; these are often way out. If it's under-billing, you'll have a big whack to pay when it gets an accurate reading. If it's over-billing, then it's unfairly got your cash.

If your direct debit is way off kilter, call up and ask for it to be changed. You have a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the full Energy Direct Debits guide for template letters.

Check if you can get a smart meter

A smart meter records how much energy you use, usually half-hourly, and sends this data back to the supplier.

It comes with a display monitor for your home showing you, at that moment, exactly how much energy you're using and the cost. You can see if you're racking up a large bill at any time, by checking if you're using too much during expensive daytime hours.

Every UK customer will be offered a smart meter, free, by 2020. Some will get smart meters before others, depending on supplier.

Is Economy 10 any good?

Economy 10 is another 'time-of-use' energy tariff that gives a cheaper night rate, but it's not as common as Economy 7.

It's similar to Economy 7, but offers – you've guessed it – 10 hours of cheaper electricity rather than seven. These cheaper hours are usually split into three different periods, so you get extra boosts of cheap electricity during the day. It needs an Economy 10 meter too.

It's only good for those with storage heaters who use lots of energy during the cheaper periods each day. The cheap times often work out as:

Three off-peak hours between midday and 3pm,
Two off-peak hours between 5pm and 7pm,
Five off-peak hours between midnight and 5am.

Of the big six suppliers, only EDF, Npower and SSE have customers on specific Economy 10 tariffs. Even then, they don't usually promote the tariff to new customers.

You can't compare Economy 10 tariffs on comparison sites. But our handy step-by-step guide shows you how to work out if you're overpaying on Economy 10 prices, and if it's worth considering switching.

How to compare on Economy 10

What does it cost to change meter?

You can often switch from Economy 10 to Economy 7 for free, if you stay with the same supplier, but you're likely to need an Economy 7 meter installed. Double-check with your supplier – in some cases you might get charged up to £50.

If you want to switch from Economy 10 to a normal meter, you may also get charged up to £50. Charges can vary, so check with your supplier.

There are other time-of-use tariffs too