While we celebrate wedding anniversaries and work anniversaries with fancy dinners and cake, it seems that we often celebrate the anniversary of moving into a new home with a less exciting ritual: renewing our electricity plan.
In Texas, deregulated electricity means that private companies compete to bring electricity to our homes. This creates additional to-do items in the form of managing contracts and renewal dates, but it also creates excellent opportunities to save money if you’re willing to do a little research.
Below are our tips for locking in a great rate – and ensuring that your extra cash goes toward something more inspiring than overpaying an electricity provider.
1. Work to Get a Renewal Date in the Winter
Perhaps those who bring us our electricity forget about our summer demands when it’s chilly outside, or maybe they’re just able to offer better deals then since most people move and begin plans in the summer… but either way, the rates are just cheaper in the winter. If you’re currently on an annual plan that renews in the steamy summer months, choose a 6- or 9-month plan next time so you can lock in the great winter rates the following year.
2. Do Your Research
If the word “research” made you instinctively roll your eyes and search for caffeine, fear not. The great state of Texas makes this process easy – and Soft Touch is hoping to make it even easier.
First, grab a few past electricity bills. These are usually available online through your provider, and having one or two from each season (making note of your usage in kWh) can help you estimate what you will likely end up paying in the future.
Then, visit http://www.powertochoose.org. They have a handy spot where you can familiarize yourself with all of the different plan variables and decide which options are right for you – start there. Once you’re moderately familiar with their vocabulary, go back to their home page. Plug in your zip code and click the “Advanced Options” button. They’ll ask you to answer a few questions. Glance through your old bills to estimate your monthly usage and choose the number that’s closest. On the next screen, narrow down which type of plans (fixed, variable or indexed) you’re interested in. And finally, enter the range of contract lengths you’re willing to consider.
Now, it’s time to shop! They deliver a lovely array of plans for you, and you get to pick the very best for your home. Here are some considerations for making your decision:
If you think you might be relocating in the near future, choose a shorter plan (or at least make note of the cancellation fees). If you’re planning to stay put and are seeing some great rates, consider a longer-term contract.
Name brands aren’t really a big deal here, but glance at the company’s rating and complaints to be sure they’re at least average. Your interactions with them will largely be automatic and online, but you want to be sure they’ll at least try to respond if you need them.
Make note of the “New Customers” designation. You won’t be able to choose one of these plans if you’ve been a client of that particular company in the past.
The average price per kWh is a great benchmark, but consider pulling up their fact sheet and actually doing a rough calculation based on your past usage. Some plans favor lower usage and others favor higher – but the average doesn’t always reflect that.
If it’s important to you that your plan includes renewable energy, narrow your choices based on that using the left filter menu.
Once you’ve found the right one, it’s time to lock it in. Or maybe time to wait…
3. Switch Close to your Renewal Date
Even though your current electricity provider will begin squawking at you to renew several months before your contract is up, you don’t have to let them stress you out.
If you make your trip to the online electricity marketplace more than a couple weeks prior to when you’ll actually need to switch, many companies will actually charge you a fee for allowing your application to sit in their inbox for a month or two. Who likes fees? Not us!
Make a plan, instead. Using your favorite electronic device, or perhaps one of your friends named Siri, Alexa or OK Google, set a reminder. 10 days prior to your renewal date is usually plenty of time to process all of your (virtual) paperwork and to avoid the fees – but double check with your chosen provider to ensure they line up with that.
When your reminder pops up, return to http://www.powertochoose.org and click that cute little “Sign Up” button. Then cross the item off your to-do list and order your favorite (splurge) coffee drink – you just made a smart decision and saved your family money!