Valley residents can't pay high electric bills

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By Alicia Barron By Alicia Barron

PHOENIX – Joe Tegarden lives in an 1,800 square-foot house. It's perfect for his wife and kids, but what's not so perfect are the electric bills he's getting month after month.

"I'm struggling to pay the bills as it is right now and getting hit with that makes it even tougher," says Tegarden.

Joe's first summer electric bill this year was for over $500. That's more than a $100 higher than the same month last year and Joe can't explain it.

"That's a whole week's check right there going to the electric bill."

Joe was unable to pay the huge electric bill and before he knew it, his next bill from APS was around $500.  

As a result, he now owes APS more than $1,000 and he has no idea what he'll do. Thinking something was wrong, Joe called APS, which told him this:

"We can't tell you where your electricity is going but we can just tell you that you're using twice as much electricity right now and to me, I mean, that's impossible."

Tom Hines is with APS and understands what people like Joe are going through.

"Well certainly the July, August timeframe is when people tend to get the highest energy bills in Arizona because so much of our energy use is based on cooling in the summertime," Hines explains.

Tom says, remember, it's one of the hottest summers on record which is spiking electric bills around the Valley. As a result, he suggests setting your thermostat to around 79 degrees or higher if you can.

"For each degree that you can go above, each degree up, you can save 2 to 3 percent on your energy bill."

Also, turn your fans on. "The ceiling fan is actually going to give you a wind-chill affect just like a cool breeze," says Hines.

Now, when I was at Joe's house, I noticed not only were his fans not on but Joe also told me they usually keep their thermostat around 76 to 78 degrees which probably contributed to his big electric bill.

You should also check to make sure you're on the right program. For instance, APS has a program that has cheaper electricity rates from 7 p.m. until noon the next day.

So it's a good idea not to run your swimming pool and other energy zappers during the more expensive hours.

"A great opportunity is to look at what rate plan makes sense for my family and get on that plan. You can save quite a bit," Hines tells 3 On Your Side.

Joe says he's already made some adjustments to lower his power bill, but in the meantime, his current bills are stressing him out.

"We're actually wondering how we're going to be able to pay it, so."

By the way, APS wants to raise its rates by more than 6 percent. If approved, the new hike could kick in by next summer. As for SRP, there are no plans for a rate hike.

After 3 On Your Side's involvement APS has reached out to Joe and they have agreed to put him on a payment plan to help him pay off his electric bill.

They also discovered that Joe may have been on the wrong service plan. They have now put him on another plan that will hopefully reduce his power costs.