Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
According to Arizona Public Service (APS), only 54 percent of residents are on the cheapest electricity plan for their home. That means that there are still 46 percent of people paying more than they need to for electricity. Part of the problem is how complicated the plans can be and the way that APS used to explain them. Recently, regulators required APS to work to make the different plans easier to understand, and told them to shrink “on-peak” hours where some customers get charged more. While the new plans are supposed to be simpler, it does mean that the options Arizonans got used to are gone.
There are now three plans to choose from, with a fourth that is only available to people already on it. It is important to remember that if you choose a time of use plan, you will be charged based on the old 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. peak hours rules until APS tells you that you have been updated to the new 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours. You will get that notification in the email associated with your account, by phone if there is no email, and as an alert when you log into your account at aps.com. You will also receive a bill message reminding you that the hours have changed.
- Fixed energy charge plan
This first plan is the simplest one. You are charged the same amount for electricity no matter when you use it. The drawback is that the only way to save money is to use less electricity. Many people would pay less for electricity using a different plan with some small changes to when they run big appliances like air conditioners, dishwashers, and laundry machines.
- Time of Use 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Weekdays
The second option here can save money for many households. You are charged two different amounts for electricity, “on-peak” and “off-peak” rates. The on-peak rates charged weekdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. are significantly higher than on the fixed energy charge plan, but electricity used at any other time of day is quite a bit cheaper. If you can turn off the air conditioning and avoid running the dishwasher or laundry machines from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday this can be a more economical option.
- Time of Use 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Weekdays with Demand Charge
Option three offers the chance at even more savings, but comes with some risk. Everything is the same as option 2 – you pay more for on-peak electricity, but then even less for off-peak electricity. However, every month you will pay an additional amount called a “demand charge”. The demand charge is based on the one hour you used the most on-peak electricity during the month. You have to be careful not to use too much electricity from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and breaking that rule can easily wipe out all the savings you made. For example, running the dishwasher and the laundry machine at the same time at 5 p.m. one Thursday could cost as much as $60.00 at the end of the month. This plan is for people who are confident that they will not use extra electricity between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. during the week.
- Saver Choice Plus (only for those who already have it)
Saver Choice Plus is an old plan from before they were reworked. If you are already on it, you can stay with this plan, but nobody can choose to switch to this now. If it were to be named now it would be “Time of Use 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Weekdays with Demand Charge.” It functions just like option three, but the on-peak hours are longer. On top of that, it has what are called “super off-peak hours” from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. on weekdays during the winter months. The drawback is that the on-peak time being longer also makes it easier to mess up once and end up with a big demand charge. Still, for those who believe that they won’t use extra electricity during peak hours and that they can make use of the super off-peak hours, it could be worth staying on this plan.
Be sure to check on what plan you have now, and consider whether or not you will be able to save money on electricity by changing it. According to APS there’s almost a 50 percent chance that you could save money going into this summer, so take advantage of it if you can.