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Cutting back on energy bills while spending more time at home

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 07:09:52-04

BALTIMORE — As temperatures increase, so do our energy bills. However, this year in particular, consumers are seeing a spike.

According to BGE, between March and June of this year, residential electric is up 8 percent and residential gas is up 4 percent. While commercial and industrial electric is down 10 percent and gas is down 8 percent.

"A lot of people working from home. So, just like you're staying home, I’m spending more time at home and you slowly see your energy usage going up, but you’re like, 'How do I start to bring it back down?'" said Amanda Janaskie, manager of BGE’s behavioral energy efficiency program.

There are things you can do year-round like replacing bulbs with LEDs. By replacing your home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year.

And using advanced power strips could save an additional $100 a year.

However, in the warmer months, consumers can take extra cost-cutting measures starting with raising the thermostat.

"About 75 degrees or higher," said Janaskie.

And keeping the blinds and curtains closed.

"That helps to keep the sun outside of your house, which also helps your thermostat, your AC unit from working as hard, it helps to keep your bill down, and makes your house feel cooler," Janasakie added.

As well as switching the direction of your fan.

"Make sure you re-change it and it’s actually blowing the air down," said Janaskie.

If you don’t believe these simple swaps will make a difference, put it to the test!

"BGE has the ability for customers to log into their BGE accounts through the web and actually use BGE’s app to actually see and understand your daily usage," Janaskie said.

On the BGE website, consumers can even see energy usage by the hour.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii tried it out. On Thursday, she didn't change her habits. On Friday, she kept the thermostat at or above 75 degrees, didn't turn on the TV, and grilled outside instead of on the stove.

Even though Friday was a warmer day, she managed to save $3.32. If she did that for a week, she could potentially save $23 or nearly $100 a month.

While it's possible to drastically reduce daily energy usage, it’s not the most practical, however, a smart thermostat can help consumers see instant savings and qualify for rebates.

"It can help you change the set points of your thermostat throughout the day, so again you don’t have to remember to turn it up or turn it down," said Janaskie.

In May, BGE launched Connected Rewards, a program that allows BGE to make small adjustments (up to 2°-4°) to smart thermostats during times of peak electric demand, usually during the summer months when demand for electricity is high. In exchange, participants will receive a free Google Nest Mini (one per household) and $50 Visa e-gift card for each eligible smart thermostat enrolled. And for every year you participate, you will also receive a $50 annual Visa e-gift card for each thermostat enrolled in the program.

BGE sells smart thermostats on their online marketplace at steep discounts, starting at just $24.

They've also restarted their Quick Home Energy Check-up program, which had been put on pause during the pandemic.

RELATED: BGE says this service will save you money and energy, and you've already paid for it

A technician will come to your home and point out ways to reduce energy usage, plus they'll provide and install energy-saving products, which include LED bulbs, smart power strips, and efficient flow shower heads at no extra charge.

On Monday, the Maryland Public Service Commission issued an emergency action extending the moratorium on utility shut-offs through November 15.

READ MORE: Maryland bans utility shutoffs, late fees through Nov. 15

Marylanders are encouraged to continue paying whatever they can afford. BGE also has several payment programs. Click here for more information and see below for additional resources.

Energy Assistance Funds in Maryland:

  • BGE customers can apply for energy assistance through the Maryland Department of Human Services, by visiting a Local Energy Assistance Office, or by calling the Office of Home Energy Programs at 1-800-332-6347.
  • BGE customers who have completed the energy assistance process with the State can also apply for further assistance with the Fuel Fund of Maryland. BGE has made a $1.5 million contribution using shareholder funds to the Fuel Fund of Maryland to assist limited income residential customers with their bills in 2020. This is in addition to the customer-funded $2.6 million that is currently directed by BGE for customer assistance through the Fuel Fund.