Energy Shopping Tips: Comparison Checklist
Shopping for energy? Save yourself some time by using our comparison checklist to help you decide which plan is right for you.
|Questions to Ask Yourself
|Is it fixed or variable?
|What length of plan is right for you?
|Is what you see what you get? What are fees for late payment, etc?
|What customer service options are available? Does the supplier offer any additional benefits or customer rewards?
|Does the plan include green energy? How much?
What are current and previous customers saying about the supplier?
When selecting a plan, make sure you know whether the price is fixed or variable. Choosing a fixed rate allows you to lock in a price over an extended period of time, bringing you predictable bills and the ability to save money. A variable rate, on the other hand, allows you to take advantage of low market prices, thereby saving money, but if market prices go up, you will have to pay a higher rate.
In general, we recommend choosing fixed rates over variable ones. You can find out why in more detail in our guide to fixed vs. variable prices.
Fixed price energy plans can range from as short as three months to as long as three years. In general, we recommend choosing a fixed rate plan of at least 12 months, to take advantage of the benefits of locking in a fixed rate. Homeowners might want to consider an even longer plan to make the most of price stability, whereas renters may want to stick with shorter terms (6 - 18 months).
You can find a detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of short vs. long term plans in our guide to picking your perfect plan length.
While many suppliers charge an early exit fee if you decide to end your plan before it reaches its term, if you are moving you can either transfer your plan to your new address (if your chosen supplier provides service in that area), or avoid cancellation fees by providing proof of your address change if your new address isn't served by your current supplier. Check the terms and conditions of your plan to confirm what would happen to your plan if you move.
Whether you choose to purchase energy from your local utility or from an alternate supplier, you will be charged for the electricity or natural gas that you use in a month. However, it is not just the rate that you pay per kilowatt-hour that may change depending on the supplier. Suppliers and utilities may charge different amounts for certain features, such as late payment, failed payment, or monthly administration fees.
Make sure to check the terms and conditions of service for the energy plans you are interested in before making your final choice.
Customer service varies considerably among suppliers and utilities. As most utilities are larger than alternate suppliers, they may have longer waiting times to reach customer service representatives, or may respond slowly to customer inquiries. Some utilities and suppliers outsource their customer service call centers, whereas others run local customer service centers. It's a good idea to check out a few customer service reviews before making your final decision over your energy supply.
Some alternate suppliers offer customer rewards programs, and/or discounts or special products with their plans. While we don't recommend making your energy choice based solely on the additional rewards you may receive, these can be nice "extras" to go along with your energy service!
Many alternate suppliers offer you the option of green energy, often at highly competitive rates. You can often choose the amount of renewable content you would like to make up your energy supply, from just a portion to 100% green energy.
Find out more about renewable energy: what are REC? Are green energy plans worth it?
Before deciding on an energy supplier, it's a good idea to take a look at what other customers are saying about the suppliers you're interested in. With this said, we do have one word of warning: keep in mind that most people only leave reviews when they're upset. Spend too much time looking at reviews, and you're likely to not want to choose any supplier.
To save time and find a balanced review of the customer experience with various suppliers, check out our supplier reviews