Peak and off-peak electricity times

No one wants to pay more for their electricity than they have to – especially in the middle of an energy price crisis. 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 electricity than they have to – especially in the middle of an energy price crisis. 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
Utilities expert
minute read
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Last Updated 8 JUNE 2022

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 demand is at its 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 or washing machine, it will cost you the same.

Can I reduce my bills by using more electricity at night? 

Soaring energy costs have understandably left millions of households looking for ways to save as much money as possible on their utility bills. But is using more electricity at night a good way to go about it?

It really depends on the type of tariff you’re on. Certain tariffs, like Economy 7 and more modern smart off-peak plans, are designed to save you money overnight when electricity costs less because fewer people are using it.

Homes on these tariffs need either a dual-rate meter or a smart meter, which can record how much electricity you’re using at different times of the day. This allows your supplier to charge you a cheaper rate during off-peak times. 

You can take advantage of this type of tariff by using appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers on the cheaper rate. You can also save money by charging your devices including smartphones and laptops overnight. Electric vehicle owners can benefit too by charging their cars overnight.

Should I use my appliances at night?

Not according to the 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 tumble dryer 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 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 - every March and October.

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.

How can I benefit from off-peak electricity?

To benefit from cheaper hours to run your appliances, you’ll need to be on an off-peak or time-of-use tariff. Here are a few examples: 

Economy 7 and Economy 10 

An Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff offers you seven or 10 hours of cheaper electricity, respectively. They’re a great option for those who use a lot of energy during the night. For example, if you have electric night storage heaters. But 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.

Green Energy UK’s Tide tariff 

Smart meters make it easier for providers 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.

With Green Energy UK’s Tide tariff, power used between midnight and 7am is charged at a much lower rate. Users can also lower their bills further by avoiding using electricity between 4pm and 8pm on weekdays. 

Agile Octopus 

Octopus Energy has gone one step further with its Agile Octopus with Plunge Pricing tariff. You’ll be alerted when prices drop below zero and can programme your smart devices so they can take advantage of the situation too. The idea is that you save money when wholesale prices fall. But in the current climate, Octopus says that rates are ‘consistently high’, so most households will be better off on a standard variable or fixed tariff for now. 

Going forward, this type of time-of-use tariff could change strict on and off-peak times to something more flexible.

Will using an off-peak tariff definitely be cheaper?

Not necessarily. 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.

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.

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

Under normal circumstances, it’s always worth comparing tariffs to make sure you’re on the best deal for your household. But as the energy crisis continues, most experts recommend sticking with your current supplier for the time being.

So if you’re looking to save costs, you’re likely to be better off finding other ways to save energy.

Frequently asked questions

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

It’ll 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. You can typically expect it to fall somewhere between 10pm and 8am.

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

How much do my appliances cost to use?

This will depend on your appliances and how efficient they are.

When you’re buying new appliances, look at the energy ratings. These run from A to G, with A being the most efficient. This should enable you to see how an appliance compares with similar ones based on the latest standards.

How do I switch from a peak-and-off-peak tariff to a single rate?

Check if your current provider will let you move to a single-rate 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.

Normally, you’d also be able to compare with us to see what energy deals are available, and switch supplier or switch tariff. But unfortunately, we’re not offering this service at the moment because there are few, if any, deals that are cheaper than the energy price cap.

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

Many people now work from home some or all of the time. If you’re one of them, check with your supplier to see how much electricity you’re using and how much your off-peak tariff is costing you. With higher daytime rates, you might spend less if you switch from a time-of-use tariff to a single tariff option.