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Energy Vampires: Wasting Energy Wastes Your Money

Posted at 11:58 PM, Feb 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 00:58:04-05

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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