Choosing the right electric services provider for your home is one of the most important decisions a homeowner can make.
Electricity powers nearly every aspect of modern life, ranging from lighting and appliances to heating and cooling systems. Having reliable, affordable electric service is essential for comfort, convenience, and safety.
With costs rising, it’s more important than ever to find an electric company that meets your specific needs. The wrong provider can lead to service interruptions, unexpected rate hikes, and other headaches.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to find the best electric services provider for your home. Comparing companies, understanding rates and fees, and evaluating customer service can help you make an informed decision. Read on for ten tips to choose the right electric services provider.
Compare Rates and Plan Options
One of the biggest factors in choosing a provider is the rate you’ll pay per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Thoroughly compare rates from at least 3-5 companies in your area.
Some providers offer fixed rates that don’t fluctuate month-to-month, while others offer variable rates that change based on market conditions. Variable rates can sometimes be cheaper in the short term but carry the risk of unpredictable price spikes.
Look closely at the rate plan options each company offers. Some provide free nights/weekends, renewable energy credits, loyalty rewards programs, and other perks. Make sure any plan you consider aligns with your household’s established usage patterns and schedule.
Be aware that promotional teaser rates often increase after an introductory period ends. Carefully factor in potential rate hikes down the road.
Matching the right rate plan to your usage provides long-term savings and prevents “rate shock” from plans poorly suited to your needs.
Watch Out for Fees
In addition to electric rates, providers often charge fees that can significantly raise your costs. These may include:
- Fees for electrical service & installation, especially if you are adding new appliances or systems
- Monthly service and connection fees
- Late payment fees
- Disconnection and reconnection fees
- Fees for paying by credit card
Carefully read the fine print to understand the full picture of costs and fees. Avoid companies that nickel-and-dime customers with excessive, confusing fees. Seek providers that offer simple, straightforward pricing.
Understand Your Electricity Usage
It is also important to gain a clear picture of your household’s unique electricity usage patterns and requirements. Important questions to ask:
Do you run major appliances like air conditioners, electric dryers, and ovens daily, or just use electricity for basic lighting and smaller electronics? High energy-draw appliances can significantly impact your electricity needs.
Are you looking to add new electric vehicles, solar panels, or high-energy appliances in the near future? Upcoming changes to your home can alter electricity needs.
How many people live in your home, and what are their daily schedules? More occupants and people home during the day raises usage.
Carefully reviewing past electric bills, researching your appliances’ energy draw, and using online electricity usage calculators provide an accurate snapshot of your home’s electricity profile. This equips you to find the right provider and rate plan.
Check Reviews and Complaint Records
Customer reviews and complaint records can reveal a lot about an electric company’s service quality, rates, fees, and more.
- Search online for customer reviews and check sites like BBB.org that aggregate complaint data.
- Look for concerning patterns like numerous complaints about inaccurate billing, poor customer service, lengthy outages, or sudden rate hikes.
- See how companies respond to negative reviews and complaints. Responsible providers address issues professionally and quickly.
- This helps avoid potential headaches from providers with a history of customer dissatisfaction in key areas.
Evaluate Customer Service
An electric company’s customer service quality says a lot about its overall operations. Important questions to ask include:
Does it offer 24/7 customer support by phone and online chat/messaging?
Is its website and mobile app intuitive and user-friendly?
Can you easily track real-time usage, pay bills, report outages, and manage your account?
Test response times by calling customer service during peak hours or initiating a chat. The top providers have excellent customer service infrastructure and trained reps ready to assist customers promptly.
Consider Energy Efficiency Programs
Many electric providers offer rebates, incentives, and financing for energy efficiency upgrades. These may include:
- Discounts on LED light bulbs, smart thermostats, extra insulation, and high-efficiency appliances
- Special rates for electric vehicles and charging stations
- Financing for solar panel installation and upgrades like new windows
- Home energy audits to identify savings opportunities
- Improving your home’s efficiency reduces electric costs. Seek a provider that offers robust efficiency initiatives and technology rebates to help curtail your long-term energy consumption and costs.
Check Service Reliability Record
Power outages can wreak havoc on your home life and damage sensitive electronics. Research each provider’s reliability track record in your area:
Check reliability reports from independent organizations.
Look up news articles about past widespread outages affecting numerous customers.
Ask neighbors which providers have historically had the most reliable service in your community.
Frequent, lengthy outages indicate a provider likely has underlying infrastructure issues. Seek a company with a proven history of consistent, dependable service.
Understand Billing and Payment Options
Find out how each provider handles billing, payment processing, and account management:
What payment options does it offer—online, by mail, or in person?
Can you enroll in paperless billing and auto-pay to simplify payments?
Does it offer a mobile app and online portal to easily manage your account?
What are its policies on late and missed payments?
Avoid companies with rigid billing systems and excessive late fees. Look for flexible, tech-enabled payment options and account management tools.
Review Contracts and Cancellation Policies
Some electric companies require long multi-year contracts with stiff early termination fees. Be wary of these restrictive contracts—you generally want the flexibility to switch providers if you’re unsatisfied.
Carefully review any early termination fees and the length of required contracts.
Make sure you’re allowed to switch providers without penalty if you move to a new address in your area.
Locking into a long contract can backfire if you want to change providers later on. Seek reasonable terms that fit your situation.
Research Companies Extensively Online
The internet provides a wealth of information for researching electric providers in your area.
Search online for the companies servicing your region and read through customer reviews and feedback.
Check for concerning complaints, lawsuits, violations, or other red flags about each provider by researching news articles and public records.
Thorough online research helps avoid companies with a trail of complaints, disputes, or regulatory issues. An informed decision means a smoother customer experience.
Choosing the right electric services provider involves comparing costs, evaluating customer service, researching companies, and understanding your household’s unique needs.
Following these 10 tips can help you make an informed decision and find a provider that suits your home’s electricity requirements. Taking the time to research and compare providers ensures you get reliable service, reasonable rates, and quality customer care over the long term.