Living in an apartment can certainly have its advantages. Many apartment communities have upped their game in terms of amenities and benefits for their tenants. If you live in a deregulated electric market and have an individual meter, you can choose your electric supplier and rate plan. There are a few considerations unique to apartments that you should think about when shopping for the best electricity offer.
Extras May Not Apply
Some retail electric plans are bundled with value-added goodies like smart thermostats and HVAC maintenance plans. Switching out the thermostat in an apartment could get you into trouble if it causes operational problems with the HVAC unit. Changes like this are typically prohibited by the terms of the lease. Appliance warranties are another bundled item with limited applicability for apartment residents.
Green energy is an add-on that works for apartments. If you are interested in supporting renewable energy, simply select a plan identified as such. Incentive plans like bill credits, loyalty points, or cash back are also fair game for apartments. Just make sure the details behind the incentive are spelled out clearly in the agreement.
Know Your Usage
It is a good idea to have your usage history handy before you start shopping for electricity rates. Your current electricity provider or utility should be able to provide this information. The rules and procedures regarding usage history vary by state and utility. Apartment residents are sometimes able to receive 12 months of usage history for their unit even if they are just moving in. This information is essential to finding the best rate.
The good news is that apartments often use less electricity than single-family homes. Having fewer external walls increases the thermal efficiency of apartments. In addition, most apartments have fewer square feet and lower average occupancy. Reduced electricity usage, however, adds a degree of complexity to choosing an electricity plan.
Look Beyond the Rate
Providing your apartment electric service includes several fixed costs. First, the utility company tariffs include fixed monthly charges to cover meter reading and data handling. Your electricity provider also incurs fixed costs for serving your residence. It costs the same to process and send you a bill whether the amount due is $1 or $500. These fixed costs are a larger percentage of your bill if you have low usage.
Some electricity providers account for this by applying a fixed monthly charge to your bill if your usage is less than certain amount. Check the electricity offer documents (Electricity Facts Label in Texas) for details on if a monthly charge applies for low usage. Look at your monthly usage for the past year and see how often these types of charges are likely to apply. If this is a new apartment for you, look for electricity plans that lack a monthly charge or have a low monthly charge. This is a better approach than just selecting the lowest rate.
Consider Time-of-Use Rates
Apartments make great homes for working singles, couples, and families. However, they tend to have a higher concentration of working singles than single-family homes. If your work and lifestyle means nobody is home much except nights and weekends, a time-of use-plan may be a good option for you.
These plans typically feature free or reduced price electricity during specific periods. These periods often include evenings, nights, weekends, or a single weekend day. In exchange for these free and reduced rate periods, weekday daytime usage rates are very high. These plans may not be for everyone. If you travel during the week or are out of your apartment a lot during the week, they might be a good fit.
The term of the electricity offer is critical for apartment residents. A year lease and a 12-month electricity plan go hand-in-hand. What do you do if things do not match up so nicely? Month-to-month variable rate plans can be expensive during winter and summer months. The best approach is to find a fixed rate plan that closely matches the remaining term of your lease.
For example, say you choose a 6-month electricity plan to cover the last 4 months of your lease. Look for a plan that charges early exit fees based on the number of months remaining on the agreement term. Avoid electricity plans that charge a flat fee for early termination. A plan that charges a flat termination fee of $150 is not as flexible as a plan that charges $20 per month for unused months.
In summary, the key to finding a great electricity plan for your apartment is flexibility. Look for plans that are friendly to low monthly usage yet still have good rates for those months with higher usage. In addition, select electric plans that offer monthly rather than flat fees for exiting the contract early.