BGE offers tips to save energy and options to deal with higher bills

| February 25, 2015 | 1 Comment

BGE-LogoBaltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) reminds customers that although commodity prices remain stable, extreme weather can trigger an increase in usage, which may result in higher-than-normal energy bills. BGE is offering customers budget billing and other payment options to help better manage winter bills.

For the period of Nov. 1, 2014 through Feb. 22, 2015, central Maryland experienced 1,001 hours when temperatures were at or below freezing. In February to-date, the area experienced 368 hours at or below freezing, making the current month 36 percent colder-than-normal thus far.

“While we can’t control the weather, we can control how we use energy, even during periods of extremely cold temperatures,” said Rob Biagiotti, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. “Even when the thermostat is kept at the same temperature, heating units must work harder to maintain that temperature. Without taking steps to save energy during these times, energy bills will reflect additional usage and will likely be higher than in months when temperatures are more moderate. We encourage all customers to think about simple steps they can take in their home to save energy each day, no matter the temperature outside.”

Customers who heat with older model electric heat pumps are especially vulnerable to sharp increases in usage when auxiliary heating is activated during cold weather. On days when the temperature dips below freezing, a heat pump can use 2 to 3 times as much energy as it does compared to periods when the temperature is above 30 to 40 degrees.

Tracking Energy Use: BGE.com/MyAccount

“Although colder temperatures are the primary driver for increased energy use during the heating season, there are many other contributing factors, some of which may not be as obvious,” said Biagiotti. “When it’s bitter cold outside, many families spend more time at home, cooking, watching television, and using computers and other electronics.”

BGE encourages customers with smart meters to log on to bge.com/MyAccount to track their daily energy usage, see how weather effects their monthly bill, compare their energy efficiency to neighbors with similar homes and review personalized tips to save energy. Customers can also sign up for text and email alerts when their energy use is leading to a higher-than-usual bill, so they can make adjustments to manage their bill before it arrives.

Budget Billing and Payment Options

In direct response to spikes in customer usage from record cold temperatures, BGE is offering customers immediate enrollment into its Budget Billing program, which spreads payments out over a 12-month period, making larger bills from increased energy usage more manageable. Typically the enrollment process takes a full billing cycle. Customers interested in immediate enrollment into Budget Billing may do so on BGE’s automated system at 1.800.685.0123, online at bge.com or by contacting a customer care representative either by phone at 1.800.685.0123 or sending an email to [email protected]

BGE is also offering customers with higher-than-normal bills from this winter the option of enrolling in the company’s retroactive budget billing option, which will incorporate their current winter bills (up to $500) into their budget billing amount. Customers who wish to enroll in retroactive Budget Billing should call BGE at 800.685.0123 or send an email to [email protected] and the company will incorporate their current winter bills. Customers already enrolled in Budget Billing do not need to call. Customers who may have more than $500 in arrearages are encouraged to call BGE to discuss their payment options as well.

For customers who purchase their gas and electric supply from BGE, the new Budget Billing amount would reflect the total BGE bill, including commodity and delivery amounts.  For customers who purchase their supply from a third-party supplier, the Budget Billing amount will only cover the BGE delivery service charges. Some third-party suppliers may offer a similar service as BGE’s Budget Billing program, but others do not. Customers who currently purchase their supply from a third-party supplier and wish to know their billing options should reach out directly to their supplier.

Energy Assistance

BGE encourages customers not to wait until they are in crisis to ask for help but rather to contact the Maryland Office of Home Energy Programs online or by calling 1.800.352.1446 to apply for available energy assistance. Qualifying customers can apply for grants at any OHEP office during normal business hours. Customers who need aid beyond the OHEP grant may contact the Fuel Fund of Maryland as well as other community based organizations. For more information on state income guidelines and for information on where and how to apply for assistance, contact the Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) at 800-352-1446. Residents of Baltimore City should call 410-396-5555.

Dollar Donation Fund and Gift of Energy Program

Through BGE’s Dollar Donation Fund, customers are able to designate a modest donation to the Fuel Fund and have it added to their BGE bill each month.  When a monthly bill is paid in full, BGE will forward the contribution directly to the Fuel Fund. These donations are all tax-deductible and the Fuel Fund will send customers a summary of their donations for their records after the end of the year. Customers may stay enrolled for as long as they wish, change their donation amount or withdraw from the program at any time. To participate in the Dollar Donation Fund visit bge.com to complete a simple form, or call BGE at 800.685.0123.  For more information visit the Fuel Fund online.

Individuals may also consider helping a specific customer with their BGE bill by donating through the Gift of Energy program. Using a special form available on bge.com, customers are able to make donations of any amount to the accounts of specific customers. Donations will apply on a future bill as a credit to the recipients’ BGE account. The recipient will be notified that they have received a gift credit. The donors may also notify the recipients or remain anonymous. The Gift of Energy recipient can be any BGE customer and does not have to qualify for energy assistance or any special programs. The Gift of Energy form can be found on bge.com and includes instructions on where to mail the special form and payment. Customers can also place a Gift of Energy order by calling BGE at 888.232.0088 (there is a $2.00 fee from a third party for this service, and you must have the gift recipient’s name and address).

Energy Saving Tips

Customers are encouraged to visit bge.com/WinterReady for a variety of low-to-no-cost tips to make homes more energy efficient, saving energy and money. The following are steps that all customers can take to reduce energy consumption and lower heating bills:

  • Manage your thermostat. During the winter, for systems other than heat pumps, set thermostats at 68 degrees F, if health allows. Customers who heat their homes with a heat pump should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for optimal energy efficiency.
  • Take advantage of natural sunlight. Open curtains and drapes during the day, to let the sun warm your home, and close them at night for insulation.
  • Do not heat unused spaces. Close the vents and doors to unused rooms, closets and basements.
  • Change the furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder.
  • Inspect your furnace. Have the furnace checked by a licensed professional to be sure it is operating efficiently and seal any leaks in furnace ducts. BGE offers rebates for these and other home efficiency improvements through the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program®.
  • Insulate your water heater. 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).
  • Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees F and conserve hot water when you can. Lower the temperature if you will be away from home for an extended time. Heating water is the second largest energy user in your home in the winter months.
  • Caulk and weather strip windows and doors to keep cold air out.
  • Check/add attic insulation to reach a level of R-38 or 12 inches.
  • Wash clothes in cold or warm water and rinse in cold water to reduce water heater usage.
  • Replace inefficient lighting: Replace your old standard incandescent bulbs with new compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. CFLs and LEDs use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last up to 10 times longer.
  • Schedule a BGE Quick Home Energy Check-up or make your home more efficient with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®.

Shopping for a competitive third-party supplier, combined with the offerings of the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program®, provides customers with many options for reducing their energy bill and better managing energy costs this winter.

For more information on cold weather energy saving tips, visit bge.com/WinterReady.

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About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news–and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.

John’s background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.