A guide to the Economy 7 tariff
Electricity suppliers in the UK offer a tariff called 'Economy 7', which offers cheaper off-peak electricity at night. Rates during the daytime tend to be quite a bit more expensive than standard electricity tariffs, however – so it won't suit everyone.
Houses using this tariff need to have a special electricity meter fitted which provides two different readings: one for the electricity used during the day, which is more expensive per unit, and another for the night, which has a lower price. The tariff is intended to encourage householders to use more electricity at the times when it is generally in lower demand.
The night time or 'off-peak' period lasts for a total of seven hours, which is why it is called 'Economy 7', although these hours may not run in a continuous period -- so to make the most of the tariff it's important to know when the off-peak prices are charged, and then try to use the bulk of your electricity during these hours.
How do you find out whether you're on an Economy 7 tariff?
If you've just moved house and you're not sure whether you are on an Economy 7 tariff, you can find out by looking at your electricity meter. If you are on Economy 7, it will have two sets of dials or numbers, one of which is for the day rate, and the other for the night rate.
Is Economy 7 the best tariff for your household?
The Economy 7 tariff can help cut your electricity bill if you are able to use the bulk of your electricity during 'off-peak' hours. For example, many Economy 7 customers set devices such as storage heaters and water heaters to turn on during off-peak hours to save money.
The main drawback, however, is the price of electricity during peak daytime hours. Unit prices vary from one supplier to another, but 'night' rates can be around half the price of a normal tariff, whereas the price during the 'day' period may be closer to double the price of a normal tariff. This means it may not be economical to be on this tariff if you end up using a lot of your electricity during the peak daytime periods. Find out when off-peak hours run, and look at the times when you use the majority of your electricity to work out whether it would suit your household.
Switching to the Economy 7 tariff
If you're interested in moving over to the Economy 7 tariff from your standard tariff, contact your supplier to find out about getting a suitable meter installed. You may be charged for the installation.
Coming off Economy 7
If you've ended up paying over the odds on Economy 7, you can usually switch to a standard tariff without changing your electricity meter – but to do this it is generally easier to switch to a new supplier and get set up on a new tariff all in one hit.