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Erratic energy consumption overnight - is the meter faulty?!

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I am with  British Gas for both my electricity and gas, on a prepayment tariff.  I am becoming increasingly concerned that the usage showing on my smart meter when we get up in the morning varies so wildly.  For example over the last week, it has varied from 98p to over £7.50!! This is at around 7am each day, before any of my family have got up.  I called British Gas yesterday and after waiting for nearly 50 mins for my call to be answered, I then got an advisor who was no help whatsoever.  Her suggestions were:
  • "The cost of electricity has gone up".  Despite her constantly talking over me, I calmly explained that yes I understand that, and I appreciate my cost per day may be higher.  But that doesn't explain the variance day to day.
  • "We don't always take  your standing charge every day, so maybe one day, you have a week's worth of standing charge taken and it makes it look high"... Ok, so my standing charge is less than 50p per day.  So that's less than £3.50 a week.  So why, on several days in a week, and in subsequent and previous weeks, would I have a high reading because of standing charge?
  • "Because you are on prepayment, we apply the government money only to your usage, not to your standing charge.  So one day we might take a backlog of standing charge when you finally top up your meter".  See above... plus the government £66 lands as credit on the 1st.  I am only having to top my meter up in the middle of the month - so why during the month is that "backlog" (if that's what it is) being applied when I haven't yet topped up with my own cash as you are instructing me to do?
  • "Some days you use more electricity"... Yes I am aware of that, for example on a Sunday evening I expect my meter to be high, because i use two ovens to cook a roast, and I catch up on the laundry.  That is fine.  But I don't use two ovens, a washing machine, a tumble drier and a dishwasher in my sleep before 7am on random days in the week.  In fact, I have been going around all the rooms turning off plug sockets so that only my A+ rated fridge and freezer are on, and my A+ rated ovens are on standby, and five iPhones plugged in to charge.  I.e the same appliances running in that window between midnight and 7am when I check.
  • "We have checked in the back office and can see there isn't a problem with your meter".  How can you see that?  And can the back office explain why the usage is so high on random days, or give me any further information on my usage so i could do an energy audit/diary?  Apparently this "back office" couldn't do that, but I could go on the app and find that information.  Where could i find it, I asked.  I don't know but it is there (post the call, I have looked and can't find information on usage anywhere?!)
  • I then asked if someone could come out and check my meter, and she told me she would "check with the back office" and hung up.
As a family, we are doing all we can to save energy.  We don't have the heating on a routine as we normally would - we are manually turning it on at around 7pm if we are really cold.  The boiler does come on to heat the hot water at midnight (it is a new boiler fitted last year, and we have turned down the temperature the water is heated up to, to save gas).  I only use the oven on a Sunday and we now use an air fryer and slow cooker, and only use the tumble drier as a last resort (again on a Sunday).  I do have three teenage boys with x-boxes - all of which are being turned off completely at night, as are their TV's and other gadgets except for their phone chargers.  So I just can't explain why my meter is varying so much between the hours of midnight and 7am!?

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to check?  What could be wrong?  I feel completely tied, am stressed that my credit is being eaten up when it shouldn't be, and don't know what to do as British Gas customer service is so shocking I don't know what to try next!

Thanks
Al
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  • [Deleted User]
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    Is this the usage on your actual meter or on the little display that you have in your house?
  • alanalan77
    alanalan77 Posts: 4 Newbie
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    edited 29 December 2022 at 6:45PM
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    Is this the usage on your actual meter or on the little display that you have in your house?
    Hi, it is on the little display in the house.  
  • Aylesbury_Duck
    Aylesbury_Duck Posts: 14,188 Forumite
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    edited 29 December 2022 at 6:45PM
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    Is this the usage on your actual meter or on the little display that you have in your house?
    Hi, it is on the little display in the house.  
    Well the first thing to check is if it's representative of what's actually being recorded on the meter.
  • shiraz99
    shiraz99 Posts: 1,723 Forumite
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    Your fridge freezer will be still running throughout the night and the energy that uses goes up and down constantly, particularly if it's a frost free model. What sort of boiler do you have, combi or system, do you have hot water preheating set?
  • theoretica
    theoretica Posts: 12,348 Forumite
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    Can you see your half hourly usage on the Bright app?  That would narrow down when electricity is being used.  I don't know that it works for prepay, but don't know why it wouldn't.
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  • alanalan77
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    Thanks all.  As silly as it sounds I hadn't even thought about checking the meter outside... doh! Once hubby is home with the key to open it I will check...

    I also hadn't heard of the Bright app - so am now just downloading it.
  • EssexHebridean
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    I agree you need to strip this back to actual use in units, rather than looking at £'s - and all the more so if there might be variability in things like when standing charges are applied. If I were you I would be doing daily meter readings when I got up for a while, and noting those readings into a spreadsheet or even just written in a notebook to keep track. That will show you any spikes on particular days, and then you could narrow those down to days you know you have done something "power hungry" as against any that seem less easily explained. 
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  • DeeQS
    DeeQS Posts: 74 Forumite
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    I heat water over night as well. The energy usage is dependent on the amount of hot water we used the previous day. For example, 2 showers vs 4+ depending on guests, exercise etc. There's just more water to heat if you've used more.
  • sandy700
    sandy700 Posts: 175 Forumite
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    Thanks all.  As silly as it sounds I hadn't even thought about checking the meter outside... doh! Once hubby is home with the key to open it I will check...

    I also hadn't heard of the Bright app - so am now just downloading it.
    Can you not get meter readings on your IHD?

  • FreeBear
    FreeBear Posts: 14,900 Forumite
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    I will get screwball readings on my IHD from time to time. For example, gas being shown as chomping through ~250W per hour even with the gas being physically turned off at the meter. On checking the actual meter readings, they confirm that no gas is being used. I just put it down to dodgy software in the IHD.
    I'd suggest taking regular readings from your meter at set times throughout the day - You can do this from the IHD - That should give you a sanity check if there is any huge spike in overnight consumption.
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