The PowerToChoose.org site has a good starting list of Frequently Asked Questions about deregulation, billing, and selecting providers. We recommend it for anyone new to the process, and we link to it to avoid redundancy.
In addition, here are the answers to some additional questions that PTC doesn’t cover or which are unique to our site:
Why should I care about deregulation and choosing a power plan?
Beyond offering a “choice”, deregulation shifts the procurement responsibility from a single regulatory commission to millions of consumers, including you. If you live in the deregulated market area, you must make regular and informed selections about your provider — or pay someone else to do it for you. If you don’t, you’ll likely pay double or even triple for your electric bill under your provider’s “default renewal product”.
Why should I use TexasPowerGuide.com to find the best plan?
Dozens of websites claim to help you shop for electricity. We know because we follow them all. But only Texas Power Guide lets you easily compare the plans on PowerToChoose.org yourself across your range of usage, including retailer fees and pricing sensitivities. And we’re the only site that fully discloses our plan database and calculations, so you can trust (and verify if you want) our results. Compare us to any other site and you’ll see the difference.
How do I find my electricity usage by month?
If you already have electric service in your home, see your past bills or SmartMeterTexas.com. SMT also shows previous occupants’ usage.
If you’re just moving into an existing or new residence, ask the previous owner or neighbors with similar homes for their inputs. Make sure to capture a range, not just a single number or average.
Otherwise, consider starting with a shorter duration contract and/or entering a broad usage range until you’ve gathered more data. RateGrinder’s defaults of 300 to 3,600 kWh in increments of 300 tends to highlight plans with consistently reasonable energy charges. You won’t take advantage of targeted teaser rates, but you won’t fall victim to them, either.
Does RateGrinder cover all of the plans on PowerToChoose.org?
We review all of the Fixed Rate plans daily, but we only do calculations for those with potential to be the lowest cost for a customer. If a plan’s EFL doesn’t claim 8.3 ¢/kWh or better at 500, 1000, or 2000 kWh, then it’s unlikely to be the best fit for anyone. We also ignore Time of Use plans, Indexed plans, Variable plans, and plans with contract terms shorter than 3 months. See the ‘PTP Scope’ tab on the spreadsheet for complete coverage details and rationale. Lastly, we currently only support the Centerpoint (Houston) and Oncor (DFW) TDU areas due to limited resources.
What about broker-defined plans?
Many of the other shopping websites are run by aggregators or brokers. They typically offer differently named plans from a subset of the Retail Electricity Providers (REPs) listed on PowerToChoose.org. To cover the brokers’ commissions, their plans generally carry higher rates (sometimes much higher) than their cousins on PowerToChoose.org. For this reason and our belief that a single market is more efficient for consumers, Texas Power Guide generally does not catalog the plans offered on these sites. If you want to spot check one of these plans yourself, you can easily add it to RateGrinder (see “Add a Plan“). If it beats the other options for your usage, let us know and we’ll track it for others.
When can I switch plans?
Anytime you want, but if you’re not willing to pay a termination fee then switch no earlier than 14 days before your contract expiration date. Your REP must list the contract expiration date on your monthly bill at least 30 days or one billing cycle in advance. If there’s any question, check your account online.
How often should I change plans?
12 month terms are generally a good compromise between pricing and hassle. Longer contracts tend to have higher rates to hedge against supply risks. Shorter contracts will earn you lower rates, but with more chances of defaulting into a costly month-to-month plan if you forget to renew on time. (Signing up for our RateAlert notifications can help with that.)
What if I move?
If you move from the contracted location, you have no obligation to continue that contract at another location. REPs can’t assess an early termination fee for moving if you provide a forwarding address and, if required, evidence that you no longer occupy the contracted location.
Will switching providers affect my electricity reliability?
No. REPs have nothing to do with delivering electrons from the power plant across the grid to your home — that job belongs solely to your local Transmission/Distribution Service Provider (TDSP), i.e. Centerpoint, Oncor, etc. REPs are financial entities that only manage pricing and billing. As long as you pay your electric bill, your REP has absolutely no effect on your service.
Should I stick with my current provider?
Electricity is a commodity, so the answer depends on your REP’s ability to deliver you a good price with a minimum of hassle. Some providers target long-term customer retention with consistently attractive pricing. But others offer their best rates only to lure new customers, hoping they won’t notice (or will at least tolerate it) when higher renewal rates kick in. TPG’s goal is to remove the shopping hurdles so you can easily identify and leave a bad provider.
How does TexasPowerGuide.com support itself?
TPG was born out of a desire to level the playing field for Texas consumers, but that doesn’t pay our bills. So we ask our $10 per use fee in exchange for maintaining the plan database and related resources that will save most people many times that amount. That’s it. To ensure our objectivity and discourage hidden plan costs, we don’t sell ads, limit our coverage, or receive plan commissions from “Sign Up” links. If using our tools saves you money, we ask you to pay on the honor system. Is that a sustainable business model? Time will tell… 🙂
Why doesn’t PowerToChoose.org offer equivalent capabilities for free?
You’ll have to ask them. If someday they do, then our job will be done.