Economy 7 meters: what are they and do I need one?

·5-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Economy 7 accounts work with a type of ‘differential’, ‘time of use’, or ‘multi-rate’ energy meter that charges you different rates for electricity during the day and during the night.

Rates are more expensive during the day, and cheaper at night. The ‘7’ part is the number of hours counted as night.

It is similar to being charged different rates for ‘peak’ and ‘off peak’.

In contrast, a standard energy tariff just charges one flat rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity, regardless of the time of day it’s used.

Economy 7 meters are only for electricity, not gas. They are usually used in conjunction with night storage heaters and a hot water tank. Storage heaters store heat during the night and release it during the day – the same goes for water in the hot water tank.

What is an Economy 7 Meter?

This type of electricity meter tracks day and night use of electricity separately.

An Economy 7 meter will show two sets of numbers. They will be labelled either:

  • ‘low’ and ‘normal’

  • ‘lower’ and ‘higher’

  • ‘day’ and ‘night’

Some Economy 7 meters just show a day rate with a button you press to see figures for night.

Related:Switch & Save Using Our Energy Comparison Service

How does Economy 7 work?

The idea behind Economy 7 is that users benefit from cheaper electricity at night.

Whether Economy 7 will be a cheap energy option for you very much depends on your lifestyle.

If you have electric storage heaters, these will heat up overnight and release the heat during the day.

To make the most of Economy 7, you’d also need to set appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines to run at night, rather than during the day.

 (CompTech)
(CompTech)

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

There are three main ways you’ll know if you are on Economy 7:

  • Your electricity bill will have two separate readings for day and night

  • The Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN) on your bill will begin with "02".

  • Your electricity meter will have two sets of numbers

When does the cheaper night rate start?

Exactly when peak and off-peak (or day and night) rates start and end, depend on your energy supplier and where you live. But typical off-peak periods are:

  • 23.00 – 06.00

  • 00.00 – 07.00

  • 01.00 – 08.00

  • 01.30 – 08.30

With some meters, you can hear them click when they switch between day/night.

Day and night times may change when the clocks go forwards or back.

How to read an Economy 7 Meter

If you are on Economy 7 you might need to submit electricity readings to your energy provider to get an accurate bill. You’ll need to read, and submit, both sets of numbers on the meter.

Some, but not all, suppliers will offer a smart meter that works with Economy 7. A smart meter will send meter readings to your supplier automatically so you no longer have to do it manually.

The smart meter in-home display will usually show you separate readings for your peak and off-peak use.

Is Economy 7 cheap?

In theory, if you can use most of your electricity at night, Economy 7 can work out to be cost-effective.

If you have storage heaters or a hot water tank, you can heat these overnight to use the following day. If you own an electric car, you may be able to save money by charging it overnight.

When it comes to using dishwashers and washing machines at night, you’ll either need to stay up late to put them on or use a timer.

Experts say you would need to use more than 50% of your electricity at night to make Economy 7 cost-effective.

The daytime rate on Economy 7 will usually be more expensive than rates on a normal energy tariff, and it’s sometimes twice the price of the night rate. So if Economy 7 doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle, you can end up massively overpaying for electricity.

 (CompTech)
(CompTech)

Should I get Economy 7?

If your home is not connected to the gas network, you will have to use electricity to heat it and this can be expensive.

Night storage heaters, working in conjunction with Economy 7, will be the most cost effective option. The heaters are cheap to install and require very little maintenance. However, after heating up at night, you might find that storage heaters don’t provide enough warmth to last a full day – making your heaters colder in the evening.

If you have turned off the night storage heaters for a while and turn them back on, you’ll need to wait until the following night for any heat. When it comes to hot water, you might find you don’t have enough for an evening bath.

The other main option to heat your home with electricity is electric radiators that work with standard electricity tariffs. However, although more responsive than night storage heaters, electric radiators can cost a fortune to run.

If you have gas, installing a boiler and radiators will work out a much cheaper way to heat your home and generate hot water, even if the set-up costs are higher.

Gas central heating is much more user-friendly than night storage heaters. If you’re cold, you can simply turn the heating up and feel the benefit straight away.

In short, if you have gas, then you have no need for Economy 7. If you only have electricity, then using Economy 7 to heat your home and water will usually work out cheaper than electric radiators.

How to get an Economy 7 meter

When you’ve found a supplier you want to switch to, you’ll need to contact it to get an Economy 7 meter installed.

If you want to switch the other way – from Economy 7 to a standard meter – you’ll need to ask your supplier to come and fit one.

There may be a charge for installing a new electricity meter.

What is Economy 10?

Economy 10 is similar to Economy 7, except you get 10 hours of cheaper electricity, not seven.

In most cases there are seven hours of cheaper electricity overnight and another three in the afternoon.

Related:Switch & Save Using Our Energy Comparison Service

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