It doesn't matter whether you're moving to a new location or simply looking to switch electricity or natural gas suppliers, shopping around is a great way to find the best deal. But before you get started, take a look at the features you should compare when you shop for energy.

Comparison checklist

  • Know your plan types: While selecting a low rate is important, the type of energy plan you pick has a big impact on you bottom line too. Make sure you choose the plan that's right for you.

o   Fixed rate: A fixed-rate plan offers more predictability in your monthly energy bill, because the supply rate you pay will remain the same throughout your contract. You may even be able to lock in a rate for multiple years, guaranteeing price security for the long term.

o   Variable rate: Though a variable-rate plan doesn’t offer consistent pricing, it does provide a possible opportunity for savings. Suppliers charge a rate that fluctuates with the wholesale cost of the commodity in the market. When the price for energy goes down, your rate will trend the same way. However, when wholesale energy costs spike, you will have to pay a higher supply rate.

  • Compare term lengths: As you search for the best energy supplier, you'll notice that there are a lot of options when it comes to your contract length. If you're a homeowner you might benefit from a long-term contract, such as a multi-year plan. A long term length allows you to lock in a rate and protect yourself from electricity or natural gas price spikes for an extended period of time — a great option if you're likely to remain in your home for a while.If you're a renter, you might consider a shorter term, such as a one-year contract. A shorter term gives you more flexibility if you want to pick up and move. Keep in mind that most energy suppliers charge an exit fee if you break your contract. But you can often transfer your service to a new location without breaching your agreement. If you're moving to an area not served by your current supplier, you might be able to avoid paying the exit fee. Examine your contract to be sure.
  • Compare fees: Every retail supplier will charge you for the amount of electricity or natural gas you consume, just as every utility charges fees for the delivery of your energy. But some suppliers charge additional fees that you should consider as you shop. For example,  suppliers may charge a monthly service fee or a cancellation fee if you break your contract.    
  • Think about green energy: A number of retail energy suppliers offer green energy plans, which typically consist of carbon offsets or renewable energy credits. These credits offset the natural gas or fossil fuel-generated electricity you use to heat and power you home. With some providers, you can choose how much green energy you want to buy, up to 100 percent.
  • Examine customer service options: Take a look at the customer service options each alternative supplier offers. You will find that they can vary significantly from company to company. For example, you may find a supplier that has a customer rewards program, while another offers special products or discounts.

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