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?
How Do Time of Use Electricity Plans Work?
In order to participate in a time of use electricity plan, your electricity provider will require you to have a smart meter so that they can actually measure how much electricity you use during the designated free electricity period. Most homes in deregulated areas of Texas have a smart meter.
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.
If you work during the day all week, a plan like this could make sense, but you’ll need a good idea about how much electricity you use and when. For example, a ‘Free Weekend’ plan might begin at 6 pm on Friday and run through 11:59 pm on Sunday. So, if the bulk of your electricity usage is during the ‘free’ time, you could realize measurable savings.
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 because this is essential to determining whether this type of plan is a good deal for you or not.
Intimate 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.
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.
- Energy charge. This is really the ultimate kicker. 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.
Approach these plans with caution. Although you can absolutely save money with time of use electricity plans, you can also spend a bundle if you don’t use them correctly or need to cancel early.
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.