Need-to-Know Tips for Setting Up Electricity Service in Texas

Set up your electricity seven to 10 days before you move in.
Don’t be that person who tries to set up your electricity service the day before you move in. Creating an account with an electricity company is very simple and takes just a few minutes, but it usually takes two to three business days for your service to go active. Getting your electricity turned on is a little more involved. Your local delivery or utility company, such as Oncor in North Texas or CenterPoint in South Texas, handles the meters. They are responsible for turning your electricity on. Most delivery companies do not come out to location on the weekend, so be sure to schedule your service to be activated on a week day.

If you are moving on a weekend, it’s best to schedule your service to activate on a Thursday or Friday. And because of this, Fridays are always the busiest days. Don’t wait to schedule your service until just a couple days before you need service. Once you know the date you need service to be turned on, schedule it right away. Most electricity companies will allow you to set up your account and schedule service several weeks before your date.

Have a deposit? You might be able to get it waved.
If you are required to pay a deposit when you set up your electric service, you will need to pay it before your service is turned on. Some companies will require you to pay the deposit up front, or perhaps in two installments. The deposit is usually returned at the end of your term. However, there might be a way around paying the deposit altogether. Some companies will waive the deposit if you have not been late on your payments with your previous electric provider. For example, some companies, such as Ambit Energy, will waive the deposit if you have not been late more than once in the past six months.

To prove this, you can request a Letter of Credit (LOC) from your previous provider. They will know what this is and will usually fax or email you a copy. Then you can send this to your new electric provider along with a request to waive the deposit.

Make sure you are selecting a plan with an average (bundled) rate.
This is an entire lesson in itself, and there is plenty more detail on this site about Texas electricity average rates. To put it simply, a plan’s average rate includes the delivery charge and estimates a certain kWh usage (such as 1,000 kWh per month). That’s very important to consider when looking for rates and plans. Some plans might only quote the energy charge rate, not factoring in the delivery charge. It’s important to pay attention to the average rate so that you are not surprised by the delivery charge being added on your bill.

If you are switching electricity providers, check to see if you are in a contract.
If you are already getting service from an electricity provider and are in a fixed rate plan, you are likely in a contract. Most contracts can carry a cancellation fee of $100 to $300 depending on the length of the fixed-rate plan. It is usually noted on your bill if you are in a contract, or the date the contract expires will appear.

So, if you are looking to switch to another provider, check to see if you are currently in a contract. Some companies will let you lock in a rate a few months before you actually switch your service over. In a case like that, you can pick a start date right after your contract expires. Of course, some plans may be low enough that it makes sense for you to break your contract. For example, if a plan is 2 cents per kWh cheaper and you regularly use around 2,000 kWh a month, that would be a savings of $40 a month. If your current plan doesn’t expire for another 10 months, it might make financial sense to break your contract, depending on the cost vs. the savings with the cheaper plan.

David Lee
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