Energy Choice Experts Review of the TXU Free Nights & Solar Days Plan

TXU has a new offering this spring called Free Nights & Solar Days. TXU says, "This is the best of both worlds – our customers get the free electricity they love along with the added benefits of renewable energy. Because this plan doesn't require rooftop solar panels, it's an easy way to take advantage of the sun regardless of whether you live in a house or an apartment." Wow, that sounds attractive, but…is it?

This plan is similar to the TXU Free Nights Plan that we reviewed last year, but the energy comes from 100% renewable energy sources instead of mostly non-renewable energy sources. For “green” Texans who prefer wind and solar energy over non-renewable energy, this sounds attractive, exciting, and new. However, 100% wind/solar plans are not new at all; most other electricity companies offer them too. In fact, over 20% of the plans available in Texas source 100% of their energy from wind and solar farms.

Unfortunately, like the Free Nights Plan, the Free Nights & Solar Days Plan is deceptively expensive. TXU customers receive “free” electricity from 9 PM to 6 AM under this plan, which sounds great, but it’s critical to understand the cost of the plan during the day. In the Oncor area, the daytime cost/kWh of this plan is 19.2 cents/kWh (including all REP and TDU fees) if you use 1,000 kWh/month. For reference, Energy Choice Experts clients paid on average 6.3 cents/kWh in 2016. The daytime cost of the TXU Free Nights & Solar Days Plan is triple the cost.

But wait—could you come out ahead on the TXU Free Nights & Solar Days Plan by moving your electricity usage from the daytime to the nighttime? Can getting enough “free” nighttime electricity outweigh the daytime cost of 19.2 cents/kWh? That’s what TXU wants you to think, but is it realistic or even possible?

The TXU plan gives you 9 “free” hours of electricity. According to the TXU Electricity Facts Label, the average person uses 32.7% of his electricity during these 9 hours. What if you were really diligent about not using electricity during the daytime and ran your appliances at night? Well, except the refrigerator; it has to run 24 hours a day. What about the A/C in the summertime? How many Texans could wait until “free” electricity starts at 9:00 at night to start cooling down their 110 degree homes? What about the summer weekends? Who wants to sweat in the house all day? Sounds tough.

So we calculated exactly how much of your electricity usage would have to be used at night for the TXU plan to be more economical than plans recommended by Energy Choice Experts. Turns out that a household using 1,000 kWh/month could come out ahead using the Nights & Solar Days Plan, but only if more than 73% of electricity used in the household were used at night.

Let’s be real. How many people can use 73% of electricity during the 9 “free” hours and only 27% during the other 15 hours of the day? We are not saying it isn’t possible, but you’d have to be obsessed with your energy usage and you’d have a scorching hot home until 9:00 every night of the summer. Nobody wants that kind of hassle when there is a cheaper alternative that allows you to use electricity at your convenience.

Energy Choice Experts is here to keep our clients from falling for gimmicks like “free” nights. Provide us with your last 12 months of usage and we'll give you the straight answer on your Lowest Annual Cost Energy Plan for a one-time fee of $35. We guarantee that you can't find a lower annual cost plan than we can.

For Texans who want to sign up for wind and solar plans, we already provide those options as part of our standard service. These “green” plans often cost a little more than non-renewable energy plans, but we show you how much more they will cost for the year and let you decide if you want to pay a premium.  TXU is not the only company that offers wind and solar energy; they are just the ones that spend the most money marketing these plans.

Energy Choice Experts can help you save some green and still be green.

Lowering the Boom on XOOM ...Energy

Power to Choose is the official state website where most, but not all, retail electric providers post their electric plans for Texas residential customers to review and is our primary source for available plans in Texas. One electric provider that does not post their plans on Power to Choose is XOOM Energy.

Energy Choice Experts reviewed the current plans from XOOM and want to let you know why you SHOULD NOT choose a plan from XOOM Energy.  We went on their website, entered our north Texas zip code, and pulled up their "featured" 12 month plan, the RescueLock 12 Unbundled. In a large font, they say their rate is $0.0489/kWh, which sounds really good....until we looked into the details.

XOOM posted their energy rate only, without including the Oncor delivery charges. In order to understand the real cost, we reviewed the Electricity Facts Label (EFL). When adding in the $4.99 monthly fee from XOOM, the $5.25 monthly fee from Oncor, and the $.03286/kWh distribution rate from Oncor, the the actual cost is $0.092/kWh when using 1,000 kWh's. That's almost double the advertised rate!

Additionally, before even getting to the EFL, they try to draw you in by letting you know that 5% of your monthly energy charges will be donated to PetSmart Charities. If you really would like to donate money to PetSmart Charities, let Energy Choice Experts show you plans that are 30%-40% cheaper than XOOM's energy rate. Then you can give 5%, 10% or more of your energy charges to PetSmart, and you'll still save money over XOOM's plan.

Energy Choice Experts is here to decipher tricks like this and make your electricity choice simple. 

 

 

Why ECE doesn't look at Ratings of Texas Electricity Companies and you shouldn't either.

With the advent of online shopping, consumers have access to research and a plethora of reviews about products and services. Considering that many Texans spend $1000 to $2000 per year on electricity, it makes sense that they would do their research and check reviews.

So why does ECE recommend Texans ignore ratings of electricity companies when shopping for electricity plans in Texas and only focus on Total Annual Cost? We have three answers to this question:

  1. Ratings companies can't agree on which providers are best.
  2. Electricity is a commodity; there is no product differentiation.
  3. You should never have to talk with Customer Service, especially if you set up auto-pay.

Let's look at these more deeply.

Ratings companies can't agree on which providers are best.

Several companies rate electricity providers, but many of them are biased because someone is paying them to publish the rankings or they get commission from the companies they represent. However, we believe two ratings companies provide unbiased reviews in Texas: (1) JD Power, a recognized name in rating customer service of many products and services, and (2) the Texas Public Utility Commission that publishes the Retail Electric Providers Complaint Scorecard on the Power To Choose website.

Since both of these sources are unbiased, you would expect their top 10 lists to be virtually the same. But that couldn't be further from the truth. None of the top 10 providers on the Power To Choose list are on the JD Powers top 10 list. Further, JD Power gives its highest score to Champion Energy, which is ranked number 26 by Power To Choose. Conversely, Power to Choose rates Alliance Power as the best, and JD Power doesn't even rank Alliance Power.

If these two independent surveys can't agree on which Texas Electricity companies are best, how can ECE use either of their scorecards to recommend one REP over another to our clients? 

Electricity is a commodity; there is no product differentiation.

When differentiating products and services, consumers typically consider Cost, Quality, and Reliability. For electricity, Cost is the only differentiator.

Although electricity is generated using different sources, such as solar, wind, coal, and natural gas, all of the electricity generated from these sources have the same quality. When you flip on a light switch, the bulb burns at the same brightness no matter whom you buy electricity from.

Not only is the quality the same, the reliability is too. Electricity providers simply supply you with electricity; they do not own or repair the poles and wires that transmit electricity to your house. That job is managed by your TDU (Oncor, Centerpoint,…). So if your street has an electricity outage, your TDU is responsible for getting the entire street’s electricity turned back on, regardless of the various providers you and your neighbors use.

The only real non-cost difference between electricity plans is the source of the electricity. The PUC requires REPs to state the percent of renewable (wind and solar) electricity that is generated for each plan. Many companies sell plans that that have 100% renewable power sources. These often cost more and some Texans are willing to pay a premium for it. ECE recognizes this product differentiator, so we include renewable electricity plan options with our recommendations.

In summary, electricity is a commodity, like gasoline. If two neighboring gas stations were to sell regular unleaded at different prices, most consumers would fill up at the cheapest station. The same should be true for electricity.

You should never have to talk with Customer Service, especially if you set up auto-pay.

When you buy a new car and the steering goes out in the first month, you talk to the dealer. When you buy a Venti Caffe Latte at Starbucks and get a tall Caffe Mocha instead, you ask them to replace it. But what can go wrong with electricity? Nothing, except power can go out— and then you call your TDU, not your provider.

The point is you should never have to contact your electricity company, especially if you sign up on-line and set up auto draft from your checking account or credit card. This is our personal experience.

  • The founders of Energy Choice Experts have changed electricity providers every year for the past 15 years, using over 20 different providers. We always set up auto draft and have never had to talk to anyone in customer service.
  • In fact, one Founder is currently using HINO, which is not only ranked dead last (#56) by Power To Choose, but was also called the “worst electric company in Texas” by Dave Lieber of the Dallas Morning News. What has been his experience with HINO? He has never had to contact their customer service and has paid less than 4 cents/kWh since signing up with them last May.

So there you have it — three reasons that Energy Choice Experts does not take into account electricity company ratings. We are firm believers that you should only consider TOTAL ANNUAL COST when comparing electricity companies and plans, and possibly the percent of renewable electricity. There is no difference in the quality of electricity, there is no good source that compares the customer service of one company over another, and in reality, you should never have to contact Customer Service anyway.

TXU Season Pass 24 Review by Energy Choice Experts

TXU is spending a lot of money to market its new electricity plan, Season Pass 24. Historically, electricity plans marketed by TXU are deceptive and expensive for the consumer. TXU’s "Free Nights and Weekend" plan is one we previously reviewed and definitely do not recommend.

So, how does TXU’s Season Pass 24 plan compare?

The offer: “Season Pass Savings of 50% off the Energy Charge” in the three summer months and three winter months. 

On the surface, the plan sounds good. In Texas we all know how big those summer bills can be, and, if you have electric heat, the winter bills can generate some high costs too.

What’s the catch? Energy Choice Experts finds 3 areas of concern with this plan.

  1. First, the spring and fall rates are extremely high! When you factor in all fixed and variable monthly costs, the effective cost/kWh at 500, 1,000, and 2,000 kWh are 18.0, 16.5, and 15.8 cents/kWh respectively. This is more than twice the rate of 6.0 to 8.0 cents/kWh, the rate ECE considers competitive.

  2. 50% savings in the summer and winter sounds great, but what is it really?  Look closely and you’ll see the discount is only on the Energy Charge. When you factor in all the costs, the effective cost/kWh at 500, 1,000, and 2,000 kWh are 12.4, 10.9, and 10.1 cents/kWh respectively. That’s more like 33% off versus their 50% off claim. Additionally, the “discounted” rate does not even come close to the competitive rates noted above.

  3. There’s also a catch with TXU’s definition of "summer" and "winter," which works to their advantage and not yours. This year, summer is from June 20th to September 22nd, but the TXU Season Pass summer discount applies to the bills you receive in June, July, and August.  So if your monthly meter reading is on the 15th, your discounted rate is actually from May 16 to August 15, which means you would pay 16 to 18 cents/kWh during 40% of the summer. If TXU can measure usage by time of day for their free nights program, shouldn’t they be able to align this plan with the real days of summer?

In summary, do not sign up for this plan. It is full of deception and high prices. As we have seen in the past, if TXU spends heavily on marketing a plan, you know it's a bad deal.

Energy Choice Experts is here to keep our customers from falling for these gimmicks. Provide us with your usage and we'll give you the straight answer on your Lowest Annual Cost Energy Plan for a one-time fee of $35. We guarantee that you can't find a lower annual cost plan than we can.

 

When does a $750 Bonus from TXU cost you over $1,000?

TXU Texas Choice 24 Plan

One of our Dallas area clients recently received a letter from TXU offering a bonus of $750 ($375/year for 2 years) if she signed up for their Texas Choice 24 plan. She asked Energy Choice Experts to take a look and see how good of a deal it was (or wasn't).

We found the details of the Texas Choice 24 plan on-line and calculated the two year cost at $4,028 based upon her annual usage of 17,248 kWh. When you consider the bonus of $750, her final cost is $3,278 or $1,639/year.

Next, we ran her usage in the Energy Choice Experts model and found an annual plan that would cost $1,120/year, which would save her $1,038 or $519/year compared to the Texas Choice 24 plan.

Even more shocking, we discovered that 83% of the annual plans in her area (Oncor) have a lower annual cost than the TXU Texas Choice 24 plan. In other words, if she were to throw a dart at a list of available annual plans, she'd have an 83% chance of hitting a plan with a lower annual cost than the TXU Texas Choice 24 plan!

This is just another example of how electricity companies use deceptive marketing to trick Texans into paying too much for electricity. The promise of a $750 bonus enticed our client to sign up for the TXU plan. Luckily she contacted us first. Energy Choice Experts looks at the annual cost of plans in order to give our clients a true apples-to-apples comparison of electricity plans.

Don't take chances on on your electricity costs - let the Expert do the work for you.

 

The Cost of FREE Electricity

Usually when someone tells you that something is free, there's a hidden cost somewhere.  When it comes to electric plans it's no different. 

Our friends at TXU are at it again.  They have resurrected the Energy Free Nights plan that gives you "free" electricity for 9 hours every night.  Here's why TXU says you'll want this plan: get a cool nights sleep on their dime, track all the free electricity you're getting using their mobile app, and finally because Free Nights customers got 40% of their electricity free in 2015.

Energy Choice Experts thinks this sounds a little too good, so we decided to see how this plan would stack up against a simple, straight-forward plan without "free" electricity.  We used one of our own customer profiles and plotted the monthly cost of TXU's plan versus the ECE recommended plan below.

TXU Energy Free Nights

What we found was that TXU's plan was 55% higher and would actually cost our customer over $600 more per year!

In this example, the customer would have received 45% of his electricity for free compared to the 40% mentioned by TXU for their customers in 2015.  However, the cost of electricity during the other 55% of the time was 2.77 times higher than the flat rate on the other plan we compared it against.  

So why would a customer choose this plan?  Maybe they think they can shift some extra load into the nighttime hours to take more advantage of the "free" period.  Well, considering that the largest consumers of electricity, the A/C and refrigerator, can't really be shut down completely during the day (unless you want a 100 degree house to cool down when you get home in the summer) it's not likely that you could make this plan work to your benefit.  

Energy Choice Experts is here to keep our customers from falling for these gimmicks.  Provide us with your usage and we'll give you the straight answer on your Lowest Annual Cost Energy Plan for a one-time fee of $35 ....a lot less than paying someone like TXU an extra $600 for "free" electricity!

Trick or Treat? This electric plan is just another trick!

We at Energy Choice Experts see all kinds of tricks played by the electric providers.  That is one of the primary reasons we started our company, because you, the customer, are getting tricked into paying more for electricity than you should.  Let's look at how this happens.

Here is a snapshot of a featured "Exclusive 12 Mo Plan" from one of the many sites on the web where you can shop for electric plans:

Wow, 5.9 cents including delivery charges looks pretty good, right?  Well, let's look a little deeper.  Here is the Electric Facts Label that goes along with this plan.

The plan states you will be charged $59 dollars for anything between 0-1000 kWh, and another $59 for anything from 1001-2000 kWh.  This allows them to show a 5.9 cent rate on the facts label above because you pay $59 if you use exactly 1000 kWh and $118 ($59+$59) if you use exactly 2000 kWh.  However, if you use 1001 kWh you're going to pay the same $118 for an effective rate of 11.8 cents per kWh ($118 / 1001).  So, if you're going to use exactly 1000 kWh per month or exactly 2000 kWh per month, then this is the plan for you.  In reality, this is not going to happen and you'll end up paying too much. Additionally, they charged a rate of 8.9 cents/kWh for usage above 2000 kWh. This is more than 2 cents/kWh higher than the best plans and will hit customers the hardest in the summer months when they use their A/C.

We compared two of our customers to this plan from February.  One customer had higher usage ranging between 1600-3450 kWh per month with an annual average of 2270 kWh, and the other customer had lower usage ranging between 1100-2900 per month with an annual average of 1830 kWh per month.  Note that both customers are close to a 2000 kWh/month average usage, so they may have thought the above rate was a great deal at 5.9 cents/kWh.  However, this trick would have cost our higher use customer $81 and our lower use customer $231 if they would have chose this tricky plan over the ECE recommended plan.

Energy Choice Experts is here to cut through all the tricks the electric companies play.  We're here to make sure you pay the absolute Lowest Annual Cost.  When you're within 14 days of your contract renewal, sign up with ECE and we'll send your Lowest Annual Cost analysis within 24 hours.

How Much Would You Pay for 100% Renewable Electricity?

Many people's perception of renewable (aka green) power is that it comes at a much higher cost. Just a year or two before we created the Energy Choice Experts Lowest Annual Cost model in 2015, 100% renewable electricity was often priced $200 per year or greater than "brown" power. This price differential was enough to keep many Texans from choosing a green plan.

At ECE we know that cost may be the first priority for many consumers when choosing an electricity plan, so our company provides the overall plan with the Lowest Annual Cost for our customers based upon their unique usage history. However, many Texans also want to be good stewards of our planet, so we also list the lowest annual cost 100% renewable energy plan.

We have been pleased to see the premium for green electricity has been less than $50 per year for most of our customers the last few months. Some customers didn't pay any premium for green electricity!

How is this possible? Well, Texans should be proud that our state owns the largest amount of wind generation capacity in the country.  If Texas were considered a country, it would rank about 6th for wind generation.  

So if you're searching now for a new electric plan, consider going green. Who wouldn't choose a green plan if the cost was the same?

How do Electric Companies Thank their Loyal Customers?

Electric companies thank their loyal customers by charging them more than their new customers. Yes, you read that correctly. Electric companies offer their best rates to new customers and they prey on their "loyal" customers. Unlike airlines that reward their loyal customers with frequent flier miles and many retail companies that reward their loyal customers with special offers, electric companies make loyal customers pay more.

Further, your current electricity company has the unique knowledge of when your contract expires so they try to lock you into a high rate before you can shop the competition. A recent ECE customer shared an e-mail from his current provider. The e-mail told their customer that they need to act in the next 3 days to lock in a great rate, even though their contract doesn't expire for almost 3 months. The electric companies know that the you can't switch to another provider until 14 days before your contract expires so they want to lock their current customers in early so you don't shop the competition.

So what about the great rate they offer to loyal customers. ECE compared the rate in the retention letter to the rate that the same provider offers on www.powertochoose.org for new customers. The provider is charging local customers 1.1 cents/kWh more. In Texas, the average consumer uses 18,000 kWh/ year so the loyal customer's annual cost is $198 higher.

ECE recommends you change your electricity company every 12 months to always be in a low introductory rate. Electricity companies do not reward their loyal customers, so why would you want to be loyal to them?

Apples, Pineapples & Oranges ...

Choosing electricity plans in Texas is not apples-to-apples, it's more like "apples, pineapples and oranges" according to the NBC5 news story in the video clip above.  The average residential electricity consumer is faced with many variables, confusing fees and too many choices.  Even advanced math students at the University of Texas at Arlington had trouble making sense of it all. 

While we don't think you need to understand calculus to figure out your lowest cost plan, it does take an understanding of tricky fees (minimun usage fees, usage credits, etc) and knowledge of delivery rates and fees.  Then if you have time to plug in your individual 12 months of usage into tens or hundreds of plans, you can finally determine your best electric plan.

If you want to save yourself the electric plan brain-freeze described above, let Energy Choice Experts do this work for you.  Provide us with your 12 months of usage, and we'll do the rest.  Our one-time $35 dollar fee is less than many folks spend on Starbucks in a month, and we'll potentially save you hundreds of dollars a year. 

ECE vs One Big Switch

Recently One Big Switch ran a marketing campaign in Dallas area promising to "unlock exclusive group discounts" on electricity because they had over 25,000 members.

The industry term for this is aggregation. Many HOAs have tried aggregation for 300-500 homeowners. Fundamentally, aggregation sounds attractive, but does it save money? We put One Big Switch to the test.

We compared the total annual cost of the One Big Switch plan to the plans in our database for every customer for the past month. On average, their plan was listed as the 18th Lowest Annual Cost plan and their best showing was 12th place. In other words, we identified at least 11 lower cost plans than the One Big Switch plan for every customer. More importantly, our customers saved an average of $204.00 by choosing our recommended plan over theirs!

Don't be fooled by companies marketing low rates through volume negotiations. Our proven Lowest Annual Cost process is the best way to save money on electricity.