Economy 7: The ultimate guide to Economy 7 meters and tariffs
25 November 2021 | Matt Mostyn
An Economy 7 energy plan gives you a cheaper electricity rate at night, and a more expensive one in the day. That means, if you use energy wisely on this plan – by putting your washing machine on overnight or charging your electric car at that time – it could work out cheaper than a regular tariff.
It could also help cut your carbon emissions – depending on your lifestyle and when you use most of your energy.
Want to find out more about this special night-time energy plan? Here’s our guide to the ins and outs of Economy 7, so you can decide whether it’s right for you.
What is Economy 7?
An Economy 7 (E7) meter is a type of energy meter that goes with an Economy 7 plan, and together they can help you pay less for your electricity. You might also hear an Economy 7 plan called a “differential” or “multi-rate” energy plan.
With Economy 7, you’ll pay cheaper rates for your electricity for 7 hours during the night. The difference in cost between your day rate and your night rate could be up to 50%, depending on your electricity supplier.
It works best for people with storage heaters, electric cars, and other big electrical appliances that can be charged up or used overnight during “off-peak” hours.
Economy 7 is one of several different plans we offer here at OVO. Find out more about each of them in our energy tariffs explained blog.
If you drive an electric car, you may be interested in our OVO Drive + Anytime tariff, our latest EV tariff.
Why is it called Economy 7?
It’s called Economy 7 because you’ll be able to get cheaper electricity for 7 hours each night.
By the way, in Scotland, energy companies use white meters to track the lower overnight rate. This means their plans are known as ‘White meter’ plans, rather than Economy 7 plans.
Economy 7 times: peak vs off peak
On an Economy 7 plan, electricity is generally cheaper during off-peak hours, or when you’re paying your night rate.
The exact time window varies depending on your energy supplier, where you live, and other factors. But generally, the 7 off-peak hours fall somewhere between 10pm and 8.30am. (Remember, this can change with British Summer Time).
To know exactly when your peak and off-peak hours are, check with your energy supplier.
Is electricity cheaper at night with Economy 7?
Yes! During the allotted 7 hours, you’ll be paying less for your off-peak electricity rates than the peak rates you pay during the day. It won’t necessarily be cheaper than all other electricity tariffs on the market, though. Check your rates with your energy supplier to be sure.
How do I know if I’m on an Economy 7 tariff?
To find out if you’re already registered for Economy 7, check your electricity bill. If your electricity seems to be charged at 2 different rates (one for day and one for night), you’re on Economy 7.
If that’s the case, try using your dishwasher, washing machine, and tumble dryer at night, to see how much more you could save.
You can also check by looking at your electricity meter – see below for more on that.
What is an Economy 7 meter?
An Economy 7 meter is the type of meter that goes along with an Economy 7 electricity plan.
Most commonly, you’ll find Economy 7 meters in homes where electricity is used to power the heating and hot water – rather than gas.
Unlike regular electricity meters, Economy 7 meters will show 2 different readings or numbers. One will show how much electricity you’ve used on your day rate and the other will show how much you’ve used on your night rate.
What does an Economy 7 meter look like?
Not sure if your meter is set up for Economy 7? If you’re on an Economy 7 plan, your meter will likely have 2 sets of numbers. They might be labelled low and normal, or possibly day and night.
Another type of Economy 7 meter has a set of numbers labelled day rate, and a red button that you press to see your night-time figures.
If you’re still not sure, contact your energy company and they’ll be able to tell you.
How to read an Economy 7 meter
Taking an Economy 7 meter reading depends on the type of meter you have.
- The first type has 2 displays. The top row usually shows your daytime or peak electricity use – it’s marked as day or normal (or something similar). The bottom row (marked low or night) shows your night-time or off-peak electricity use. To take a reading, note down both numbers.
- The second type of meter has a single row of numbers, just showing your daytime or peak electricity use. To see the reading for your night-time use, you have to press a red button. Again, you should note down both numbers.
How to read an Economy 7 smart meter
Don’t want to manually take your own meter readings? Don’t worry. You can also use a smart meter that works with Economy 7 tariffs to get more info about your energy use.
Smart meters send meter readings to your energy supplier automatically. They also show you your electricity use on an In-Home Display.
If you want to see how much electricity you’ve used on the meter itself:
- For first generation (or SMETS1) smart meters, press 6 on your smart meter, then press it 3 more times until you can see IMP R01. This shows your off-peak or night-time reading in kWh. Press 6 again and you’ll see IMP R02. This gives your daytime reading.
- For second generation (SMETS2) smart meters, press the B button once and the screen will show TOU rate 1, which is the day rate. Then press the A button and the screen will display TOU rate 2, which is the night rate.
How do I use an Economy 7 meter to save money?
Economy 7 plans can help you pay less for your energy than a regular tariff, if you make use of them the right way.
But you have to be savvy: while the plan gives you the choice between peak and off-peak rates, the peak rates can be higher than electricity rates on other plans. This means if you use a lot of electricity during the day, it can work out more expensive. It’s important to find the best tariff for you, and to use it wisely.
To save money with an Economy 7 meter, you should:
- Use more than half your electricity during the night. If you don’t, you’ll probably end up paying more than normal, because you’ll be using too much electricity during the day, at the more expensive rate.
- Set timers on your appliances. Unless you regularly stay up until midnight or 1am, you’ll need to set a timer to switch things on at night, when the Economy 7 off-peak hours begin. Smart plugs can help with that.
- Charge your electric car (and other gadgets) overnight. Economy 7 can be a win for EV owners, as you won’t have to pay daytime rates while you power up your car! We also offer the OVO Drive and OVO Drive + Anytime tariff for EV drivers, that could also help save you money.
- Ideally, heat your home with electric storage heaters and a hot water tank. This is the best combination for Economy 7. You can charge them up during the night and use the heat and hot water in the daytime. It can help to have your night storage heaters and hot water boiler wired on a separate circuit, which switches on when the night-time/off-peak rate starts.
Read more about electric storage heaters in our practical guide
Economy 7 tariffs explained: how to switch to Economy 7
If you’d like to switch to Economy 7, it’s a good idea to start by comparing Economy 7 prices, to get the best one for you. At OVO, we’ll be able to give you a price outline for Economy 7 – as part of your quote from us.
Once you have an Economy 7 meter installed, it can be set up with your chosen plan, to best suit your home and lifestyle. And if you need to switch between Economy 7 and a standard energy plan, you can even do this remotely once you have a smart meter.
You can get a smart meter that’s set up to work with an Economy 7 tariff. Once you do that, the rates will be displayed on your electricity smart meter and In-Home Display.
We offer the latest type of smart meter (called SMETS2), which will work with Economy 7 plans. Find out more about how to get a smart meter for your Economy 7 plan.