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Cutting off energy vampires, and reducing your winter utility bills

Energy vampires are estimated to cost an extra $200/yr
Posted: 6:50 AM, Feb 09, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-10 12:24:48-05
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BALTIMORE — An ordinary household object can be a money-saving opportunity. Every plug, switch, and opening is like a window into reducing your monthly bill.

“The windows might not be the best energy efficiency models out there right now, but you can put a sheet across it to help kind of keep that draft down,” said Amanda Janaskie, manager of BGE's behavioral efficiency energy programs.

Janaskie’s team sends customers home energy reports letting them know how their energy use compares to their neighbors and ways to save money.

According to their calculations, upgrading to energy-efficient windows can save around $105 a year and sealing air leaks will save up to $95 a year.

However, something that won't cost you a penny, and translates into $20 a year, is switching the direction of your ceiling fan.

"It’s one of the hidden gems of energy efficiency,” Janaskie said.

Running the fan in reverse pushes warm air down and can help you scale back on cranking the HVAC.

“So we say don't hate on 68,” Janaskie said.

Sixty-eight is the recommended thermostat setting for optimal savings. If there are no kids or pets at home and you're gone, Janaskie recommends lowering it to 63.

Smart thermostats can learn to do this, and in turn, save another $95 a year.

“I think really regulating the temperature on the air has made a huge difference for us personally,” said Amanda Wright, who lives in a Baltimore rowhome with her two roommates.

Wright and her roommates make sure the dishwasher is completely full before running it, which can save an estimated $10 a year.

They turn off the lights when they leave the room. An estimated savings of $30 a year.

They cook several meals at a time, which can add up to $45 a year. And take turns hang drying clothes to potentially save $90.

“We have our own little drying rack and that way we're not using so much energy with our dryer,” Wright said.

Energy suckers
If you want to take it a step further, unplugging electronics can save over time.

Devices that continue to suck electricity, even when turned off, are called energy vampires. They are your TVs, DVRs, computers, video game systems, printers, and kitchen appliances.

RELATED: These energy vampires are sucking electricity and costing you money

Using a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor, WMAR-2 News’ Mallory Sofastaii measured exactly how much these vampires are costing you in a day.

The coffee maker and a printer will run you a penny each, or around $3-4 a year when not in use.

Your laptop plugged in and asleep is costing $0.04 a day or roughly $15 a year.

The monitor did not show any reading for a phone charger without a phone plugged in all day.

These savings are minimal, however, the Department of Energy's Berkeley Lab found Americans typically have 40 devices and appliances always drawing power, which can amount to almost 10 percent of your electricity use, or around $200 a year.

To see their full study and estimated cost of these energy vampires, click here.

What uses the most energy in your home
And while money is one motivator, Janaskie said seeing a smiley on your Home Energy Report seems to be another.

“We do have customers calling in saying especially when they finally got a great score like a great smiley face they're really excited and ecstatic about it,” she said.

If you feel like you’re doing everything to reduce your energy use, but your ranking isn’t changing, Janaskie recommends checking your home's profile on BGE’s website under ‘My Profile.'

“A common misperception of our customers is that when we say efficient neighbors, or average neighbors, you think we're talking about your neighbor next door and unfortunately, it's not always that case,” said Janaskie.

Her team looks to compare you to other homes that are similar in size and heating source.

“We want to make sure we're comparing homes that use gas heat if you use gas heat, and if you're an electric heating customer, we want to make sure we're comparing you to electric heating customers, and that all takes into account how we compare you with similar homes, and yet, we call them 'neighbors,'” Janaskie said.

The home energy reports are sent monthly via email, or depending on energy use, are mailed up to six times per year.

If you receive a bill that’s higher than usual and want to know why, BGE provides a breakdown of your energy use by day, monthly bill, and year. Customers are even able to view their energy use by the hour to learn what behaviors are costing the most money.

There’s also the option to take a Home Energy Analysis, a quick survey, that identifies habits and provides personalized tips on ways to cut down costs.

To find all of this information, log into your BGE account, select ‘My Usage’ in the left-hand column, then ‘View My Usage.’

No sales tax on energy-saving appliances
And starting on February 15, Marylanders can save big on energy-saving appliances. During Shop Maryland Energy Weekend, consumers won’t have to pay the state's six percent sales tax on qualifying Energy Star products.

An efficient refrigerator could save an extra $30 dollars a year, and upgrading to an efficient washing machine is an other $15, plus BGE offers rebates through their BGE Smart Energy Savers Progam.

The promotion runs through Monday, February 17. For more information on eligible appliances, click here.

If you have a Matter for Mallory, she wants to hear from you. You can email her using the form below, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.