Savvy Saver

Kids bored already?  Break out of the monotony this summer by organizing a competition between family members that will build excitement for vacations, family outings, or valued prizes.  The contest is simple and involves doing worthwhile things such as researching to find the cheapest electric company and adopting a renewable energy project.  Besides having fun with this friendly challenge, you will cut the cost of your electricity bill, even if your AC is battling the sweltering Texas heat.  In Dallas, Houston, and everywhere else in Texas, teachers are hoping students will keep their minds active over the summer.  This exciting activity can also keep the kids on their toes while school is out.

Style the competition so that it works for your family and everyone has an age-appropriate activity.  Here’s an example of a contest that could work in a household with three children above age 8, for instance:

Challenge everyone in the family to come up with a way to conserve energy, and the person who finds the idea that can be calculated to save the most money gets to choose an important detail about the family vacation destination or pick a favorite restaurant to go to for a night out.  There could be a prize for everyone; the trick is to make the top awards the most desirable for everyone.

Each family member can come up with their own conservation plan or you can put each of the following ideas into a jar for a drawing and give out awards according to who does the most outstanding job with their project – in this scenario, let an objective third party be the judge.  Imagine your kids actually helping you save money for a change!

Utility Crusade:   Find out which is the cheapest electric company and switch.

Some electric companies are just cheaper than others.  Why not save money on every turn of the meter by choosing the company with the lowest rates?  You can often sign on to a one- or two-year commitment which provides guaranteed rates.  Find out which utility company offers the least expensive price per kilowatt of electricity.  Compare power companies here.

Quest for Clean Energy:  Research to identify a renewable energy investment that makes sense for your family.

The government at the federal, state, and local levels can come to the aid of Texans, from Houston to Dallas and everywhere else, by assisting with the purchase of solar energy.  Advocates of renewable energy are currently excited about new energy buyback and leasing programs being offered by retail utility companies in Texas to motivate more homeowners to switch to solar energy.  Whether it’s solar, wind, or some other renewable resource, investigate which is the best project to benefit the family.

Beefed up Insulation:  Research the benefits and costs of improved insulation and weatherization.

A lot of energy is wasted because hot air leaks into your home in the summer and the cold air invades in winter.  Find what it would cost to add more insulation in the attic, make windows better insulated, etc., as well as how much each upgrade would potentially save in monthly electric bills.

Battle of the Bulbs:  Compare costs and savings related to switching to more efficient lighting.

Only 10% of standard (old-fashioned) light bulbs provide light, and the rest of the energy produces heat.  Look into alternatives for lighting the home with more efficient bulbs, such as switching to using more fluorescent lighting.

Pump Diversion Tactics:  Figure out ways to save on gasoline, including purchasing a new vehicle.

If you have a teen who is driving or looking forward to it, this may be their ideal assignment.  Figure out all the best ways to cut down on costs at the pump, from walking to the corner store instead of driving to purchasing a new, more energy efficient automobile.

Tweak your family competition so that everyone enjoys learning and trying to win some coveted prize.  Then follow through on some of the energy-saving discoveries made.  In the end, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy smaller energy bills from the cheapest electric company while reminiscing about the fun your family had together this summer finding ways to save money.  Share this with your Facebook friends, and see who else joins the challenge!

 

Searching for the best electric rate in Texas? Here’s Why Powertochoose.org could end up costing you more than just time.

THEY’LL LET ANYONE IN

Powertochoose.org: The State of Texas’ Public Utility Commission has created this website that lists nearly every electric plan available in Texas.  When we last checked, we found over 260 plans from 64 different providers.  While at first this may sound like a good place to search for your electric plan, the lack of provider screening and the single-purpose nature of this website may actually land you with a plan you wish you’d never signed up for.

As a State-run website, their service is open to every single energy provider registered to compete in the deregulated Texas electricity marketplace.   Who are all these companies, you might ask?  Who knows!  They could have started the business a month ago.  PowerToChoose lists an Energy Score Card – but all that relates to is the number of complaints “per capita” – the number of formal PUC complaints filed per active customer.

Powertochoose allows every registered REP (Retail Electric Provider) to list their plans on the website… even the companies who have just started in business and may be very likely to fail.  And while you usually get notice and can find an alternate supplier, you could be left with a ridiculously high-priced plan from the local Provider of Last Resort (POLR) if your provider does actually go belly-up.

And how many of these random companies are going to have the infrastructure in place to handle a huge influx of customers?  In fact, both OnPac energy actually decided to pull their plans down from powertochoose because they could not handle the giant rush of customers signing up for the plans they listed on powertochoose.

Because there is no screening of the providers offered on the PUC website, they leave you on your own for ensuring you sign up with a company that’s likely to stay in business and has the infrastructure in place to provide excellent customer service.

Look for providers your friends may be using or those you’ve heard good things about.  They’ve probably been around for a while.  They probably know what it takes to survive in a very competitive market:  Great customer service, competitive pricing, and legitimate business practices.

THE ALMIGHTY FACTS LABEL

The most powerful documents available to you when shopping for electricity in the Texas are the Electricity Facts Label and the Terms of Service.   These two documents contain valuable information about the plan you are considering, and every energy provider must disclose the information in these documents in a similar format.

The problem with powertochoose.org is in how these documents are accessed.  Every time you want to see a facts label or the terms of service on that site, you’ll have to navigate to another webpage.   This means the document loads in a new tab or in a new browser window.  If that’s not annoying, I don’t what is.  And if keeping track of numerous open windows isn’t enough, having to go back and forth between them while shopping is tough.  How can you keep track of which plan you were viewing when you have 8 different windows open, all related to different plans?

GETTING BACK TO CONSUMER FOCUSED SERVICE

There is no choice history, nothing personalized for you, nothing beyond a price list.

So let’s say you successfully sift through 250+ plans from 64+ companies, all fighting for that top position on pricing.  You find a provider that suits your needs and you sign up.  Now what?  You’re on your own.  The State site is done with you.

You’re linked off and there is no record of what you chose, how much you paid, or evidence of the plans agreements that were posted at the time of your signup.  You get to start all over at the provider website by entering your zip code yet again, navigating another confusing pricing structure, and try to find that same plan you signed up for.

This would be like shopping on expedia.com, finding your flight, choosing to buy it, and then having to start the entire process all over again at the airline site, hoping that your flight is still there and that the pricing is still the same.

NO SCREENING, POOR REPORT CARD

How often do you call up the government to tell them about your great experiences?   The PUC site simply displays a complaint ratio of total customers to the number of complaints.  Where are the actual details of the complaints?  How about those with positive experiences?  They’re nowhere to be found.

You’re probably interested in what others have to say – both good and bad, not just a generic “star” rating without any details, right?   It’s important to research these numerous power companies from multiple angles.  Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, Verified customer reviews… all of these can help you better assess what you’re signing up for.

OVERCOMING THESE PITFALLS  IS A CLICK AWAY

Fortunately, there is a much better option for quickly comparing the numerous electric providers and plans without a potential headache offered up at the PUC website.

ComparePower offers a unique experience that will help make your life as a deregulated energy consumer much easier and straightforward.

Pre-screened providers and rate plans

Find the very best providers and their very best plans.  You won’t have to wade through advertising gimmicks and make 27 phone calls to discover your cheapest electric rate from a reputable provider.

Facts Labels and Terms of Service are embedded.  When you want to review one of these important documents, you will see it right there next to the plan you are reviewing.  No new windows.  No Popups.  Simple and easy.

You-centric.  Keep track of your choices over time and store these important plan documents in your account, safe and sound.  Keep track of your usage history if you’d like, which will help you find the lowest electric rate for your average usage level when it’s time to signup again in the future.

Review company information of the electric providers and read real consumer reviews.  Access summaries of social and community feedback on the various energy companies all in one place without hunting around on the Internet.

They key to getting the very best electric rate for your unique situation is educating yourself on the different facets of the deregulated energy industry.  Whether we like it or not, this industry is a bit confusing, and it’s not getting any simpler.  Educate yourself on how all this stuff works and use ComparePower’s consumer-centric comparison service to find a reputable, trusted supplier at the best possible rate.

CONCLUSION:

Enter your zip code at the top of this page to enoy a real apple-to-apples comparison marketplace that exposes all the gimmicks and helps you make the best decision possible with the least amount of time invested.

You’d be surprised by how easy it is to cut down on your electric bill.

But we’ve all been there: the sacrifices, the hassle, the endless penny-pinching. You’re always so careful about it. You turn the lights off every time you leave the room. You only ever wash full loads of laundry. Yet, still, the end of the month rolls around, and you once again find yourself emptying your pockets and pulling out your hair.

Stop singing the blues. There’s no need to pour over that electric bill again with a pencil and a calculator. You don’t need a degree in applied mathematics to cut down. Here are some easy tips you can implement today to save money on your energy costs.

1. Remember To Unplug Your Appliances

Computers, HD televisions, Xboxes, Blu-ray players, home stereos – these days the gizmos never stop piling up, and they can be a huge drain on your pocketbook.

According to the US Department of Energy, household electrical appliances account for 6% of the average home’s energy consumption, even often consuming up to several watts on standby mode. It’s not enough just to flick a switch when you leave the room. Unplugging appliances when you’re not using them can ensure that no unnecessary power is wasted.

To save time, try plugging your electrical appliances into a power strip. Then all you’ll have to do is turn off the power strip when you leave the room and enjoy the energy savings.

2. Check Your Energy Supplier

Electricity is just like anything else you spend money on. You wouldn’t buy a car without first checking out a few different models, would you? In many states, consumers are restricted to buying their energy from a single utility provider. However, there are some states in the US, such as Texas, where the energy market has been deregulated.

Be a smart consumer. Don’t get taken for a ride. If you live in an area where you have a choice of your energy supplier, then it’s important that you make sure that you’re getting the best deal available. Do your due diligence, compare rates, and count your savings.

3. Change Your Old Light Bulbs

Every two-bit blog lists it. Every local news report talks about it. We know you may be tired of hearing the same old line. Frankly, so are we. But, new energy efficient light bulbs do work.

The initial costs may appear a bit greater than those of normal incandescent bulbs, but you can save significantly more in the long-term by using halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). You won’t need a calculator to see how much you’ll be shaving off your energy costs.

4. When It Comes to Your Central Air Conditioner…

The temperature’s rising, and you’re at home baking. You’re itching to touch that thermostat down the hall, but you fear the toll it’ll take on your electric bill. Well, worry not. There is a cure for the summertime blues. You can enjoy the splendid comforts of central air without spending an arm and a leg, if you take the right steps.

First, try purchasing an energy efficient model. The price tag in the store may seem a bit higher, but new energy efficient central air conditioners can trim serious dollars and cents off your electric costs. Check the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating on advertised models to find the most efficient unit.

Second, be sure to choose an air conditioner that is the correct size for the space being cooled. An over-sized air conditioner will consume more power than is necessary. Ask a qualified heating contractor to determine the size of the equipment needed for your home or living space.

Third, move any sources of heat in your home, such as lamps and televisions, away from the thermostat. Household appliances that generate a lot of heat can cause your thermostat to read the room’s temperature as being higher than it truly is, which would in turn lead to unnecessary cooling and energy consumption. Positioning such devices away from the thermostat will help ensure an accurate temperature reading.

5. Lower The Thermostat On Your Water Heater

It may be easy to forget about, sitting all alone out there in the cold garage, but your water heater can often be a big drain on your energy bill. According to the US Department of Energy, water heating accounts for 18% of home energy consumption. Lowering the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F is an easy way to cut down on your power consumption.

 

finding the cheapest electric rate often requires you to know your average monthly usage. By reading the fine print of your contract, and by understanding past usage from previous bills, you can find the cheapest energy rate that applies to your actual usage level. Find your true costs at ComparePower today.

Some ads are too good to be true. Utility providers often advertise rates that the average consumer won’t qualify for. Be sure to read the fine print, and make sure your power costs are those you expected.

If you don’t know your average monthly kWh usage, then you may be paying more on your electric bill than you originally thought you would when you signed up.

The average kWh usage level refers to the typical amount of energy your household consumes in a given month.  Electric providers commonly charge different monthly rates and fees related to the usage level your household falls into.  500 kWh, 1000 kWh, or 2000 kWh.

Don’t be caught off-guard. The best way to ensure you aren’t overpaying is to first start by understanding your household’s usage. Keep your power costs as low as possible by knowing this information when shopping around for your electric plan.

Why It Matters

Energy suppliers often advertise the rates associated with their highest usage level, as those tend to be the lowest prices offered. However, these companies neglect to mention that the average household rarely consumes enough power in a given month to qualify for these cheap rates, leaving you paying more.  In fact, the average household in Texas consumes between 1200-1500 kwh of electricity per month.  Some apartment dwellers, may use far less, while some larger homes may use far more. But given that the average usage is less than the rates advertised at the highest tier of 2000 kwh, many people are left with a higher bill than they anticipated.

Here is an example from a real Electricity Facts Label (EFL).  While this rate is clearly a very good deal for a household that uses 2000kwh, it is not at all appealing for those using under 800 kwh monthly (that’s the cutoff level for this particular plan’s $9.95 usage charge).  It’s a natural tendency for providers to advertise their lowest rate, so it’s important that as a consumer, you are aware of the issue at hand and are armed with the knowledge on what to look for.

This real EFL Snapshot shows why it's so vitally important you understand your usage and shop accordingly. 500kwh households will pay 11.4c, nearly 35% more than 2000kwh households, for the same plan!

This real EFL Snapshot shows why it’s so vitally important you understand your usage and shop accordingly. 500kwh households will pay 11.4 cents per kwh, nearly 35% more than 2000kwh households (8.4 cents), for the same plan!

Don’t be misled by tricky advertising. Take the time now to do your due diligence, and you will save loads more on your power costs in the future. There are even options available to consumers to make this whole process simpler. Using our electric rate comparison portal instead of shopping directly with each individual provider can make selecting an electricity plan fast and easy. ComparePower lists the average prices at 500, 1000, and 2000 kwh usage, including fees and taxes, so you can see the true rate that will appear on your bill.

Calculate Your Monthly kWh Usage

Kilowatt-hours (kWh), usage levels, low-consumption fees – all the industry jargon is enough to make you want to tear your hair out. You shouldn’t have to be an electrical engineer to know how much you are going to spend each month on power costs.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average US residence in 2011 consumed 940 kWh per month.

Here are a few more statistics to help you calculate your energy consumption:

  • A 2-ton central air conditioner uses 1450 kWh/month
  • A typical water heater used by a 4-person household consumes 310 kWh/month
  • A dishwasher uses 30 kWh/month
  • An oven range uses 58 kWh/month
  • A microwave uses 16 kWh/month
  • A 17-20 cubic foot refrigerator-freezer uses 205 kWh/month
  • A washing machine uses 9 kWh/month
  • A dryer uses 75 kWh/month
  • Lighting for a 4-5 room residence uses 50 kWh/month
  • A television set uses 27 kWh/month

(The above statistics are all based on average home use)

Back to you…

If you have access to some previous bills, use that to help determine which usage level you should be shopping rates at.  It really can make a world of difference in the effective rate you end up paying for energy.  We have observed many plans advertised at very competitive 2000kwh prices end up costing more than 35% higher for users at the 500kwh usage level.  

Be smart – grab those previous electric bills, figure out your average usage, and shop at your average usage level accordingly.  This alone could save you hundred of dollars a year, and is quite possibly the most important aspect of shopping for electricity.