Unless you’ve forged a life off the grid, chances are good that there are a few constants when it comes to your mailbox. Every so often an envelope arrives with the logo of your cell phone provider, energy company, or municipality – and inside is your monthly or quarterly bill. It might not be fun, but paying the bills is just a part of life. And when there’s a standard amount, budgeting for the regular payments is pretty simple.
But what about when you open a bill and your jaw hits the floor because the amount you owe has skyrocketed? Especially when it comes to utilities, unexpected “Amount Due” numbers can be a real shock – to both you and your wallet. Once your initial reaction subsides, you may want to spend some time looking at options to prevent rate hikes, price surges, and overestimations from becoming a recurring problem. So where to begin?
Maryland’s energy market was de-regulated in 1999, creating the opportunity for consumer choice throughout the state. Large, local utility providers still administer the lion’s share of residential energy accounts – and are still responsible for providing power to all consumers in their service area.
But that doesn’t mean you have to pay Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) or Potomac Edison the standard rates. Alternative energy providers offer discounted utility rates based on negotiated contracts – meaning you lock yourself into a rate for a set period of time. But these alternative providers compete with the big utility companies, so it’s in their best interest to offer their customers a substantial value.
If you want to investigate alternatives to your local utility provider, check out the Maryland Clean Energy Center’s database of other service providers that can save you money on your power bill.
Know Your Incentives
Saving on your energy costs isn’t just about lowering the monthly power bill. In some cases, it might be about making big changes to your home. And in other cases, all you have to do is ask! Throughout the state, energy companies and government agencies have partnered together to create incentive programs – from lighting discounts to appliance rebates – for individuals that make energy conscious improvements to their home.
Add on some of the potential tax benefits from things like installing solar panels or making large system upgrades, and you could be saving big bucks now (and making money in the future by boosting the value of your home). For more details on some of the energy incentives available throughout the state, check out the Maryland Energy Administration’s incentive page.
Practice Smart Savings
We’ve all been there as kids, getting yelled at for flicking the light switch on and off to annoy our siblings or parents. But truth be told, the bigger nuisance here isn’t just in the flashing lights – it’s in the next utility bill. The blame for higher power consumption isn’t just in the size of your house or the number of inhabitants; it also has to do with the practices of the people living there.
Turning the lights off when you leave the room, taking shorter showers, washing your clothes on the cold cycle, and other strategies for saving electricity can reduce your power bill significantly. And even better, most power companies offer set days – sometimes biannually, quarterly, or even monthly – where customers can get bonus savings for reducing their electricity usage below their normal threshold. Check with your power company to see what type of savings they offer, either on special occasions or all year long.