Economy 7 is an electricity tariff that may save you money if you run electric storage heaters and appliances (washing machines, dishwashers and slow cookers) at night. The name ‘Economy 7’ comes from the 7-hour off-peak time slot when electricity is cheaper because there is less demand on the power grid. The downside is that electricity is a lot more expensive during the daytime.
Are Economy 7 tariffs for you?
If you can schedule the bulk of your electricity consumption to the off-peak hours set by your energy provider then an Economy 7 tariff may be for you. However, you shouldn’t think that is the only reason to switch. Your heating and hot water systems play a major role in how much you end up saving on your electric bill.
We recommend Economy 7 tariffs if you have recent electric storage heaters, a hot water tank as well as appliances like slow cookers, washing machines and dishwashers that you can run during the off-peak night hours. Not every electricity provider will have an Economy 7 tariff and smart metering is likely to diminish the number of energy companies offering them.
- Economy 7 tariffs work best if you use more than 40% of your electricity during off-peak hours at night when the price of electricity is the cheapest. If not, the higher on-peak rate during the day will cancel out any savings.
- Economy 7 tariffs have different off-peak hours depending on where you live and who your electricity company is.
- Economy 7 tariffs require you to have a special meter to benefit from savings on your electricity bill when you use appliances during off-peak times.
- Economy 7 tariffs are designed to work with storage heaters and appliances with timers to ensure that you don’t run into the much more expensive day time peak hours.
- There are no Economy 7 tariffs available for gas.
- Economy 7 tariffs come both in fixed rate and variable rate varieties and paying them by either direct debit or at the post office is possible.
Key facts about Economy 7 tariffs
Economy 7 Off-Peak times
Economy 7 times vary nationwide. Click on the map to find Economy 7 times for your area.
Not all companies provide Economy 7 tariffs, so checking the type of electricity meter you already have and knowing your energy company are key. British Gas, E.on and EDF Energy are some of the electricity companies that have Economy 7 tariffs.
The rule of thumb is that these times are overnight when electricity usage tends to be lower for residential electricity customers. It is worth keeping in mind that the off-peak times can move around when clocks go back or forward during the year depending on your postcode.
Timing your electricity use accurately during off-peak hours is crucial if you want to lower your electricity bill.
Economy 10Just like Economy 7, Economy 10 is a kind of differential tariff that can save you money if you run heating and appliances during a 10-hour time slot. Sometimes, these 10 hours are split up between the afternoon, evening, and nighttime. EDF Energy is one of the few companies to offer an Economy 10 tariff in the UK. Scottish energy companies install white meters for this type of energy tariff, which is why they call it a 'White meters' tariff.
What is an Economy 7 meter?
Economy 7 meters have a special design that lets them measure electricity usage at two or more different rates. If you have an Economy 7 meter, you will see two readouts labelled ‘normal’ and ‘low’ or ‘day rate’ and a button that switches it to ‘night rate’. This is what allows Economy 7 tariffs to work.
Depending whether you are switching suppliers or not, you may be charged to have a new meter installed, which can cost anywhere between £50 and £130.
It’s important to double-check if the potential savings from an Economy 7 tariff are going to be undercut by electricity meter installation fees. There are several energy suppliers that currently have Economy 7 compatible smart meters available to install.
Some suppliers still require a traditional Economy 7 meter. The good news is that as soon as the second generation smart meters are deployed, all suppliers will support Economy 7 tariffs no matter the smart meter. You should check with your energy supplier to see if your meter can work with Economy 7.
Is Electricity Cheaper At Night?The cost of electricity fluctuates on the wholesale energy market but you don't need to worry about all that jargon. The bottom line is that your bill goes up and down all day like the stock market. Power companies will charge you a set unit rate based on the tariff you are on. This means that your electricity is the same price day and night, unless you are specifically on Economy 7.
Moving Homes & Radio-Teleswitch
If you are moving into a new home with a dual-rate Economy 7 meter, you need to be aware that some meters are on a radio-controlled system called ‘Radio-Teleswitch’.
- This lets them change over automatically to the correct electricity rate for the time of day. The meter is switched over remotely by a low power radio signal sent over BBC Radio 4’s carrier frequency.
- 1.5 million British homes have this system in place to automatically turn on storage heaters or appliances running on a separate circuit.
- It allows electricity suppliers to stagger the time night heating storage kicks in throughout the country which prevents overloading the electricity grid.
- This system will be retired once the UK has fully switched over to smart meters.
How do storage heaters work?
Electric storage heaters work by warming up internal ceramic bricks that can hold heat over time so that it can be stored and released when needed. Households that have storage heaters can see savings with Economy 7 tariffs because they can be run during the night, at the cheaper off-peak rate this tariff unlocks, storing up heat that can be released when needed the next day.
Modern storage heater designs have better performance but are expensive to install
Storage heaters can have a number of different controls. Older or basic models should have both an input dial, which controls how much heat will be stored, and output dial to set how much heat should be released, however their cooling off period is greater than newer models, meaning greater unintended heat loss.
More advanced and recent models may just have a thermostat to set a temperature goal so that you don’t need to worry about anything else.
On paper, night storage heaters seem like a great idea for saving on your energy bill. In practice, however, things like cold winter weather or messing up the settings can severely reduce their efficiency when it comes to retaining heat until it is needed.
New High Heat Retention Storage Heater (HHRSH) designs can provide increased performance but installation costs can cancel out any savings gained from Economy 7 tariffs.
Storage Heater Savings To see if new storage heaters can lower your energy bills, talk to an energy expert on 01704 325069 to see how you can save.
At Selectra, we speak with hundreds of customers about their gas and electricity. This gives us a vantage point on the energy market, its tariffs and its companies. Time and time again, we see people on Economy 7 meters overpaying for their electric due to a whole host of issues.
Many Economy 7 meters are old models, in some cases obsolete even, and their reliability suffers and affects how much people pay directly. In some cases, the meters do not switch correctly to Daylight Savings Time or even worse their internal clocks change randomly over time.
Smart meters do not currently fare much better, though in this case the issue is more the utility company installers. If the meter is not programmed correctly or even worse the model that is installed does not support off-peak tariffs, then customers end up paying the price.
Technical issues aside, Economy 7 tariffs require know-how, routine and discipline for customers to benefit from them. Electricity rates and bills are often not the foremost thing on people's mind. We lead much busier and flexible lives now than in the seventies, when Economy 7 was first introduced to respond increasing energy demand, prices and economic hardship.
Nowadays, differential tariffs like Economy 7 are very much a relic of the past just like the storage heaters that are designed to work with them. For this reason, we do not recommend Economy 7 unless you have recent and efficient storage heaters. Most households are outside the narrow scope of circumstances where Economy 7 makes sense and for this reason switching to a cheaper fixed rate tariff is our strong recommendation.
At Selectra, we are constantly looking at the energy market to find the best tariffs and suppliers. Currently, these electricity suppliers stand out above the competition.