Electricity rates will usually be listed as cost per-kilowatt-hour (kWh), the unit used to measure electricity consumption. Natural gas rates will usually be listed as cost per THERM, CCF or MCF.
Total costs include your electricity and/or natural gas charges (the rate multiplied by your usage) and utility fees associated with delivering electricity and/or natural gas to your home. Even if one plan has a lower rate than another, your total monthly cost could end up being higher, depending on the plan.
What extra benefits, like smart home products, green energy or free nights or weekends, do the available plans provide? Any energy plan will power your home; how do the plans you're considering add value to your lifestyle?
Consider what term length would fit best for your situation. Are you renting for a short period of time? Would you prefer to keep the same rate for a while? Will this contract end before a peak usage season (typically summer or winter) when prices are higher?
You can sign up for energy in just a few steps:
If you haven't already, you'll need to create an account with your local utility. Unless you're moving, you should already have an account. If you live in Texas, you can skip this step.
Check whether you are under contract with your current provider. If you are, make sure you won't be charged an early termination fee if you switch providers before your contract ends.
Have a recent utility bill on hand, as you'll need your utility account information to enroll with a competitive provider. If you're moving and haven't received a bill yet, you can contact your utility for this information. If you live in Texas, you can skip this step too!
Shop for the electricity plan that fits your needs. After you sign up, your new provider will contact your local utility (or your current provider, if you live in Texas) to complete the process.
Here are a few terms you'll see when shopping for an electricity or natural gas plan:
In deregulated areas, customers are no longer required to sign up with their utility for electricity or natural gas. Instead, they can shop offerings from available competitive energy providers to find the best one for their household.
Your local utility is responsible for transmitting, distributing, connecting and disconnecting energy to your home, and for reading and maintaining your home's electric or gas meters. The utility also maintains the power lines, pipe lines and other equipment used to transmit electricity and/or natural gas. In some deregulated areas, your utility may compete on the electricity and/or natural gas market, selling its own plans to customers.
Retail or competitive providers vie to provide energy to customers. In areas with deregulated electricity and/or natural gas, customers can shop and compare electricity and/or natural gas plans from various retail providers, like Direct Energy.
There are a few different units used to measure your energy consumption. Depending on the units of measurement your utility uses, you'll likely see one of the following on your bill:
The rate per unit is the price you pay for each unit of energy you use (usually measured in kWh, MCFs, CCFs or Therms). This price is set by your retail energy provider.
With a fixed-rate plan, you'll be able to lock in an energy rate per kWh for a term length of your choosing. Fixed-rate plans protect you from market price fluctuations, but you will typically need to sign a contract and your rate may be higher than the market rate during seasons with low energy demand.
Your electricity and natural gas bills can vary based on many factors, so it can be difficult to determine what an average bill looks like. The best way to calculate your average energy bill is to look at your past bills. If you're moving to a different home or region, you can get an idea of your average costs by researching similar homes online or asking your future neighbors. The average energy bill depends on the following elements:
Smaller homes typically use less energy than larger homes because less energy is needed to run lights, heating and cooling and other appliances and electronics.
Some regions tend to experience a mild climate and pleasant seasonal temperatures, taking some of the workload - and energy usage - off a home's air conditioner and heating system; residents of regions with more extreme temperature swings may need to use these systems more to maintain a comfortable indoor climate.
If you develop energy-saving habits like turning back your AC or heating, unplugging electronics or reducing gas stove or oven use, you might have a lower bill than if you were less conscious of your usage.
Your heating, cooling and large appliances are major energy users, accounting for up to 73 percent of the average household's energy use. Appliance efficiency and regular maintenance can affect how much energy your appliances use.
Factors like windows and insulation can affect how your home uses energy. Well-sealed windows and good insulation can help your air conditioner and heating system use less energy by keeping the treated air inside your home and the hot or cold air out.
Obviously, the price you pay per kWh or unit of gas will also affect your bill.
You will typically receive your energy bill from your provider every 28-32 days, depending on when your local utility reads your electric and/or gas meter. Your bill includes the energy charge for your usage and operational costs (charged by your local utility) associated with providing energy to your home.
If you are a Direct Energy customer and you live outside of Texas or Ohio, you will still receive your bill directly from your local utility. You will usually see Direct Energy as a line item on your bill under "supply" or "generation services."
If you live in Texas, you can pay your Direct Energy bill using a variety of convenient payment options:
If you live outside of Texas, you will usually pay your electricity and/or natural gas bill through your local utility, even if you have opted to receive energy from a competitive supplier like Direct Energy. Contact your utility for more information on your payment options.
Your electric and/or natural gas bill amount will vary based primarily on your usage. There are two major parts to your bill: the charges for the energy you use in your home and your utility or delivery charges, which cover the operational costs of delivering energy to your home. The utility charges are the same for all residents in that utility's service area. You can calculate your bill by adding up these costs.
Learn more about how to calculate your electric bill.
State regulations may require electric and natural gas suppliers to create and display documents detailing information for each of their plans. These documents provide vital insights like the rate, term length, fees and other stipulations. You can use them as tool to help you compare potential costs of a plan against your current bills, and also against other energy plans you may be considering.
In Texas, the Electricity Facts Label (EFL) is required by the Public Utility Commission of Texas as a means of providing the details of electricity plans sold in the state. On an EFL, you'll find the term length, electricity price, whether there is an early termination fee, the rate type and other vital plan information.
On each plan's EFL, you will see a chart that lists the average price for usage of 500, 1,000 and 2,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of usage. The best way to use this chart is to compare your average usage from previous bills to the amounts listed in the chart.
Check out our Moving Hub for moving checklists, buying and renting guides, moving out of state and other tips on how you can have a stress-free move.
Smart electric meters are becoming the new standard in electric metering. They provide valuable benefits like the ability to turn on electricity more quickly and track your use more closely, and the opportunity to sign up for time-of-use electric plans, which allow you to get free electricity at certain times.
We'll notify you at least 30 days before your contract expires and give you the opportunity to explore your new plan options. If you don't choose a new Direct Energy plan or switch providers before your contract expires, we'll put you on another plan with us. Don't worry – you'll be notified beforehand of the plan rate and details.
Now that you're a savvier energy consumer, are you ready to find your perfect plan? Enter your zip code to check out our offers for your area.