What is an Economy 7 meter and can it mean cheaper gas and electric prices?

Wondering if a change of meter could help you enjoy cheaper gas and electric prices? We’ve put together a quick breakdown of Economy 7 and 10 meters and how they could, potentially, help you make savings on your energy.

What is an Economy 7 meter?

Economy 7 meters provide you with an easy way to save on your energy bills – providing they suit your lifestyle. Good news if you’re in the market for cheaper gas and electric prices.

An Economy 7 meter and plan gives you a seven-hour window, at night, in which you pay a lower rate for your electricity. The idea is that you can run your washing machines, dishwasher and other electrical devices overnight to make some great savings on your electricity (Economy 7 meters are only used for electricity).

These plans are particularly good for those with storage heaters, for example, which allow you to generate and store heat overnight for use the next day – a great way to enjoy cheap energy. It’s a good idea, but obviously works best if you have the right lifestyle or home set-up to run electrical machines at night. For instance, top floor flats with noisy washing machines might not be the best option. The flip-side, is that an Economy 7 plan will charge you considerably more for the energy you use during the ‘peak’ daytime hours, meaning gas and electric prices can end up being higher than you had expected.

Why is demand for Economy 7 meters falling?

Economy 7’s downfall is that it’s for electricity only. More people have now moved to gas heating systems which tend to be cheaper and more efficient than electric heating. This has meant that demand for Economy 7 tariffs has dramatically reduced.

There are still around 5 million households with Economy 7 meters in the UK, but this number is falling. Economy 7’s reputation has also suffered because many people are still on Economy 7, even though it’s not really the right for them – see our earlier point regarding lifestyle fit. Daytime rates can be hideously high. So, if you don’t make the most of the cheaper nighttime rate, you can end up with huge bills and high gas and electric prices.

How does it differ from an Economy 10 meter?

Economy 10 plans work in a similar way to Economy 7 plans, but with the added bonus of off-peak hours during the daytime. Economy 10 plans give you seven hours of cheap energy at night as well as three cheap hours of energy during the day – so, 10 off-peak hours in total. These might be a better option, if using so much energy at night doesn’t necessarily fit your lifestyle, as it provides a bit more flexibility.

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

The easiest way to find out if you’re on an Economy 7 tariff is to find a recent electricity or dual fuel bill and have a look at your electricity rates. If you have two different rates — a daytime and a nighttime rate — then you’re probably on an Economy 7 tariff (but it could also be an Economy 10 meter, which works in much the same way). If you’re not sure, the best thing to do is call your supplier – they’ll be able to tell you everything you need to know.

Is it really cost effective for me to have an Economy 7 meter?

Very few energy providers are actually pushing this tariff now. One of the key problems is many people are still on Economy 7 when it’s not right for them, meaning they’re not actually enjoying the cheap energy they had signed up for.

If you’re always up and about at night, do shift work or can happily run several machines through the night, it may be a great option. But think carefully before you commit – as previously mentioned, daytime rates will be high, so you could end up getting bigger bills than you were expecting if you don’t make the most of those nighttime rates. And remember it’s just for electricity, not for gas. So, if you have gas, a dual fuel or other plan might give you cheaper gas and electricity prices.

Your best option is to check to see when your peak energy usage times are before you decided. Read more about the different types of meter and plan available, here.