Florida Power and Light - Is Your Microwave Clock Blinking Again?

In the last several years Florida Power and Light, the huge power company operating in South Florida has been excusing abnormal electric service outages by calling these blackouts "momentary interruptions" of service. FPL has been telling it's customers that power outages are a normal occurrence and the system is designed to temporarily shut off power. The symptoms of these blackouts, when the electric shuts off for a few seconds or less, are clocks and VCR's blinking, digital video recorders shutting off and then resetting (and missing five minutes of any programs being watched or recorded), and computers being messed up as they shut off, and the possibility of hard drive damage if the disk was reading or writing data when the power went off.

In the FPL service area, you may find your electronic and digital appliances are resetting several times a week or even several times a day, and the possibility of lost data or damage to the sensitive electronics. Among items that are affected are computers, digital clocks, microwave ovens, cordless phones, Tivos (digital video recorders), VCR's, Televisions, cable TV converter boxes, computer and DSL modems. You can easily determine when your electric has gone out by looking at equipment with digital clocks that do not have a backup battery or other backup circuit to keep them running when the electric goes out. Your microwave oven clock is probably the most common way to see that your electric has gone out. (You can intentionally remove batteries from other clocks so as to keep track of how many times your electric goes off as well. The clock will blink or indicate it needs resetting when the power is off for even a second.)

Open the EARS of FPL...COMPLAIN To The Public Service Commission!

Unfortunately, FPL (and other public utility companies) have been ignoring the poor electric service for years. We have been hearing complaints from FPL electric customers all over South Florida about the abnormal amount of times the electric goes out in their homes. Long distance phone conversations are interrupted on cordless phones. Microwave oven clocks and timers have to be reset constantly. Memory settings on electronic equipment in homes and businesses are lost and have to be re-entered numerous times during the week. DVR recordings of satellite and cable TV are lost or interrupted.

The abnormal electrical interuptions are a real nuisance to customers. This poor service by FPL seems to be happening in rural areas and less populated areas more than in the larger cities. In smaller towns the electric will often go off approximately twice weekly and as much as five times a week. We have heard reports of many home equipment permanently damaged by the frequent power outages in our area, including computer hard drives, DVR recorders (Tivo, etc.), and air conditioner compressors.

In our area we had experienced on average about 8 or more electric momentary outages a month. This means our digital clocks are going to be blinking 8 times monthly, that we have to reset our clocks 8 times monthly, that we may experience computer damage 8 times a month, etc. etc.

These outages seem to be the result of poor maintenance by FPL of their area wires and equipment, and most likely the lack of sufficient numbers of sub-station feed lines of sufficient capacity to distribute the electricity to customer homes and businesses, and often very long feeder lines from the sub-station to the customer. We have found in our area the power lines to the majority of homes are dozens of miles from the substation.

Southwest Florida Online™ has been investigating this problems for several years now and has determined that this is a problem unique to FPL and most especially in rural and suburban areas. The electric company in North Fort Myers, Lee Cooperative (which is not an FPL company) has had NO interuptions of electric for months! Areas of Miami have one interuption of service each 6 months, but other areas with few residents, and lower income neighborhoods have many times more problems. The Clewiston, Florida city electric company, also in Hendry county, using Glades Electric Cooperative seems not to have the problem either.

We have found FPL doesn't make upgrades or respond to customer complaints about their equipment and power outages unless they get lots of complaints from whole neighborhoods. A single customer's complaint doesn't seem to get anywhere, as they tend to blame birds on the wires or even the customer's own house wiring for the problem! FPL apparently expects very few complaints from their average customer and lets their maintenance schedules go longer, knowing that there will not be many complaints.

So what can you do to get FPL to stop all these power outages and prevent damage to your electrical equipment? First, keep track of when you have to reset your clocks by date and time if you can, when you notice the electric blinking off, even momentarily. This is evidence that your electric was out. Then call FPL and tell them you are having problems with your electric going out TOO OFTEN! Tell them you are have an abnormal amount of power outages. You have to stress to them that the electric is going off much more than is normal. If you don't complain about the frequency of outages, they will explain that you are only experiencing a "normal" blackout due to rain, wind in the wires, animals getting on the wires, etc. FPL has a LONG list of excuses to give when you call. So you must stress to them that you are having an abnormal amount of blackouts. Second, ask your neighbors if they are having the same problem. They will say YES. Have them also call FPL and complain. You must get many people from your neighborhood to call FPL, otherwise they will not take action.

You and your neighbors must be persistant and let them know you are experiencing abnormal amounts of blackouts and call them every week or so. You and your neighbors will have to keep calling them back regularly until they take you seriously. Ask for a deduction from your electric bill for the outages and money for damages to appliances damaged at your home. This will probably be unsuccessful but at least they know your are mad, and puts them on notice they may have some liability for damage to your equipment. At some point they may send someone to your home to check your electric box. At my home they put a computer on the main electric panel to record the blackouts. They found 21 blackouts in 10 days! But since none of the neighbors at that time were calling to complain, they didn't do anything at all!

After you and your neighbors get their attention, you will still have to keep them on their toes by contant calling in your complaints that the electric is still going off too much. They will claim to be making changes in their lines and equipment. Keep recording the dates and times when the electric goes out and keep calling until you are satisfied they have fixed the problem completely. This may take a lot of calls, FPL is not too cooperative in fixing anything, even though their representatives will speak very nicely to you on the phone.

At my location they managed to get the blackouts down to once per week for about 2 months, but then the outages re-appeared worse than before! So you must continue to call them and make complaints.

Where to Register YOUR Complaint:

We are finding FPL's abnormal blackouts are occuring in population areas all over South Florida and urge you to call Florida Power and Light, the Florida Public Service Commission, (the public service commission regulates FPL), the engineer in charge of your local area, or all three and complain regularly and strongly about the poor service in your area. You must, however, first call FPL to register your complaint.
You may want to suggest to the Public Service Commission that the rates should be adjusted or a refund be allowed you for the poor service you are receiving from FPL.

Here are the toll-free numbers to call (PSC number also found in the front page of all Florida phonebooks):

UPDATE! So far, my electric outages at my house in Hendry County, Florida had been unpredictable, going from 4 a month to 29. I had routinely called FPL and the Florida Public Service Commission to complain. I have heard from many internet readers of this page who have been organizing their communities. A new trick that FPL is using now is to have a lineman come out and look at the wiring inside your electric meter or circuit breaker panel and then pronounce that there is "bad wiring" in either of these, and tell you to then call an electrician to fix it. But any older home is likely to show some signs of age like discolored terminals at the meter box where the wires have heated at some time and turn the aluminum to a brownish color. 

This is apparently what FPL is counting on, and by turning the blame back to you doesn't have to do anything. The counter to this, make sure you have all your neighbors document their dates and outage times so that you can show this is FPL's problem all over the neighborhood not just a single problem at your house in your wires alone.

Our community recently held a town meeting with our State Representative to let him know of our concerns. He said he would take the community concern to Tallahassee to see if he can get some action from the Public Service Commission to force a remedy from FPL. A second meeting was held several months later, and FPL has agreed that they have been negligent in maintaining their system and providing service to customers. They had promised to spend more money on maintenance and capital outlays for new facilities. The PSC was to monitor FPL and was requesting more frequent reports from FPL. Our representative eventually seemed to have given up the fight, and the electric outages in our county are still the same as two years ago.

Here is a log of outages at one home in the Port LaBelle, Fl. (Hendry County) area for a one-year period:
January: 11
February: 11
March: 4
April: 8
May: 10
June: 18
July: 29
August: 7
September: 15
October: 8
November: 20
December: 11

After many years of complaints, FPL did upgrade their lines and systems in our area, bringing outages to about once a month. I would suggest not more than one outage per month is normal and acceptable service. The more complaints that FPL customers make, the quicker the problem will be resolved. FPL will not act unless they have lots of customer complaints to act upon. Bombard them with your complaints and tell the Public Service Commission you still are not getting results from FPL.

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