Power companies dangle free night and weekends

Older single-rate plans are beginning to give way to newer custom plans for nation's utilities.
By JONATHAN FAHEY Published: August 17, 2013
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If customers are careful, though, they can pay less.

Dorothea Miller, of Sinking Spring, Pa., signed up for a Direct Energy plan that gives her one day of free power every week. She picked Saturday, and now saves as much of her housework as she can until then.

She stops short, she says, of letting mountains of dirty laundry or dishes accumulate in anticipation of Saturday's free power.

“We pretty much run things the way we did before the plan, but now we set our dishwasher to go on after midnight (Friday) and do most of our laundry on Saturday,” she says.

TXU Energy offers a similar plan to Texas customers that offers free power every night from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., or free power Saturdays and Sundays, in exchange for a higher rate during other times.

Customized plans are most prevalent in the 13 states and Washington, D.C., where regulators have allowed companies to compete to sell electricity. In those states, the number of customers that have signed up with electricity suppliers that offer these types of plans rose to 13.3 million in 2011, from 8.7 million in 2008, according to the most recent numbers from the Compete Coalition, a group that lobbies to expand competitive electricity markets. The plans are also popping up in other states.