Vari-Fair vs Smart tariff

Good Morning, Im trying to understand if there is any benefit to switching over. We have a smart meter which is currently being checked for compatibility. If this is compatible we will be eligible for the Smart tariff pricing, which is currently 11.28p per kWh off peak and 41.44p per kWh peak time.
This is where I am confused, peak time seems to be quite a leap from Vari-Fair which has a flat unit rate of 13.59 per kWh. Unless we use a lot of energy off peak we will be paying considerably more for our electricity. Washing Machine and Tumble we can set to work off peak but air con and cooking are going to make this non viable because of the considerably higher rate for peak time electricity. Have I got these figures wrong?

No you have not.

You need to ideally avoid any usage in the peak hours. If you have an electric cooker this is difficult unless you have Solar/Battery…

Not worth the effort for most.

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Have I got these figures wrong?

Sounds like you have it right, and have correctly understood the point of multi-rate tariffs which is to encourage moving energy use to the off-peak hours. Things like Economy-7 and the smart tariff are typically only any benefit if you have a significant percentage of your usage overnight, either through electric storage heaters, or charging an electric car for example.

I think the best case for things like the smart tariff is when you combine them with solar panels and battery storage, so that you can be self sufficient during the weekday peak period, and also charge one or more EVs over night.

My own experience with the smart tariff is that it is working of marginally cheaper than the single rate. I don’t do enough miles in my EV to really benefit from the low overnight rate, so only just about break even.

What attracted you to switching to the smart tariff since your usage profile doesn’t fit?

@Hooloovoo I think they had a smart meter from a previous supplier and as such will be on the smart tariff by default if its compatible.

and as such will be on the smart tariff by default if its compatible.

I don’t believe that’s correct.

Yes you’re right. I forgot that
The smart tariff is optional if you have a meter not the other way round.

We do have a smart meter from our previous energy supplier, currently waiting to see if it is compatible. The idea of switching was more (because its there) but it does not seem beneficial when you are penalised so highly at peak time. Battery pack and solar panels off grid seems great but thats quite an investment. To be honest, I cannot see any benefit to change to smart metering with our usage. Thanks for all the prompt responses guys, appreciated.

Didn’t spot this post earlier and posed the same question. I looked at the numbers based on my previous actual usage (data from EDF) and it’s clear those peak hours are a killer:


Eyebrows, your figures show a small loss IF you don’t shift your consumption. The point of this tariff is that you should change your behaviour as a result - it’s all about shifting consumption to the off-peak times. As your figures are so close, it’s possible that just shifting your laundry to cheaper times would change it from a loss to a gain.

We’re still in the early days of trying the “smart” tariff.

If you have a typical lifestyle, e.g. at work all day, cook at 5pm and aren’t prepared to shift consumption then you’re likely to lose out.

For us, I work at home all day and will be using electric heat so will get a benefit from that slightly lower daytime rate. Plus my partner works shifts so we are likely to end up heating and cooking at odd times.

For those who have electric storage heating it could be useful - they can effectively store the low-rate power and release the heat while it would be expensive to consume power directly.

We were probably somewhere around deciding whether or not to try it. But then I got into a discussion on here, as a result of which we’re now ordering an electric car (that was an expensive chat!) - I’m sure this will definitely swing the balance in favour of the smart tariff on top of our untypical usage patterns.

Also - something I didn’t realise at first… the expensive 3 hour period is only five days per week. At weekends every tariff is less than the standard rate.

I had my smart meter installed last week and I’ve been looking at your Smart Tariff and how it would work with my solar panels.
It seems to me that as it creates a new huge ‘peak’ rate of 41.44p just at the point when I will not be generating any of my own power, while reducing the rate during the day when I am quite likely to be using little or no power from the grid on a sunny day, this new tariff will cost me considerably more money than my current economy 7 package.
It seems to me that the smart tariff is not good for people with solar panels, and I’m very happy with my Vari-Fair tariff, so I hope you won’t force a move to this tariff at any point.

I’m very happy with my Vari-Fair tariff, so I hope you won’t force a move to this tariff at any point.

I wont force you to do anything, and I don’t see why Bulb ever would either?

Depending on the orientation of your panels, in this case an east/west split might be very good, since it would boost the evening generation during the 4pm-7pm peak period, albeit at the expense of slightly lower generation overall compared with a south facing array. A property with battery storage to enable self sufficiency during the peak period would of course be ideal.

For my circumstances with no solar, gas central heating, gas hob, electric oven, and overnight charging of an EV, I do find that the smart tariff is only marginally cheaper than E7 would be. If I did considerably more miles per day then the lower offpeak rate on the smart tariff compared with E7 would begin to show a greater advantage.

The panels are South facing which is optimum, and not something that can be tweaked. Battery storage is not financially viable for a small installation like mine.

The reason that evening power is more expensive is due to simple supply and demand - that is when the nation requires vast amounts of power, so when all the power stations are running flat-out. As a result, it’s also the time at which energy is least environmentally friendly, as the green power generation has to be heavily topped up using oil and gas power. This also makes it more expensive to produce.

My assumption is that the whole point of it is to incentivise customers to move their consumption to outside of the 4pm-7pm Mon-Fri period when everyone else is using it. If, like us, you are able and willing to do this then it may make financial sense. If not then it won’t.

Like it or not, this is probably the direction that all energy suppliers will eventually be heading - if you want to use power that’s more expensive to produce then you’ll have to pay for that luxury.

The solution that’s almost ready to go mainstream is a system where your car gets used as a battery for the house - in which case your solar panels would charge your car whenever the sun happens to come out, and your home consumption at whatever time would come from the car’s battery. An intelligent charger would ensure that the car keeps enough charge to do whatever mileage you tell it you need the next day. If you need more then you take it from the grid, if you generate a surplus then you sell it back to them - but only after your car has stored or provided what it can.

Cars will be a lot more than transport very soon.

All good points.

I’m not a heavy user in the evening by any means (0.4kw ish) and I’ve shifted as much as I can to
a) daytime (self-generated) and
b) night-time (off-peak rate)

I don’t use a car much - I have an electric motorcycle and an e-bike, but my next car will be electric once I can solve the problem of how to charge it without running a cable across the pavement,

It’s entirely possible that the development of the mass production of batteries for e-cars may drive the prices of batteries down to the point where we’ll all end up with a stack of them tucked away in a cupboard, car or not. But a car is a very good solution, as they are a big block of batteries that many people will end up already owning. If cars and/or batteries get cheap enough then we’d all be able to buy power while it’s cheap and use it while it’s expensive.

Future smart meters could have totally flexible tariffs, to the point where live demand drives the price and the home charging/discharging system decides accordingly, according to the price per unit that the meter is currently offering it for! Then demand could start reacting to change, or even predicted change, with those who are prepared to time-shift their demand getting super-cheap rates on the understanding that they’ll be disconnected when demand is high. Many businesses already have such a system, although it’s rarely used at the moment.

I am considering the switch to the smart tariff but I don’t have enough information on which to base a comparison. I have solar and batteries but the 4pm to 7pm slot is usually when batteries start to run out, assuming I have anything in the batteries at all. In the summer that’s fine but in other months, the chances are that there will be nothing in the batteries. I have an EV which I would like to charge overnight, hence my reason for considering the switch. I could also charge batteries from the grid overnight but when I work that out it would be much more expensive, and then what do I do if the solar panels are producing lots of power the following day I can’t use? It’s a bit of a dilemma.
If I could use the car to put power back into the house in the peak period when home batteries are low that would be a winner for me.

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This was the challenge we faced, though we only have PV, no battery storage and no EV yet.

I think the smart tariff may make financial sense for a select few members who have both an EV and either PV/Batteries. With regards to PV and batteries, from around mid September to late April, our solar produces almost nothing by 4pm and is therefore unable to cover our peak time usage, with that said our PV is rather small 2.5kW.

We tried just about everything to reduce our usage at peak. Starting with the obvious; no cooking, washing, ironing, etc. But then even more reductions like limiting PCs and TV (as much as possible) and still our ambient usage (fridge, odd lights, etc) was coming to around 0.7kWh - 1kWh usage over the peak period. With an average of around 12.5kWh daily grid usage, family of 4.

And yet I still found that even on our best daily usage (lowest peak usage), produced an average overall unit rate of 14.32p/kWh. Bad days, where someone forgot the peak time, resulted in average unit rate of as high as 17.54p/kWh.

Overall, we just could not make the smart tariff work for us:

  • We could not reduce our peak usage any further
  • And simply did not use enough electricity overnight (e.g. an EV) to make it work.

Honestly, I don’t really like Bulb’s Smart Tariff as it exists, I would prefer a tariff designed especially for EV users that only had two rates, day and overnight, with a significantly reduced, yet short overnight unit rate.

With that said everyone’s usage and situation is different and having batteries and an EV may make the smart tariff work for you.

I just wish I could say with confidence, for you to give it a try and after a month or two if you are not happy request to move off of it. Unfortunately, our experience is proving that it may actually be easier to switch to another supplier than it is to move off of Bulb’s Smart-Tariff. :cry:

I will add, that I’ve contact Octo regarding their GO tariff, which we could move onto even before we have an EV. Though they too have a waiting list for getting them to install an SMETS2 Smart Meter (which is required for their GO tariff). If The trouble we’ve had with Bulb is not resolved I think I may switch to them and get in the queue to get a SMETS2 meter installed ready to get an EV early next year.

I may be making this up, and my knowledge here is limited, but I’m sure I read that the Tesla Powerwall software does some clever stuff like calculating the total available daylight hours for tomorrow, and looking at the weather forecast, and then making a prediction of the likely solar generation. It can then make a decision how much to charge up overnight from the grid at night-rate, or whether it needs to charge at all. Certainly something like this is the only real answer to your dilemma.

The next few years are certainly going to be interesting on a software development front.

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If that is correct, that is pretty impressive. Would love to invest in a Powerwall to compliment our PV, but they are rather pricey. For now putting the money towards an EV is better for us and the planet :slight_smile:

I added some charging estimates for an EV to our exciting calculations for the Smart Tariff and certainly if you are charging about +9kWh almost daily (overnight), then Bulb’s Smart Tariff should work out cheaper than their single rate. Based on our average usage + an EV, the overall unit rates come to between 11.7p and 13.9p.