Is electricity cheaper at night in the UK? Economy 7 explained

Households with an Economy 7 meter can get cheaper electricity at night – but bills could soar if you don’t check when the cheap rate kicks in

You can save money on your electricity bills with an Economy 7 meter if you’re prepared to charge or use appliances overnight.

Setting your alarm and getting up in the middle of the night to run your dishwasher, washing machine or tumble dryer might sound drastic but on a more practical basis, if you’ve got a storage heater or electric vehicle that you can easily charge overnight, you could save some money with Economy 7.

But be warned, it can be dangerous to run appliances without supervision overnight and if you get your timings wrong, you may miss out on the cheap ‘off peak’ rates and spend more.

Economy 7 households are still protected by the energy price guarantee until 1 July and will then be protected by the energy price cap.

The energy regulator Ofgem estimates that a typical Economy 7 customer uses 4,200kwh per year of electricity, compared with 2,900kwh for single-rate customers.  

Despite this, it says overall annual costs are lower if Economy 7 is used correctly. This means 58% of electricity is used during the day and 42% during ‘off peak’ times.

Here we explain how you can unlock cheaper energy at night – and the risks.

Is electricity cheaper at night? Economy 7 explained

With standard electric meters – you pay the same price for each unit of energy (kWh) you use regardless of the time of day or night.    

But if you have an Economy 7 meter – typically installed in houses reliant on electricity for both heating and hot water instead of gas – it can help you save on your electricity bill because it unlocks cheaper overnight rates.

Under the energy price guarantee, which applies until 30 June, standard users paying by direct debit pay an average of 33.21p per unit (kWh) of electricity. 

But in some cases Economy 7 could be around 10p per unit cheaper with night time rates. According to MoneySavingExpert, while suppliers’ average daytime ‘peak’ rates ranges from around 39p–45p per kWh, when it comes to the overnight ‘off peak’ rate this drops to between 14p and 22p depending on your supplier.

Kevin Mountford, co-founder of savings platform Raisin UK, says: “If you work night shifts or find yourself sleeping during the day and then doing chores at night, this tariff will save you money. It’s also ideal for electric car owners who will charge their electric cars in the evening.”

How economy 7 energy works

With Economy 7 you pay two different rates for the electricity you use – one during the day and a cheaper one for an overnight period of seven hours.

“Some Economy 7 plans charge a significant amount over the standard night rate for any electricity used in the day, which can cancel out the benefits of the cheap electricity you get at night,” says Ben Gallizzi, energy expert with Uswitch

“As a general rule of thumb, you would need to use more than 40% of your electricity at night to make Economy 7 cost-effective.”

There’s no universal fixed time when the cheaper overnight rates kick in according to Uswitch, and it can depend on your supplier along with where you live.

Generally, the cheaper ‘night’ rate can run from 11pm-6am, midnight to 7am or 1am to 8am.

“It’s important to check with your energy supplier to work out what the Economy 7 hours are, as if you use electricity out of the seven-hour window, you will be paying more,” warns Kevin Mountford.

It is also worth knowing Economy 7 meters won’t adjust automatically when the clocks go forwards or back. So check what you need to do with your supplier as the clocks go back one hour on 30 October at the end of British Summer Time.

But be warned - it can be dangerous to run some appliances overnight

It might be cheaper to run appliances overnight if you’ve got Economy 7, but experts warn that you need to consider the safety element of doing this while you’re tucked up in bed.

Emily Seymour, Which? Energy and Sustainability Editor, said: “Major appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers should not be used when you’re asleep, or out of the house. Anything with a high wattage or a motor runs a fire risk and should not be left unattended.”

And Ben Gallizzi says: “Leaving appliances running overnight means you are less likely to know when something goes wrong like if they catch fire. This is why firefighters advise people to turn off what they can overnight.”

Can you always save money with economy 7?

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There’s no guarantee you’ll automatically save money as reduced energy bills will depend on your habits, and on the flip side the cost per unit can be more expensive during the daytime.

Mountford explains: “At the moment, EDF is the best offer when it comes to the cheapest night rate on an Economy 7 tariff, but it’s worth noting it does come with the highest day rate.”

“Based on an EDF economy 7 tariff, the day rate for electricity is 44.97p per kWh, whilst the night rate is 14.85p per kWh. The average washing machine is 2,100 watts, which is equal to 2.1 kWh, meaning it would cost 94p per cycle to wash during the day, whilst washing during the night would only cost you 31p.

“Based on these calculations – running your washing three times a week at night instead of during the day could save you over £98 a year.”

If you want to benefit from cheaper overnight rates with Economy 7 –  but don’t want to wait up to start your washing at 11 pm or later – the easy option is to buy a plug-in timer.  

This means you can pre-set appliances to come on at fixed times and you can pick these up from around £5.49 at Screwfix or buy a set of three at Argos for £12.99.