Before you switch providers, you’ll need to determine whether you’re under a contract with your current provider, and if so, how long you have left on your contract. You can usually find this information by looking at your electricity bill or by calling your energy provider. If you choose to switch before your contract is up, your current contract may outline an early termination fee. However, according to the Public Utility Commission of Texas, customers can switch providers without paying an early termination fee if they schedule the switch no earlier than 14 days before their current plan expires. When you change providers, you’ll be able to indicate the date you want the switch to occur.
Partha Krishnamurthy, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, said he suspects that many people may be unaware they’re paying more than they need to for electricity, putting their bills on autopay and forgetting about the rates they pay. Most people don’t go to the trouble of changing banks, jobs or their electricity providers, for that matter, unless there are problems.
Consumers were promised cheaper power when Texas deregulated its electricity markets in 2002 at the urging of big industrial users and power companies. Average retail prices have declined by more than 60 percent since 2001, although much of that decline is due to the plunge in natural gas prices that followed advances in shale drilling and consequently wholesale power prices. Proponents of deregulation argue that they still have choices that can save them money.
Texas electricity deregulation has given millions of Houston residents and businesses the power to choose the cheapest electricity rate. According to ERCOT, over 92% of Texas homes and businesses who live in deregulated areas have switched electric companies since deregulation began in 2002. Even though electric choice in Texas has been hugely successful for energy savings, customers are still confused by the options, terminology, and overall process of switching electric providers.
But in Houston, where there are 52 companies on Power to Choose each offering several different power plans, there might be too many choices. Economists have found that when confronted with a large number of choices, most people tend to do nothing. In one well-known behavioral economics experiment, researchers set out six samples of fruit jams at a grocery store, enticing 30 percent of shoppers to buy the product. But when they increased the number of samples to 24, only 3 percent of shoppers made a purchase.
Variable Rate Plans: Designed as month-to-month contracts, these plans are in total control of your energy provider, which can shift the price you pay per kWh at its discretion. This means you, the consumer, are in a better place to reap the benefits when the energy market falls — but it also means you're at risk for hikes in prices, whether as a result of natural disasters or the provider's bottom line. Variable plans always offer a full year of price history to show the average price per kWh so you can get a sense of what you're getting into (like this one from Reliant) and know this: Variable plans don't have cancellation fees. You can cut your service at any time — a huge incentive for REPs to keep their prices reasonable.
Fixed-Rate Plans: These plans are steady and predictable; the price per kWh you sign up for will remain that same for the entirety of your contract. (The only changes in your bill will be from forces outside of your REP's control, like changes in TDU fees, or changes in federal, state, or local laws.) Often fixed-rate plans will have a slightly higher price per kWh than others, but you're paying for the predictability. They're great if you live by your budget – and even greater if you happen to sign up when rates are low. The fixed-rate plans of our five Texas providers typically started at 12 months, with some extending up to three years, but we spotted a couple from Reliant that offered fixed rates for six month contracts as well.
Prepaid electricity plans are yet another option available to Texas customers. Prepaid plans let you avoid credit checks and deposits by pre-paying for your electricity. Prepaid electricity plans typically do not have a fixed duration and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Shopping for prepaid electricity can often yield relatively cheap electricity with no deposit. See Prepaid Electricity: Is It Right For Me? for more.
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Variable-rate plan:A variable-rate plan means the rate you pay for your electricity may fluctuate based on the market price of energy. Energy price depends on many factors, like weather, demand, fuel prices, the distribution system and the market. Variable-rate plans are flexible because you are not locked into a contract; however, you’ll pay a higher price in high-demand seasons like summer. A variable-rate plan might be ideal for you if you like to shop around and keep an eye on prices.
Not only is it easier and faster to get electricity service started, it’s also cheaper. Depending on the TDU, it can cost less than $7 to get expedited electricity activation. Even if without requesting expedited service, the electricity provider usually activates the meter within one day. For Texans, getting the cheapest electricity plan started has never been faster.
ElectricityPlans lets you easily compare electricity plans by displaying all-inclusive rates at all advertised usage levels in a simple easy-to-read format. You can easily estimate your actual all-in electric bill at any given usage level using our Plan Details and Pricing section for each plan. All energy charges, delivery fees, bill credits, and other fees for each plan are shown so you can accurately estimate your monthly electric bill. By showing all rates and fees, you’ll avoid the electric bill sticker shock and so-called “teaser rates” commonly used by electric suppliers to achieve better search results on sites such as powertochoose.org.
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To skirt the late summer electricity rate hikes, a little bit of planning can really pay off. Try to avoid signing new long-term electricity contracts in late summer. While it may be impossible to escape signing a new electricity contract if you’re moving during that time, just know that a short-term plan may make more sense until the rates go back down in the fall. That way you’re not stuck paying a premium rate for an entire year or more.
With more than a decade in business as a quality electricity provider based in Houston, Spark Energy works to consistently deliver reliable, low-cost electricity, community support and a better customer experience to hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers across sixteen states. Why do we do it? Because we are committed to being the best electricity supplier in the country. In Houston, that means:
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household in Texas uses about 15,000 kWh of electricity per year — 26 percent more than the national average, “but similar to the amount used in neighboring states.” That said, the only way to know your personal average energy consumption is by looking at your electricity bills over the course of a year (you want to accommodate all weather conditions) and understanding both your overall usage, as well as if you use more or less during certain months.
The summers in Houston are hot and agonizing. In 1980 it was stated that this city alone was the most air-conditioned place on earth. It even stays mostly warm in the winters with an average low of 48 degrees in December and February. January is not much colder with an average low of 45 degrees. The average high in the middle of the intense Houston summers is 91 degrees although the temperature often reaches the high nineties or hundreds. The record high of 109°F alone displays the demand for cost-effective energy rates in Houston.
ElectricityPlans makes shopping for electricity plans simple and intuitive. We give you the search tools you need to narrow your electricity plan search to specific contract lengths. In addition, you can use advanced search to narrow the search for the perfect electricity plan even further by searching for 100% renewable, prepaid plans, or electricity + extra stuff, for example. We also show each plan’s popularity over the past 30 days so you know what other electricity shoppers have selected.
On the other hand, month-to-month variable rate (no-contract) plans don’t have cancellation fees. You won’t be penalized if you find a better deal elsewhere and want to make another switch. And, you won’t be stuck paying more than you should be if the market rate for electricity trends down. But, if it goes up, you’ll be paying more than your in-contract neighbors, and you’ll likely want to shop around again for a better deal.