Customers Asked to Conserve and Contribute

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) is encouraging its customer-members to take control of their energy use as the most effective way to conserve energy and reduce energy bills. With the increase in the cost of all types of energy, including gas, oil, and electricity, the Co-op is also asking customers to contribute to Project Match and the Tri-County Fuel Fund.

When it comes to conserving energy, customers know to turn off the appliances and other energy users that they see around the house such as lights and televisions, but they often forget about their major energy-using appliances. In most households, the major energy-using appliances are heating and cooling systems and water heaters. Following these tips can help reduce your energy bill:

• Clean or change filters monthly; do not block room registers.

• Make sure ductwork is properly sealed and insulated to prevent air leakage, especially around the return. Check ductwork in attics and crawl spaces to make sure ductwork is properly connected and no gaps exist.

• Install R-30 insulation in the attic; it is the fastest way to prevent heating systems from working overtime.

• Keep plants, shrubs, and other obstacles at least two feet away from the heat pump’s outdoor unit; keep it clear of snow and ice.

• Schedule a check-up for your heating system to improve efficiency.

• Heat pumps have a back-up source for heat typically referred to as auxiliary or “emergency” heat. This auxiliary source is similar to an electric space heater; heat pumps use more energy when operating in this mode. Use auxiliary heat only when the heat pump needs repair.

• When using a heat pump, changing the thermostat frequently increases energy costs. Install an adaptive recovery thermostat to control the temperature in your home and reduce the use of electric back-up heat.

• Use electric space heaters as infrequently as possible.

• Oil and gas furnaces also use electricity to operate; be aware that the higher you set your thermostat, the higher your electricity and fuel costs will be.

• Homes that have a fireplace may lose warm air from inside the house when the fireplace is not in use; keep the damper closed, and only open it when the fireplace is being used.

• Water heaters in unheated areas, such as a garage or shed, should be well-insulated when possible. Water leaks increase energy usage; make sure hoses are properly connected and faucets don’t drip. Install low-flow showerheads and keep showers as short as possible.

• Keep the water heater temperature set between 120 and 125 degrees; use cold water when possible.

Additional major appliances such as refrigerators, washers, and dryers should also be properly maintained to reduce energy usage. Refrigerator coils should be clean; freezers should be defrosted regularly. Extra refrigerators that are used infrequently should be unplugged; dryer filters and vents should be kept clean. Customers should wash one full load of clothes rather than two small loads to help control energy costs.

SMECO is conducting seminars on “How to Save Energy” in January. Two seminars will be held 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. on each of the following days and at each location: Tuesday, January 10, at SMECO’s Leonardtown office; Wednesday, January 18, at SMECO’s Hughesville headquarters; and Thursday, January 26, at SMECO’s Prince Frederick office. Call 1-888-440-3311, extension 4361, to register.

Customers who take advantage of SMECO’s PowerWise program will learn what they can do to save energy at their home. Homes must be at least five years old to be eligible. A SMECO representative will visit the customer-member’s home and conduct an energy audit to help determine how to save energy. Customers may qualify for rebates on insulation, a heat pump check-up, or a programmable or adaptive recovery thermostat. Program participants receive a free compact fluorescent light bulb and coupons for additional light bulbs. Electric water heater tanks and pipes are wrapped with insulation, and water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators are installed. Call SMECO for more information on the PowerWise program or visit

When building a new home, customers may consider a SMECO Energy Star Home. By following SMECO’s Energy Star construction specifications, customers may save 30 percent or more on heating and cooling costs. Find out which heating and cooling systems are most efficient and how properly sealed and insulated ductwork can help keep homes comfortable. Knowing what kinds of windows to use and how to caulk and seal all openings to prevent air leaks will also reduce energy use in a new home.

“Please contribute to Project Match” is a common refrain heard every year when SMECO asks customer-members to contribute to Project Match, a program that helps needy families pay their heating bills. This year, SMECO is increasing its matching amount to $25,000. Under this program, SMECO will match, dollar-for-dollar, amounts that customer-members contribute. So, if customer-members contribute $25,000, the Co-op will match that amount, and the Tri-County Fuel Fund, which is administered by the Southern Maryland Tri-County Community Action Committee, will receive a total of $50,000. The Project Match program benefits customers who may be unable to pay their oil, gas, or electric heating bill because of unusual circumstances: for example, a wage-earner may be laid off from his or her job or injured and unable to work. Customer-members may make out a tax-deductible check to “Project Match” and send it to SMECO along with their electric bill payment. Donations from individuals and businesses are accepted.

Low-income customers are encouraged to apply for state-funded programs, such as the Maryland Energy Assistance Program and the Electric Universal Service Program. Call the Office of Home Energy Programs for more information. Residents of Prince George’s County should call 301-909-6300. The Southern Maryland office can be reached at the following phone numbers: Calvert County, 410-535-1010; Charles County, 301-274-4474; and St. Mary’s County, 301-475-5574.

For information about SMECO’s Energy Star home program, the PowerWise program, and more facts that will help customers save energy, check SMECO’s web site at www.smeco.ccop. Brochures entitled “Tips for Lowering Your Energy Costs” are also available from the Maryland Public Service Commission’s office of external relations; call 1-800-492-0474.

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