For Immediate Release
BALTIMORE, Jan. 24, 2014 – Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) today cautioned that a colder than-normal winter will likely cause many customers to see higher bills as a result of increased energy use in response to the extreme weather.
According to the WSI Weather Service, to date, this winter has been 12 percent colder than last winter for the same time period. For the period of November 1, 2013 through January 23, 2014, central Maryland experienced 679 hours where temperatures were at or below freezing. This is about 2.5 times higher than last winter.
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 where the temperature dips below freezing, a heat pump can use 2 to 3 times as much energy as it does compared to periods where the temperature is above 30 to 40 degrees.
"Although BGE commodity prices have remained stable through December and January, extremely low temperatures will likely cause energy usage to increase, even for customers who leave their thermostats at a set temperature, as heating system need to work harder to maintain that set temperature," said Carol Dodson, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. "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."
In February, BGE does anticipate that the commodity price for gas purchased from BGE will increase. The commodity price is set by the global energy markets, not by BGE. While BGE cannot control market conditions affecting the price of natural gas supply, the company’s acquisition strategy helps limit the impact of rising prices, which often occur during the colder months when demand is increasing.
"While 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," continued Dodson. "When it’s bitter cold outside, many families spend more time at home, cooking, watching television, and using computers and other electronics. While we can’t control the weather, customers can control how they use energy, even during periods of extreme temperatures."
The WinterReady section on bge.com is specifically designed to help customers weather the cold temperatures that affect central Maryland each year. The following are steps that all customers can take to reduce energy consumption and lower heating bills:
During the winter, for systems other than heat pumps, set thermostats at 68 degrees F, if health allows. For every degree below 73 degrees, customers can see a 2-4 percent decrease in energy use.
Customers who heat with heat pumps should check with the manufacturer for recommendations on the temperature setting to ensure that systems are working at the highest efficiency.
Natural gas customers should consider setting the thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night. This can help customers see a 3-4 percent decrease in energy use.
Change the furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder.
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. Heating water is the second largest energy user in your home in the winter months.
Open curtains and drapes during the day, to let the sun warm your home, and close them at night for insulation.
Don’t heat unused spaces. Close vents in unused rooms and shut doors to unused rooms, closets and basements.
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.
Over the long term, make your home or business more energy efficient, using BGE’s Quick Home Energy Check-up or Home Performance with ENERGY STAR, improved insulation, high efficiency appliances and other measures. The Winter Ready section on BGE’s website is specifically designed to help customers reduce energy usage and weather the cold temperatures that affect central Maryland each year.
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®.
Shopping for a competitive third-party supplier, combined with the offerings of BGE’s 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 Energy Choice visit bge.com/energychoice. Customers are also encouraged to visit bge.com and www.bgesmartenergy.com for more energy-saving tips. To further assist customers with high winter heating bills, BGE offers a Budget Billing program which spreads payments out over a 12 month period so customers aren’t as affected by seasonal increases in usage.
If customers are having problems with paying their bill, they are encouraged to contact BGE to make payment arrangements. Additionally, limited income customers are strongly encouraged to apply for energy assistance before they are in crisis. For more information, contact the Office of Home Energy Programs (OHEP) at 800-352-1446. Residents of Baltimore City should call 410-396-5555.
Customers can find information on preparing for extreme weather on bge.com and through myBGE on Twitter and Facebook.
BGE, headquartered in Baltimore, is Maryland’s largest gas and electric utility, delivering power to more than 1.2 million electric customers and more than 655,000 natural gas customers in central Maryland. The company’s approximately 3,400 employees are committed to the safe and reliable delivery of gas and electricity, as well as enhanced energy management, conservation, environmental stewardship and community assistance. BGE is a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with 2012 revenues of approximately $23.5 billion. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.