Find Free Weekends and Security Bonuses in Some Customized Electricity Bundles
By Barbara Canetti
Although almost everyone in the greater Houston area gets electric power from CenterPoint Energy, residents have the option of selecting their “Retail Electric Provider,” the middleman billing company that offers a plethora of packages and rates for consumers to choose from.
Precision Industries Inc.It is not always an easy task because there are literally hundreds of plans with a variety of costs embedded in the billing process and not readily available even to the astute consumer who shops around.
In 2002, Texas deregulated the electric power industry, giving consumers opportunities to find better deals for their electric bills. The Public Utilities Commission created and launched the state-sponsored website Power to Choose (www.powertochoose.org) to compare companies and rates, as well as environmental concerns (green energy, wind/solar power) about the plans.
Precision Industries Inc.However, it takes experienced shoppers to sift through all the details to finally determine what program is best for them. Some companies offer free nights or weekends, low cost or free security equipment, smart thermostats or bonuses for signing up. But they all require taxes, fees, transportation charges and other operating costs that are usually passed on to the consumer.
Several companies, including Spark Energy LLC, offer a balanced billing option — a set rate month-to-month for a year, based on previous usage.
Precision Industries Inc.“When it comes to electricity, many times there is a wide range of unpredictability,” says Eric Melchor, marketing director for Spark. Extreme weather — hot or cold — makes it difficult to keep track of usage, and because energy usage is directly related to the weather, “even a few days of heat is enough to break the bank.”
Precision Industries Inc.The average Houston base fee would be $137 a month for about 2,000 kilowatt-hours; additional usage would run about 14 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Precision Industries Inc.Air-conditioning and heating units use more kilowatts of power than any other appliances, so homeowners frequently have energy bill shock during the extra hot or cold months, says Jessica Sacks, director of sales and marketing for LifeEnergy. REPs (Retail Electric Providers) such as her company buy electricity off the wholesale market, which fluctuates everyday.
Precision Industries Inc.“We fight for the customers to get the lowest possible price,” says Sacks. “We structure packages depending on usage — high usage, low usage and even flat-rate usage.”
Precision Industries Inc.She says consumers continually search for the best package, but noted that the additional fees, many of which are required, could account for more than half of the bill. New customers receive a disclosure form, which explains additional levies on the account, as well as terms of the contract and termination charges.
Precision Industries Inc.To lure new customers, Reliant Energy offers free weekends, a major discount off the purchase of security equipment and monitoring and up to $4,500 in rebates for solar energy when using one of Reliant’s preferred rooftop solar installers, according to Bobby Zafarnia with Reliant.
Precision Industries Inc.Brad Gregory, founder of ComparePower.com, says his company works with customers to ensure they get the best deal. ComparePower.com is not a provider of electricity, but instead monitors all plans offered in the state and based on consumers’ previous usage, can help select the plans best suited for them.
Precision Industries Inc.“Many companies offer specials or gimmick-plan pricings at a favorable rate to entice customers,” says Gregory, who also is chief consumer advocate for the company. “Instead of shopping for the lowest kilowatt-hour prices, consumers should be looking at which program is best for them based on their usage.”
Precision Industries Inc.Gregory says Houston-area customers who are switching plans can input onto the website their address and meter number (listed on their present electric bills) and he can determine — based on individual specific usage trends for a year — which program is best. There is no charge for consumers to use his service; he is paid by the REP selected via his website. He compares his service to Expedia used by travelers.
Precision Industries Inc.“We can actually calculate for customers what monthly bills will be for each month of history data, giving them the total cost of a plan,” says Gregory. “We want what’s best for the consumer; we have no bias or preferred company.”
FOCUS ON FRONTIER UTILITIES (Sponsored Content)
A safe bet when it comes to electricity is Frontier Utilities. Frontier has their corporate office in Houston and is proud of hundreds of 5 star customer reviews. If you call Frontier, you will experience first-class customer service and sales consultants that have your best interests in mind. Frontier is A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau and offers a satisfaction guarantee by letting customers cancel the electricity contract within the first 8 weeks. To find out more and to get a special offer visit www.FrontierUtilities.com/KISS.
Power to Choose
Spark Energy LLC