Economy 7: The ultimate guide to Economy 7 meters and tariffs

19 October 2020 | Matt Mostyn

Are you on an Economy 7 energy tariff? Could you save money by switching to or away from Economy 7? Find out all about it with our ultimate guide, so you can decide whether it’s right for you.

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An Economy 7 energy plan gives you a cheaper electricity rate at night, and a more expensive one in the day. Get it right and it can save you money on your bills, and also help you 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?

Economy 7 (also known as a ‘differential’ or ‘multi-rate’ tariff) is an energy plan that can help you pay less for your electricity. 

With Economy 7, you’ll pay cheaper rates for 7 hours during the night. The difference in cost could be up to 50%, depending on your electricity supplier.

Economy 7 is one of several different plans we offer. Find out more about each of them in our energy tariffs explained blog.

How does Economy 7 work?

If you can use appliances like dishwashers, slow cookers or washing machines overnight – or if you have an electric vehicle or storage heaters – Economy 7 could help you cut down your energy bills.

You won’t automatically save money by using appliances at night – but if you sign up for Economy 7 and get a special meter (that can manage 2 different rates), your night-time energy price will be lower. 

Your new electricity meter will track the electricity you use both during the day and at night. You’re then charged different rates for each.

With Economy 7, your daytime rate will often be more expensive than daytime rates on a normal tariff – so it won’t always work well for everyone’s lifestyle. But if you tend to use more energy overnight, it’s definitely worth considering.

Want to see how using energy at different times could also help you go more green? Check out our guide to grid efficiency and how it could help you cut your carbon.

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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. 

There’s also a plan called Economy 10, which – you guessed it – gives you 10 hours of cheaper electricity. An Economy 10 plan can include off-peak hours during the afternoon, evening or very early morning, as well as during the night.

By the way, in Scotland, energy companies use white meters to track the lower overnight rate – so their plans are known as ‘White meter’ rather than Economy 7 plans.

Economy 7 times – peak v off-peak

Economy 7 times differ, depending on where you live and which energy supplier you’re with. For example, the 7 off-peak hours could be from 11pm to 6am, 12 midnight to 7am, 1am to 8am or even 1.30am until 8.30am. Here at OVO they generally run from around midnight to around 7am (with some slight regional variations). Check with your current supplier if you’re not sure.

The hours usually change when the clocks go back or forward – so your Economy 7 times could be 1.30am to 8.30am during British Summer Time, and 12.30am to 7.30am in the winter, during Greenwich Mean Time.

Occasionally a supplier will divide the 7 hours into 2 or more periods. That means your electricity cost would alternate between the 2 rates during the night. Once again, it’s important to check with your supplier to find out their off-peak hours. That way you can make sure you don’t use appliances during peak times by mistake.

Economy 7 vs Standard 

With a standard energy plan, you’re charged the same amount per unit of electricity you use, regardless of the time of day or night. But with an Economy 7 tariff, you'll be charged more during the day and less during Economy 7 times.

That could come in pretty handy if you’re a shift worker or a night-owl – or if it works for you to timer-control your major appliances, or to charge up an electric vehicle or storage heater overnight.

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. Here at OVO, we’ll be able to give you a specific price outline for Economy 7 as part of our quote process.

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 swap between Economy 7 and a standard energy plan, you can even do this remotely once you have a smart meter.

Would Economy 7 help me save money?

This depends how much of your electricity you can use at night rather than during the day. Because the daytime rate is higher than normal (to balance out the off-peak rate), some people find Economy 7 actually works out more expensive. So do check carefully before you commit to switching.

It also depends what kind of heating and hot water system you have. Electric storage heaters and a hot water tank are the best combination for Economy 7. That’s because 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.

You should also think about:

  • Whether you can use more than half your electricity during the night – if not, you’ll probably end up paying over the odds, because you’ll be using too much electricity during the day, at the more expensive rate.
  • Whether your appliances have timers – because unless you regularly stay up until midnight or 1am, you’ll need to set a timer to switch them on at night, when the Economy 7 off-peak hours begin.
  • Your lifestyle – if you drive an electric vehicle, and it works for you to charge it overnight, for example, Economy 7 could be ideal.

Paying too much for your energy? Compare our green energy plans to see whether you could save. OVO now offers 100% renewable electricity for everyone – and we also plant a tree for every member. Save money and the planet with OVO, and switch now

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 two different rates (one for day and one for night), you’re on Economy 7. 

If that’s the case, try to use 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?

If you’re already on Economy 7, your meter will likely have 2 sets of numbers – one ‘low’ and one ‘normal’ – or they’ll possibly be labelled ‘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 to ask them.

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 shows your daytime rate electricity and is marked 'Normal'. The bottom row (marked 'Low') shows your night-time rate. 

The second type of meter has a single row of numbers showing your day rate electricity usage. To see the reading for your night-time rate, press the red button.

You can also use a special smart meter that works  with Economy 7 meters to get more info about your energy use. For first generation (or SMETS1) smart meters, press 6 on your smart meter, then press 3 more times 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. 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.

Read more information on smart meters for Economy 7 meters below.

How to get an Economy 7 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 meters. Smart meters help you to more easily spot patterns in your gas and electricity use, so you can find out where to make savings. Having a smart meter means no more meter readings or estimated bills. And that also helps you to waste less energy and cut your carbon emissions. Find out more about how to get a smart meter for your Economy 7 meter.

Is there an Economy 7 rate for gas?

Unfortunately not. That’s because gas is mostly used for cooking, heating and hot water, which are all generally used throughout the day. Unlike appliances like washing machines and dishwashers, which you can choose to use only at night. 

Having said that, if you heat your home and water with gas, Economy 7 could still be a good idea – as long as you use the majority of your electricity at night.

Economy 7 and electric vehicles

If you have an electric vehicle, Economy 7 could work brilliantly. That’s because you can charge your vehicle overnight and take advantage of lower energy prices during Economy 7 times.

What is Economy 10

Economy 10 works pretty much the same way as Economy 7 – except that, obviously, you’ll get 10 hours of cheaper electricity rather than 7. 

With Economy 10, 3 of the cheaper hours are usually offered in the afternoon, with 7 more overnight. 

Sadly, OVO doesn’t currently offer an Economy 10 energy plan – but we thought it was worth mentioning, in case you were wondering what it is.

Differences between Economy 7 vs Economy 10

The main difference between Economy 7 and Economy 10 is the number of off-peak hours. While Economy 7 offers you 7 hours of off-peak energy at night, Economy 10 adds 3 daytime hours – usually in the afternoon.

Other ways to lower your energy bills 

If you’re not sure that Economy 7 would reduce your bills, we’ve got a few other handy cost-cutting suggestions you could try:

1. Use less energy

The simplest and best way to reduce your bills is to make sure your home’s working as efficiently as possible to reduce energy waste.

That’s all helped by taking steps such as insulating your roof and your solid or cavity walls, as well as draught-proofing your windows and doors.

Here are  a few more quick wins to help you become even more energy-efficient. And for even more ways to save, check out 120 ways to save energy at home:

  • When you boil a kettle, only use as much water as you need
  • Turn appliances off at the wall – don’t leave them on standby
  • Use energy-saving light bulbs
  • Defrost your freezer regularly
  • If your boiler is more than 15 years old, look into replacing it with a new A-rated condensing boiler
  • Slip an insulating jacket on your hot water tank – you could save around £35 a year
  • When using your washing machine, never set it higher than 30˚
  • Consider making some low carbon heating improvements to make the most of recent advances in technology 

2. Switch suppliers

No matter which energy company you’re with, it’s always worth checking the market regularly to see if you could save money by switching.

At OVO, we know that price matters – that’s why we keep our costs down, to help you save. You'll also get our 3-5% OVO Interest Reward on any positive balance in your account.

See how your current supplier matches up next to our range of energy plans. you can compare energy prices for our electricity, gas and dual fuel plans. They’re based on a medium user, paying by Direct Debit, averaged across all UK regions. It’s the quick and easy way to compare prices.

Are you paying too much for your energy? Compare our green energy plans and switch to OVO today. 

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