1.     Contracts:  Before, there were no contracts.  You signed up or you didn’t.  When it’s the only game in town, you have to play by their rules.  Nowadays, you’ll see these ultra-fabulous rates bandied about but it’s only by carefully scrutinizing the fine print that you’ll discover those wonderful rates come with a one-year lock-down or other catches.
Take a few minutes to sit down and do some digging.  Not only do you want to find out exactly which Houston power companies operate in your neighborhood and what it is they have to offer, but you want to find out which are the cheap power companies in Houston.  You’ve just bought a home!  You need to save as much as possible everywhere you can until you can get at least some of the move-in expenses paid down.  Now, while it’s true that most Retail Electric Providers require a deposit if your credit is poor or you haven’t had a utility in your name, not all of them do.  Even with those that do, some will accept a letter of guarantee, where someone else guarantees in writing that they’ll pay the bill if you don’t, in place of a cash deposit.  This can be even more useful once you consider that the typical deposit is 1/5th to 1/6th of an annual bill – if it’s a brand-new home, it might be that the only record of use is that of the construction company and that would be a seriously large deposit, indeed!

Here are my 2 cents about electric companies when shopping around for the best rates. Currently, the average cents/kWh in Houston is 10 cents, after speaking to a very helpful, very informative Green Mountain Energy representative. Although their rates are a little higher than my current rates, they have FANTASTIC customer service (which is almost worth it). The GME rep even recommended that I stick with what I am using now since it's cheaper.
2. Most companies have this basic $9.95/mo charge if you don't meet a certain kWh, usually 1000 kWh (Reliant is 800kWh minimum). That will pose a problem in those more temperate months like in the spring and fall because although you're paying lower kWh,you're paying that extra $9.95/mo for no reason. ASK YOUR ENERGY PROVIDER WHAT THE LIMIT IS. I got a minimum of 800kWh/mo with Reliant; if I go under 800kWh, I will have to pay $9.95. Good thing about Reliant is that they do a weekly energy usage report, and you can keep up with how much you may owe. That's pretty useful to me, considering I live in a smaller space, thus less usage.
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.
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