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Free Nights and Weekends, Top Plans Compared.


By: Jonathan Arnold on Oct 24, 2019 11:33:41 AM

If you have recently shopped for electricity in Texas, you have likely seen an energy plan advertising "free nights," "free weekends," or some combination of the two. If you are anything like me, you have wondered how these free electricity plans work and if you can save money on your electricity bill. We are going to answer these questions and more by discussing "free nights and weekends" plans in general and then diving into some of the most popular offers available right now.

The general idea behind free nights and weekends is not inherently flawed, electricity is a product just like any other. If everyone is trying to buy the same amount of a limited commodity, the price goes up. We see this every holiday season when people race to buy the hottest new electronics.

The difference is that the demand for electricity is more easily estimated than demand for furbies or televisions. I personally tend to run my air conditioning more during the day when it is hot, and less at night when it is cooler. It turns out that this is true for most people, which makes the price of electricity is higher during the warmer daylight hours.

If you, as a consumer, use the majority of your power during the cheaper hours and turn down your AC when it is more expensive, shouldn't you be rewarded?

This sounds good in practice, but most residential customers quickly find that they have less control over their energy usage during the day than they hoped. We found three major reasons why consumers may find it difficult to reduce their electricity usage during daylight hours.

  1. Air Conditioning. In hot southern states, the air conditioner accounts for as much as 27% of household electricity consumption, and during the summer months, turning it off may not be an option.
  2. Power Vampires. Many devices use power even when not active, often keeping clocks up to date or checking for incoming data over wifi. These devices use more power than you might initially think and can drive up energy consumption.
  3. What is "Night"? Every Free night plan we analyzed had a different definition of night. For some plans, "night" started as late as 9:00PM. This means that free power hours may not begin until most of your house is asleep, long after getting home from work, preparing dinner, or doing laundry.

 

Our Methodology

We dug through our own data and produced a year of usage for an average customer in Houston TX. This customer has more usage in the summer than winter, but on average uses about 1300 kilowatt hours per month. The following graph uses that data and shows the relationship between daytime and nighttime usage. It highlights just how much usage occurs during the day, and how much that daytime usage tends to increase during the summer.

We will use this average customer to estimate bills and rates. Our main office is in Houston, TX so we will use CenterPoint’s TDSP charges as a reference point.

 

free nights and weekends usage graph

 

All data in this article was retrieved on October 23, 2019. Prices and terms mentioned are subject to change. This guide is for informational purposes, and your own energy usage should be considered before making any buying decision.

The Plans

Reliant Energy – Truly Free Nights 12

  • Term: 12 Months
  • Free Hours: 8:00PM to 6:00AM
  • Price When not Free: 20.4634¢ / kWh
  • Cancellation Fee: $150
  • CenterPoint Delivery Charges: 4.051¢ / kWh
  • CenterPoint Monthly Charges: $5.47 / month

This is an unbundled plan, meaning that your bill will reflect both the 20.4634¢ energy charge and the 4.051¢ delivery charge, making your total effective price per kWh during non-free hours almost 25¢ per kWh!! Using our representative customer’s hourly usage, and the free energy hours provided on this plan, your average monthly rate would be 16.33¢ per kWh. Reliant comes to a similar conclusion themselves on their Energy Facts Label (EFL). Even with their more generous estimation of night vs day usage they arrive at a rate of 14.5¢ -15.4¢ per kWh for the average consumer.

re_efl

 

TXU - Free Nights & Solar Days

  • Term: 12 Months
  • Free Hours: 8:00PM to 5:00AM
  • Price When not Free: 17.2¢ / kWh
  • Base Charge: $9.95 / month
  • CenterPoint Delivery Charges: 4.051¢ / kWh
  • CenterPoint Monthly Charges: $5.47 / month

Like the Reliant plan, this plan is unbundled, meaning the rate shown does not include the delivery charges from Centerpoint. Your bill will include these charges though, and the final average rate for our example customer would be 15.56¢ per kWh after factoring in free hours and base charges. TXU’s Energy Facts Label (EFL) almost exactly agrees with this assessment. With the rate for smaller homes being slightly higher due to the Base Charge of $9.95 per month.

txu_efl

 

Direct Energy – Twelve Hour Power 12

  • Term: 12 Months
  • Free Hours: 9:00PM to 8:59AM
  • Price When not Free: 19.5¢ / kWh
  • Base Charge: $9.95 / month
  • CenterPoint Delivery Charges: 4.051¢ / kWh
  • CenterPoint Monthly Charges: $5.47 / month

This plan is a bit of an oddball compared to the other two. From reading their Energy Facts Label (EFL) it doesn’t seem like they take each individual customer’s hourly usage into consideration (see the formula below).

de_formula

 

On the off chance that we are reading this incorrectly we will repeat the same math as we did for the other plans. The average rate that our example customer would experience on this plan is 15.90¢ per kWh, after factoring in TDSP charges and free power hours.

Direct Energy’s EFL uses a slightly different assumption of nightly vs daily usage than our example customer, and arrives at a range of prices between 13.6¢ – 15.6¢ per kWh.

de_efl

 

The Verdict

Free nights and free weekends sound good on paper, but most customers can’t adjust their usage dramatically enough to take advantage of the free hours. This means that the price of the more expensive daytime hours will always drive your rate up on average.

We believe that most consumers would be better served by choosing a fixed rate plan from one of the many electricity companies in Texas. You will probably come out cheaper, and you don’t have to check your watch every time you turn on a light.

 

Fixed Rate Example

We will be using our own True Classic 12 plan as an example of a fixed rate.

  • Term: 12 Months
  • Price: 7.071¢ / kWh
  • Base Charge: $5.95 / month
  • CenterPoint Delivery Charges: 4.051¢ / kWh
  • CenterPoint Monthly Charges: $5.47 / month

Our plan is unbundled as well, so you will need to include CenterPoint’s charges when calculating your bill. But our example customer’s average rate during their contract would be 12.46¢ / kWh.

apge_efl

 

If you are interested in seeing what your rate would be on our plan check out our prices. All it takes is a zip code and we can show you how much your electricity will cost!

 

Summary Table of Top Free Nights and Weekends Plans (as of October 23, 2019)

Company: Reliant TXU Direct Energy APG&E
Plan: Truly Free Nights 12 Free Nights & Solar Days Twelve Hour Power 12 True Classic 12
Term: 12 Months
Free Hours 8:00PM to 6:00AM 8:00PM to 5:00AM 9:00PM to 8:59AM N/A
  10 Hours 9 Hours 12 Hours
 
Base Charge $0 / Month $9.95 / Month $9.95 / Month $5.95 / Month
Price 20.4634¢ / kWh 17.2¢ / kWh 19.5¢ / kWh  7.071¢ / kWh
 
CenterPoint Delivery Charges 4.051¢ / kWh
CenterPoint Monthly Charges $5.47 / Month
 
Effective Monthly Rate1: 16.33¢ / kWh 15.56¢ / kWh 15.90¢ / kWh 12.46¢ / kWh.
Average Monthly Cost2: $254.75 $242.74 $248.04 $161.98

1 Effective Monthly Rate includes CenterPoint TDSP Charges and assumes average Texas electricity usage.
2 Average monthly cost based on 1,300 kilowatt hour average monthly consumption.