October 2nd, 2023
How to choose retail providers for first-time energy shoppers
What you need to know as a first-time energy shopper in Texas
Exploring your options when shopping for retail electricity for the first time is a bit like browsing through a store with a wide variety of items. Each choice is like a different product on the shelf, and we're here to help you pick the one that suits you best. That's why we’ve created this list of guidelines to help narrow down your options and give you a better understanding of how retail energy works in Texas.
Effective tips for comparing retail energy providers and finding the best deals
Probably the most important questions when shopping for electricity. Use these seven best practices to determine which one works best for you:
- Understand your energy usage - Look over your past bills to calculate your average energy usage. This will help you find out how much you’ll be paying on average across different providers.
- Determine your priorities - It's good to know what's important to you. Is it low prices, renewable energy, customer service, contract length, discounts, or features? Priorities will help narrow down your options.
- Compare pricing - Get quotes from the electric companies you’re researching. You can do this online or give them a call. Make sure you understand the full pricing structure, including monthly fees, taxes, and other charges.
- Compare contract terms - Some contracts last longer than others and depending on the length of time might have different pricing.
- Customer service - Research their customer service reputation. Great customer service can be crucial when dealing with things like billing issues or outages and can change the overall experience.
- Check for features, incentives, and discounts - Some providers offer discounts during different times of the day or week. They may also offer features or incentives to save you money.
- Ask questions - If you are having doubts or questions about their products, go ahead and reach out as they should give you a clear understanding of a plan you’re interested in.
Differences between retail energy providers and your current utility company
If you’re in a deregulated area, you have the opportunity to choose your own energy company. Having options for a provider gives you the freedom to choose the energy plan that suits you best.
They're also committed to eco-friendly options and providing top-notch customer support. You'll appreciate the convenience of managing your account online. Plus, they strive to keep their prices competitive.
On the other hand, if you’re in a deregulated area, your utility company is your only option. This is due to your location. The utility provider offers fewer options and follows standard pricing.
Understand the benefits: Why selecting an energy provider makes sense
You have the power to make a decision that best fits you. Opting for a retail energy provider can put more money in your pocket with better rates, give you energy plans that match your lifestyle, offer eco-friendly options, and let you switch suppliers easily for better deals. Plus, you often get more personalized customer support compared to big utility companies.
Exploring energy plans: What types do retail energy providers offer
There’s a wide variety of plans that can be provided for you so it’s best to find the one that fits your lifestyle.
Some of these plans include:
- Fixed-rate plans - Steady price that does not change for the duration of the contract.
- Variable-rate plans - Prices that fluctuate throughout the contract.
- Green energy plans - Eco-friendly sources that are better for our planet.
Some plans may encourage demand response, meaning you get a rebate on energy savings during specified hours. At Octopus, we offer eco-friendly options compatible with your devices, encourage sustainability by supporting the Texas grid, and offer incentives for everyone to help save you money.
Green energy choices: Are there renewable energy options available with energy suppliers?
Do you love your planet? If an eco-friendly option is important to you, there are plenty of great options that are cleaner for the Earth! Green energy has a stigma of being expensive. Maybe that was the case 10 years ago, but the world is different now. Nowadays, renewable energy is increasingly becoming a more cost-effective and reliable alternative to fossil fuels. Operation costs are lower as they harness inextinguishable resources such as the wind and sun, eliminating the need to purchase fuel.
Be sure to search for renewable energy plans on their website or ask if the supplier offers renewable options.
Solar compatibility: Are there plans that work with my solar panels?
If you have solar panels and are looking to get some credits back, your light company might be able to help. See if your supplier has a solar buyback program that you can sign up for. All buyback programs are different so be sure to find the one that works best for you and your panels.
- Fixed-rate buyback plans - Solar export is bought back at a fixed rate.
- One-to-one buyback – Solar export is bought back for the same rate as you pay to import electricity.
- Real-time market rate buyback prices – Solar export is bought back at the Texas wholesale market rate. This is a fluctuating rate that changes depending on weather conditions and time of year.
Understanding contract lengths: What are the average terms
In Texas, most energy contracts last for about 12 months, but you can also find options that stretch for two or three years, and sometimes even as long as five years.
It's essential to carefully read the contract terms and conditions to understand how long you’re locked in, how the pricing works, and if there are any other fees or penalties for early termination.
Relocating: Can you keep your contract if you move?
The short answer is yes! If you are still being provided by the same utility company then you can move homes and bring the contract with you and can keep the same rate! However, this doesn't apply if you are moving to an area with a different utility provider or an area that your company does not service. If you are moving to an area with another utility company you can not transfer the contract and will need to sign a new one.
What to expect when your contract expires
As you start closing in on your contract end date you should receive a series of emails with a renewal contract. If the contract is not renewed, you might be placed on our month-to-month variable rate contract, meaning it will consistently change. The month-to-month rate will be higher than a fixed-rate contract so we always recommend you stay on a fixed-rate contract.
Wrapping it up for new energy seekers in Texas
Navigating the world of retail energy in Texas can be both exciting and daunting for first-timers. But with the right knowledge and tools at your disposal, you can confidently select an energy plan that aligns with your priorities and lifestyle. From understanding your energy usage and exploring diverse contract options to capitalizing on eco-friendly choices and ensuring solar compatibility, you have the power to make informed decisions. Remember, switching to a retail energy provider is not just about the immediate cost savings; it’s about tailoring an energy experience that resonates with you. So, whether you prioritize green energy, efficient customer service, or flexibility, there’s an option out there waiting for you. With knowledge and clarity, you can now select the energy path that best lights up your Texas home.
Here are some quick FAQs we think you should know
What to do in case of a power outage - If your lights go out due to a local power outage, reach out to your local utility provider for updates - they’re the ones who handle outages.
Can I switch providers at any time? - Yes, you can switch at any time. But make sure you are aware of the early termination fee if you have one.
How long does it take to switch providers? - It typically takes 2 - 4 hours to switch once the request has been sent. If you have a manual meter this will take longer depending on your utility company.
Will my energy be interrupted if I switch - No, your power will not be interrupted. Switching is seamless so you won't notice a difference in your home.
Are there any sign-up fees? - In order to enroll you have the option to either pass a soft credit check or pay a $300 deposit refundable after 12 months. We also have a prepay option that is $75 down to start services.
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