As you’re shopping for an electricity plan, you’ll come across plans that advertise phrases like “free nights and weekends” or “free nights and solar days.” This may sound too good to be true, but they’re absolutely legitimate.
Many electricity providers offer periods of free electricity as an effort to shift some of the electricity load to lower usage, off-peak times. Also, the cost of electricity during these off-peak hours is much less expensive than during peak hours. Because electricity is a commodity that can’t currently be stored, it’s better for everyone when electricity demand is more equalized.
But, what you really want to know as an electricity consumer is, what’s the catch?
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How Do Free Electricity Plans Work?
Fee electricity plans are also known as Time of Use plans. They use the smart meter at your house to get a reading of your usage for every 15 minute increment. That lets them price your power at different rates at different times.
These type of plans have higher energy rates in exchange for giving you free electricity at certain times. The energy rates on a time of use plan can often be almost double that of their basic electricity plan counterpart. The offset is that you get no-cost electricity during specific times.
Is a Free Electricity Plan for You?
Maybe. We don’t know you. heck, we just met! But these plans are fantastic if you are able to shift your electricity usage to the free period.
Here’s how to determine if a free electricity plan if for you:
- Find a plan that matches your electricity usage. Not home during the week? Go with free weekends. Get home after 7pm every night? Maybe free nights is for you.
- Shift your electricity usage to the free period.Whatever plan you pick, make sure to shift your electricity usage — vacuuming, dish washing, laundry — to that free period to get the best bang for your buck.
For example, if you are someone who regularly gets home after 7pm free nights electricity could work for you. Or you travel during the week and are only home on weekends. Free weekends electricity could work for you.
If you are a stay-at-home mom that home schools, free nights and/or free weekends plans are NOT for you — you will be using electricity all day, every day.
Knowledge of your electricity usage is critical. For a time of use plan to work on your behalf, you’ll need to ensure that you are really taking advantage of that free electricity by adjusting your usage accordingly. Otherwise, you could end up paying more for your electricity than ever before. Thankfully, most REPs send you weekly reports showing how much you are using and when.
Time of Use Electricity Rates Criteria
Providers offering time of use plans estimate a percentage of electricity usage during the free period when they calculate their energy rates.
For a ‘free weekend’ plan this estimate can be up to 35%. Would you use at least this much energy during the designated free period? You need to pay careful attention to the plan details to know how much the provider thinks you’ll use during the free period.
Know that the plans are based on what “most consumers” use during a specific time period. For example, if the Electricity Facts Label says that the average price assumes that you use 30% of your usage during the free time period, that’s what most consumers use. You mostly benefit from free electricity plans if you are able to shift your usage outside of average.
What’s the Catch with ‘Free Nights and Weekends’ Electricity Plans?
These plans aren’t meant to be misleading. But at the same time, there are details that you’ll want to be knowledgeable about before signing up.
Here are a few things to pay close attention to:
- Length of contract. Electricity plans offering free nights and weekends often require a long-term contract. It’s not unusual to for a time of use contract length to be 24 months. A long-term contract means that you’re going to be locked in at whatever rate you agree to for a very long time, even if your usage pattern changes.
- Cancellation Fees. Make sure you know what it’ll cost to cancel it. You can find yourself locked into a contract that’s super expensive to cancel if it isn’t saving you money like you had hoped. Several companies — TXU, Gexa and Just Energy, to name a few — allow you to try a plan for a month, then switch to a different plan with them with no penalty if you change your mind.
- Energy charge. The energy charge for time of use electricity plans can be as much as double. In other words, the cost of electricity when you’re not in the designated free period is really expensive. If you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that enough of your electricity usage happens during the free period, then you may be able to save money. It definitely pays to compare free nights and weekend plans. For example, TXU’s Free Nights and Solar Days plan in Texas has energy charges that are 35-50% higher than comparable plans offered by other reputable electricity providers and a cancellation fee that’s almost double.
Shop Free Electricity Plans
At ElectricityPlans, we dig into the details of these plans and highlight the information you need to know to make an informed decision. At ElectricityPlans.com, you can shop and compare several time of use electricity plans offered by reputable retail electricity providers serving your area.
In the Plan Features section in search, simply select ‘Free Electricity – Certain Times‘ to see all available time of use plans in your area.
Then review Plan Summary to identify what time of day the free power is.
Start shopping free electricity plans now. All you need is your zip code to get started.
Start shopping all electricity plans now. Make the comparison of free electricity and standard plans and decide for yourself!