Tips for Selecting a Texas Energy Provider

Independence Day Promo Electric Rate From Bounce EnergyEvery May, our contract with our Texas energy provider comes up for renewal, and we have the power to choose whether to stay with our current provider or switch. In looking for a new provider and/or plan we not only want a good rate, but we first have to decide if we want a contract and what kind, and if we want to use green energy, all the while paying close attention to possible promotions and rewards programs. Here is the process we usually go through.

In order to choose a provider, it is best to start with a plan. The two most common plans are variable rate and fixed rate. With a fixed rate plan you’ll pay the same rate for electricity throughout the term of your contract (which is typically 2 years). The price can change only to reproduce actual price changes that are allowed by Public Utility Commission rules due to changes in law or regulatory charges. This plan is great for people who have a household budget since the rate stays the same, which protects you from rising energy prices; however, if market prices fall you have to wait until your contract is over to switch to a lower rate. If you think you might want to discontinue service after a short period of time, look for a company that does not have contracts or offers short term contracts. Companies that have contract periods often have a minimum term and if you cancel your service before the contract period ends, you might have to pay a penalty.

Variable rate, or often referred to as “month-to-month”, plans have no minimum contract period and are based on current energy market conditions. With this kind of plan, the rate you pay can fluctuate depending on the changes in the electricity market. Which means you can benefit from lowering energy rates and could help you to save on your energy bill. However, just as this type of plan allows you to save money when market prices fall, it could also have a negative affect if market prices rise because so would your electricity rate. For some people, dealing with constant changing electricity rates can be stressful so a fixed rate works best for them. On the other hand, there are others who like being able to always get the best rate and don’t mind searching for it, making a variable rate plan their best option.

Next is to choose between a non-renewable (standard) and a renewable (green) plan. You can check a Texas energy provider’s Electricity Facts Label (EFL) to see if their plan produces electricity from renewable resources such as solar, hydroelectric, landfill gas, biomass, geothermal, or wind. EFLs allow you to easily compare what each company has to offer to find the best fit for your energy consumption and budget. Each label contains the following information:

  • Electricity Rate: This is made up of the electric company’s average price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for 500 kWh, 1000 kWh and 1500 kWh, as well as a possible monthly customer service charge and seasonal pricing. Rates can differ depending on the number of kilowatt-hours so it’s important to look at your past usage. With some companies the more kilowatt-hours you use, the lower the rate will be.
  • Contract Terms: Some companies have minimum terms and will charge you an early cancellation fee, while others may not require a contract.
  • Power Generation Sources: The electricity provider should list from what resources the electricity is produced (coal, natural gas, renewable energy, etc.) The percentages will be graphed to compare them to the average usage for electricity generation statewide.
  • Emissions: In this section companies provide details on the types and percentage of emissions they create per kWh of electricity generated. The energy provider’s percentages will be graphed to show if the emissions are better or worse than the Texas average. This might be an important section for you if you’re interested in decreasing your carbon footprint.

Once you’ve decided which plan works for you, then the next step is to compare Texas electricity companies. You can do this by going to ElectricityBid.com where you can compare prices and ratings. Just enter your zip code and then pick the kind of plan you want. You will be able to see different Texas energy providers and their company rating, different plans offered, cancellation fee, if electricity is produced from renewable or non-renewable resources and the terms and rate for each plan. These websites will also show you promotions and incentives offered by each company and if they have a rewards program.

Lastly, review and compare all the possible incentives and rewards programs offered. Some companies offer rewards programs to their customers such as cash back and gifts. For example, Bounce Energy is currently rewarding its customers for paying their bills on-time. Customers who pay their bill on-time for 6 consecutive months receive their choice of 2 movie tickets or a free companion airfare ticket and also gain access to Bounce Energy’s VIP Customer Service line. The longer you pay on time, the more you get in return. Power providers might also offer incentives or promotions for signing up with a new plan such as gift cards, airline miles, charitable donations, or better rates if you sign up online. For example, Bounce Energy’s Express Move plan. This short term fixed rate plan makes moving much easier by not only turning on your electricity, but Bounce Energy will submit your USPS Change of Address form, add your name to the Do Not Mail and Do Not Call lists, give you free identity protection service and give you either a $25 Walmart or Home Depot gift card. Bounce Energy’s Terrific 12 plan gives the customer their choice of $25 gift cards to Target, Wal-Mart, GAP Inc., Shell, or a $25 bill credit.

As you’ve probably seen, there are many Texas energy providers and plans to choose from but by doing some research you will be able to find one that is right for your electricity needs and budget.

Online Resources
http://powertochoose.org
http://www.electricitytexas.com

Houston Electricity Rates Prices and Plans – September 2009

We have compiled a list of some of the cheaper electricity rates, prices and plans from some reputable electricity companies in the Houston area.  The electricity companies in the list below have a track record of offering electricity service in the Houston area for a few years now and with the new PUCT rules in place the bundled electricity rates shown in the chart include all fees and charges including TDSP related charges, advanced meter fees, etc. We have listed monthly base charges to the right of each rate so you can see which electric company charges a base charge and which ones do not. Many times the cheaper electric rate with a base charge will save you more money than going with a higher electricity rate with no monthly base charge.

The confusing issue some electricity service customers still face is with a variable electricity rate. You can be quoted an initial rate in the advertisement when choosing a variable rate but some providers can change that electricity price even before receiving your first months electric bill. To our knowledge none of the Houston electricity companies in the chart below adjust their initial quoted variable rate until after you have been with them for atleast a month. If you choose a fixed Houston electricity rate the rate will not change the entire term of the fixed electricity agreement. We strongly recommend choosing a fixed electricity rate in the Houston Texas area to avoid any surprises.

Most electricity companies in Houston will also notify you before your fixed electricity agreement is up so you can renew before being put on a variable electricity rate. By having advanced notification that your electricity contract is about to expire you can have assurance that you will never have to deal with a fluctuating variable electricity price. Most Houston home owners and renters choose a fixed electricity rate because they have knowledge of exactly what the rate will be. By simply multiplying the rate times the kWh usage used during the month you can confirm you are being charged correctly.

Right now a 1 year fixed Houston residential electricity rate for September 2009 is the most popular fixed electricity rate agreement. We believe that a 3 year fixed rate actually makes sense right now considering Houston electric prices are close to all time lows. We think some electricity service customers in Houston could even consider signing up for something even longer term like the Just Energy 5 year residential electricity agreement. Most people are uncomfortable committing to an electricity price for that long but because electricity rates are this low right now it really isn’t that bad of a choice.

If you are like me 2 or 3 years is about the max amount of time you will want to commit to for a fixed Houston electricity rate. If you pick a longer term rate with a Houston electricity company you are basically buying insurance betting that electricity prices will be going up in the next few years. This keeps you in a low electricity price for several years while prices will likely head back up considering they are near as close to zero as they will probably go. If you choose a 1 month fixed electricity rate you have price insurance only for the first month of the rate, after that the rate can change with fuel prices. If you choose a variable rate plan with no initial 1 month term the rate could do just about anything. Even if you see an electricity price in a quoted advertisement the rate can legally adjust even before your first months electricity usage.

We recommend if you are considering a variable electricity rate in Houston that you atleast choose a 1 to 3 month fixed rate. After the initial term the rate follows a fuel commodity or index price along with the market. There are several choices when picking a fixed Houston electric rate and right now you can pick from 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2, and 3 year terms. Occasionally there will be other alternative fixed terms like a 9, 15, or 18 month fixed electricity rate. You can compare electricity rates for September 2009 using the historical snapshot below. These rates are for historical reference for the month of September 2009 so you can track what electricity companies in Houston were charging during this time. TXU Energy and Reliant Energy in Houston are both falling behind on price when compared with some of the cheapest electric companies in Houston. Although TXU and Reliant remain the two biggest Houston electricity providers they still do not offer low prices compared to some of the other Houston electric providers.

September 2009 Houston Texas Electricity Rates

Arlington Texas Electricity Rates

In Arlington Texas there are several discount electricity rates usually being offered as fixed rate terms by most electricity companies. A few Arlington electricity companies only offer variable electricity prices that fluctuate with the commodity markets. These variable electric rates change in price based on how the fuel prices that generates electricity in Texas changes on the futures markets. A variable electricity rate is generally considered a more risky product than a fixed electricity rate. By choosing a variable price you avoid a long term commitment with an electric company and there is usually no early termination penalty with the Texas electricity company. A fixed electricity rate term plan gives you peace of mind that the rate will not change. The below Arlington Texas electricity companies offer easy to understand fixed rate plans with no hidden fees or charges.

Many times a variable electricity price will be much cheaper than a fixed rate for the first month because it is an introductory offer or fuel prices happen to be lower on the prompt month. This unhedged variable price does not require a lot of capital investment in comparison to a fixed rate for the Arlington Texas electricity company. There is not a lot of risk for the provider to sell a variable electric rate because the customer is taking on all the risk.

Generally Arlington TX electricity companies that focus on selling variable electricity rates have a higher customer complaint record because customers become agitated when their introductory variable rate goes up beyond what they expected. Even when an Arlington Texas electricity company provides disclosure after disclosure explaining that the rate is subject to change with fuel prices customers will still complain to the PUCT when their rate goes up regardless to the fact that they agreed to this rate plan.

Sometimes the electricity provider really is to blame when a customers variable electricity rates go up. A few Arlington electricity companies either in the past or even still now advertise rates that appear to be fixed but have the ability to go up in price. Some of the tactics an Arlington Texas electricity provider will take to show one rate and charge you a different rate is to hide some of the TDSP charges within the details of the contract. A provider should disclose all fees and charges in the facts label but some of these providers hide the fees in a word problem within the text of the contract. Most energy consumers have no way of figuring out what the actual rate is in this case without questioning the electricity provider and the PUCT to get down to the bottom of it.

When an electricity provider knowingly uses customer electricity price confusion to deceive their customers into an electric rate they are committing fraud. We have heard directly from people within some of these companies that have confirmed that some Arlington electricity companies use customer confusion as a part of their core business model. This has been confirmed by a disgruntled employee at one provider and a satisfied employee at another provider that works within the actual pricing area of the electricity providers business. The mindset of the Texas energy consumer according to these electricity companies is that they are quick to forget. A year may go by and many of these customers will stay and some will go but the electric provider continues to sign up unsuspecting customers since there is plenty of customers to go around.

There is nothing wrong with a variable electricity rate but it is important that a provider makes it clear to the consumer that a changing price is what they are signing up for. A fixed electricity rate should be a true fixed rate and not subject to additional hidden fees and fuel surcharges that can cause the electricity price to change. A variable electricity rate can be the perfect type of rate plan to get on as I personally am on a variable electricity rate but the consumer should know that is what they are on. If the energy consumer has been made aware of the risks involved with being on a variable electricity price than they should not be complaining when their rate goes up in price otherwise they should have signed up on a fixed electricity rate with an Arlington Texas electricity company.

These are some of the issues that Texas energy consumers should know about before just signing up with any Texas electricity provider. The PUCT has a complaint scorecard that gives detailed information on which electricity companies should be avoided and which Texas electricity companies in Arlington have a high customer satisfaction record. As of August 2009 Startex Power in Arlington Texas has received the number 1 rating by JD Power and Associates. Part of Startex Power’s strategy involves offering cheap electricity rates that are fixed and do not contain hidden fees and charges.

August 2009 Dallas Electricity Rate Comparison

Today is August 14 2009 and we have gone out to the power to choose website to check on electricity rates from companies like Champion, Startex, Green Mountain Energy, Spark Energy, TXU, Ambit, Stream, Bounce, Texas Power and Reliant Energy.  We checked on some other Texas electricity providers but these energy companies provide a good overall comparison of rates. We have sorted the electricity rates  in order from cheapest to most expensive using the pricing available on the Power to Choose website.

Startex Power, Champion, and Green Mountain Energy, are some of the more popular electricity companies we recommend and Startex and Champion are currently offering some of the cheapest available electricity plans in the Dallas Texas area. There are no hidden fees or charges with Startex or Champion. If you use below 500 kWh per month than a $4.95 monthly service fee will kick in with Startex Power but other than that you are going to be good with the top two cheapest Dallas electricity plans in the chart.

This chart above is a historical snapshot of what Dallas residential electricity rates looked like for the month and day of August 14 2009. These charts sometimes help in determining the track record of a Texas electricity companies overall consistent performance in delivering a low cost electricity price to Texas energy consumers. To see a current comparison of our recommended electricity companies in Dallas Texas please click on our Dallas electricity comparison link by clicking here.

August 2009 Houston Electricity Rates and Plans – Compared

Picking The Right Houston Electricity Company, Rate and Plan

What to Know Before Signing up With Just Anyone

We have compiled a list of some of the more popular residential Texas electricity companies and rate plans. If there is a known issue with one of the residential electricity companies we list that concern next to the provider. There are some providers that have blatantly obvious tricks we know of that shows one rate on their website but when receiving your first electricity bill the rate is much higher due to the TDSP charges not being clearly apparent. A note should be made that these Texas electricity providers are usually involved in leaving off the TDSP charge on their advertised rate. We are not sure exactly how many energy companies participate in this practice as well as they change their practices depending on how much heat they are receiving from PUCT complaints. You can read Consumer Energy complaints from some of these providers customers who can explain what exactly can occur when switching to a gimmicky energy company better than we can.

August 7 2009 Residential Houston Electricity Company Comparison, Cheapest to Most Expensive

Understanding Your Houston Residential Electricity Rate

Most electric providers in Texas will bundle the TDSP charges into the energy only rate giving you an all-in rate that can be compared against other Texas electricity companies like TXU Energy and Reliant Energy. We have listed both TXU and Reliant in our comparison chart in order to compare their electricity prices with other Texas electric providers. You will notice that the two largest energy providers in Texas have much higher electricity prices than some of the smaller but good electric companies. Right now Champion Energy and Startex Power are two reputable electricity providers in Texas offering very cheap fixed electricity rate offers. All fees and charges are disclosed with these two companies. With Startex if a customer uses less then 500 kWh hours a month there will be a $4.95 monthly service fee although most Texas electricity consumers use more then this so it shouldn’t be an issue for most customers. A monthly service fee is simply an additional charge many electricity providers have in addition to their electricity price. It is important that a provider disclose this fee upfront rather than hide it in the contract details. We have made these fees obvious in our rate chart so you can make a clear apples to apples comparison of electricity prices in Texas.

Historical Houston Electricity Rate Snapshot for August 7 2009

Since this Houston electricity comparison chart is an update for August 7 2009 it only represents a historical snapshot of what Texas electricity providers were charging on this date. An updated and daily refreshed electricity rate chart is also provided below with some of the cheapest Houston electricity companies. We hope this historical list of Houston energy providers in prices above will keep you informed of how prices move over the course of several months. If you have any questions or comments about one of these Houston electricity companies please feel free to leave a comment below. If you are interested in a no deposit Houston electricity choice please visit our no deposit electricity page.

Current Houston Electricity Rates, Companies, and Plans

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