Traditional storage heaters and electric heating systems that use an electric boiler and radiators can be an expensive way to heat your home. In Scotland, many electric heating systems work with special electricity meters (called non-Economy 7 restricted meters). These meters limit the range of tariffs available to choose from.
Under rules introduced in 2017 by Ofgem, the government regulator for gas and electricity markets in Great Britain, many consumers with electric heating may have more suppliers and tariffs to choose from than before. Electricity meters, billing and restricted meter types can be confusing and that can make it difficult to decide what option is right for you.
What are restricted meters?
All the electricity you use is recorded by your meter, with the number of units (kWh) used, so your energy supplier can bill accurately. Meters are either credit meters or prepayment meters. A restricted meter, or a non-standard meter, is a meter where energy customers are charged different rates for electricity at certain times of the day. One rate is often restricted to just your heating, or just your heating and hot water. On your bill, you might see this written as the control, or heat, rate.
Examples of restricted meter tariffs include:
- Total Heat with Total Control (THTC)
- Total Living Control, Standard Economy and Heating Load
- Restricted Hours, ComfortPlus White Meter
- ComfortPlus White Meter with Weathercall
- ComfortPlus Control, Economy 10, and
- Economy 2000.
If you’re not sure what type of meter you’ve got, your supplier should be able to help. Ask them to check the Standard Settlement Configuration of your meter(s).
See Home Energy Scotland’s factsheet on electricity meters, billing and restricted meter types for help in identifying your meter type.
Am I covered by Ofgem's rules?
Ofgem’s rules currently only apply to some types of non-Economy 7 restricted meters. For example, prepayment meters currently aren’t included.
You’ll probably be covered by Ofgem’s rules if you get a bill from your electricity supplier and you have:
- more than one electricity meter; or
- an electricity meter with more than 2 meter readings (e.g. if the reading labelled “Total” is different to the sum of “Rate 1” and “Rate 2”; or
- a 2-rate electricity meter that provides you with more than 8.5 hours of cheaper electricity overnight, or periods of cheaper electricity during the day
What are Ofgem's rules?
Ofgem’s rules mean if you have the right kind of electricity meter, certain suppliers must offer you all their single rate tariffs without requiring you to change your meter.
This means that the supplier should charge you one price for all the electricity you use, regardless of the time of day or what you use that electricity for, and only one standing charge – even if you have more than one electricity meter.
This option won’t be suitable for everyone, but, for some people, moving to a single rate tariff may be something you wish to explore. You’ll need to do some arithmetic to work out whether a single rate tariff could work for you, so it’s important to know how much electricity you use across each of your meter registers and how much your energy costs before deciding – you may not be able to go back to your old tariff if you change your mind!
Suppliers must also continue to offer you any bespoke tariffs they have that can support your meter type, although (unless it’s a single rate tariff), it could involve multiple standing charges, so be sure to check with the supplier for all tariff details.
Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can provide you with free, impartial advice about energy suppliers and tariffs.
My supplier isn’t offering a single rate tariff, or I can’t find one that will accept me – what can I do?
All energy suppliers with over 50,000 customers must comply with these rules. A list of obligated suppliers can be found on the Ofgem website.
It’s important to remember that you can make a complaint against an energy company even if they are not your supplier. For example, if a supplier says they can’t supply your meter type, ask them to explain why. If you’re not happy with the answer, you have the right to make a complaint. Make sure any complaints are clear, formal and in writing.
You can get support in making a complaint on the Citizens Advice for Scotland website.
If you’ve already made a formal complaint and tried to work with the energy supplier to resolve it, you can access the Energy Ombudsman service for support. To access the service, you will need to have received a deadlock (final position) letter from your supplier or if your complaint has been in progress for more than eight weeks and remains unresolved. They are contactable by: Telephone: 0330 440 1624; or via this webform.
If you’re struggling with the cost of your electric heating, there are lots of other ways to get back in charge of your energy bills. For example, you may be able to change to a different type of electricity meter, though you should seek advice before doing this as there may be costs involved and it might affect how your heating system works. You may also be able to save money by upgrading or changing your heating system, or by improving the energy efficiency of your home. There may be financial support to help you with this.