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HomeEmergency Management > Cold Weather

BGE'S WINTER READINESS MESSAGE

As temperatures dip and winter quickly approaches, BGE has provided additional information regarding preparations for winter and customer resources designed to help customers during the 2017-2018 heating season. 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.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) has completed a number of major infrastructure enhancement projects, as well as a comprehensive review of its natural gas and electric systems. This is part of a more than $1. 6 billion investment BGE is making this year in the energy systems serving our customers. The winter preparedness system upgrades, inspections and maintenance will help to ensure the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas and electric service for BGE’s 1.25 million electric and 650,000 natural gas customers throughout the winter heating season.

One major component of our winter preparations is helping customers who may be challenged by winter energy costs. Assistance may be available for BGE customers with limited household incomes who need help in paying their energy bills. 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. Customers may visit bge.com/save for tips and information on saving energy, even on the coldest days.

For your information, we have included links to several helpful resources for customers: 

  • BGE’s press release on winter preparedness , which features information and tips on preparing homes and businesses for the colder temperatures, as well as information on saving energy and money, even on the coldest days. In addition, the press release includes information and links to resources for energy assistance.

  •  BGE’s 2017-2018 Community Resource Guide , which is a collection of resources and information about assistance programs of all kinds – federal, state and local, as well as programs from BGE and non-profit providers. Click here for a Spanish language version of this resource.

  • BGE Smart Energy Savers Program® lists all of the energy efficiency and conservation programs available to BGE customers, including appliance rebates, lighting discounts, and free Quick Home Energy Check-Ups.

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. 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. BGE encourages all customers to think about simple steps they can take in their home to save energy each day, no matter the temperature outside.

The Winter Ready 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:

  •  Maintain Your Heating Systems – Most of your cold weather energy expenses are related to heating your home. Schedule service for your heating system to find out what maintenance is required to keep your system operating efficiently.

  •  Lower Your Water Heating Costs – Water heating accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F) and save.

  •  Adjust the Temperature – When you are at home and awake, set your thermostat as low as it is comfortable for you. When you are asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your heating bills. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to set back your temperature. If you have a heat pump, maintain a moderate setting or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

  •  My Account Online Tools – Your BGE online account contains tools and detailed energy usage information. By tracking your energy usage right after you use it, comparing usage trends, and discovering the results of energy-saving practices, you can manage your energy more efficiently. Log onto BGE.com/MyAccount to get started.

  •  Keep Your Natural Gas Appliances Vents Clear – Know where your natural gas appliances vent to the exterior and ensure the vents are clear . Some high efficiency gas appliances, such as water heaters and furnaces, vent along the foundation of buildings. If these vents become blocked by snow or ice, exhaust may back up resulting in carbon monoxide build-up or a release of natural gas.

While BGE offers innovative programs to help customers manage their energy use, BGE recognizes that there are some customers who may still be challenged to pay their heating bills. In addition to the resource links in this letter and available at the Energy Assistance section of BGE.com , 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.

PREVENTING FROZEN AND BURSTING WATER PIPES

Indoor pipes can freeze, depending on such variables as outside temperature, inside temperature, insulation and placement in the building. Pipes in attics, above ceilings, in crawl spaces and basements, and near exterior walls are highly vulnerable to freezing, especially where there is poor insulation, wall cracks or other openings that allow entry of cold outside air. Monitor important risk control equipment, such as water-based fire protection systems (automatic sprinkler systems, fire pumps, hoses and hydrants). Whether or not piping in these systems actually bursts, any freezing of water can block water flow, preventing proper operation in case of fire. These systems must remain heated and ice-free to minimize losses from fire and water damage. Depending on the hazard, a wet pipe sprinkler system could be converted to a dry system.

RISK CONTROL BEST PRACTICES

To prevent the formation of ice in pipes due to freezing temperatures and to prevent the pipes from bursting, we recommend that you: 

  • Always place piping in heated areas of a building. 

  • Properly insulate attics, exterior walls and other areas lacking adequate heating. 

  • Repair broken windows, ill-fitting doors and other conditions that allow heat loss. 

  • Keep exterior doors closed, even if not in the immediate vicinity of piping. 

  • Maintain heat in buildings at all times. No area with piping should be allowed to fall below 40°F (4°C). (This requires regular maintenance, inspection and servicing of existing heating equipment, and safe emergency measures during a prolonged power failure.) 

  • Shut off the water lines and drain all pipes if the building is to be left unattended for an extended period. (The exceptions are sprinkler systems unless all combustible materials are removed and the building is noncombustible or fire-resistive.) 

  • Provide insulation around a pipe sufficient to reduce heat loss, or provide heat tracing, if the pipe might be exposed to freezing temperatures.

  • Install low temperature alarms (with remote monitoring) in cold-prone areas.

  • Adequately maintain and prepare dry-pipe sprinkler systems for cold weather
    (drain low points, etc).

  • Properly service and winterize private yard hydrants.

  • Clear snow and ice from private yard hydrants, outside hose connections and
    fire protection system valves to help prevent freezing of these systems.

IMPORTANT --  Identify the main water shut-off valve(s) for the building and ensure that key personnel know where they are in case of a pipe break. Never attempt to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame.

VACANT, IDLE AND UNOCCUPIED BUILDINGS -- A special mention should be made of buildings considered vacant, idle or unoccupied. All of the above issues and recommended best practices apply to these types of buildings. In fact, because they are typically rarely used and less frequently visited, an extra effort is required to ensure that all measures and precautions are taken. During severe weather, daily visits (if possible) should be made.

If adequate heat cannot or will not be maintained, the main domestic water supply valve should be shut off and all water from piping should be completely drained by a qualified plumber. Sprinkler systems and other water-based fire protection systems are a special case. Every effort should be made to keep these systems in service. 

For a printable version of the above information, click here .


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