BGE Warns Customers Colder Weather Brings Higher Bills

| January 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE)  announced that the freezing or below freezing temperatures experienced in Central Maryland this week will likely cause energy usage to increase, even for customers who leave their thermostats at a set temperature. Heating systems must work harder and longer to maintain the set temperatures when the weather is extremely cold. An increase in energy usage could cause bills to be higher-than-expected, however, BGE bills are calculated monthly so the anticipated increased usage this week could be offset if warmer temperatures occur during the same billing cycle. Customers are encouraged to visit the Winter Ready section of BGE’s website for important information on managing winter energy bills.

“BGE always urges customers to look for ways to maximize the energy efficiency of their homes to minimize the impact of extreme temperatures,” said Jeannette M. Mills, senior vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. “In addition to having their heating systems checked by qualified technicians to ensure they are functioning properly, customers should also consider sealing gaps in windows and doors and adding insulation to keep warm air inside and reduce the running time of heating systems. Customers should also take advantage of the many programs offered as part of BGE’s Smart Energy Savers Program®, including Quick Home Energy Check-Up, rebates, lighting discounts and other incentives for purchasing energy efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems.”

BGE customers should also consider enrolling in Budget Billing, which evens out payments over a 12-month period and limits the impact of seasonal increases in usage. Qualifying customers are also urged to apply for energy assistance and weatherization assistance. BGE’s Limited Income Energy Efficiency program can help reduce out-of-pocket gas and electric expenses for limited income customers. Some customers may qualify for the repair or replacement of inefficient gas furnaces and heat pumps through this program.

BGE also encourages customers to use natural gas prudently this winter, especially during extremely cold weather. While the utility expects to have sufficient natural gas supply to meet demand, customers should still consider conserving even during periods of bitter cold. While rare, increased usage can stress the natural gas distribution system and interrupt service to customers, leaving them without heat for a period of time.

Despite this week’s cold temperatures, BGE’s residential customers who purchase natural gas from BGE can anticipate a decrease of approximately 11 percent in the gas portion of their total bill, when compared to last winter. BGE’s average commodity cost for natural gas is expected to be about 58 cents per therm this winter heating season, compared to 62 cents per therm last winter. For the typical residential customer, this means a total gas bill of approximately $518 for the period beginning Nov. 1, 2011, and ending March 31, 2012. These numbers represent two months of actual data for Nov. and Dec., 2011 and three months of estimates for Jan. – March, 2012 and are lower than numbers released in Oct. which were based on estimated data for the entire winter season. For the same period last winter, the typical gas customer paid $584 to heat their homes. This reduction is driven by a projected return-to-normal winter weather conditions, as compared to last winter’s colder-than-normal weather, along with a decline in the projected commodity price for natural gas. If actual conditions differ from these projections, average bills will vary accordingly. Also, an individual customer’s bill will vary depending on the condition of their furnace, and any changes in usage.

BGE purchases and stores approximately 40 percent of its natural gas supply in the summer and purchases another 7 percent at fixed prices. This practice helps limit the impact of any rising prices, which may occur during the colder months when demand is increasing.

Residential electric customers who purchase their power from BGE and whose primary heating source is electricity can also expect to pay less to heat their homes during the upcoming winter heating season. BGE’s non-summer weighted average price for electricity this winter is 8.8 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared to approximately 10 cents per kWh hour last season. For the typical electric residential customer with an electric heat source this means a total electric bill of approximately $1,150 from Nov. 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012, compared to approximately $1,240 during the 2010 — 2011 heating season.

Customers also have the option to purchase natural gas and electricity from third-party suppliers that may offer lower prices or longer fixed-price terms than BGE’s Standard Offer Service. More than 260,000 BGE residential customers are already shopping for electric suppliers and more than 100,000 residential customers are shopping for natural gas suppliers. This represents approximately 24 percent of the utility’s residential electric customers and about 16 percent of its residential gas customers. A list of qualified residential suppliers can be found at www.bge.com.

Other resources available to our customers include our Consumer Reference Book, which is mailed to every residential customer each year and is available online, and the Community Resource Guide, also available online.

The following are steps that all customers can take to reduce energy consumption and lower heating bills:

  • Have the furnace checked by a licensed professional to be sure it is operating efficiently.
  • Consider BGE’s Quick Home Energy Check-up or Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.
  • Change the furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder.
  • During the winter, for systems other than heat pumps, set thermostats at 68 ºF or lower during the day and 65 ºF at night, if health allows.
  • Consider a programmable thermostat, which can save 10-25 percent in energy costs all year when programmed to lower temperatures when no one is home in the winter and higher temperatures when no one is home in summer. Participants in BGE’s PeakRewardsSM program may be able to get a programmable thermostat at no additional cost.
  • Install an approved insulation blanket around the water heater and insulate the first three feet of water pipe (keep insulation at least 6 inches from the flue on gas water heaters).
  • Wash clothes in cold or warm water and rinse in cold water to reduce water heater usage.
  • Caulk and weather strip windows and doors to keep cold air out.

Go to www.bge.com and www.bgesmartenergy.com for more energy-saving tips.

 

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