TAMPA, Fla. - Some residents in the Tampa Bay area came to ABC Action News saying their energy bills doubled, even tripled during the recent cold snaps that hit the area.
“I haven’t paid a TECO bill like that since I bought the house,” said Johnny Lopera, a Tampa resident.
Lopera said he was shocked when his electric bill for January skyrocketed from about $100 a month to a whopping $400 a month.
"I was good," Lopera said. "I was getting $100 dollar bills, $80 dollar bills, $90 dollar bills! Then, to get a $400 dollar bill, it kind of just like, hit me!"
Lopera is not alone. ABC Action News posted on a community Facebook group asking Tampa families about their January bills.
More than 200 people responded.
“Ours was almost $400!” One woman posted on the Facebook thread. “I just about fainted.”
Another family said they saw their January electric bill jumped from $120 to nearly $300!
One woman telling ABC Action News “This is crazy!“
Lopera presented ABC Action News with a graph showing his average costs.
“Just to see the graph on it?” Lopera said. “It was just wild!"
Some families telling us they’re unable to cope with the sudden costs.
ABC Action News went to Tampa Electric to see what families can do if they can't afford to pay the entire price up front.
Tampa Electric told ABC Action News they are willing to work with families about doing a payment plan but you do need to call customer service to arrange it.
TECO says they have seen an increase in the number of customer questions related to high bills from recent weather.
TECO encourages their Budget Billing Program, that helps avoid huge spikes in bills in usually hot or cold weather.
In terms of energy use, TECO offers these suggestions:
A home energy audit is free and can give you tips on how to save energy throughout your home (call to schedule in person, or it also can be done online or on the phone). An auditor will check windows, doors and attic/etc to make suggestions for your specific home.
Energy Planner is a free program that allows you to use energy during off-peak times (such as running your dishwasher overnight) to help save money. It provides a programmable thermostat just for participating. The customer does need internet access to participate.
But for now, Lopera isn’t taking any chances.
"We're going to ride it without the heater for the rest,” he said.