Many people don’t typically put too much thought into their energy provider, but they should. Because the truth is that not all companies are created equally – and the type of company you choose can have a significant influence on the comfort and safety of your home or building, as well as your finances.

It may seem too dramatic to hear that choosing an energy company is one of the most important decisions you can make regarding your property. But consider what your energy provider is responsible for and the prominent role these aspects play in your daily life. For example, every time you use an appliance or turn on the lights, you’re using power and, therefore, paying for it. The organization providing you with these services, to at least some degree, influences the quality, effectiveness and cost of them.

It can be overwhelming to try and decipher the differences between various companies, especially if it seems that they all offer the same services and products. Fortunately, there are some important factors you can focus on to evaluate energy providers and ensure you are getting the highest quality of service for the best possible price.

1. Reputation and history

The experience you have doing businesses with any company is determined by the type of people behind it. When looking for the best energy provider, consider who is responsible for managing and running the organization. Are they reputable? Do they have strong values at the core of its mission? You want to make sure you are working with a company that demonstrates integrity and is as responsible as they are reliable. Simply browsing through the website to read about the background and history of the business can help answer some of these questions and give you a better idea of what fuels the brand.

One indication that they will be a good energy provider is if it is a family-owned company that has been in businesses for many years. According to the Family Business Alliance, only 30 percent of family-owned companies manage to keep the businesses within the family into a second generation. So, if you find an energy supplier that has been servicing the industry for multiple decades, it indicates that they obviously know what they are doing and have developed a level of expertise that newer firms may not yet have.

“An independent ESCO can offer you lower energy costs and more stability.”

2. Local service areas

Regulations, tax incentives, market prices, etc. all vary from state to state, so it is important that your energy provider is well-versed in the local laws and requirements to ensure you are both compliant and getting the best deal possible. If you live in a major service area, such as New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you have the advantage of deregulation. What this means is that you can use an independent energy service company, or ESCO, to get better, more stable pricing. By choosing a company that has years of experience serving residential and commercial properties in the area, you’re using a supplier that stays up to date on the latest standards and best practices specific to your state.

To help ensure you will be working with a company that offers fair pricing, plans and services, the New York State Department of Public Service suggests you check to make sure the energy supplier is a certified and registered business with the state and that all their contracts and disclosure statements meet the standards set forth by the Public Service Commission.

3. Plans and pricing

The energy market can be extremely volatile. To avoid fluctuations in your monthly bills and ensure that you are never surprised with the electric rates and power costs, it is highly recommended that you choose a supplier that offers fixed-rate plans. This means that even if the demand for energy changes, the amount of money you pay every month will remain the same. One concern many people often have that can sometimes deter them from changing energy providers is the fear of cancelation fees. However, rest assured that if you are working with a high-quality ESCO, they will make sure that you never have to bear the costs of terminating a contract with an existing provider or switching to a new one. Furthermore, you should look for a company that doesn’t require you to pay anything for enrollment and can guarantee you won’t have to deal with any service or hidden fees.

“You want an energy provider that can handle both your existing and future needs.”

4. Range of services

If you use multiple providers for your energy needs, you are probably spending more money than you need to be. When searching for the best energy provider, consider its areas of expertise. Ideally, you want to choose an organization that can handle a wide range of services, from natural gas and electricity conversions to sustainable energy solutions.

In addition, consider whether they serve only residential properties or commercial and industrial ones as well. Why? Offering a full range of services for a diverse number of sectors indicates that they are more skilled, experienced and capable than ones that only work with a small, distinct set of clients. This can also help you to feel confident knowing they will be able to handle all of your energy needs as they change and grow in the future.

5. Customer service and responsiveness

One of the most important qualities of an energy supplier is their timeliness. If you have a question, concern or issue, you don’t want to wait days for them to get back to you – especially when it has to do with your home’s energy or power! This is why it is imperative that you look into how the company handles customer service. Is there someone available for you to contact 24/7? One strategy you can use to gage how they will treat you as a client is to contact them for a free quote or consultation. How quickly they get back to you and how well they communicate with you during that process will give you a good idea of how you can expected to be treated in the future if you do decide to use them as your new energy provider.