Over the last year, our electric bill has averaged $120/month. There are no residential natural gas lines running to our area, so this covers all of our energy needs. But I’m not going to complain if I can shrink it without effort on our part.
We know we’re not particularly light on our energy use – that pool pump is not cheap to keep running – but surprisingly, we’re actually significantly lower than the average monthly utility bill across the US, which averaged $163 according to this infographic (compiled from mint data back in 2011), and $165 in Florida.
We’re continuing to make incremental changes in our energy efficiency and energy use the longer we live in our home (you don’t want to know what some of the electric bills were before the AC was replaced in 2010…). But with the grand garage renovations we’re currently in the middle of, we also got the opportunity to get a nice discount on our electric bill without having to buy anything new.
What Is FPL On Call?
The FPL On Call program allows FPL (Florida Power and Light, our electric company) remote control access to power down major electric home appliances in times of high electrical need in the area. In exchange for control to power down these devices for varying time periods, FPL provides a credit to your bill. That’s right, it appears straight-up as a discount on your bill.
Enrolling in the program costs absolutely nothing. When you call to enroll, FPL will assign an electrical contractor to your account, and then they come out and complete the set-up. FPL pays the electrician for work and for the supplies – you don’t pay anything.
There are four main appliances that you can enroll in the On Call program. We’ve got all of them, so have currently signed up to earn the maximum possible credits on our FPL bill.
Pick And Choose Your Credits
Water Heater – $1.50/month
You give FPL the right to cycle your water heater off for up to 4 consecutive hours during high energy load periods. This isn’t really a big deal for us since we ended up going with the low-boy tank option when we just replaced our water heater. Our 38 gallon tank is insulated well enough that losing power for 4 hours doesn’t really affect the water temperature all that much, and there’s enough capacity that we can both take pretty leisurely 10+ minute showers before exhausting the available hot water.
Pool Pump – $3/month
Like the water heater, FPL can cycle an enrolled pool pump off for up to 4 consecutive hours. We run our pool pump about 8 hours per day, so if it gets turned off once in a blue moon for up to 4 hours, it shouldn’t affect the clarity of our pool water all that much. If we do notice it getting used often and we want to make sure the water is filtered for the full 8 hours (sometimes this *is* needed due to excessive rain, heat, and pollen in the summers), we can always run it for a few hours at night, so this doesn’t seem like a big deal.
Central AC – $3/month or $9/month, April – October
You have two options with your AC. For the maximum credit ($9/month), you can opt for the “Extended Option” that gives FPL the right to power off your AC for 3 consecutive hours out of every 24. The lower credit option ($3/month) gives FPL the right to cycle your AC on and off at 15 minute intervals for up to 6 hours. Both would have your AC off for a total of 3 hours, but the latter is probably far less noticeable to most people.
We ended up going with option 1, though FPL allows you to change your enrollment options once every calendar year if you choose to. For us, the larger credit felt worth it given that we’ve been told that our area has never actually had a power need high enough that FPL has powered down any AC units using On Call. (They use water heaters and pool pumps first since they are less noticeable to customers.)
Additionally, with the 15-minute on/off cycles of option 2, I wasn’t sure how well it would actually work since a full-power down of our AC system actually requires a couple of minutes to reset and start up fully. Doing this 12 times instead of once felt like it was unnecessary down time for the system if we really did want it on, as well as possibly more wear and tear on it, though I’m not really sure about that last part.
Central Electric Heat – $2/month or $4/month, November – March
The heat options mimic the AC options with the greater discount going for the “extended” 3 consecutive hour power down and the smaller discount for the 15 minute on/off option.
Like the AC, we went with Option 1 on this for all the same reasons.
With the options we selected, our total yearly credit is going to be $137, which is a nice 9.5% of what our energy spending was last year. (And yes, non-Floridians please note that FPL officially declared that we do in fact have two seasons down here. Summer, which lasts April – October, and winter, which goes from November – March.)
The best part about this program is that you can pick and choose. You don’t have to enroll all of your eligible appliances, and if you worry more about time without a heater than time without AC (or vice versa – this is FL!), you can control which climate control options you want FPL to have.
Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be a penalty if you use your appliances less than average. For example, we use our AC a lot less than most people in our area, so if FPL has a high load period during the day, our AC is probably already off! (I’m pretty sure we’re getting the better end of this deal.)
Why Didn’t We Do This Sooner?
We actually tried to enroll a while back, but the first time the electrician came out, the awful cabinetry set-up in our garage was blocking access that the electrician needed to complete the install. And since we knew a garage renovation was going to happen sooner than later, we decided to hold off until the entire install could be done cleanly and completely.
While that makes it sound like the On Call set-up is really space intensive, it really isn’t. (Our garage setup was just that bad as you can see in the before reno pics). There are actually two small-medium sized boxes that the electrician installs on the wall right at the outlet for your water heater. Then low-voltage wires are sent from there to the AC/Heater to control power to it. The pool pump is on a separate exterior breaker, so it has its own On Call setup mounted near the pump timer.
So, since we’re in the process of redesigning the space in the garage for more efficient use, it was the best time for us to get this done and then plan the garage shelving and everything else around it. The way we’re looking at it, this one little change is going to pay for repay us some of these garage renovation expenses over time.
Do you have a similar program with your utility? Would you enroll if you did?