HOUSEHOLDS can cut up to £120 a year off their energy bills by switching to an economy tariff.
If you use more electricity at night than you do in the day, you can make big savings by switching to a time-of-use rate.
Reducing energy costs is a priority for millions of households as the average annual gas and electricity bill has soared by almost £700.
The energy price cap increased 54% last week, rising to £1,971.
That's an average figure, though, and the amount you'll be charged depends on your tariff and the amount of energy you use.
One way to reduce your bills could be to switch to an economy 7 meter.
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Those tariffs offer customers cheaper energy at night, but the day time rate is usually higher than average.
That means if you can switch your electricity use to night time hours, you could make savings.
It won't work for everyone, as some people won't be able to shift enough of their electricity use to the cheaper hours.
But if you can, you could save around £120 a year.
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If you use too much energy during the day time, you could actually end up increasing your bills.
Bear in mind that it is dangerous to run electrical appliances while you're asleep as they can be a fire hazard.
So you should make sure you will be awake for at least some of the time that you get cheaper electricity.
Justina Miltienyte, head of policy at Uswitch.com, said: "For households on economy 7 tariffs, it is possible to make savings by running certain appliances overnight because the cost of energy is cheaper."
We explain how much you could save and which firms offer these tariffs.
What are economy tariffs?
Economy tariffs charge different rates for electricity during the day compared to the night time.
If you have an economy 7 meter, you'll get seven hours at the lower rate.
This is usually somewhere between 10pm and 9am but this will vary depending on your supplier and where you live.
Check with your supplier exactly which hours will be charged at the lower rate before you switch.
How much could I save?
It's possible to make savings with an economy tariff if you use more electricity at night.
But if you switch and use too much energy in the day time, you could actually end up with bigger bills.
So you should carefully consider your energy usage before you make a decision.
If you switch and successfully shift your electricity usage to the hours when you get cheaper rates, you could save up to £120 a year.
For example, if you run your washing machine at night on an economy 7 tariff, it could cost just 60p compared to 88p on a standard tariff – a saving of 28p.
Assuming you did two washes per week, you would save £29 a year, figures from Uswitch show.
But if you run it during the day on an economy 7 tariff it would be more expensive, costing 93p per 90 minute cycle.
If you used a dishwasher during your cheaper rate hours on an economy 7, it would cost 49p for a two-hour cycle.
That's 22p cheaper than the 71p it would cost for households on a standard meter.
If you used it every day, you could save £80 a year.
If you get up early to use your lower rate hours in the morning, you can also save money when you're making breakfast.
You'll save 1p on using the toaster and 2p boiling the kettle.
It doesn't sound like much, but if you did that every day it would save almost £11 over the course of a year.
In total, someone making all of those changes consistently over a year would save £120.
The actual amount you'll save depends on your supplier, the rate they give you, where you live and the efficiency of your appliances.
We haven't included the cost of heating or cooking, as most people won't be able to do those things during the night and many households use gas rather than electricity.
You could save money by installing storage heaters, which charge up overnight and can be used to heat your home during the day.
However, the upfront expense of doing that would cost hundreds of pounds and mains gas is likely to be cheaper anyway.
Which energy suppliers offer Economy 7 tariffs?
Octopus offers tariffs for customers with Economy 7 meters.
Customers with an Economy 7 meter can choose between its standard variable tariff ‘Flexible Octopus’ and its fixed tariff ‘Octopus Fixed’.
Standard variable tariffs are currently thecheaper option as they are protected by the price cap.
On the flexible tariff, the average day unit rate is 29p per kWh.
At night it's 20p, and the average standing charge is 43p.
Existing and new customers can switch to the tariff and Octopus will install a two-rate meter for you if you need one.
Customers with a two-rate meter can get an Economy 7 tariff with Bulb.
It's available to new and existing customers, and if you don't have the right meter the company can install one for you free of charge.
The rates will vary by region so you'll have to look up the day and night rate for your area online.
For example, in London the electricity day unit rate is 33.68p and the night unit rate is 19.49p for direct debit customers.
The standing charge in the capital is 32.22p – £117.63 a year.
Using a Manchester post code, we found the day rate unit rate was 31.03p per kWh and it was 20.03p at night.
The standing charge is £154.51 a year, or 42.33p a day.
British Gas can said it can support economy 7 meters with a cheaper overnight rate and a dearer charge during the day.
The supplier can also swap your meter if you want to switch.
It didn't confirm what the rates would be but the standard variable tariff is protected by the price cap.
What other help can I get with my energy bills?
If you're struggling with your energy bills but don't think an economy 7 meter is for you, there are other ways to reduce your costs.
Your first step should be to contact your energy supplier.
They may be able to change your payment plan or check if you're eligible for their hardship fund.
For example, British Gas and Octopus have both set up funds to help customers who are struggling with their bills.
British Gas announced last week that it has added an extra £2million to the pot of cash set aside to help customers.
You should also check that you're getting all the benefits you're entitled to.
Use an online benefits calculator to make sure you're not missing out on any extra cash.
Similarly, you can search for grants that can help you pay for gas and electricity bills.
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The government recently announced an extension to the Household Support Fund to help families with the rising cost of living.
Contact your local council to find out what support is available in your area.
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