When Is It Cheaper To Use Electricity In UK?

With energy prices soaring not just in the UK but also around the world, we looked at whether there’s a cheaper time to use electricity. It turns out the only way you can save money on the cost of your electricity is if you are on an off-peak tariff. Let’s look at this in more detail.

What Is An Off-peak Tariff?

An off-peak tariff is, as its name suggests, a tariff for using electricity when it’s off-peak. The peak demand periods for electricity are during daylight hours and specifically between 7pm and midnight. Off-peak tariffs traditionally were set for usage between midnight and 7am which is when there is the least demand for domestic electricity.

This all started over 40 years ago when power stations relied on coal for powering the electricity supply. They used more to create power during the night and so they set up these off-peak deals to encourage people to use more energy overnight. Storage heaters would be turned on overnight, using cheaper electricity and burned during the day to be recharged again the following night.

There are still two-rate meter deals available but to make them pay, you will need to use more power at night than during the day. Tariffs like Economy7 and Time Of Use (TOU) work on the principle that you will operate lots of electrical appliances during these off-peak hours. They often charge substantially more for daytime usage so they’re only really beneficial if you use 40% or more of your electricity during the night.

Are Off-Peak Tariffs Definitely Cheaper?

Whether off-peak tariffs are cheaper for you will depend on when you use electricity the most. If for example you have Economy7 (which gives cheaper power between midnight and 7am) but use most of your electricity during the daytime and early evening you could be paying more than if you were on a standard tariff. This is because the day time charges for these off-peak tariffs are often far greater than standard rates.

To make these off-peak tariffs pay you would at least need to have storage heaters and use your appliances throughout the night. However, it’s not considered to be safe to leave electrical appliances running through the night while you are asleep. So unless you plan on sitting up through the night while your washing machine is running through its cycle, you might do better returning to a standard tariff.

Comparing Economy7 Tariffs With General Standard Tariffs 

During the year from April 2019 to April 2020 the average price for electricity at the standard rate in the UK was 16.36 pence per KwH. The off-peak rate for Economy7 was 9.76 pence per KwH and the day rate was 20.03 pence per KwH. This means that even though the night or off-peak rate is considerably lower, the day rate was around 4 pence per KwH more expensive.

The bottom line is, you need to use at least 40% of your electricity through the night to make a two-tier tariff pay.

Be Aware Of Fire Hazards

It’s not that using electricity is more dangerous during the hours of darkness, just that you’re less likely to detect a fire if you’re asleep than if you were pottering about during the day. The London Fire Brigade attend at least one fire per day attributed to a domestic electrical appliance, so it makes sense not to leave these appliances unattended whilst in operation.

Washing Machine

Can I Switch To A Standard Tariff?

If you are on a two-tier tariff and you find it’s costing you more than you would pay on a standard tariff, you might wish to switch to a standard tariff. This is a relatively easy task just contact your energy supplier or compare prices with another energy supplier and take it from there. 

You will probably need to get your meter changed, but most of the large energy companies will do this for free and most will likely give you the option of installing a smart meter. If another supplier says they will charge you for changing the meter, shop around, you might find one that will install a new meter for free.

Smart Meter Savings

Having a smart meter in your home makes it easier for the energy companies to measure the amount of power you are using and when you’re using it. This is beneficial to you too because you can actually see the amount of energy you’re using and what uses the most energy etc. That means there’s the potential for more savings due to various TOU tariff rates to save both energy and money. 

How Much Do Appliances Cost To Run?

There are a number of variables here, it all depends on the appliances you own, how you use them etc. When buying new appliances check the energy rating. The old system was getting slightly confusing so in 2021 a new rating system was introduced. The new system runs from A to G with A being the most efficient and G the least. This allows you to make comparisons between products on not only the cost price but also the running costs.

How Can I Lower My Electricity Costs?

Be aware of any off-peak rates that might apply to your power supply and use as much power as you need to during this period. If you are on an off-peak rating and you don’t use much energy during off-peak times, get your meter changed to a standard rating. Other ways to save on your energy bills include;

  • Don’t leave appliances on stand-by. Turn off all electrical appliances that are not being currently used. Only turn them on as and when you need them.
  • Don’t overcharge your phone, laptop, ipad etc, once they’re fully charged unplug them and turn the power supply off.
  • Dry washing on a clothesline not in a tumble dryer.
  • Use cooler wash programs on your washing machine and only wash full wash loads.
  • Only use the dishwasher once it is completely full.
  • Clean your dishwasher and washing machine every month or so to prolong their lifespan and make sure they’re running at their best and most efficient.
  • Always buy the most energy efficient appliances you can afford.
  • Draught-proof your home and insulate your loft.
  • Turn off lights during the day
  • Use solar powered lights outdoors in the garden, porch etc.

It is estimated that you can save up to around £200 per year on your electricity bill just by following the above examples.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is electricity cheaper at night in the UK?

Electricity is only cheaper at night in the UK if you are on a two-tier rate like Economy7 or TOU.

What time is off-peak electricity in the UK?

Off-peak electricity is available in the UK between the hours of 10pm and 8am depending on which supplier you are with. It could be from 11pm to 7am or it might start at midnight. Check with your energy provider to find out the exact times in your area.

Should I have an Economy 7 meter?

Economy7 is good if you have storage heaters and you can use 40% of your electricity through the off-peak period. If not you could be paying more for your energy than using a standard rate.

Is gas cheaper at night in the UK?

Gas is charged at the same rate to the consumer night and day in the UK. There is no option for cheaper gas at different times of the day or night.

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