FPL On Call – Discounts On Our Utility Bill

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.

FPL Usage Summary

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.

 

Our Savings

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.

20131027-184623.jpg

This is the On Call Box Setup. The smaller box is about 3″x3″ for scale.

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?

65 comments to FPL On Call – Discounts On Our Utility Bill

  • This sounds like an awesome program – not only does it save you money, it also encourages you to be more energy-conscious. That’s something I need to be better at. Living in a lower cost of living area and sharing a home with 2 other people means that our utility bills are never very high for each individual person… so we keep our thermostat at 72-73 in the winter. Trying to work down to 70…
    Well Heeled Blog recently posted..6 Days in London: A Recap of My Scone-Filled AdventureMy Profile

  • That’s pretty cool, I wish I had that option with my local co-op. And only $120/month? I might have to get my HVAC looked at…
    FI Pilgrim recently posted..FI 101: Chart Progress To Stay MotivatedMy Profile

    • The easiest way to keep the AC from using too much energy is to keep it off most of the time =)

      Seriously, we really only use the AC at night since we both like it cold to sleep. On rare occasions if it gets to 86-87 in the house on a weekend afternoon we’ll run the AC, but that’s not that often.

  • A lot if the more progressive utilities are now offering this program and I LOVE it. I’m not able to take advantage of it because I’m a renter, but I’d be all over it if I could. The best part is that most of it is unlikely to affect you. Peak demand hours are between 1 and 5 and most people aren’t even home then. Your water heater logic is quite sound, plus, who showers at 3pm?
    With regards to cycling your AC unit. Excessive cycling will certainly degrade the life of the unit, not by a ton, but it’s worth thinking about. I think you made the right choice with the 3 hr consecutive turn off.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..Getting past the hype of clean diesel – Is diesel worth it?My Profile

  • I was going to ask the same question about the option for cycling the AC every 15 minutes. I know very little about these things, but that seems like an incredibly inefficient way of doing things. But that aside, this seems like an easy way to save some money.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Make Your Money Grow Faster: Investing Better vs. Earning MoreMy Profile

    • In general, the cycling on and off is how the AC maintains a constant temperature, so I think they have that option for people who don’t want to notice any difference in consumption.

  • Hmmmm, interesting. Have you spoken with others who have done this? I wonder how often they power down stuff? The only one I’d have an issue with is the AC if the temperatures were miserable. Perhaps you are close enough to the ocean though that it doesn’t get too bad.

    If your roof-line is right, would you consider solar panels? They have been getting a lot better and a lot cheaper lately. The payback time is still lengthy (10 years if you pay someone to install them), but it may be worth it if you’re in it for the long term. Solar City will give you a free, no pressure estimate.

    I’m going to put them on my roof, but I’m going to install them myself which should bring the payback time down to under 5 years.
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..Sunday Make Ahead Recipe: Italian ChickenMy Profile

    • The MIL of one of my coworkers had it, but ended up canceling it. I think she didn’t know what she signed on for, and then freaked out when she couldn’t turn her heater on during a cold snap. She was old (late 80’s) and I think mostly confused the way my coworker tells it. Interestingly he doesn’t want to use it now since his wife is going through “the change” and he claims she keeps the house as cold as walk-in freezer.

      Our temperatures are actually on the energy use graph above – the red line is the average high temp for the month (axis labels for it are on the right). This summer was a little cooler, I think the hottest month averaged 90, but last year the summer was a couple degrees warmer.

      Our roof line is probably pretty good for solar on the back – it’s not something we’ve spent a ton of time thinking about, but I know there aren’t as many FPL solar installation credits as there is demand for them.

      • Friends of mine leased a solar system from one of the several outfits here who install them. They LOVE it! She said it’s saving them a ton of money on power bills here — summer bills dropped into the range of $30, which in these parts normally range upwards of $300.

        People like them so much that the power company lobbied for and got a rule saying that when you sell back power to the utility you don’t get to sell it back at the retail cost. This of course hugely bites into the cost-advantage of leasing solar, which I supposed represented a serious challenge to the power monopoly.

        BTW, eight hours sure seems like a lot to run your pool pump. Somewhere I read that you don’t really have to let it run that long, so experimented with shorter times. It works! I run mine about three or four hours in the winter and maybe six in the summer.
        Funny about Money recently posted..The State of Your Health: Is It Your Employer’s Business?My Profile

  • I managed to cut my bill in half with those vampire sucking devices. We literally put almost everything (not the fridge!) on a power strip even the microwave, and noticed that just a little blinking light, or the time on a microwave, sucked up enough energy to make a difference when you multiply that by how many electronics you have blinking in your house.
    save. spend. splurge. recently posted..How I almost ended up being sexually assaultedMy Profile

  • Debbie M

    I don’t have a pool pump, but I wouldn’t mind using the water heater and central heating options. We already keep it as hot as my poor, sweaty boyfriend can stand, and where I live, the energy problems happen only on the hottest days, so we would not do either A/C option.

    My utilities company is pretty progressive, but the only program like this that they have is they will give you a free programmable thermostat if you let them turn off your A/C for way too long (probably 3 hours) during prime-use periods. We are not going for that.

    (Our heat, cooking, and water heater are powered with natural gas.)

    We did get discounts for weatherizing the house and replacing our old central A/C with a supposedly efficient one. Plus we got a free low-flow toilet (that works great) and a discounted rain barrel and we have a choice of three sizes of trash cans (with different monthly rates), so we can save money choosing the smallest size (of which we only use half unless we’re doing major decluttering). So I’m not complaining.

    • A free programmable thermostat? That’s it? Those things are pretty cheap to start with, so I can understand why that’s not enough incentive to make the boyfriend uncomfortable.

      How did you get a free toilet? That’s awesome.

      • Debbie M

        Our utility company had a deal where they would give us $60 for a low-flow toilet, or a free one if we pick a specific model. At the time, their model sounded the best to me anyway. We had to jump some hoops and were not allowed to re-use or sell the toilet (my boyfriend thought it would be funny to stick it in the yard and plant flowers in it, so I was happy to let them take it away instead). We did have to pay for (or do) our own installation.

        My area has water shortage problems and we’re usually in a drought. We’re in a drought right now even though we just had flooding, but the drought isn’t quite as bad. (I learned that whether you’re in a drought is not based on how happy the plants are but on how full the lake is–or how high the water tables are.)

  • CincyCat

    We do have the same option in our neck of the woods, but decided not to enroll. For starters, our house is a cape cod, and our kids’ bedrooms are in the finished attic space. Without the AC in the summer at least “running”, it gets very muggy, very quickly up there. If we didn’t have the upstairs to worry about, we would probably do it. As for now, our programmable thermostat & motion sensor light switches seem to be doing the trick.

    Our electric consumption varies quite a bit… 790 kw in Nov to 1500 in July/August.

    Gas consumption is quite low, since we only use it for the furnace & water heater – which is a newer model that does not continuously run the pilot. (Stove & dryer are electric.) Peak consumption is Jan – March, and other months are negligible.

  • Anne

    The previous owners had this for the AC and we actually had it removed this summer. I forget how long they’re “allowed” to have it off, but it’s similar (3 or 4 hours), and they turned off our A/C for over 8 hours when it was over 110 outside. Mike called and got it turned back on about 9 pm, or we would have been staying at a friends house that night. They took it off the next day, but so far we’ve still been getting the credit, we’ll see how long that lasts. We have no problem with a few hours, but all day is just nuts.

  • Your electricity bill is actually really low. We spend a little more than that and we live in an apartment. We really need to focus on saving energy.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..Being an Anonymous Blogger and Compromising with MyselfMy Profile

    • Until I wrote this post and looked up what the average is I thought it was really high! It’s definitely way more than I paid when I had my teeny tiny 400 sf apartment. =)

      • Debbie M

        My bill doubled when I moved from a 670-square foot apartment to a 960-square foot house. At the time I just noticed that we got charged for a lot more things (like trash fees) that were probably part of the rent at the apartment. I don’t remember if my actualy energy usage went up, but going from being surrounded by other apartment dwellers who jacked up their A/C to being in a stand-alone (bigger) house probably did make a difference.

    • Borrow a kill-a-watt. Some libraries and electric companies loan them out, and you can discover your big energy hogs. Some things I did when living in an apartment to save energy include:

      1) turn off all desktop computers when not in use, and only charge laptops when they need a charge.
      2) unplug media center (TV, DVD, cable box, etc) when not in use — we put them all on a power strip and unplugged the plug. bonus is no worry about storm surges!
      3) put microwave on power strip and turn off when not in use.
      4) minimize use of hair-do appliances like hair dryers, curling irons, etc. I had a $5 a month+ drop when my roommate moved out for the summer.
      5) use fans and passive cooling instead of AC or use AC sparingly.
      6) don’t use digital clocks.
      Leah recently posted..Feeling like an adultMy Profile

      • Debbie M

        Digital clocks use more energy than the other kind? Interesting. After reading your #3, I was thinking to myself “but I use that as a clock.” Now I’m thinking maybe I should get a different clock for the kitchen.

        • All the wall clocks I’ve ever had use batteries, and they use them forever. We also have a sparing number of clocks and mostly use a watch/our cell phones.

          Digital clocks are putting out light, which is the energy use.

          The things I listed are likely small peanuts, but lots of little things can add up.
          Leah recently posted..Feeling like an adultMy Profile

      • Looks like our library doesn’t loan out Kill-A-Watts, but from your experience sounds like it might be worth the $20 or so Amazon is asking for them.

        As for your list, I know we’re bad about #1, but we don’t really have any media equipment so #2 is easy. I never thought about the micro for #3- I’m actually really curious what it draws now! And #4 is super easy since we don’t own any of those things. #5 is the main reason our bill is as low as it is, and #6 we’re pretty good on. The only digital clock is our alarm clock – the other 4 clocks in the house are either wind up or run on a AA battery.

        • Kill-a-watts are fun. I discovered that my cell phone charger (at the time) drew no discernible electricity when not plugged into my phone, so I was excited to not have to unplug that when not in use. Cell phone chargers are listed as a source of vampire energy.

          Oh, that reminds me: vampire energy is what we call those tiny little electric draws, and googling that term will probably give more ideas. I was really big into that when I lived in Ann Arbor and was super crunchy (as opposed to mildly crunchy and not actually paying an electric bill now). We still turn off lights and are careful, but I don’t unplug our media center anymore because that was a pain.

          I don’t use a digital clock as an alarm clock, but that’s mostly because the light makes it hard for me to sleep at night.
          Leah recently posted..Feeling like an adultMy Profile

      • CincyCat

        Our microwave is built-in, above our stove w/ a plug in the cabinet. I wonder if using an outlet “timer” would work, instead of a power strip, or if the timer itself draws so much energy that it would be moot.

  • That’s great that you have these options. As I rent, and utilities are included, I am not sure if our electric company offers this. I’m all for lowering bills, and it really does seem like you have nothing to lose by opting in. Great deal and good work on having such a low bill in the first place!
    E.M. recently posted..The Power of Being ProductiveMy Profile

  • We don’t have a program like this in our area but we would probably sign up if we did. I probably wouldn’t sign up the water heater but would have no problem giving up some of the access to my AC!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..The High Cost of CommutingMy Profile

  • That’s a cool program! Our provider does something along the same lines, in which our per kWh charge varies based on time of day (with a few options). We opted to stick with the basic plan because I work from home and turning off the AC in peak hours didn’t sound so attractive in August/Sept. But for people who are out of the house during the day’s peak hours, it’s a no brainer.
    Done by Forty recently posted..Embracing Either/Or and Opportunity CostsMy Profile

  • I actually just did this with PG&E out here in California. They are giving me $50 for each A/C unit but I’ll have to look into other options. I like the % each month deal you got better.
    Kyle | Rather-Be-Shopping.com recently posted..Field Trip to the Pumpkin Patch: Life Lessons AboundMy Profile

  • That’s a pretty neat incentive offered by your power company. I’m actually waiting for the day when our power companies start charging more for using power during peak usage times. It would force people to be more conscience of how much crap they turn on when they get home from work.

    Also, as a Wisconsin native who’s been to Florida in January, I find your winters suspect. =)
    Micro recently posted..Marathon Training Schedule for BirminghamMy Profile

  • I’m not even sure we have a program like that but my electric bill never gets over 35 dollars per month. And that went up from around 27 per month because the new computer I got apparently eats up a lot of energy, so I turn it off each night and unplug it from the wall. I guess all in all it’s one of the minor benefits of renting, having a small space, and living in moderate climate. Don’t worry, I make up for it in rent though. :) Glad you are on the program!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Budgeting Time & Money for My First Half MarathonMy Profile

  • Sounds like a great program! We have nothing of the sort up here but if we did I’m sure we would look at enrolling. You probably won’t even really notice so it’s almost free money.
    This Life On Purpose recently posted..The Living Wallet and Other Ways to Curb Your SpendingMy Profile

  • Wow FPL must be a very good program that surely the residents will benefit. I hope our electric provider will have the same program like FPL and for sure I will sign up.
    Clarrise @ Make Money Your Way recently posted..Side hustle series: Make money with weddingsMy Profile

  • Your electric cost is very inexpensive. We pay at least $150 per month and we have a new house so its efficient. We also have our propane cost for heating on top of that. It’s a foreign concept to me that a residential neighborhood would not be piped for natural gas. In the north, that is a must for residential areas (we live out of town, hence the propane). This program sounds like a great deal.
    ND Chic recently posted..Ready for BabyMy Profile

    • I never really thought about the lack of gas until we were replacing the water heater and I called to see if it was available and just not piped to the house. Turns out none of our residential area has gas. I have no idea how common this is, but most of the people I know have electric stoves, so maybe pretty common?

  • That’s a really nice return for no effort!

    I came here to suggest what helped me living in an apartment. Not even kidding; I saw a noticeable drop from this. We put our microwave on a power strip, and we turned off the micro whenever we weren’t using it. That little clock sucked a lot of power. Our bill was a few dollars cheaper each month once we started doing this.

    Of course, there is the annoyance of using the power strip. But it’s not so bad once you get used to it. We microwaved so little anyway (once or twice a week) and didn’t need to use that clock.
    Leah recently posted..Feeling like an adultMy Profile

  • Ah, our energy company is nowhere near progressive enough to offer a program like this, although they do give pretty good rebates if you buy energy efficient appliances. Of course that started after we already had all of ours! Our electric bill is pretty cheap because we rarely use AC, but the gas bill is the killer. If I had it to do over, I would have added solar when building our house. Someday we might still do that.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Top Five Ways To Make Sure You Never Retire EarlyMy Profile

  • Very interesting. I don’t think we have a program like that here, but if we did I’d totally sign up. It’s only the bf and I and we have a small 2-bed condo, but every little bit you can save helps. I’ll have to ask my dad and step-mom about this program. They live in Florida and I’m curious if they know about this or a similar program.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Made With Love: My Homemade Christmases PastMy Profile

  • That’s a great deal. Our electricity went up in our new apartment, but reading reviews (hindsight) everybody experiences higher than average electricity costs.
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Back from Monterrey, MexicoMy Profile

  • I can’t imagine not having A/C for three consecutive hours during a hot florida summer day. Good thinking going for the alternative. I’m sure I could make it through a 15 minute interval. I wonder if there’s a similar program in NYC. I’ll have to look into it.
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    • We actually went with the 3 hour consecutive power down for the higher credit. The way we use our AC (mostly only at night), we think the likelihood that we’ll notice this being used much is slim.

  • Our power company offers a similar program, but only for the heat pump. Dad works from home some days, and not having the A/C on would mean 100+ temps in his office, and the $30/year they’re offering us isn’t worth the argument :)
    Mom @ Three is Plenty recently posted..More decluttering, donating, and sellingMy Profile

  • Do not believe this scammers, they do not give us any credit. First time I called they said it was installed during the midst of my billing cycle and they do not do partial credits. I got my new bill and no credit either. Scam
    David recently posted..PoP Balance Sheet – September 2015My Profile

  • This is a scam. They installed it and then refused to give a credit saying it was in the middle of the billing cycle and they do not do partial credits
    I got another bill and there was no credit either. I guess they will say I used only 575 kW and they may have some threshold that they do not publish to issue credits
    Scam
    David recently posted..PoP Balance Sheet – September 2015My Profile

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