Many Houston newcomers are also new to the concept of choosing an electricity plan. People coming from outside of Texas – or from areas such as Austin and San Antonio that don't allow this choice – may have no idea what this means.
Just like consumers get to choose their cellphone or internet provider, Houston metro residents have the power to choose their electricity supply. The utility still transmits electricity to homes and businesses, but doesn't generate and sell the supply. SaveOnEnergy.com takes the confusion out of this process.
How does it work?
SaveOnEnergy.com partners with the top electric providers in Texas, including large, longtime providers and customer service award-winners. It works to make sure each provider's plans offered on the site are good for all kinds of customers – homeowners or renters, those with high or low credit, or those looking for a traditional or innovative plan.
When customers come to the site, all they need to do is:
- Put in their ZIP code to determine what plans are available.
- Compare plans to find the best one for their household.
- Call in or sign up online for quick enrollment.
Alternatively, residents can call in and talk with an energy expert, who will ask some questions about the customer's household and energy usage to recommend a plan. This makes the process even quicker!
How do you compare plans?
There are several components to consider when choosing an electric supply plan.
Supply rate: This is the big number customers see first when looking at plans; it's the rate for each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity used. A lower rate usually means a lower bill, but this is not the only number to consider. There are often monthly fees or usage fees for using over/under a certain amount of electricity in a month. These can affect the overall amount customers pay.
Rate type: Most supply rates are either fixed or variable. A fixed supply rate means the rate won't change throughout the term. On the other hand, a variable supply rate may change during the term. These plans are often referred to as month-to-month because the supply rate can change every month.
Plan length: This can range from one month to five years. The most usual plan length is 12 months. A homeowner might want a multi-year plan for budget stability and long-term planning. Longer plans usually carry a cancellation fee, so it's good to always check the plan details.
Payment options: Auto payment might be required by some plans. Most, however, offer a variety of payment options, including paying online, by phone, mail and in-person.
Extra features: Some plans offer renewable energy, in which up to 100% of a customer's electricity use is added to the grid in the form of renewable electricity. In Texas, that's most likely wind power, because Texas is the largest producer of wind power in the U.S.
What does the utility do?
The utility is in charge of transmitting electricity to homes and businesses. It works with the electric providers to deliver electricity to the right customer. In Houston, CenterPoint Energy is the utility. It handles both electric and natural gas delivery to residents in the Houston metro area and beyond.
Important note: Customers call the utility to report an outage or downed power line and call their provider with questions about their account or bill.
How do you save energy?
SaveOnEnergy.com also offers consumers ongoing news and tips for saving energy, which can help save money and resources. Learn how energy sources work or energy-saving tips for your home and family. Here are some easy energy-saving tips for new homeowners to keep in mind, especially during Houston's hot summers:
- Install CFL or LED bulbs to keep lighting costs low and reduce the heat regular light bulbs generate.
- Seal any cracks around doors and windows that let cool air escape.
- Use ceiling fans to reduce air conditioning use, but only keep fans on when someone is in the room.
- Close curtains and blinds during the day to keep the heat out of the house.
- Buy energy-efficient ENERGY STAR appliances and electronics when upgrading or replacing old ones.
- Get the HVAC system cleaned and checked to make sure it's in top operating condition.
- Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Install a programmable thermostat to automatically set a warmer temperature during the day when no one is home and a cooler temperature before people return home.