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Remote control of home energy use via the Internet

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August 20, 2007

August 20, 2007 No longer do you need to set timers for your air-conditioner or central heating to turn on and off. A new type of remote control thermostat that works via the Internet can be used when you’re at home or at work to control your home’s energy consumption. A program by a Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) recently got approval from the Florida Public Service Commission to test the device, which will reduce energy use and help ensure power reliability by giving and installing a new Internet-ready programmable thermostat to households who want it. The thermostat, which will be offered to customers free of charge, will display virtual thermostat knobs that put choices at your fingertips. You can minimize energy use when no one is at home, and then with the touch of a button ensure that the temperature is just where you like it when you come through the door.

Along with not charging for the thermostat, FPL will install it for free. In return, the customer agrees to let FPL occasionally cycle the air conditioner for short periods of time, only when necessary, to conserve energy during heavy demand. However, the customer always has the ability to override the utility’s remote control over the air conditioner via the internet or by calling a toll-free number provided by FPL.

Customers can save money by conserving energy. Since central air-conditioning and heating require the most energy in a home, thermostat settings can have a significant impact on the electric bill. If a customer is interested, he or she can also ask FPL to install similar control mechanisms over pool pumps or water heaters or both. In return, participating customers receive monthly credits from FPL on their electric bills. Called ‘On Call’, this program means the utility can better manage overall electricity demand and that ensures reliability.

Hopes are high that a successful evaluation will lead to the addition of this new tool to FPL’s overall line of energy-efficiency products.

“We are committed to providing our customers with helpful information and easy to use tools, such as this new programmable thermostat, that allow them to take control of their energy usage,” said Marlene Santos, FPL’s vice president of customer service. “This technology also will help FPL avoid the need to build power plants just to serve occasional demand peaks. That saves all of us money in the long run.”

FPL estimates customer participation in the utility’s conservation and energy management programs has helped prevent the need to build 11 power plants over the past quarter-century. The On Call program currently has close to 750,000 customers. Their participation in the program saved 938 MW of peak power demand by the end of last summer – which equals the output of three power plants.

Programmable thermostat customers will be able to receive their monthly credits for the water heater and the pool pump, but not their air conditioner.

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