Free Nights and Weekends Electricity: What You Need to Know

Free Nights and Weekends Electricity: What You Need to Know

Free Nights and Weekends Electricity Plans may sound great at first. But, a closer look will reveal that most people will pay more than on a traditional plan.
Written By:
Thad Warren
min read
Last Edited By:
Kendra Aquino
May 29, 2024

Electricity companies offering "Free Nights and Weekends" sound incredibly appealing. Who wouldn't want to enjoy free electricity during those off-peak hours?

But like everything, free nights and weekends electricity plans have their pros and cons.

So before you sign up for any plan offering free electricity make sure you understand how the plan works and weigh the pros and cons.

In our opinion, free nights and weekends electricity plans are almost never worth it. In this post we will walk you through our research and show you the pros and cons. Then you can make a decision for yourself if you still think these types of plans are worth the trade-offs.

How Free Nights and Weekends Plans Work

Free nights and weekends electricity plans typically offer zero or significantly reduced electricity rates during specified hours, usually late at night and throughout the weekend. The idea is to incentivize customers to shift their electricity usage to these off-peak times when demand is lower, potentially balancing the load on the grid.

For example, a plan might offer free electricity from 9pm to 6am on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. During peak hours (6am to 9pm on weekdays), regular or sometimes higher rates apply.

In exchange for free electricity during the specified time range, the rate during non-free hours is typically much higher than the average electricity rate. So while you might save at night, your overall electricity bill ends up being much higher.

Let's take a look at a few plans in closer detail.

TXU Free Nights and Solar Days Plan

Below is the Electricity Facts label for the TXU Energy Free Nights and Solar Days 12 Plan.

There are a few important things to look for in the EFL in particular for free nights and weekends electricity plans.

  • The Rate Structure. You will see that this plan has a different rate for 500, 1,000, and 2,000 kWh of usage. You will notice that these rates are relatively high compared to other plans available. When this article was written, the lowest-priced plans were in the 14-15¢ range. So in this case the plan is 20-30% more expensive for each kWh of electricity during non-free hours.
  • The Base Charge. This is a flat rate monthly fee you will have on every bill. Many providers use this as a way to advertise a lower rate.
  • Time of Use Hours. It's important that you understand when your electricity is free and when it is not. You will want to schedule your thermostat and other energy-hogging appliances like pool pumps or EV charging accordingly.
  • TDU Charges. This one is really important for time-of-use plans. Some free electricity plans will have a TDU charge during the "free" electricity hours. This is typically a fraction of the entire rate, but it can add up quickly, especially if you are using a lot of electricity when you thought you weren't on the hook for anything. This plan makes a note: "Night Discount: You will receive a 100% Discount on All Energy Charges and TDU Charges per kWh during the Nights hours." So in this case there shouldn't be any TDU charges at night.

Chariot Energy Free Nights 36

Here is an example of a plan that offers free electricity at night, but only covers the energy charge. The customer will still have to pay the TDU charge at night.

Notice that the only discount at night is for the energy supply charge. So even at night, you are still paying for TDU charges for every kWh of electricity usage.

One other thing to notice is the time range of the "free" hours: 11pm to 6am. Whereas the TXU plan was 8pm to 5pm.

Pros of Free Nights and Weekends Plans

1. Cost Savings During Off-Peak Hours: If you can shift a significant portion of your energy usage to nights and weekends, you could save money. Most people do not end up saving.

2. Predictable Off-Peak Rates: Knowing when you’ll have free electricity allows for strategic planning of energy-intensive activities like laundry, dishwashing, and charging electric vehicles.

3. Encourages Energy Conservation: These plans can motivate you to become more aware of your energy usage and adopt more energy-efficient habits.

Cons of Free Nights and Weekends Plans

1. Higher Peak Rates: To compensate for the free off-peak hours, providers often charge higher rates during peak times. This can lead to unexpectedly high bills if you use a lot of electricity during these hours.

2. Lifestyle Adjustments: Maximizing energy savings requires significant changes in your daily routine, such as running appliances late at night or early in the morning.

3. Potential for Higher Overall Costs: If you can't shift enough of your monthly usage over to the free periods, you may end up paying more than you would with a traditional fixed-rate plan.

Who Are These Plans Right For?

There are some people that benefit from time-of-use plans. Free nights and weekend plans can be beneficial for:

  • Night Owls: If you naturally stay up late and can run appliances during off-peak hours, these plans might work well for you.
  • Flexible Schedules: Households with flexible routines that can adapt to using electricity during the free periods.
  • Electric Vehicle Owners: Charging your vehicle overnight can take advantage of the free electricity, potentially leading to significant savings on monthly bills.

Who Are These Plans Not Right For?

These plans might not be suitable for:

  • Daytime Energy Users: If most of your electricity usage occurs during the day, such as for home offices or households with members home during the day, these plans may lead to higher energy bills too.
  • Inflexible Schedules: Families with rigid schedules who can't adjust their usage to nights and weekends will likely not benefit.
  • Small Households: If you have low overall electricity usage, the savings from off-peak hours might not offset the higher peak rates for residential customers.

Important Considerations When Shopping for an Electricity Plan

1. Analyze Your Usage Patterns: Review your past electricity usage to see when you consume the most energy. This will help determine if you can realistically shift your usage to off-peak times. Smart Meter Texas is a service provided by the various utilities in Texas and is endorsed by the Public Utility Commission of Texas. You can create an account and view when you use the most electricity.

2. Read the Fine Print: Understand the exact hours that are considered off-peak and any potential charges that might apply.

3. Compare Overall Costs: Calculate your potential savings or costs by comparing free nights and weekends plans with traditional fixed-rate plans.

4. Check Contract Terms: Look for contract lengths, early termination fees, and any other conditions that might affect your decision.

GridHacker's Take on Free Nights and Weekends Electricity Plans

We recommend that most people should avoid free nights and weekends electricity plans. There is no such thing as free electricity. 

Free nights and weekends electricity plans can offer significant savings for the right household, but they require careful consideration and potentially significant changes to your energy usage habits. By thoroughly understanding how these energy plans work, being aware of their advantages and disadvantages, and assessing your own energy consumption patterns, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your lifestyle and budget.

For those who can adapt their usage, these plans can be a great way to save on electricity costs. However, for many, a traditional fixed-rate plan might be a more predictable and ultimately more affordable option. Always compare various plans and consider using platforms like GridHacker to find the best plan tailored to your needs.