Peak and off-peak electricity times

No one wants to pay more for their energy than they have too. So, is it cheaper to run your appliances at certain times of the day? Here’s what you need to know about peak and off-peak energy.

No one wants to pay more for their energy than they have too. So, is it cheaper to run your appliances at certain times of the day? Here’s what you need to know about peak and off-peak energy.

Sofia Hutson
From the Energy team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 18 MAY 2021

What are peak and off-peak times for electricity?

A few energy providers charge less for using electricity at certain times of day (or night). These off-peak hours tend to be quieter periods when power demands are at their lowest, for example, between 10pm and 8am. The name for this type of charging approach is time of use tariffs. The amount you pay depends on the time of day you use electricity.

But most energy suppliers charge a flat rate for electricity. So, no matter what time you turn on the dishwasher, it will cost you the same.

Why do power companies give cheaper prices for off-peak?

Off-peak prices originally came about in the days of coal-fired power stations. The power stations couldn’t easily be shut down overnight when demand was much lower so, to encourage the use of any excess power being generated, lower tariffs were introduced.

Nowadays, with the move to sustainable energy sources, power generators may find that more energy is being produced than is being used – at very windy times, for example. When this happens, energy prices fall – sometimes even to the point where the price goes below zero and suppliers are paid to take energy out of the grid. Some power companies are now testing to see whether they can pass these drops in prices on to their customers – so that you can potentially be paid for the energy you use!

How can I benefit from off-peak electricity?

To benefit from cheaper hours, you’ll need to be on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff. These offer you seven or 10 hours of cheaper electricity, and are a great option for those who use a lot of energy during the night. For example, if you have electric night storage heaters or charge an electric car overnight.

However, with Economy 7 and 10 tariffs, daytime rates can be steep, and you’ll only save money on these tariffs if you use at least 40% of your electricity at night.

Smart meter make it easier for power companies to measure how much power you’re using and when. This means that instead of just one cheap rate as with Economy 7 or Economy 10, time-of-use tariffs can have several different rates, increasing the potential amount of energy and money that can be saved.

Pioneering off-peak pricing is Green Energy UK with its Tide tariff. Power used between midnight and 7am is charged at a much lower rate, and users can lower their bills further by avoiding using electricity between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays.

Octopus Energy is going one step further with its Agile Octopus with Plunge Pricing tariff, which is currently being beta-tested with customers. You’ll be told when prices drop below zero and you can also programme your smart devices to get the message so they can take advantage of the situation too.

This type of time of use tariff could change strict on and off-peak times to something more flexible. And with smart meters, power companies could come up with even more innovative ideas for off-peak times.

It’s definitely worth comparing plans to see if you could save by using an off-peak tariff

When are the Economy 7 and Economy 10 off-peak times?

IIt will vary, depending on which energy supplier you’re with and where you live. It may also change depending on the time of year and might not be a continuous block of hours. Typically, you can expect it to fall somewhere between 10pm and 8am.

To find out your off-peak hours, call your energy supplier or check your bill.

Will using an off-peak tariff definitely be cheaper?

It depends. What matters is the price of the units and when you use the power. So if you have, say, an Economy 7 tariff, but tend to use most of your electricity during the day, you could be paying more than you would on a normal type of tariff.

Do some calculations – think about how much energy you use or could use during the night. It’s estimated that you need to use roughly 40% of your energy at night and have electric storage heaters for an off-peak tariff to really be worthwhile.

Storage heaters generally contain bricks that are warmed up overnight at cheap rates and then continue to release their heat during the next day. Some immersion heaters are also designed to be charged off-peak. Charging an electric vehicle overnight may also make the sums add up better.
With some time-of-use tariffs, the daytime rate can be nearly twice as much as the off-peak rate, so you’ll need to take into account how much you’ll use during peak times to see if it’s worthwhile.

How can I find out if I’m on an off-peak tariff?

Take a look at your electricity bill. If it shows both a day and a night rate, you’re on some kind of time of use tariff. You can also have a look at your meter. This might show two dials – one for peak and one for off-peak.

I want to switch from a peak-and-off-peak tariff to a single rate. How can I do this?

Compare with us to see what energy deals are available, and switch supplier or switch tariff.

You may need to have your meter changed. Most of the big suppliers will change the meter for free and are likely to give you the option of a smart meter too, which can help you monitor your power use better. If a potential supplier says they’ll charge you for installing a new meter, then why not see if you can find one who’ll do it for free?

My situation has changed and I now use more power during the day. What should I do?

Many people found themselves using more power during the day as they were furloughed or working from home during the pandemic. If you’re one of them, check with your supplier to see how much you’re using and how much it’s costing you.

With high daytime rates you might spend less if you switch to a single tariff option. Don’t leave it too long or you could find yourself with an expensive bill.

Should I use my appliances at night?

Not according to the London Fire Brigade, who attend an appliance-related fire every day. And night-time fires are far more dangerous and likely to spread while you’re asleep.

But if you’re up and awake, it could be more cost-efficient to run the washing machine or the tumble drier as you get ready for bed, or first-thing in the morning, if you get up early. You could even use timers to switch on appliances at the same time your alarm goes off.

How much do my appliances cost to use?

This will depend on your appliances and how efficient they are. With some appliances it will also depend on whether you leave them on standby or turn them off fully.

When you’re buying new appliances, one of the factors it’s worth taking into account is the energy rating. These became rather confusing as A+ A++ and A+++ ratings were introduced but, since 1 March 2021, a revamped rating system has been in place.

The ratings now run A to G with A being the highest. This should enable you to see how an appliance compares with similar ones based on the latest standards.

How can I cut the cost of my electricity?

Make sure you know your off-peak and peak times and try to concentrate your power use in the off-peak period. And make sure your supplier tells you when your meter switches from one tariff to the other. Getting it wrong by just a few minutes every day could really add up over the course of a year.

Also be aware that the meter may not change when the clocks do.

If you have storage radiators, make sure you know how they work so that you can store heat during the night and release it during the day.

If off-peak tariffs aren’t for you, there are other ways to cut your energy bills, such as:

  • Don’t use your tumble dryer. It’s much cheaper to dry clothes on the line
  •  Don’t charge your phone unnecessarily. When it’s at 100%, unplug it.
  • Don’t leave gadgets on standby. Unplugging them completely will save you money.
  •  Draught-proof your doors and fit curtains or blinds
  •  Use solar-powered lights outside.

Can I shop around for cheaper tariffs if I’m on Economy 7 or Economy 10?

Yes – and it’s always worth comparing. But you might find it more difficult if you’re looking for an alternative Economy 10 tariff, as there tends to be less choice. You can compare Economy 7 tariffs with Compare the Market, but unfortunately we don’t compare Economy 10 tariffs.

There are a few smaller suppliers that offer Economy 10 tariffs, so it might be an idea to contact them directly to see if you could save.

Compare energy suppliers

Compare energy suppliers in minutes and you could start saving.

Get a quote
Compare energy suppliers in minutes and you could start saving Get a quote