Tips on how to get best electric rates via PowerToChoose.org
July 19, 2014 at 2:19 a.m.
Updated July 20, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.
Save energy between 3 and 7 p.m.
• Run your washer, dryer or dishwasher in the morning before you leave for work or wait until after 7 p.m.
• Save up to 10 watts of energy for every device you unplug. Unplugging just six devices you normally leave plugged in can save up to $40 a year.
Use a microwave, outdoor grill or slow cooker. In the summer, your stove and oven heat up the house. This makes your AC work harder.
BEWARE OF SCAMS
According to the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, consumers have reported receiving unsolicited calls and emails that threaten to cut off electricity to consumers unless they exchange financial or personal information.
"We regard any efforts to undermine our reputations as significant threats. Law enforcement officials, electric companies and consumer organizations are diligently investigating these scams and want to alert customers to stay vigilant this summer and beyond," said John Fainter, AECT president and CEO.
If a caller threatens to cut off service, hang up and call the number on the electric bill and check the account status with the company.
Moving into a new place can be hard.
To-do lists often include transferring mail and utilities to a new address, sorting through junk hidden in the crevices of the corner closets and, in some cases, finding a new electric service provider.
That's why in 2002, the Public Utility Commission of Texas created the Power To Choose website, said Terry Hadley, spokesman for the commission.
"Everyone realized there needed to be an unbiased source to shop for electricity providers," he said.
Since then, the site has improved and continues to provide consumers with the best way to find the companies that best fit their lifestyle and usages.
Here are a few of Hadley's tips for using PowerToChoose.org:
- Use the search bar to narrow the terms of your search. Here you can set the criteria to fit your kilowatt-hour needs, price range, contract length, type of plan, company scores and renewable energy.
Transmission and distribution utility (TDU): The company responsible for delivering service to the area and maintaining poles and wires. AEP Texas services Victoria area homes and businesses.
Kilowatt-hour (kWh): The way the electric companies measure usage by residential consumers. Hadley said monitoring the usage over a few months to a year will give a residential user a good idea of how many kilowatt-hours are used. For example, the low and peak averages served by AEP Central in 2013 were 1,483 kWh and 815 kWh.
Fixed rates: Do not change over time and are simpler to use. Prices are slightly higher, but the advantage is that they don't change. This is the plan most people go with, he said.
Variable rates: Fluctuate over time and, depending on the provider, the company may not notify you of the change in rates. Read the fine print, Hadley said.
Indexed rates are reflective of the market activity. For example, if the price index of natural gas exceeds a certain point, the rate will change, too.
- The more plugs, the better the company's complaint score. Complaint scores are based on submissions to the Public Utility Commission rather than through the company.
- Plan details give you extra information and repeat the information based on the search filters.
- Pay close attention to the cancellation fees or minimum usage fees. Most companies will post extra information about their service with fact sheets or terms of service.
- Get in touch with the individual company to experience the customer service. If you need to contact the company in the future, calling it to set up your plan is the best way to see what its customer service representatives are like, Hadley said.