Frugality

How to Compare Your Utility Company Options

One of the biggest shocks to many residents is that they have a choice with regards to their utility company. Since the deregulation of electricity, many citizens have more than one option. This is not true for every state. But in those deregulated areas, it is possible that portions of the population are not aware that they can choose something else. The first thing you have to do is determine if you are in a deregulated area.

The state of Texas is one of those states that offer citizens a choice of electric companies. Where there is choice, there is responsibility. We have a responsibility to research our options, and make informed decisions about what is right for us. Here are some of the things you should look for when weighing your options:

Deregulated Areas

It is not enough to know that Texas offers areas of deregulation. You can live in Texas and still not have a choice of power companies. If you do live in a deregulated area and are enjoying the benefits, you will want to be sure that your next move is to another deregulated area where you can pick up with the service you had.

TXU Energy is one of the big electricity retailers since deregulation in 2002. A site called Local Electricity Companies shows you where you can get that service. And provides a little information about service in that area. The first, most important thing you can do is arm yourself with where, and what your choices are.

Dollars and Cents

The main thing people want to know about their electric company service is how much their monthly bill will be. While there is no way to know for certain, we can make reasonable guesses. When comparing prices between electric companies, the only number you really need to know is the price per kWh. That is the number each provider can control. The rest are fixed costs like state and local taxes. Those costs will be the same regardless of provider.

The price per kWh can vary widely within a given market. One service might charge a price of 6.59¢ kWh, while another charges over 10¢ kWh. If price is your only consideration, then the comparison math is pretty easy. The state of Pennsylvania provides a handy price chart, along with an introduction to comparing the various services offered in that state.

Beyond Price

If money is the only thing we care about, then we cannot claim the moral high-ground over the greedy and heartless companies against which we like to inveigh. In every case I could find, the highest monthly rate goes to energy options that are 100% renewable. While I cannot tell you exactly why those options are higher, it is not entirely unexpected. In the same way that healthy eating is more expensive than less healthy options, there is a price associated with responsible alternatives. Each individual must decide how important those alternatives are to them.

There is also a matter of service. Monthly savings mean little if the service is dicey. When you call, do you get a machine or a person? If a service call is needed, how much is that visit going to cost you? Good service will almost always cost more than poor service. Often, a low monthly rate is made up by poor service and hidden fees. The important thing is that all of these rates and fees can be known beforehand. For many, quality service and responsible energy management will be more important than the variable price per kWh.

Choice does not just stop at electricity providers. For heating, you might be able to choose between electric or gas. You might also have more than one water option. The important thing is to choose what is best for you. And the only way you can do that is by doing your homework for the choices in your local area.

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