Were you one of the 750,000-plus BGE customers that got paid on Energy Savings Day to use less electricity during this sizzling hot summer? How cool is that? Lower your energy use and you get paid for doing the right thing. If you’d like to continue your savings streak from month-to-month, check out these five practical ways below to lower your BGE bill.

  1. BGE Energy Savings Day Credits ($)
    All BGE homes and businesses outfitted with a smart meter are automatically eligible to get Energy Savings Day credits for voluntarily cutting their electricity use. On July 13 and July 21, over 750,000 BGE customers took real steps that reduced daily electricity demand, earning those customers close to $10 million in all. The funding for this program is part of the fabulous EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency program. EmPOWER Maryland results have been dramatic: Since 2008, electricity prices have fallen for everyone, regardless of the fact that not all BGE customers have participated in EmPOWER Maryland programs.
  2. PeakRewards AC and Hot Water Heater Program ($$)
    This program offers savings of $100 to $250 in summer bill credits for all BGE accounts with a smart meter. By enrolling in BGE’s PeakRewards, you give BGE the option to automatically cycle down your AC and/or hot water heater on really hot “emergency cycling” days when the electrical grid gets maxed out. This summer, July 13 and July 21 were PeakRewards days. Customers can enroll and choose 50, 75 or 100 percent AC cycle-downs between 1 and 7 p.m.BGE notifies customers via email about upcoming PeakRewards days. The best part: you get $100 to $200 in credits off your summer bills even if your AC isn’t cycled down at all.  PeakRewards for a hot water heater nets you a $50 bill credit. PeakRewards and Energy Saving Days work together, allowing  customers to receive whichever credit is highest in value.
  3. Change Those Lightbulbs! ($$) By now you know that incandescent lightbulbs waste 90 percent of the energy used to generate light. Yes, 20 years ago compact fluorescent lightbulbs gave off a blueish hue; yes, LED bulbs used to cost $50. Not anymore. Energy efficiency lights are inexpensive and the EmPOWER Maryland lighting rebates are given at the stores, so no need to worry about mail-in rebate hassles. LED bulbs last forever, it seems, and the light quality is quite good if you choose “soft light.” Don’t wait until your $0.25 hot incandescent bulbs burn out. You’re just wasting cash. Expect a 10 to 15 percent drop in electricity use.An interesting thing often happens after someone switches out a bunch of lightbulbs: people start turning out the lights. Taking the time to change out lightbulbs seems to be the motivation to make everyone turn the lights off. Another money-saving idea is to install auto-turn-off switches in rooms with lots of lightbulbs, such as kitchens and basements.
  4. House Quick Energy Check (or $100 Energy Audit): ($$$)
    Making your home more energy-efficient is the hardest nut to crack, but this action reaps the biggest dollar savings. It’s a safe bet that your house is leaky. Very expensive heated and cooled air leaks out, wasting serious cash every single month. Check out our 7 Amazing Md. Energy Efficiency Programs Brochure. This two-pager lists state, city and nonprofit programs, most of which are free, especially if you’re on limited income.
  5. Switch to a clean energy supplier ($)
    The tips above all help you to reduce how much electricity your home or business uses up each month. You can also choose a lower electricity price than BGE, doubling the savings’ impact.Since Maryland deregulated energy utilities in 1999, anyone paying a BGE bill can choose a different electricity and natural gas supplier other than BGE. This means that while BGE still owns and services the power lines that bring electricity into your home or business, competing supplier firms can buy electricity from other power suppliers, and sell it directly to consumers. Everything you need to know to switch is here. 

CAUTION: If you’re not organized and also on top of your paperwork, this idea may not be for you. Greenlaurel is a huge fan of switching your home’s electricity source (not natural gas though — too pricey) to an emission-free supplier. This one-time action cuts your carbon footprint by roughly 25 percent!

BUT, the unfortunate consumer snafu is that Maryland’s deregulated market means pricing is deregulated. BGE’s rates are fixed (see below) and also highly regulated. Many households are inadvertently paying risky variable rates with no price caps because they miss the auto-enroll deadline for variable rates that suppliers can legally charge when contracts expire. Switchers often fail to notice short-term teaser promo rates that quickly switch to high variable rates.

Use the chart below to compare supplier electric and gas offers.

I get that saving energy may seem dull. You may not even pay the BGE bill. If not, share this with your lucky bill payer. I have reviewed hundreds of BGE bills and many homeowners, especially those with larger homes, are using a lot more energy than necessary.

Have questions? Feel free to email laurel@baltimorefishbowl.com. While you’re at it, consider subscribing to Baltimore Fishbowl’s daily newsletter, and look for the Greenlaurel column every Thursday.

Laurel Peltier writes the environment GreenLaurel column every Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.