If you're a property owner, you already realize how important it is to be aware of your daily power usage. Until recently, homeowners and business owners had only one source for their natural gas and electricity needs: their local utility company. However, more and more states are deregulating their energy market and expanding to the free market, essentially allowing third-party energy providers to compete for your business. By switching to a deregulated market, you benefit from lower energy rates due to increased competition; however, before you consider getting involved with the deregulated energy market, there are five things you should know. Deregulated energy may not be an available option to you Depending on where you are located, there may not be deregulated energy options available to you, as deregulated markets are only available at the state level. Even in states that do have deregulated markets, a large percentage of the population still uses regulated energy resources. Verify that your state and city have deregulated energy options before conducting research on the various deregulated energy companies and services. To make the research easier, we have provided a list of the top ranked deregulated energy companies in each state (where available). Know your rights as an energy consumer Before you invest in a deregulated energy provider, you need to know your rights as an energy consumer. According to electricchoice.com, consumers have the right to choose to purchase their energy from Retail Electricity Providers (REP). Due to the competitive market, these providers focus on winning over average consumers through various incentives, such as loyalty programs, promotions, and competitive rates. Consumers also have the right to get their energy services from “their state-appointed utility.” Along with choosing a provider, consumers get to choose what plan suits them best. Deregulated energy companies allow consumers more freedom to choose than a regulated market. Find out what you need first before making a decision Assess your energy needs before choosing a deregulated energy company. For instance, you might have a specific budget for your power usage, you may live in an area that has limited power options, or maybe you require a certain amount of power to run your home or business. Many REPs offer a variety of contract options. These plans may include anything from variable rate plans to long-term options. In order to decide, you must determine what you want from an energy service provider. For instance, you may only want the provider’s services for a certain amount of time for a specific price. Know how the deregulated energy market compares with what you have now Deregulated energy is not a new concept. In fact, it started in multiple states during the 1990s. Many people still remain with a utility provider, however, and it may be costing them. To avoid being overcharged, make sure to know exactly how much you are paying for energy services through your utility provider and then take advantage of online tools like bestcompany.com to research deregulated energy competitors and compare your current rate with theirs. Consider more than just price Although pricing is important, consider other aspects when looking at deregulated energy services. According to yourenergyblog.com, you should look out for supplier reliability, load management, and any additional charges that come with your plan. If you work with a consultant, he or she may be able to do most of the research for you. Deregulated energy may be the right fit for you if it is an available option. However, keep in mind that there is more research and time to be spent when choosing a deregulated energy company as well as a deregulated energy plan.
Our reliance on energy also make us susceptible to power outages. These outages are most often the repercussion of unavoidable natural disasters. According to insideenergy.org, the number of power outages has greatly increased over time. Between 2000 and 2004, the average number of power outages in the United States was 44 130 power outages were reported within the first six months of 2014 The number continues to rise due to the impact of the growing human population and “more frequent extreme weather.” Although power outages are a part of life, here are a few ways you can be prepared for them. Stock up on your resources Regardless of where you live, you need to stock up on the following resources and necessities to help you prepare for a potential power outage or natural disaster: Batteries Reliable generator Ice/freezer water containers/thermometer Gas (for your car, generator, tools, etc.) Emergency preparedness kits (including first aid supplies, flashlights, tools, etc.) Clothing for various weather conditions Non-refrigerated foods/coolers Radio Don’t forget about safety In a power outage, some people panic and forget to institute safety procedures. The redcross.org website suggests a few safety tips to keep in mind for family, pets, and others: Use a flashlight instead of candles to reduce the risk of a hazardous fire Try not to use transportation specifically at night to avoid collisions as street lights may not work in the outage Be cautious when using a generator as it increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, electrocution, and fire Check temperatures of perishable foods before consumption Do not come in contact with downed power lines (stay far away as possible) Before a power outage occurs, create a detailed plan for family members that explains safety measures. Conserve energy Although many power outages are caused by natural disasters such as storms, some power outages are caused by the abuse or misuse of energy within the electrical system. If the power supply can not meet the demand, the overall system will lag or fail. According to redcross.org, the following conservation tips can reduce the risk of an overwhelmed electrical grid: Unplug appliances that are not being used. Many common appliances use energy when they are plugged in. Use easily turned off power strips instead. Do not overuse the air conditioning/heating system. The more you use these systems, the more power you are consuming. Keeping usage down will help keep costs down and lower the risk of power outages. Try alternative washing habits. Try washing clothing with cold water and air drying when possible. Be smart in the kitchen. Use the microwave instead of the oven as it requires less energy. Also, try running the dishwasher only when it is full and air dry your dishes. Use energy efficient lighting. Try using natural lighting before electrical lighting whenever possible. When electrical lighting is used, purchase energy efficient light bulbs. To know more about the energy you are using, consult with either the utility or deregulated energy company you are using. Most utility providers have more specific information for you concerning the amount of power you use and what happens if a power outage occurs. No matter what energy market, company, or plan you use, you'll probably experience power outages at some point. However, they don’t need to be a traumatic event if you are prepared.