|Friday, January 21, 2011 – John Patti|
|The Baltimore Gas and Electric Company is preparing its customers for the possibility of higher energy bills in January.
The utility says that as a result of a primarily colder-than-normal December 2010, some customers may experience higher energy bills in the month of January than in prior years.
BGE says for November – December 2010, Central Maryland experienced 458 hours where temperatures were at or below freezing, 43 percent higher than the same period in 2009 when there were just 321 such hours.
According to WSI Weather Service, December 2010 was 58 percent colder than normal and the 8th coldest December since 1950.
“Heating and cooling typically account for nearly half of a home’s annual energy usage,” said Jeannette M. Mills, senior vice president of customer relations and account services for BGE. “Although electric rates are approximately eight percent lower than last year, extreme weather generally triggers significant increases in energy usage, which in turn can lead to higher-than-expected bills. Even when the thermostat is kept at the same temperature, heating units must work harder to maintain the set temperature. Additionally, old or inefficient heating systems typically use more energy than newer, more efficient systems.”
While gas and electricity usage for most customers increases during extremely cold weather, usage for customers who heat with electric heat pumps may actually double because the auxiliary heating activates when the temperature drops to below freezing. In addition, colder temperatures can keep family members inside more often, which can result in an increase in energy use for lights, heat, cooking and electronics.
BGE is urging its customers are encouraged to set the thermostat to 68 degrees or lower saying for every degree below 73 during the winter, customers may save two to four percent on heating costs.
The utility suggests that customers who heat with natural gas should consider setting the thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night. To help customers manage winter heating bills, BGE has also enhanced the Winter Ready section of its website which includes interactive information about how homes use energy as well as low-cost and no-cost measures customers can take to improve the efficiency of their homes.