Tips to get your home and business ready for winter

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— As temperatures dip and the colder winter months quickly approach, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) has completed several infrastructure enhancement projects and a comprehensive review of its natural gas and electric systems in advance of the winter heating season.

Just as BGE prepares in advance for the winter heating season, the company encourages all customers to prepare their homes and businesses for the colder winter months as well. Customers may visit: www.bge.com/WinterReady for tips and information on saving energy, even on the coldest days. Customers can also find information about “winterizing” their homes and preparing their families for the winter heating season. BGE offers customers a variety of low-to-no-cost ways to make their homes more energy efficient, saving energy and money.

“During the colder months, heating systems typically account for more than 40 percent of customers’ energy bills because extreme weather generally triggers significant increases in energy use at home,” said Carol Dodson, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE. “Even when the thermostat is kept at the same temperature, heating units must work harder to maintain the set temperature. 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.”

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. Customers are encouraged to set the thermostat to 68 degrees or lower. For every degree below 73 during the colder months, customers may save two to four percent on heating costs. Customers who heat with natural gas should consider setting the thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night.

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:

*Manage your thermostat. Consider a programmable thermostat, which can save 10-25 percent in energy costs all year when programmed to lower temperatures when no one is home in the winter. When used properly, a programmable thermostat with its four- temperature settings can save approximately $180 a year in energy costs (Source: ENERGY STAR).

*During the winter, for systems other than heat pumps, set thermostats at 68 degrees F, if health allows. This can help customers see a 3-4 percent decrease in energy use.

*Customers who heat their homes with a heat pump should follow manufacturer’s instructions for optimal energy efficiency.

*Natural gas customers should consider setting the thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night.

*Inspect your Furnace. 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®.

*Schedule a BGE Quick Home Energy Check-up or make your home more efficient with Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.

*Change the furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder.

*Insulate your water heater. 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.

*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.

*Look for energy-efficient appliances: When shopping for appliances such as refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners look for the ENERGY STAR label. Newer, more energy-efficient models lower monthly operating costs.

*Replace inefficient lighting: Replace your old standard incandescent bulbs with new compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. CFLs and LEDs use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they last up to 10 times longer.

Customers may also consider BGE’s Budget Billing program, which evens out payments over a 12-month period so customers are not as affected by increases in usage triggered by extreme weather conditions.

BGE encourages customers not to wait until they are in crisis to ask for help but rather to contact their local Office of Home Energy Programs online or by calling 1-800-352-1446 to apply for energy assistance before receiving a turn-off notice or having service denied.

Prior to the winter storm season, BGE encourages customers to have essential items and information available, including BGE’s outage reporting number: 877-778-2222. BGE

For more information about winter weather and storm preparedness, visit bge.com.