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A guide to Economy 7

A guide to Economy 7

Economy 7 is a type of electricity tariff that has a different price per kWh based on your time of use. It is used with an Economy 7 meter and is usually based around day and night-time usage, with the price/kWh being cheaper at night but more expensive than normal during the day.

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What is Economy 7?

Economy 7 is an energy plan designed to help customers save money on energy use during night-time hours. Economy 7 meters, which have to be specially installed, track day and night use of electricity separately, so that a different kWh rate can be offered via an Economy 7 tariff - a bit like peak and off-peak phone calls. This can be a good way of saving money for energy customers.

How does Economy 7 work?

Economy 7 allows you to get cheaper electricity for seven hours each night. These tariffs use a different kind of electricity meter which, unlike a standard meter, can track the electricity you use during the day and at night separately. You’re then charged those different rates for the electricity you use during the day and during the night. The day rate is often more expensive than day rates on a normal tariff, meaning that this doesn’t necessarily fit in with everyone’s lifestyle.

Economy 7 vs. standard energy

Economy 7 could be a cheaper option for those who use more energy in the night than during the day. Standard energy tariffs mean that customers are charged the same amount per unit of electricity they use, regardless of the time of day or night they’re using it. Economy 7 customers, on the other hand, will be charged more during the day and less during the night, meaning that washing clothes or running the dishwasher is a more cost-effective thing to do outside of daytime hours.

What is the cheapest Economy 7 tariff in the UK?

With Uswitch, you can compare Economy 7 tariffs to find a cheaper deal. Here are the current cheapest Economy 7 plans that Uswitch can help you switch to:

Supplier Plan name Price
Green Network Energy GNE Spring Sunrise V2 £595 Compare now
EDF Energy Simply Online 1 Year Fix Apr21v4 £600 Compare now
ScottishPower Super Saver April 2021 B6 £605 Compare now
Tonik Energy Green Power (1 Year) v4 £606 Compare now
npower Select npower Select Uswitch Exclusive v49 £609 Compare now
EDF Energy Simply Online 1 Year Fix May21 £618 Compare now
E.ON Fix Online Exclusive v34 £618 Compare now
Green Network Energy GNE Family Green 12 Month Fixed V7 £629 Compare now
British Gas Online Fix Apr 2021 £630 Compare now
Bulb Vari-Fair £635 Compare now

Prices are based on average bill sizes for a medium energy user on an Economy 7 plan paying by monthly direct debit, and averaged across all regions. This table is updated hourly from Uswitch's database of all Economy 7 plans on the open market that are available in at least 7 of 14 regions.

How to switch to Economy 7

If you don't have Economy 7 but would like to switch to it you will need to go through the Economy 7 meter installation process.

  1. You should start by comparing Economy 7 prices. When we ask if you have Economy 7, select 'yes' and pick a supplier and tariff from the list - it doesn't matter which. Use your current usage details and estimate as best you can the percentage of your electricity you use at night.
  2. We will then show you which will be the cheapest Economy 7 tariff for you. Contact the supplier directly and ask them to switch you to Economy 7. You may find that there is an Economy 7 meter installation cost to pay.

Switching from Economy 7 to standard

Switching from Economy 7 to standard feels straightforward, but you will need to contact your electricity supplier to find out more about the process. This is because you will probably need to meet some acceptance criteria to make the switch.

You may also have to have a new meter installed, which your energy supplier will often charge you for. In some circumstances you may be able to arrange to carry on using your Economy 7 meter; again, your current supplier should be able to tell you if this is the case.

When you do your comparison with Uswitch, we ask if you have Economy 7 - if you say that you do, we'll tailor your results so you only see relevant tariffs. Compare Economy 7 prices now to find the best electricity prices for you.

Will Economy 7 save me money?

Economy 7 can save money for some households, but it is not the right electricity tariff for everyone. It works most effectively for those with storage heaters - if you don’t have one, it might not save you money. Some people with Economy 7 find that it makes their bills more expensive, because the plan does not fit their lifestyle. Whether or not it will be cost-effective for you will depend on a number of different factors:

  • When you use electricity

    As a general rule of thumb you would need to use more than 40% of your electricity at night to make Economy 7 cost-effective. Some Economy 7 plans charge almost twice the standard night rate for any electricity used in the day, which can cancel out the benefits of the cheap electricity you get at night.

    The more electricity you use at night and the less you use in the day, the more money you will save with Economy 7.

  • How you heat your home and your water

    An Economy 7 tariff is best suited to people who have electric storage heaters and a hot water tank. The idea is that you heat up the electric storage heaters overnight and that they slowly emit the heat the next day, and that you heat all your hot water for the next day overnight too.

    If you heat your home and water with electricity, but don't have storage heaters or a hot water tank, Economy 7 probably won't be so cost-effective for you.

    If you heat your home and water with gas, Economy 7 could still be a good fit for you, provided you use the bulk of your electricity at night.

  • The kind of appliances you have

    To make the most of Economy 7, it helps if appliances like your dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer have a timer so that you can run them overnight when your electricity is cheaper.

  • Your lifestyle

    If you have storage heaters and a hot water tank, you will probably find that your home and water will be nice and warm in the morning, but will cool down again by the evening.

    Think about whether or not this fits in with your lifestyle. Alternatively, if you work unusual hours for example, you may find that Economy 7 will work for you because you use the bulk of your electricity at night anyway.

How do I know if I have an Economy 7 tariff?

  • Read the transcript

    Amy: In switching, it asks me if I have an Economy 7 meter. How do I know that? Can I find that on my bill? How do I know if I’ve got one?

    Tom: An Economy 7 meter is a type of electricity meter that gives you two rates depending on the time of day. Essentially, they charge you more for using electricity during the day and less for using electricity at night. So, if you have storage heaters or you’re capable of doing washing overnight, and that sort of thing, then sometimes it can be cheaper.

    So the way you can find out is if we go back to your meter number, which is on the last page, and you see there where it says 01, that means you’re not on an Economy 7 meter. If you were, that would say 02 instead.

    Amy: Okay.

    Tom: Also, on the electricity breakdown here, you would have two unit rates. So, there would be two sets of consumptions and two sets of unit rates.

    Amy: Oh, so that’s for the day and the night?

    Tom: Yeah, for the day and the night. And it would probably also say day rate and night rate next to it.

If you're unsure as to whether or not you have Economy 7, take a look at your electricity bill. If you have two different rates, one for night and one for day, then you have Economy 7.

The Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN) on your bill will also start with '02' if you have Economy 7. Find out where you can locate this information with our guide to understanding your energy bill.

If you don't have a bill available, look at your meter. If you have Economy 7, your electricity meter will have two sets of numbers - one marked 'low' and one marked 'normal' (your meter might not look exactly like the one in our picture).

Alternatively, there may be one set of numbers marked 'day rate', and a red button, which you press to get your night reading.

If you are in any doubt, call your electricity company and check with them.

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What is an Economy 7 meter?

The Economy 7 meter itself will have two sets of numbers - one marked 'low' (meaning ‘night’) and one marked 'normal' (meaning ‘day’), though your meter might not look exactly like the one in our picture.

Alternatively, there may be one set of numbers marked 'day rate', and a red button, which you press to get your night reading.

How to read an Economy 7 meter

There are two types of Economy 7 meter - how you read your meter will depend on which type you have.

  1. The first type has two displays - the top row is for your day rate electricity and is marked 'Normal' and the bottom row, which is marked 'Low', shows night rate. When you read your Economy 7 meter, always check both displays.
  2. The second type has a single row of numbers that shows your day rate electricity usage. To get a reading for your night rate electricity, press the red button.

If you skip ahead to 2:10 in the video below we'll show you how to read your Economy 7 meter:

  • Read the transcript

    It’s important to regularly take gas and electricity meter readings and send them to your supplier. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with an estimated bill that could mean you end up paying more than you have to, or it could actually mean you’ll end up paying less than you should. This sounds like a great thing, but actually it means you’ll end up in debt to your supplier, and somewhere down the line you’ll get a big bill.

    Meter Types

    There are four main types of gas and electricity meter: standard meters, dial meters, digital meters, and Economy 7 meters. They all differ slightly, but the basic techniques for reading a meter are still the same.

    Finding Your Meters

    Your first challenge is to find your meters if you don’t already know where they are. They could be tucked away in a cupboard, or if you live in a flat, they could be in a communal area. Once you’ve found your meters, you’ll need to work out which one’s for gas and which one’s for electricity. They might be labelled, but if not, you can work it out. The gas one will take measurements in cubic meters or cubic feet, and the electricity one will be measured in kWh.

    Taking a Reading on Standard and Digital Meters

    You’ll need to take a reading of the five black numbers going from left to right. Ignore any numbers in red, or on digital meters, any number that starts with 0.1.

    Taking a Reading on a Dial Meter

    Dial meters are a little bit different. To get your reading, you need to look at each of the dials and pick the number that the needle is pointing to.

    If the needle is pointing between two numbers, always round down rather than up. If the needle is pointing exactly to a number, when you write it down, underline it. Now you need to adjust your meter reading to make it as accurate as possible.

    Look at the underlined numbers; if they’re followed by a 9 you need to reduce them by 1.

    So, for example, if your meter reading was 51059, the 1 would stay the same because it’s followed by a 0, but the 5 would be reduced to 4 because it’s followed by a 9. Therefore, your final meter reading would be 51049.

    How to Take a Reading on an Economy 7 Meter

    Economy 7 meters are a little bit different so you need to take two readings. If you have two sets of dials marked low and normal, you need to take two readings separately.

    If you only have one set of dials marked day rate, take down the reading then press the red button to get the night rate, and then take another reading.

    Now you’ve got your meter reading, send it off to your supplier so you get really accurate bills.

What time does Economy 7 start?

The cheaper Economy 7 time period usually runs either 11.00pm to 6.00am, 12.00am to 7.00am or 1.00am to 8.00am. However this can vary according to where you live and your energy supplier.

The time will also change when the clocks go back or forward. Contact your provider to check if you are in any doubt.

Can you get a smart meter with Economy 7?

You can get a smart meter if you’re on an Economy 7 tariff. The ease with which you can do so will depend on the supplier you’re with. You might find your options limited depending on what’s available at the time you’re looking to switch, but there should be at least a few available Economy 7 tariffs that come with a smart meter.

Is electricity cheaper at night?

During the off-peak hours, Economy 7 is much cheaper than standard electricity rates. However, during peak hours the rates are much higher than your ordinary electricity supplier’s rates.

On the balance, if you used electricity in the same way as the average household, then Economy 7 would probably be more expensive than if you were on any other electricity tariff.

If you use your electricity late at night and schedule your biggest energy consuming appliances to run during the off-peak hours, then Economy 7 could save you money against the average standard rate tariff. However, you likely are able to save more by simply switching to a cheap, non-Economy 7 energy deal.

How does Economy 7 heating work?

Economy 7 heating works the same way as normal heating as long as the heating appliances are powered by electricity as opposed to gas. Whether you’re using an electric storage heater with Economy 7, a water heater with Economy 7 or any other heating appliance with Economy 7, using them during the night (if it fits in with your lifestyle) will be cheaper than using them during the day.

Storage heaters are particularly effective when they’re scheduled to work during the off-peak hours. They use energy to create heat but keep it locked in until you need it. Homes with a combination of a storage heater and Economy 7 meter usually set up the storage heater to operate in the middle of the night. During the peak hours, the storage heater's retained warmth is released to heat the home throughout the day.

Economy 7 and electric vehicles

Economy 7 is an excellent energy tariff option for the increasing numbers of people who have purchased an electric vehicle. The obvious thing to do is charge the vehicle overnight, and the cheapest way of doing that is to take advantage of lower energy prices during night-time hours with Economy 7.

You may be able to take advantage of tariffs specifically aimed at electric vehicle owners, so it's worth having a look to see what's available for you.

What is Economy 10?

Economy 10 (also known as Heatwise) is like Economy 7, except you get 10 hours of cheaper electricity rather than seven. Also, three of these hours are in the afternoon, and seven are overnight. It isn't possible to compare Economy 10 tariffs with Uswitch, so if you would like more information, contact your energy supplier.

Economy 10 vs. Economy 7

Economy 10 is much like the Economy 7 electricity tariffs, except that the off-peak hours run for 10 hours rather than seven.

Unlike Economy 7, Economy 10's off-peak hours usually work in three separate intervals, rather than operating consecutively (as such there are three separate unit rates).

Commonly with Economy 10, you have three hours of off-peak (low rates) in the afternoon, four hours in the evening, and three hours in the early morning.

To get the most out of an Economy 10 tariff, you would need to do more planning than on an Economy 7, but you would at least get more hours of the off-peak rate.

You can find out more in our guide about understanding Economy 10 tariffs. It’s worth noting that due to the complexity of the three different rates, many price comparison sites (including Uswitch) cannot support comparisons for these types of meters. This makes it difficult to ensure you’re getting the best energy deal and it may be worth seeing if you can change your meter to a standard one.

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