Best Utility Companies

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by ConsumerAffairs

Research Team

Updated on 01/25/2017

Utility companies provide a range of services to support the residents and businesses in a community, including electric, natural gas, propane, water and sewage, garbage removal and recycling and telecommunications services like telephone lines. In some areas you may not have a choice of utility provider for one or more services, but in other areas you will need to research the various options that are right for you.

Whether you own or rent a home or run a business or industry, choosing the right utilities providers can save you money and ensure a consistent and quality service. You can also look for energy-efficient and eco-friendly providers for many utilities.

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    Compare Reviews for Top Utility Companies

    Just Energy
    Read 483 Reviews

    Offers electricity to residents and businesses throughout several Texas cities, including Dallas, Houston, Corpus Crist, Fort Worth and Arlington. Their 5 plans begin at 12.8 cents per kWh for 60 months.

    Champion Energy Services
    Read 290 Reviews

    Offers electricity to residents and businesses throughout several Texas cities including Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin, Houston and Abilene. Their 3 plans start at 10.2 cents per kWh for 12 months.

    Spark Energy Gas and Electricity
    Read 632 Reviews

    Offers electricity and gas to residents and businesses throughout 19 states, including Texas. With over 11 plans to choose from, pricing starts at 13.9 cents per kWh for 18 months.

    Santanna Energy Services
    Read 381 Reviews

    For over 28 years, Santanna Energy has provided energy services to thousands of companies and residential customers. It offers competitive prices to residential and commercial customers across Illinois and the Midwest.

    Vista Energy Marketing
    Read 145 Reviews

    Vista Energy is a retail electricity and natural gas provider operating in nine states across America. They use decades of experience and unique access to wholesale energy markets to deliver superior service and competitive rates.

    Ambit Energy
    Read 474 Reviews

    Ambit Energy provides energy solutions in deregulated markets throughout the nation. Based in Dallas, it is marketed through over 250,000 independent consultants and offers cost-effective choices for energy consumers.

    Republic Services
    Read 374 Reviews

    Republic Services is a recycling and non-hazardous waste disposal service, operating in 41 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. Call for quotes and prices on residential, commercial, municipal and industrial waste pickup and processing.

    Duke Energy
    Read 858 Reviews

    Duke Energy was recently formed by a merger involving several separate electric companies. It now services both residential and business accounts in areas of Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and North and South Carolina.

    E-Z Pass
    Read 520 Reviews

    E-Z Pass is a toll system used on many roads and highways in the northeastern and midwest U.S. E-Z Pass has 37 separate agencies that operate in 16 states, but they all utilize the same electronic system to collect tolls.

    Read 433 Reviews

    PSE&G is one of the U.S.’s largest electric and gas companies, serving three-quarters of New Jersey’s population. It is a publicly owned utility and a subsidiary of PSEG, a holding company that operates many utility companies.

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    What considerations matter most with utility companies?

    Laws and regulations

    When it comes to choosing a utility provider, you’ll need to understand how the market works in your area. This will determine whether you have a choice in the companies that provide your utilities and whether you are eligible for services.

    • Regulated markets: Some states and municipalities require consumers to receive services from one, authorized provider-- often the municipality itself. These markets are called “regulated.” Consumers living in regulated markets have no control over the rates they are charged for the services they receive, because the fees are standardized.
    • Deregulated markets: Beginning around 1992, some areas of the U.S. switched to a deregulated system, allowing consumers choice when it comes to their service providers for one or more of their utilities. Private companies operate the utilities options in these areas, which leads to market competition and, often, lower prices for consumers. It also means you have to shop around and find the best companies and best prices.
    • Eligibility for service: In the United States, unless your services are paid for by a landlord, when you move into a home or apartment you have to apply for utilities services. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this process is also considered a credit application. That means utilities companies are legally authorized to conduct a background check on you, including a full credit history, and they can deny services if you have a poor credit history. Most utility companies will allow customers with bad credit to pay a large deposit or ask someone else to serve as a guarantor on their account. If you fail to pay your bill, your guarantor is legally obligated to pay your bill for you.

    Cost considerations

    Utilities companies calculate fees in a variety of ways. Be sure you understand how each company calculates bills, including standard fees, additional fees and late fees as well as any potential discounts or rebates you might take advantage of.

    • Minimum usage fees: Some utilities companies, like those who provide electricity, natural gas or water, require customers to use a certain amount of the service each month and charge a “minimum usage fee” if you don’t use that amount. If you conserve a lot of energy or water at your home, or are away from home frequently for work or travel, these companies might not be the best choice for you.
    • Late fees: Many utilities companies have a standard due date for your monthly bill. Many companies charge late fees for any bills paid after this date, with a specified grace period before cutting of your utility service altogether. For example, your water bill may be due on the first of every month. You may have an additional week to pay your bill before accruing late fees, and after 20 days of nonpayment the water to your home or business may be turned off.
    • Energy savings or rebates: Many companies offer a rebate or discount for switching to more energy-efficient utilities, such as switching from electricity to natural gas. This discount or rebate is intended to offset the cost of converting your home. You can also find state or federal rebates for some conversions, including tax credits.
    • Discounts for those who qualify: Many utilities companies offer a spectrum of discounts for customers who might struggle with their monthly bills. Check to see if your service provider offers a discount for low-income customers, the elderly or veterans. Some energy companies also offer a medical waiver for customers who need more heat or cooling because of a medical condition, allowing them to access the needed services without additional charges. You will be asked to provide proof of your income, age, veteran status or medical condition to qualify for discounts.

    Bill pay options

    Paying your monthly utilities bills can be a hassle, especially when you have several separate service providers who each have their own billing policies. Look for a company that simplifies the process as much as possible.

    • Payment formats: Many utility companies still require customers to pay their monthly service bills by check sent through postal mail. Some also accept payment in person or online. In several states, major utility providers also allow customers to pay bills at certain banks or grocery stores that are authorized to accept payment.
    • Online bill pay: Many utility providers allow customers to pay their bills online by creating an account on the company’s website, logging in using a user ID and password and entering credit card information to authorize bill payment. But clunky, out of date websites can complicate this process or even compromise your financial information. Be sure the website is secure for payment by looking for a padlock symbol in your browser window and the letters “https” instead of just “http” at the beginning of the website URL.
    • Prepay or autopay options: Some utilities companies allow customers to prepay for services or set up their bank accounts to automatically draft a payment each month or pay period. This can simplify the process for you by giving you one less bill to remember each month.
    • Budget billing plan: Many companies offer a flat monthly fee for utilities, which can help you plan in advance for your payments. Of course, you’ll eventually have to pay any overages or late fees you’ve incurred on your account, and the payment deadline for these will vary. A budget billing plan can be a great option if you are typically able to keep your utility use to a minimum, for example by conserving electricity or water.
    • Settling overdue bills: Utility companies have different policies when it comes to how to settle your account if you are overdue on payment. Many companies will work with you to arrange a payment plan without canceling your services. For example, they may allow you to pay an additional amount of money on each monthly bill for a set amount of time until you are caught up on payments, provided that you are not late on any more payments.

    Customer service

    Most utilities companies offer the same product as their competitors; electricity is electricity no matter who is providing it. But the lower prices at one company might actually cost you in the long run, if the more affordable company is unable to afford maintenance of its grid or other equipment and responsive customer service.

    • Contact methods: Your utility provider should be easy to reach in case of an emergency or questions about your service or bill. Your provider should offer several methods to stay in touch with consumers. Many utility companies offer a question or complaint submission form on their website in addition to an 800 number. If services are down, you can often report the issue on the website as well.
    • Online chat service: One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with a utility provider can be dialing an 800 number and waiting for an available representative. Some utility companies help customers bypass this frustration with a chat service on their website. You can type your question and chat with a representative; if no one is available to chat, you can come back later or wait while surfing the web instead of holding a phone.
    • Outages and service disruptions: Large companies often respond quicker in emergency situations, because they have a larger workforce, more equipment and often more experience than smaller companies. But these larger companies often charge more for their services to be able to afford this responsive service. Consider whether outages and disruptions are common in your area. For instance, if you live in an area that rarely receives snow or ice, you are less likely to experience a disruption in electric service in the winter.

    What are different types of utility companies?

    Electric companies

    These companies provide electricity services directly to homes and businesses and maintain the power grid throughout the area. Generally, electric companies charge by the amount of electricity you use (measured in kilowatts per hour).

    Water and wastewater companies

    Water and sewer services are almost always provided by the city where you live or do business. These companies provide and treat drinking water and wastewater and maintain the sewage and plumbing system in the city, and bill customers based on water usage, typically determined by reading a water meter.

    Natural gas companies

    Natural gas is available in many areas as an alternative way to heat your home or business, operate appliances like a stove or hot water heater and even generate electricity. Natural gas companies distribute the gas to your home or business and bill you for the amount you use.

    Propane companies

    Propane companies manufacture and distribute propane to residential and business customers. They often provide propane conversion services, maintenance and offer delivery services since propane is not distributed through a pipeline system like natural gas.

    Waste removal and recycling companies

    Companies that pick up curbside, non-hazardous garbage and recycling for residential and business customers are also considered utility companies. Some cities provide these services free of charge, while others do not.

    Not-for-profit utilities services

    Some utilities services are offered by not-for-profit organizations such as cooperatives, municipal services and other publicly-owned companies. Public utilities often have a monopoly over their service area.

    For-profit utilities services

    Some utilities companies are privately held, investor owned, for-profit firms. These companies can compete in pricing in areas where there are more than one.

    Who uses utilities companies?

    Residential customers

    Homeowners and renters need to use utilities companies like electric, gas and water service providers. In some service areas, residential customers don’t have a choice about what service provider to use. In other areas, called “deregulated markets,” they can choose between competitors.

    Business owners

    Businesses of all sizes need utilities like electricity, gas and water. Even e-businesses need electric services to operate.

    Industrial customers

    Industrial companies like large factories and agribusinesses need utilities providers like electric, natural gas and water to operate their facilities.

    Vehicle drivers

    Some utility companies provide vehicle services like toll payment systems or fueling systems.

    Compare Reviews for Top Utility Companies

    Read 300 Reviews

    Petro Home Services provides home heating and air conditioning services, including oil, natural gas and gas propane heating systems; Bryant and ductless air conditioning systems; and other services to customers on the east coast.

    Consumers Energy
    Read 302 Reviews

    Consumers Energy is a major natural gas provider serving the state of Michigan. Their Smart Energy initiatives aim to make meters more reliable and help consumers plan for more energy-efficient gas use.

    Read 252 Reviews

    AmeriGas is a propane company that provides residential propane conversion services and delivery as well as business services including propane-powered cooking appliances, fleet fuel, forklifts and more.

    DTE Energy
    Read 181 Reviews

    DTE Energy is a natural gas company in Michigan. It also provides electricity to customers in the southeastern part of the state. DTE, the parent company, supplies utilities to customers in many other U.S. states.

    Arizona Public Service
    Read 108 Reviews

    Founded in 1886, Arizona Public Service Company, or APS, provides electric and solar energy service for residential and business customers in central and southwest Arizona. Customers can use the website to manage their accounts.

    Southern California Edison
    Read 362 Reviews

    Southern California Edison has been a major electric company in central and southern California for over 125 years. Their ongoing infrastructure plans are modernizing the grid to help prevent service disruptions.

    Read 259 Reviews

    SoCalGas is central and southern California’s natural gas service company and the largest natural gas utility in the country, servicing over 20 million customers. Customers can transfer, monitor and pay account balances online.

    American Electric Power
    Read 184 Reviews

    American Electric Power, or AEP, is an electric utility company serving customers in 11 states including Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Arkansas, Ohio, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

    Pacific Gas and Electric
    Read 139 Reviews

    PG&E is a natural gas and electricity provider based in San Francisco, serving north and central California. Residential and business customers can manage their accounts and report outages and safety issues on the PG&E website.

    Dominion Resources
    Read 118 Reviews

    Dominion Resources provides electric utility services to residential and corporate customers in areas of Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. It offers rebate programs and website bill pay options.

    Georgia Power
    Read 22 Reviews

    Georgia Power started in 1902 and is headquartered in Atlanta. It serves nearly 2.5 million customers with energy produced primarily using oil, natural gas and coal. Georgia Power is owned and operated by Southern Company.

    Read 347 Reviews

    ConEdison was founded in 1823 as New York Gas Light company. Today, its electric, gas and steam service gives energy for over 10 million people who live in New York City. It focuses on sustainable energy sources and saving money.

    Duke Energy of Florida
    Read 158 Reviews

    Duke Energy, formerly Progress Energy Florida, is an electric company servicing areas of Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and North and South Carolina. Duke Energy serves both residential and business accounts.

    SunPass Prepaid Toll Program
    Read 153 Reviews

    Sunpass Prepaid Toll Program is a toll payment option in Florida. Customers purchase a transponder at retail grocery stores or pharmacies and attach it to their windshield, then use it to pay tolls on specified roads and highways.

    CenterPoint Energy
    Read 232 Reviews

    CenterPoint Energy is an electric and natural gas utility company servicing business and residential customers in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming.

    Constellation (formerly MXEnergy)
    Read 63 Reviews

    Constellation, formerly MXEnergy, provides electric, natural gas and renewable energy services to residential, business and government clients in the contiguous United States. They are owned by Exelon, an energy holding company.

    Washington Gas
    Read 161 Reviews

    Washington Gas provides natural gas delivery services to residential, industrial and commercial customers in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding areas. They provide rebates for customers converting from other energy forms.

    Xcel Energy
    Read 67 Reviews

    Xcel Energy provides electricity and natural gas services to both residential and business customers in parts of Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, Wisconsin and North and South Dakota.

    Tampa Electric
    Read 66 Reviews

    Tampa Electric, or TECO, has supplied electricity to the Tampa Bay, Florida area for over 100 years. It serves residential, industrial and commercial customers in Hillsborough and parts of Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties.

    PECO Energy Company
    Read 79 Reviews

    PECO Energy is the largest utility serving the greater Philadelphia area. They have several assistance programs for low-income customers and those experiencing temporary financial hardship.

    Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
    Read 201 Reviews

    The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, or LADWP, is the nation’s largest municipal water and electric utility company and has been in operation for over 100 years. LADWP offers discounts to encourage energy efficiency.

    Heritage Propane
    Read 45 Reviews

    Owned by AmeriGas Propane LP, Heritage Propane provides residential and commercial propane services in the southern U.S. They install propane systems, perform maintenance, and deliver propane.

    Read 41 Reviews

    Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) provides electricity to around 3.8 million customers in Illinois. It is a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation, which is a leading energy supplier in the United States.

    Read 173 Reviews

    With headquarters in Overland Park, Kansas, Ferrellgas is a propane gas supplier that provides propane delivery services and maintenance to residential and business customers throughout the United States.

    Virginia Natural Gas
    Read 32 Reviews

    Virginia Natural Gas is a natural gas utility company for southeastern Virginia. It is owned by Southern Company Gas, a holding company in Georgia. Virginia Natural Gas offers free online autopay services to simplify billing.

    SCANA Energy
    Read 54 Reviews

    SCANA Energy is a natural gas utility company servicing residential and business clients in many areas of Georgia. They provide military and senior discounts and a free shopper rewards program to save money on your gas bill.

    Read 186 Reviews

    Pepco is an electric and gas energy company servicing Maryland and Washington, D.C. Founded in 1896, Pepco is owned by Exelon, the Mid-Atlantic’s largest utility company.

    Nicor Gas
    Read 91 Reviews

    Nicor Gas is a natural gas utility company servicing northern Illinois, excluding Chicago. It is owned by Southern Company Gas, a holding company in Georgia. Nicor Gas has 2.1 million residential and industrial customers.

    Read 51 Reviews

    JEA provides electricity, water and wastewater services to residential and industrial customers in Jacksonville, Florida. JEA is a not-for-profit, community-owned company. Customers can view statements and pay bills online.

    Read 23 Reviews

    NOVEC has provided electric services to Northern Virginia for over 30 years. It is one of the country’s largest electric cooperatives, meaning it is not-for-profit and its customers are also owners.

    NV Energy
    Read 63 Reviews

    NV Energy is an energy holding company. Its subsidiaries, Sierra Pacific Power Company and Nevada Power Company, together provide energy services to several areas of Nevada, including Las Vegas, Reno, Henderson and Elko.

    Energy Plus
    Read 165 Reviews

    A subsidiary of NRG Energy, Energy Plus was founded on and operates on the idea that customers deserve more from their energy supplier. It offers customers different pricing options, green options and rewards.

    Lakeland Electric
    Read 25 Reviews

    Lakeland Electric provides electricity for residents of the city of Lakeland, Florida and some surrounding areas. They offer online payment, residential energy audits and an “average bill pay” program to standardize your payments.

    Oklahoma Gas & Electric
    Read 8 Reviews

    Oklahoma Gas & Electric, a subsidiary of OGE Energy Corp., started in 1902 and is headquartered in Oklahoma City. OG&E provides natural gas, coal and wind generated electricity to over 800,000 customers in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

    Duke Energy of the Carolinas
    Read 47 Reviews

    Duke Energy, formerly Progress Energy Carolinas, is an electric company servicing areas of North and South Carolina, as well as Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. Duke Energy serves both residential and business customers.

    Charlotte Water
    Read 16 Reviews

    Charlotte Water provides water and wastewater treatment services for residents and businesses in several areas in North Carolina including Mecklenburg County, Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Mint Hill, Matthews and Pineville.

    Energy North Propane
    Read 32 Reviews

    Owned by AmeriGas Propane LP, Energy North Propane provides residential and commercial propane services in many areas of the United States. They offer conversion, installation, home delivery and leak checks.

    Laclede Gas Co.
    Read 67 Reviews

    Laclede Gas Co. is Missouri’s largest natural gas utility company, servicing the eastern portion of the state. Laclede offers convenient online payment and helps consumers access rebates for converting to natural gas.

    Peoples Gas
    Read 156 Reviews

    Peoples Gas is a natural gas company servicing homes and businesses in Chicago, Illinois. It is upgrading its infrastructure to provide more reliable service. Peoples Gas provides financial assistance for eligible customers.

    Columbia Gas of Virginia
    Read 39 Reviews

    Columbia Gas of Virginia is the third-largest natural gas company in Virginia. Headquartered in Chesterfield County and owned by NiSource, Columbia Gas of Virginia will help you convert to natural gas and manage your account.

    SEMCO Energy
    Read 16 Reviews

    SEMCO Energy Gas Company is a natural gas company serving customers in parts of Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. SEMCO Energy is overseen by the Michigan Public Service Commission, a regulatory body.

    Elizabethtown Gas
    Read 12 Reviews

    Elizabethtown Gas is a residential, industrial and business natural gas provider in New Jersey, servicing 283,000 customers. They also provide natural gas vehicle fueling stations and are part of the Southern Company Gas holdings.

    New York City Water Department
    Read 10 Reviews

    The New York City Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP, reads water meters and collects fees for water and sewage use from residential and commercial entities throughout New York City and surrounding areas.

    TruSmart Energy
    Read 42 Reviews

    Offers electricity to residents and businesses throughout Texas' deregulated service areas. Their Prepay and Weekly/Bi-weekly customers are served by Now Power, which offers 3 cents per kWh with a $30 account balance maintained.

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