Buying your first new home build is no easy task. It’s months of inconvenience, annoyance, and slogging through a messy jobsite. It’s the phone ringing at all hours with nuisance questions. It’s running back and forth to the site for damage control, decisions, approvals, and inspections and in amongst it all, there’s the signing of check after check. A good amount of those checks are to cover the cost of on-site power.
Although there is electricity running to the house, the account is not in the home owner’s name – it’s in the builder’s name since, technically, the builder owns the property until you’ve paid him in full. Another thing a lot of first-time home owners don’t realize is that Houston electricity retailers often give preferred rates to corporate clients like housing contractors. Like many other producers, Retail Electric Providers like bulk purchases and you can’t get much more bulk purchasing than trucks full of power tools, spot heaters, loud radios, directional lighting, hand tools, battery chargers, and so on! This means you can’t even gauge how much your electric bill will be based on prior bills because the usage pattern is not typical and, on top of that, you’re probably not going to get the same rate as your builder did.
As a result, power companies have shut down Texas coal plants unable to compete with lower-cost generators. Meanwhile, the low electricity prices of recent years — a function of cheap natural gas — and small profits have discouraged companies from investing in new power plants. ERCOT, which oversees about 90 percent of the state’s power grid, said power reserves that are called on when demand peaks on the hottest summer days have shrunk to the lowest levels since Texas deregulated power markets in 2002.
Prepaid electricity plans are yet another option available to Texas customers. Prepaid plans let you avoid credit checks and deposits by pre-paying for your electricity. Prepaid electricity plans typically do not have a fixed duration and operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. Shopping for prepaid electricity can often yield relatively cheap electricity with no deposit. See Prepaid Electricity: Is It Right For Me? for more.
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The best electricity company in Houston depends on your energy needs. You might be looking for a provider that has been around for decades or one that has top-rated customer service. Maybe you’re interested in finding a green energy plan and your current Houston electricity provider doesn’t have green option. Below, you'll find information on some of the leading residential retailers in Texas.
But in Houston, where there are 52 companies on Power to Choose each offering several different power plans, there might be too many choices. Economists have found that when confronted with a large number of choices, most people tend to do nothing. In one well-known behavioral economics experiment, researchers set out six samples of fruit jams at a grocery store, enticing 30 percent of shoppers to buy the product. But when they increased the number of samples to 24, only 3 percent of shoppers made a purchase.
Should you choose a short-term, long-term, month-to-month, or prepaid plan? The short answer: it depends on your specific needs. How long do you anticipate living at your location? Are you deciding in the peak season (summer in Houston) or off season? All electricity providers in Houston offer a broad selection of plans for different contract lengths. Many also offer month-to-month and prepaid electricity plans. The bottom line is that everyone’s needs are different and all contract term lengths offer advantages and disadvantages.
Partha Krishnamurthy, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, said he suspects that many people may be unaware they’re paying more than they need to for electricity, putting their bills on autopay and forgetting about the rates they pay. Most people don’t go to the trouble of changing banks, jobs or their electricity providers, for that matter, unless there are problems.
REPs sell electricity rates to Houston energy consumers, but transmission and distribution service providers (TDSPs) deliver the supply of electricity. In Houston, CenterPoint Energy serves as the area's TDSP and works with about 85 REPs. If your power goes out, immediately report the issue to CenterPoint Energy, not your REP. Use the following phone numbers to get in touch with your Houston TDSP.