If you’ve ever shopped for retail electricity service, you’ve undoubtedly seen the advertisements for plans that promise free electricity during certain hours of the day or days of the week — typically nights and weekends. The pitch can definitely be tempting. If you’re at work most days and home during the nights and weekends, it might sound like a smart opportunity to reduce your monthly electric bill.
But not so fast. Are electric companies as generous as the marketing jargon makes it sound, or are these plans just another example of something that sounds too good to be true? The answer depends on your circumstances. So let’s break it down and look at several facts about free night and weekend electricity plans so you’re informed and able to make the best decision for your home.
1. Free Plans Were Originally Called “Time of Use” Plans
Free electricity plans were initially introduced as “time of use” plans which had one rate for daytime electricity when demand is highest and another lower rate for nighttime and weekends when demand is less. The intent wasn’t to sell more electricity but rather encourage customers to shift their use to lower-demand times and reduce stress on the grid. However, customers found the two rates confusing, and the electric companies found educating difficult. The solution was to rebrand and offer night and weekend rates for free… with a more expensive daytime rate. More on that later.
2. The Electricity Is Free, But the Fees Aren’t
Paying for electricity during the day and getting it for free at night and on the weekends might sound like a good deal, but don’t forget about the fees. Transmission and distribution fees to cover the delivery of your electricity service through the poles, wires, and meter. And there may be other base fees, as well. The fastest way to determine a plan’s fees is to review its electricity facts label, or the EFL.
3. Pay Attention to the EFL, Not the Advertisement
The EFL is so important that the need to examine and understand it is its own fact. Typically, advertisements for electricity plans have dramatic language and big promises… and a whole bunch of fine print that’s glossed over at best. The way to cut through the gimmicks and know what you’re signing on for is to review the EFL. Required by law, they clearly outline the plan’s rates, hours you get free electricity, the hours you don’t, and all fees.
4. You’ll Pay a Higher Rate During Peak Hours
Free is great, when it’s free. But those daytime hours are not free. And not only that, they’re typically a higher kWh than other fixed or variable rate plans. Again, their purpose is to discourage you from using the most electricity during the day and get you to use it during those off-peak hours. And if you don’t, you’re probably going to pay extra.
5. They Don’t Work With All Lifestyles
In theory, free plans seem like an easy win. But in reality, they can be utterly inconvenient if the free hours aren’t when you’re accustomed to using electricity. For example, if you need to get the laundry done before the kids go to bed, but the free hours don’t start until 9 pm, and bedtime is at 8:30 pm, then that’s not going to be an opportunity to save money or live life more conveniently. Some people are able to adjust their lifestyle, some aren’t. It comes down to being aware of when the free electricity begins and doing the bulk of your laundry, cooking, and device-using during those times. And if you’re not already doing that, it can be hard to change those habits.
6. They Work Perfectly With Some
Conversely, if you work or aren’t otherwise home during the day, and you live in an area with a climate that allows you to turn your HVAC system down or off during peak hours, and you can schedule your electricity-intensive activities during the free hours, then a free night and weekend plan might be worth considering.
The people who have the most success with a free night and weekend plan typically live in a small apartment with minimal heating and cooling costs. And they already have a lifestyle where they’re gone all day and don’t return home until the free electricity begins so they don’t have to adjust anything to do energy-intensive chores during free hours.
7. You Need to Consider Your Heating and Cooling Situation
For most people, their HVAC system is the single biggest user of electricity in their house, often accounting for nearly 50%. So, unless you live in a climate where you’re able to turn down or turn off the system during peak hours, your savings might not be what you expect.
8. “Free” Is a Marketing Tactic, Not Altruism
Free is a word that gets attention, and marketing departments know this. So they work it into the advertisements to get attention and attract customers. But, as we’ve all been told — nothing is truly free. So rest assured that if they’re going to offer free nights and weekends, they’re going to make it up elsewhere in the form of higher daytime rates or fees on your bill. The reality is that even though “fixed-Rate” doesn’t have the flash and pizzaz as “free,” you might find that when comparing one EFL to the other and taking your lifestyle into account that sensible and straightforward fixed-rate plan is the one that will cost you the least amount of money every month.
Are Free Night and Weekend Plans Worth It?
Free night and weekend plans sound attractive, but it’s unfortunately all too common for someone to sign up without fully realizing how it will align with their needs. One way to determine your electricity needs is to simply review what you’ve done in the past. Look at old statements and see how much you’re using each month and what percentage falls into the potential free hours versus the peak hours. From there, you can estimate what your bill would be by multiplying your average use during peak hours by the rate and adding the fees as outlined within the EFL.
Keep It Easy With Energy Texas
At Energy Texas, we’re not big on gimmicks and gotchas. We like to keep it simple with our fixed-rate plans, and we think you will, too. Forget about watching the clock and live your life how you want, when you want. We’ll provide the electricity to keep you going, and whether it’s two in the morning or two in the afternoon, the rate is the same. Best of all, all our plans are powered with 100% clean, green renewable energy. Compare our rates today and see what you could be saving by switching to Energy Texas.