Utility Pricing Plans / by kevin murray

If you're like me, when you moved into your home and signed up for trash, gas, electricity, water, and sewage you pretty much figured that you got to pay what you got to pay and you really didn't worry yourself or were concerned about it any further.  That's a mistake.  While it doesn't appear that in my community that you have a choice in regards to selecting a different vendor for water & sewage, you definitely do have choices for trash, natural gas, and electricity and a good consumer makes good reasoned choices.  I initially didn't do that and to compound my error further I signed up for paperless billing.  While paperless billing may be better for the environment, if you don't ever take a look at your bill, but blithely pay it, you will probably miss the opportunity to audit your bill and consequently you won't make any changes to your utility vendors or your pricing options.


Of course, it isn't entirely your fault, for instance, on my natural gas provider, I was by default signed up for their introductory rate which was approximately .349/therm but that literally lasted just a couple months before being automatically switched over to their variable plan at approximately 1.029/therm, which is the default plan and the preferential choice that this vendor wants you to make.  The reason that I know it's their preference is when you log onto your account and wish to select or remain on their variable plan, this can be done online with no human interaction, whereas, when I attempted to switch over to the fix rate for 12 months at approximately .629/therm, the website insisted that I call an operator or else the change would not go through.  The phone call was quite eye opening because rather than simply signing me up for the fix plan, she attempted to bully me into staying with the current plan by warning me that the fixed rate plan has a termination charge of $150 and that the variable plan is well, variable.  Although I consider their termination fee to be an outrage, I also am not moving anytime soon, additionally I believe that if it comes down to a termination that this something that can be negotiated or pro-rated, especially since I have a track record with the company.  In any event the comparison was pretty straight forward:


            Variable 1.029/therm (this does vary and it can go up as well as down but I've never seen it lower than .879/therm and that was during the summertime!) with a $6.95 monthly service fee

            Fixed .629/therm with a $5.95 monthly service fee and a possible early termination charge


That decision was pretty straightforward as I went with the fixed plan and have probably saved myself $80 - $200 per year.  The savings will vary depending on how much natural gas you use and how cold the weather gets in your area.


In regards to trash, I was initially with Waste Management, which is the biggest waste company in America, and although I was satisfied with their service, I became annoyed over their raising my price a couple of times and I figured that the competition was probably also going to be satisfactory. I mean it's trash pickup, right?  I've now switched twice since leaving Waste Management, and I estimate my current yearly savings to be at approximately $90/year.


Benjamin Franklin said it long ago, "a penny saved is a penny earned", and that was back in the day when a penny was worth something.  Utilities are a part of life; you have to have trash, gas, electricity, and water & sewage, so you may as well try to save yourself a few dollars while doing so.