Ever run out of hot water midway through a shower or turned a light on and the bulb’s blown? These things can be annoying, but running out of electricity altogether when you’re on a prepayment meter could be even worse. Luckily, emergency electricity is available to those who need it. But how does it work and does it cost more than standard electricity?
What is emergency electricity?
Emergency electricity is provided by your energy supplier when you run out of credit on a prepayment meter. Prepayment meters allow you to pay for your gas and electricity in advance. You can use a key that has credit installed on it and insert this into your meter to top it up. These kinds of meters are popular as you can control more easily how much you want to spend on electricity. It’s also thought that they can encourage you to use less electricity in the workplace or at home. This is because you’re more likely to think about the amount of energy you’re using when you physically have to put credit onto the meter. If you were to pay for your energy by direct debit, you may not even notice how much is coming out of your account each month, and you could be more nonchalant about your usage. Instead, the prepayment might persuade you to make the credit last longer, encouraging you to turn lights off and use efficient appliances or lightbulbs.
One of the downsides of prepayment meters is the risk of running out of credit. You should check how much credit is on the meter regularly to ensure that it doesn’t get too low. It’s also important to make sure that your key has credit on it too. You can do this by taking your keys to a Payzone or Post Office to be topped up.
Should you find that your meter is running low on credit and you haven’t had a chance to top up your key either, you may require emergency electricity until you can get to the nearest Post Office or Payzone. For most prepayment meters, emergency electricity can be activated when the credit reaches 50 pence or less. Your energy supplier will likely provide up to £5 of electricity. This must then be paid off the next time you top up your credit. You must pay the emergency credit back before you can use it again, so do keep this in mind.
Do you pay more for emergency electricity?
While some people think that emergency electricity costs more than your usual electricity, this is not the case. The £5 of emergency credit will go as far and last as long as if you were to put £5 credit in the meter yourself. But it is important to pay the emergency credit off as soon as you can, in case you need to use it again. Some providers automatically add emergency credit if your meter runs low on money between 6pm and 9am. As most Post Offices are closed during this time, the supplier understands that it’s quite unlikely that you’ll be able to top up the key. But you shouldn’t worry about having to use emergency credit, as it doesn’t cost more.
How to activate emergency credit on an electric meter
Every prepayment meter is slightly different. If you’re unsure of how to activate emergency credit, you should check for more information on your supplier’s website. Below, we’ve provided some basic instructions for various meter types that may be able to help you.
Some meters can automatically activate emergency credit when you try to insert your key that has no credit on it. The meter can see that there’s no money to take and will top up your £5. The screen will tell you when this has been done. On other meters, like the one pictured, there will be an emergency credit button that you can press.
If your meter has A and B buttons, you can activate emergency electricity by pressing button B when ‘EmCr’ flashes on the screen, alerting you to the fact that you have no credit remaining. The screen should then show ‘EmCr Accepted’.
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