/ Home & Energy

Are you losing money due to faulty electricity meter clocks?

Clock with light

They say time is money. But would you be surprised to hear that simply checking the clock on your electricity meter could save you hundreds of pounds a year? Clocks showing the wrong time are going unnoticed…

That’s the experience of a number of Which? members who have told us about problems with time-of-use tariffs, such as Economy 7 or Economy 10.

These types of tariff offer electricity at a cheaper rate during some hours and a higher one the rest of the time.

So, if your meter clock is wrong, you may find you’ve been charged over-the-odds for what you thought was cheaper electricity.

That’s what happened to Which? member Gary Day, who told us he found his own and his neighbours’ meter clocks were up to three hours out.

Thousands in over-payments

GaryRetired engineer Gary only spotted the problem when he went away for a few months, leaving just his heating on during the low-rate hours. When he returned he was shocked to discover a bill showing he had used most of his electricity at the higher rate.

Gary then found his and his neighbours’ clocks were all telling the wrong time and has told us how they won back about £2,300 in over-payments from supplier Swalec. He told us:

‘I have only checked four meters and every single one of them was wrong. I am horrified that there are probably hundreds of others that have these clock errors and don’t realise it.’

Checking your clock

Swalec said staff don’t have to check the clocks when they read meters – but added if they happen to notice any problems they must report them.

Unless the customer owns the meter, it is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure meter clocks are correct. However, current rules don’t require suppliers to check the clocks.

They do say suppliers must take ‘reasonable steps’ to ensure the accuracy of the amount and time the electricity was supplied – but this isn’t exactly the same thing.

If you suspect your electricity meter is faulty, the supplier must investigate. But this means the emphasis is on you to check.

And that’s not always simple. Peak and off-peak times vary between tariffs, regions and seasons. Add the fact that the clock can be hard to find on many meters and it can become a pretty tricky task.

Do you think it’s fair that suppliers don’t have to check the accuracy of clocks? Have you found that your own clock is inaccurate?

Comments
bishbut says:
2 October 2017

Many timers are run by electricity so when your electric goes off the clock stops and does not start until the power returns so the time will be wrong until it’s reset Check all timers frequently

Steve says:
12 February 2018

My meter measures all the electricity I use on the day rate. The night rate reading hasn’t changed since I moved in. I called the supplier and their guy said the meter cannot charge me the day rate at night, so I must be getting my night-time electricity free. I suspect this is not the case, and have decided I will turn all my heating on after midnight one night and check the day rate reading before and after (no need to check the night rate reading – it hasn’t changed in two years

If your supplier will not take action then you could contact Citizens Advice or the Energy Ombudsman. You should be able to claim back the estimated amount that you have overpaid.

Mark says:
15 April 2018

I have a big proble which I suppose has been going in since I have lived in my property 20 years I am on econ 10 tariff and recently installed smart meter I now notice I am paying full rate instead of off peak if this Han being doing this for 20 years am I entitled to a rebate and compensation

I suggest you start by contacting your energy supplier, Mark. From what I have read, Economy 10 was not available until 2004. Unless you have evidence that the meter clock has been wrong for years I suspect that it will be difficult to make a claim beyond the date of the last meter reading. If it is difficult to check the time settings on your meter then that will help your case.

Clocks that are kept accurate by radio signals are commonplace and inexpensive, so I wonder why problems with meter clocks still exist. Some sort of aerial might be needed for them to work in older properties where meters are often under the stairs.

Wavechange I have just had a new boiler installed by BG , I talked to the electrician about the Hive unit connected to the hall temperature regulator remotely ( same frequency as a Microwave oven unlike the previous one ) I told him -no way do I want a “smart meter or will allow it but they arent my supplier anyway , I asked about the transmission of BG smart-meters and to my surprise he said BG ones connect to the INTERNET via a unit attached to the router/modem NOT via external RF transmission to a receiver . This makes sense as our regional council emergency alarm system operates via the telephone system with a special unit and picks up smoke sensors in the home and relay,s it to a control centre as well as voice operated . Data is then controlled by the internet including time .

Debbie gunter says:
19 December 2018

Did you get this sorted , I have lived in the same house for over 20yrs with off peak hearing and water , I have only just realized that my off peak reading is over 100x more than my regular , there has been a constant ongoing battle with British gas to check my tariff , they will stop at nothing to lie to you , I have tested the fuse box with one of those beeping testers , really cheap from diy if it’s beeping in the day the same as your regular fuse box it’s live and you are better no ripped off !

Debbie one sure way BG cant argue with you is if you buy a digital display CLAMP meter .
Set it at AC current >open jaws >clamp wire conductor > read reading .
You dont have to buy an expensive one even cheap ones are pretty accurate , they will give the current flow in the cable in AMPS from that you can deduce amp/hours and the wattage =
1000WATTS= 4.16 AMPS (approx ) .read-

https://www.laserlevelhub.net/how-to-use-clamp-meter/
take a photo of the reading this will be the main output cable from the off-peak meter.

Robin Bailey says:
21 February 2018

A variation here – yes the time clock was wrong & SSE came & adjusted. We still thought something wrong with our bill as similar properties bills were much lower on average. Called our electrician who checked everything , no faults. He then switched all our power off at the distribution boards. Result – meter is clocking 20-21 units per day with nothing switched on. SSE cannot get here for a month ! I am recording meter readings daily but how I prove we are not using power I do not know. We are not living in the property at the moment.

Hiten Master says:
7 April 2018

Appliances on timer? Is your meter in a communal area because you can do a kettle/burns test to correctly identify it’s your meter.
If faulty, report the meter fault to your current supplier. They may change your meter and monitor the usage for a year before re-estimating what has been used the previous year assuming all previous bills have been paid.

Debbie gunter says:
19 December 2018

Record on your phone !!

Debbie gunter says:
19 December 2018

Not possible as only feeds heating and water no power points

Adam says:
29 March 2019

All electricity used during the Economy 7 period is charged at the lower night rate (not just the heating and water feeds that only switch on at night). So it’s worth running other appliances at night if it’s convenience as it will be cheaper.

TK says:
3 July 2019

It is important to not blindly “running other appliances at night” but to compare the displayed time on the E7 dual rate meter, confirm what rate it is showing you are in is at the correct displayed times and translate those night rate/cheaper rate start and end times to the real world time whether it be GMT or BST and adapt your other high consumption appliance use to fit well within the measured night rate/cheaper rate time period…. also periodically check the meters time to see if its continuing to slip further out of sync and adjust schedules accordingly. DO NOT ASSUME your E7 period is at the advertised times as in many cases it will not be and if you have a separate timer for say an overnight charged immersion heater its time should match that of the E7 Meters timer if its not you could end up charging the immersion heater with peak rate measured electricity due to the time mismatch.

Hiten Master says:
7 April 2018

Economy 7 meters have a 2 hour allowance either way from the clock on the meter because they don’t adjust automatically to incorporate summer and winter times. Adjust the timings on your appliances to the meter to benefit from the off-peak rate. Sorted.

Debbie gunter says:
19 December 2018

Mine is 12 hrs out

If your meter is 12 hours out Debbie I can understand the big bills . This can be changed , if digital remotely by the company automatically .

Adam says:
29 March 2019

12 hours out is beneficial to the customer as most people use more electricity during the day and all electricity used during the Economy 7 period is charged at the lower rate.

TK says:
3 July 2019

12 hours out on an E7 meter CAN be beneficial to the customer as long as there is no independent timer running at the correct time and controlling a high consumption appliance and switching it on during the NORMAL E7 time period because at normal E7 time period the E7 meter with the faulty clock with the wrong time will be counting electricity consumption during the formal E7 time period will be counted as peak rate usage which is NOT beneficial to the customer EVER!

12 hours out on an E7 meter can be beneficial IF the customer knows the real start and end times of the E7 night rate metering and adjusts ALL of their high consumption appliances including independently timed immersion heaters to run during the revised E7 night rate metering period AND the timer inaccuracy is regularly monitored.

Louise Houghton says:
9 November 2018

I have just realised the timer on my 2-reading meter is faulty when my energy provider said they would be increasing my direct debit. This was at the same time as arranging to have a Smart meter installed. We are super careful with how much energy we use and convinced we have been charged too much, at some point. They are going to carry out a financial/meter reading check for a few weeks to see if I have been overcharged. I also find it hard to chose the correct tariff for our house as we have a solid fuel Rayburn we use in the winter months and an emersion heater in the summer.

Debbie gunter says:
19 December 2018

This is disgusting , to continue ignoring consumers even though it’s clearly obvious there is a problem even getting warrants to remove meter once you are pushed into fuel poverty so they can add their overcharging onto your key meter and dispose of the evidence , harassment from phone calls then debt collectors all whilst people are trying to get some sense from their suppliers , shame on the fuel giants and the share holders that expect their data bonus this Christmas whilst families can’t afford to heat their homes , shame on you

I have been plagued with problems since moving to my property in 1988; my economy 7 immersion heaters keep burning out and cost a fortune to replace; plumbers and electricians say that it because either the heater is affected by the scale that builds up at the bottom of the cylinder, or that it has to “work Harder” than the other, day-unit heater, because it is at the bottom of the tank where the water is colder; now my economy 7 night-storage panel-heater’s thermal cut-out keeps “tripping out”; one engineer said he thought there was an “intermittent problem with the telecom switch supplied by the electricity supplier”; all the houses on my estate were equipped with the economy 7 electricity; I am so far the only one who has not converted to gas central and water heating (I had a bad experience with gas at my last home); has anyone else had these problems?

I do not use Economy 7, but I’m not convinced you have been given good advice. Immersion heaters don’t usually go down to the bottom of the tank. I wonder if the tradesman estimated the amount of scale using a stick when the old heater was removed. A thermal cut-out is a safety device to provide protection against overheating, so there is likely to be a problem with the temperature controller if the thermal cut-out is operating.

Gas heating is normally significantly cheaper to operate, but installation of a radiator based system is quite disruptive. Unless there is gas in the house you are likely to have to pay for a connection.

TK says:
2 June 2019

What about potentially faulty Economy 7 relay that is sticking ON so heaters remain powered long after the night rate timer has switched off and normal day rate has started… who is responsible for the repair/replacement of the relay? The landlord or the current electricity supplier?

TK says:
2 June 2019

This article seems to be confusing timers… if the Economy 7 Meters internal timer is out it makes no difference other than providing the night rate power at the non-standard time… which could be very handy depending upon your premises and sleeping times as the power company gets no indication of the error and you will be billed just fine IF that is the only timer involved and the connected Economy 7 relay is functioning normally. If the time error is in your favour do not get a smart meter installed as that will put E7 time period back to unhelpful normal. The problem arises if you if you have an independent secondary or even tertiary timer controlling immersion heaters or other high energy devices like washing machines and their timer is not synchronised to the main E7 timer and the power is provided from the consumer unit and not the night rate storage heater feed… just sync up the timers and fine tune the exact times during the off schedule night rate period to avoid wasting power.

keith haworth says:
12 June 2019

Moved from SSE to Bulb early this year, then discovered the analogue timer for the Economy 7 was running a 26 hour cycle so constantly changing and impossible to set my immersion heater timer. The house is warm some mornings then as the days go by it’s cold in the morning warm in the evening.
Contacted Bulb in January, they say they have no meters and that the timer and meter needs to be changed. Latest email resulted in them advising me to move to another service supplier who may have access to meters and therefore be able to resolve the problem. Unbelievable!

TK says:
14 June 2019

How about requesting an economy 7 smart meter? I just called up bulb customer support and the agent said the currently offered smart meter does support economy 7 installations as well as their beta 3 tier Smart tariff that might be usable if the smart meter can signal the night rate relay properly.

Margaret Basset says:
12 June 2019

I also switched to Bulb from EDF and when I asked for the E7 analogue timer to be be corrected they sent a Siemens engineer who couldn’t fit the new meter/timer without me getting the solar installation moved which cost me £250 from EEC. Then Bulb said they couldn’t supply a new meter and suggested I switch supplier. I realise I can benefit from the cheap rate coming on during the day, but conversely because I have solar panels I am paying the high rate at night when the solar isn’t working.

Sue says:
17 June 2019

Hi , my electric meter clock is 7 hours behind the correct time and I do my washing at night and use a dehumidifier…I have economy 7 … … I don’t know whether to let anyone know .. or if I am due any compensation .??????

Shhh.🤫

I suggest you apply for compensation. It might be difficult to prove how long the meter clock has been wrong for, but in view of the fact that the company is responsible for maintaining the equipment, you should be given the benefit of the doubt.

Why would you expect compensation when cheap rate has crept into peak rate? Running machines at night when asleep is not much better than running them unattended. Washing machines can leak and dehumidifiers can collect dust and catch fire if not maintained regularly.

Sue mentions compensation, so I assume she has been running the machine when cheap rate should apply but being charged full rate because the meter clock was wrong.

I am strongly opposed to leaving washing machines, dryers and dishwashers on at night and when out of the home because of the fire risk. As you say, leakage is another risk.

Many years ago I lived in a rented flat and discovered that the landlord’s meter was set to charge about four times the permissible rate. Once it had been reset I calculated what I had been overcharged and deducted it from the next rent payment. I had been overpaying for a matter of weeks but the landlords other tenants might have been overpaying for months or even years to heat their flats.

“Compensation” seems the name of the game these days – often plus “automatic”. I think it is fine to compensate people for a real and definable loss, with maybe a goodwill payment for the effort in determining it. I don’t think it is fine for everyone to be “compensated” if they have not suffered any real loss. Remember who coughs up the compensation money in the end – all the other customers.

However…

I suggest Sue looks first at her off peak (night-time) energy use compared to her normal daytime use. Unless it is about the same, or more, she may be paying more than necessary for her energy (daytime rates on economy 7 are substantially more expensive than a normal tariff).

In this case ‘compensation’ would be recovery of the estimated overpayment that has resulted because the company’s meter clock was set incorrectly. If Sue has been overcharged, then she has suffered a real loss.

I agree. I was commenting on the current fashion that we should automatically be compensated, not on Sue’s particular circumstance. as I said “I think it is fine to compensate people for a real and definable loss…“.

There is no loss. You get 7 hours of cheap electric at night that has lapsed into peak rate so you are in effect paying less than you should be as you use more electricity during the daytime.

I think of it as getting compensation for the inconvenience of the power cut and the more you go on about it, the more likely that little perk will end.

When I got back holiday a couple of years ago I was compensated “automatically” for the loss of our water supply – due to a major mains emergency repair. It didn’t affect us as we had been away at the time. We don’t seem to appreciate who pays the compensation.

As you say, alfa, we do not know whether Sue suffered a real loss or a gain, but the compensation bandwagon culture that organisations seem to campaign for kicks in. I believe we should be required to demonstrate a loss before claiming compensation, and the process for doing that should be the one to make straightforward and fair.

Automatic compensation was brought in for regulated utilities, especially in the case of monopolies like water companies, in order (a) to encourage them to be more efficient and reliable in delivering their services because defaults would be penalised, and (b) because they had been somewhat disobliging and tardy in handling claims for recompense for the inconvenience experienced. The intention, of course, would be that the payments and the cost of administering them would hit their profits and not impact on customers.

While I deplore the compo culture that has led to unjustified and exaggerated claims I do believe there should be a mechanism for redressing deficiencies in the provision of a service which, unlike goods, cannot be returned or rejected. It is about the only form of rectification that can be applied immediately and does have a corrective effect in due course. I do not accept that for compensation to be payable there has to be a loss quantifiable in money terms; inconvenience can be minor or cause hardship. In many households today without an indirect cold water tank the unplanned loss of the mains supply, even for an hour or so, can be a serious problem.