Is Economy 7 The Right Option For You?

An Economy 7 meter is a dual-rate meter that may be the key to reducing your energy bills by using more energy within off-peak hours, and conserving electricity when it’s more expensive. But what is an Economy 7 meter? How do you know if you have one? And how can you maximise your savings with an Economy 7 meter and the right energy tariff?
Last update: April 2022

As you may have heard on the news, the UK energy market is currently under an immense amount of stress as a result of a global gas shortage driving up costs and putting several energy suppliers out of business. To learn more about this and stay updated on a daily basis you can read our page on the UK energy crisis.

We all know that dreaded feeling of opening a gas and electricity bill that far exceeds our expectations. The good news is that there are lots of ways in which we can reduce the cost of the energy we use. These range from little things around the home to making energy-efficient renovations and changing energy suppliers and tariffs. Join us as we take a deep dive into all things Economy 7. Whether you already have this kind of energy meter, or you’re thinking of getting one, we can help you to make the right decisions on behalf of your household…

What is Economy 7?

An Economy 7 meter is a dual-rate meter that records energy usage at two rates; peak and off-peak. The term Economy 7 also applies to tariffs that give energy suppliers two separate rates for their peak and off-peak electricity. Why Economy 7? Because these meters give suppliers 7 hours of off-peak energy per day at cheaper rates.

What is Economy 7?

These hours are typically very late at night and / or very early in the morning.

Get into the habit of using more off-peak energy and you could put a serious dent in your energy bills.

What are the times for Economy 7?

Off-peak hours for Economy 7 meters can vary depending on where you are in the UK. Broadly speaking, however, they can fall anywhere between 10pm and 8:30pm. In the table below, you can find the times for your area.

Area Off-Peak Timings
Eastern area 7 hours between 11pm and 7am
East Midlands area 7 hours between 11pm and 7am
London area 7 hours between 11pm and 7am
Merseyside & North Wales area 7 hours between 12am and 8am
Midlands area 7 hours between 11:30pm and 8am
North East area 7 hours between 12:30am and 7:30am
North West area 7 hours between 12:30am and 7:30am
North Scotland area All meters have different settings
South Scotland area 7 hours between 10pm and 8:30am
South East area 10.30pm to 5.30am and 12.30am to 7.30am
Southern area 7 hours between 11:30pm and 6:30am
South Wales area All meters have different settings
South West area All meters have different settings
Yorkshire area 7 hours between 12:30am and 7:30am

If you live in an area where all meters have different settings, the best thing to do is contact your energy supplier and check the Economy 7 times for your household.

What are the advantages of using Economy 7?

Economy 7 meters have some distinct advantages that can help you to take control of your energy bills and spend. Given that we, as a nation, are spending over £800 million more on our energy bills than we should, that’s something that every household should take an active interest in.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential advantages of having an Economy 7 meter:

  • It can help you to reduce your energy bills as long as you’re disciplined enough to optimise the amount of energy you use (ideally 50% or more) during off-peak hours.
  • It can be useful for those with electric vehicles that charge their cars overnight.
  • Newer Economy 7 storage heaters, electric wet radiators and underfloor heating that work during off-peak hours are cheaper to run.
  • Lots of energy suppliers have tariffs that accommodate Economy 7. So you stand a good chance of getting a great deal on your energy.

What are the disadvantages of using Economy 7?

These meters can be an effective way to reduce your energy bills. But it’s important to keep your expectations of them realistic. They are not necessarily a magic bullet that will drive down your energy bills overnight. If you’re to make an informed decision as to whether Economy 7 is right for you, it’s important to know the potential disadvantages too:

  • The more energy you use during the day, the more you’ll eat into the savings you make at night.
  • If you choose to use a lot of appliances during the night (when energy is cheaper) the noise they generate may disrupt your night’s sleep, or that of your family members.
  • If you don’t already have one of these meters, you may have to pay to get one installed. And if you decide that Economy 7 is not right for you, you’ll need to pay again to get it replaced.

Is Economy 7 cheaper than standard?

This meter certainly has the potential to be cheaper than a standard single-rate credit meter. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your energy bills will plummet as soon as you get an Economy 7 meter installed. For this kind of meter to be truly effective, it needs to be combined with the right energy tariff and a little know-how.

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Don’t worry, we’ll talk about how to get the most out of your Economy 7 meter shortly.

In the table below, you can see the difference between the average costs of the cheapest single-rate tariffs on the market and the cheapest Economy 7 tariff on the market:

Tariff Average Peak Rate Average Off-Peak Rate Daily Standing Charge Average Average Annual Cost
Cheapest Economy 7 12.1p/kWh 8p/kWh 22p/day £516
Cheapest normal 10.9/kWh 10.9p/kWh 22p/day £538

As off-peak energy can be around 50% cheaper than peak-rate energy, there’s definitely potential for cheaper bills with an one of these meters.

Which suppliers offer Economy 7?

Most of the UK’s energy suppliers (including the “Big 6” British Gas, E.On, EDF, N Power, Scottish Power, and SSE) offer support for these tariffs. When you get an energy quote sign up to a new tariff, you are usually asked whether or not you have an one of these meters.

The Papernest team will ensure that we find you an energy plan that will give you the savings you need with an Economy 7 meter.

What is the cheapest Economy 7 tariff in the UK?

It’s very hard to definitively state which is the cheapest Economy 7 tariff and supplier in the UK. This is because the cheapest supplier for you depends on a range of factors including your location, usage, and whether you have both gas and electricity or electricity on its own.

However, the following energy suppliers that support Economy 7 meters are generally counted amongst the cheapest:

  • Bulb
  • Octopus Energy
  • Outfox the Market
  • Pure Planet
  • Together Energy

How do Economy 7 meters work?

These meters work in different ways, depending on their age. Even different meters made by the same manufacturer can work in different ways. Many older systems actually contain two meters (one for peak rate, and one for off-peak) and the two meters alternate in recording your energy usage.

Some systems contain just one of these meters that takes two readings. In the case of older meters, they receive a radio signal that switches them between peak and off-peak rate. Newer meters receive a similar digital signal to do the same thing. Other Economy 7 meters have two sets of numbers, with one typically marked “normal” (your peak-time rate), and the other marked “low” (your off-peak rate).

You may be wondering how to get one of these meters. Or you may be wondering whether or not you already have an Economy 7 meter without knowing it. Let’s find out whether or not you have this meter, and how to get one if you don’t.

How do I know if I have Economy 7?

It’s possible that you’ve always had an Economy 7 meter and have been missing out on increased energy savings. Don’t worry, though, it’s relatively quick and easy to check whether or not you have an Economy 7 meter. There are 3 ways in which you can find out:

  • Check your meter itself. If it is a dual-rate meter, there will be two rows of numbers marked “Day” & “Night”, “Peak” & “Off Peak” or “Lower” & “Higher”.
  • Take a look at your energy bill. There will be two rates that are usually described as “Day” & “Night”.
  • Check your MPAN Number (you can find it on your energy bill). If the top line begins with “02”, you have an Economy 7 meter.

How to read an Economy 7 meter

There are several different kinds of Economy 7. How to read these meters depends on what type you have installed.

The first type of smart meter uses 2 displays. On the top row, you’ll see your day-time rate which is usually “Normal”. The bottom row is usually marked “Low” and shows your night-time / off-peak rate.

The second type of meter has a digital display with a single row of numbers that shows your day-rate energy usage by default. These meters have a red button. Press it, and you’ll see the reading for your night-time rate.

Getting a reading for your smart meter depends on the generation of meter. If you have a first generation (SMETS1) smart meter, press 6 until you can see IMP R01. This shows your off-peak (night-time) reading in kWh. Press 6 again and you’ll see IMP R02, your peak-rate / day-time reading.

If you have a second generation (SMETS2) smart meter, press the B button once and the screen will show TOU rate 1. This is your day-time rate. Press the A button and the screen will display TOU rate 2, your off-peak rate.

Can you get an Economy 7 smart meter?

A smart meter transmits your energy usage data directly to your supplier. So you don’t need to worry about inaccurate estimated bills or have to bother sending meter readings to your supplier.

If you already have a smart meter, there’s good news. You don’t need to get an Economy meter fitted. Smart meters can be set to either single or dual-rate. So you can sign up to an Economy 7 tariff without needing to install a new meter.

The UK government aims to make smart meters available to all business and domestic energy consumers by 2025. As such, no matter who supplies energy to your home, there’s a good chance that they can offer you a smart meter.

If possible, you should opt for a SMETS2 smart meter. These are the second-generation smart meters that will remain fully functional even if you switch suppliers. Their predecessors, SMETS1 meters, on the other hand will no longer transmit your usage data to your new supplier if you switch suppliers. However, these meters can be upgraded remotely. Energy suppliers are trying to roll out SMETS2 meters and upgrade SMETS1 meters in 2021.

Can I get an Economy 7 meter fitted?

If you want to get an Economy 7 meter fitted, your energy supplier may be able to do this for you. However, there may be a charge to do this. How much you pay will depend on your supplier, however you can usually expect to pay around £100-£150 for this.

Switching from Economy 7 to standard

If Economy 7 isn’t working for you, your supplier will be able to replace your Economy 7 meter with a standard single-rate meter. Again, there is likely to be a charge for this of around £100-£150 although the specific amount will depend on your supplier.

Needless to say, swapping from a standard credit meter to an Economy 7 meter is an expensive prospect, so it’s vital that you do your research

See if Economy 7 is right for you

Switching to Economy 7 could save you money, but it’s not the best option for everyone. If you’re still not sure whether or not you’d benefit from switching to Economy 7, you can do some simple calculations to determine whether it’s the right move for you.

This depends on…

How much electricity you use at night

Find out what the off-peak hours are in your area and think about what electrical or electronic appliances you use (or could use) during these hours.
For instance, many people with Economy 7 meters use their off-peak hours to:

  • Charge their phones, tablets or laptops
  • Use storage / water heaters
  • Use timers for devices like dishwashers or washing machines
  • Charge electric vehicles

Work out the percentage

Once you’ve worked out what devices and appliances you use during off-peak hours and for how long, compare this to your daytime usage. Try and convert this into a rough percentage.

Compare to 40% benchmark

The benchmark for whether or not an Economy 7 meter will be beneficial for you is around 40%. If your off-peak usage exceeds this, there’s a good chance that you’ll benefit from installing one of these meters. If your off-peak usage exceeds 50% there’s an excellent chance that switching to Economy 7 could reduce your energy bills.

Is Economy 7 right for you?

How to get the best out of Economy 7

In order to get the most out of your Economy 7 meter, it’s advisable to find out exactly when your supplier’s on and off-peak hours are, and plan your energy use accordingly. For instance, you may want to charge your mobile devices within these hours or even (if you have a timer and won’t be woken by the noise) do your dishes or your washing during off-peak hours. If you have a water storage heater, it’s also a good idea to use it overnight. However, you should not use your drier during hours when you will be asleep. Because of the potential fire hazard that driers represent, you should only use them when you are awake.

If your home has underfloor heating, you may want to time its use during off-peak hours so that your floors are nice and toasty when you get up in the morning.

You can combine these measures with steps to reduce your energy usage during peak times. For instance, did you know that appliances and devices left on standby can use up to 80% as much energy as when they’re active? Switching them off at the wall when not in use can bring down your energy bill by around £68 per year.

Economy 7 and electric vehicles

If you have an electric vehicle, leaving it to charge during off-peak hours can lead to substantial savings. A typical electric car with a 60kWh battery takes just shy of 8 hours to fully charge from empty with a 7kW charging point. If you can time your charging to coincide with off-peak hours, it can make your electric vehicle even more cost-effective.

Economy 7 and storage heaters

Economy 7 storage heaters can help you to heat your home for less. Learn to use them effectively and it can allow you to save money when heating your home. These heaters store heat energy during off-peak hours and release it through the day.

Storage heaters have a simple interface with 2 controls. One is in charge of output (how hot the heater gets the room). The other controls how much heat is directed to the unit. Set the output control to the desired temperature when you need it and set it to zero when you go out or go to bed.

To get the most out of your savings, set the input control appropriately for tomorrow’s usage. Turn it up when you’re expecting cold weather, and down again if the weather is likely to be fair.

Economy 10 vs. Economy 7

If you’re looking into dual-rate meters, you may have already noticed that Economy 7 meters aren’t the only game in town. There are also Economy 10 meters. As you might expect, these work in much the same way, except that instead of having 7 off-peak hours they have 10.

You off-peak hours may depend on your supplier. However, Economy 10 tariffs are typically off-peak:

  • For 7 hours at night with 3 off-peak hours in the afternoon.
  • For 4 hours at night, 3 hours in the afternoon, and 3 hours in the evening.
  • 5 hours at night, 2 hours in the afternoon, and 3 hours in the evening.

Although Economy 10 tariffs have more off-peak hours, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be cheaper than an Economy 7 tariff. What’s more, Economy 10 tariffs are less readily-available than Economy 7 tariffs. So you have fewer to choose from. Economy 10 tariffs also require an Economy 10 meter. Even if you already have an Economy 7 meter you will need to replace your meter to switch to an Economy 10 tariff.

At the time of writing, the following suppliers offer Economy 10 customers to customers:

  • Green Energy
  • M&S Energy
  • NPower
  • Octopus Energy
  • SSE

How to switch to Economy 7

If you’re ready to start benefiting from Economy 7, the first step is to find the perfect supplier and tariff for your needs. We can scour the market to help you to find the perfect tariff for your home. If you need to get an Economy 7 meter fitted, we can find you the cheapest supplier to do this. We’ll even manage your switch from end-to-end so that you can get faster and easier access to cheaper energy.

Want to know more?

Call the Papernest team today on 0330 818 6225.

We’re available from 8am to 6pm.

Read more articles about different energy tariffs:

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FAQ

Is electricity cheaper at night?

If you have a dual-rate meter like Economy 7 or Economy 10, your electricity will generally be cheaper at night during off-peak hours. During these hours your energy may be up to 50% cheaper.

Who benefits the most from an Economy 7 tariff?

Those who use a lot of energy at night will benefit the most from an Economy 7 tariff. This might include those who work shifts and are usually awake when most are sleeping, those who charge their electric cars at night, or those who leave their devices to charge overnight. If your home is heated by storage heaters, you’re also likely to benefit from Economy 7.

Can I get a smart meter if I’m on Economy 7?

Yes, absolutely. Both SMETS1 and SMETS2 meters can be set to dual-rate so you can have an Economy 7 tariff. In fact, installing a smart meter may be a useful way to circumvent the cost of replacing your standard credit meter with an Economy 7 meter.

Can I get economy 7 if I have a prepayment meter?

Unfortunately, prepayment meters are single-rate. However, you may be able to replace your prepayment meter with a credit meter or Economy 7 meter as long as you have no significant outstanding debts to your energy supplier.

Updated on 24 Jan, 2022

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