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Variable rate credit meter
Variable, or off-peak, electricity credit meters record different rates or ‘tariffs’ at different times of day or night. Night-time off-peak electricity usage is generally cheaper than on-peak day usage. The most common type of variable rate credit meter is known as Economy 7 in England and Wales and sometimes referred to as white meter in Scotland (see below).
Suppliers offer different systems, depending on your supply area, and these may change from time to time. Ask your supplier for information on the type of system it operates.
Economy 7/white meter
Economy 7/white meter is a scheme allowing you to pay for your electricity at two different rates or ‘tariffs’. You need a special meter, usually an Economy 7 credit meter, but in some areas Economy 7 prepayment meters are available as well. A white meter is a similar type of meter which preceded Economy 7 meters. They are still common in Scotland but are being phased out elsewhere.
Electricity is charged for at two different rates per unit, with a lower rate at night. The daytime rate is charged at a higher rate than the standard rate for credit meters. The standing charge is often higher than for credit meters. The amount of the charges varies from supplier to supplier.
Consider changing to an Economy 7/white meter if you use electricity to heat your home and to heat water overnight. You may also be able to make savings in your fuel costs if you run electrical appliances (such as washing machines and tumble dryers) overnight, usually by setting a timer to ensure the appliances operate within the optimum time band. If you have an electric vehicle, it may be cheaper to charge it on an off-peak tariff.
The higher standing charge and higher daytime rate may counterbalance any savings made if your night-time use of electricity is not large enough. Look carefully at the amount of electricity you use during the day and night, and at the rates, to establish if an Economy 7/white meter would save you money. Suppliers should have specialist staff to advise you.
Time of use (off peak) tariffs and meter clocks
There have been problems with time clocks for some meters which have left customers out of pocket. Consumer organisation Which? Carried out an investigation in 2014 into faulty meter clocks.1 The problem is largely down to the clocks on some meters not changing for GMT or BST at the appropriate time of year (some will change automatically) and, as a result, time-of-use tariffs are not charged correctly. Power cuts may also affect the clocks that control switchover times.
It is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure metering equipment is correct so if you suspect there might be a fault, contact your energy company. Suppliers are not required to specifically check meter clocks, but Ofgem rules mean they must take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy in terms of the amount of electricity supplied.2Sch 7 EA 1989; SLCs
If necessary, the accuracy of the meter can be checked by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).