For all the skeptics and snarlygasters who doubt that Gerald Winegrad's July BGE bill could be only $18.26, I present the former state senator and longtime conservationist to provide response and additional details. (A snarlygaster is a person who anonymously posts nasty and often ignorant comments at the end of stories and columns on newspaper websites. It's a play on snallygaster, which is the legendary monster said to lurk in Western Maryland mountains.)
Last Thursday in this space, Mr. Winegrad offered his $18.26 bill as testament to his personal effort to conserve energy and to show other Maryland consumers how we can save on our utility bills.
Mr. Winegrad's claims were met with derision by several snarlygasters. "This is bull," wrote one. "A refrigerator will use that much power. What's this guy doing, storing his meat in dry ice?" Said another, "That bill is impossible. If you had an unoccupied house, the bill would be for much more . . . Something is wrong here, and don't tell me it's about peak rewards or some other silly crap."
Actually, BGE's PeakRewards program has a lot to do with it, as you'll see from Mr. Winegrad's response.
"Lazy energy hogs should never cast stones at those who choose to conserve!" he wrote in a lengthy e-mail Saturday morning.
"Our BGE bill for 32 days due on July 6, 2010 was for $18.26. The bill includes all special fees and taxes. Any argument that we were not living in and using all modern conveniences during this 32-day period is plain wrong. My wife and I spent every night here. . . . I work in my home office and so I'm at home much of the day. We used 435 kilowatt hours of electricity.
"Part of the reason our last bill is so low is that we got a $50 PeakRewards credit for having 100 percent interruptible service to our air-conditioning unit. For the four months of summer billing, you get $50 off a month for the first year. For all remaining years, you get $25 per month for the four months.
"We also have an interruptible switch on our hot water heater and we get $3.50 off a month for the four months of summer. I have had such interruptible service switches at all three places I have lived in Annapolis for the last 30 years."
Why, he wonders, wouldn't all BGE customers have this installed?
"Inertia," he offers. "Ignorance, mistrust, laziness, perceived inconvenience — or all of the above."
As he did last week, Mr. Winegrad made clear that he and his wife live normal lives. They even take regular showers!
"But the trick is," he writes, "that we have a water-conservation device on each of the two shower heads in our house. They conserve water usage, reduce sewage flows to the bay, and reduce electrical use and our BGE bill.
"We wash dishes daily, me always by hand, my wife with an Energy Star-rated electric dishwasher and only when it is totally full. Plus, we have cheap flow restrictors/aerators on all our faucets that reduce water and energy use. Our clothes are washed in an energy-efficient electric washing machine only with full loads and, if the fabric permits, with cold water. Our clothes are dried in an energy-efficient electric dryer with full loads at the minimum temperature and time to dry the clothes.
"My wife uses a conventional hair dryer and an electric iron. We use a toaster, microwave, TV, radio, computer, radio, iPod, and we actively entertain family and guests at our home.
"Today it is 75 degrees and breezy and raining. The A/C has been off since early this morning and all windows are open except where rain is coming in. Because it is humid, we have fans on but only in the two rooms where we are doing our thing. No lights are on; natural light is sufficient. When we leave the room, the fans are turned off.
"We are driven not so much by cost savings as by our concerns for the Chesapeake Bay, Appalachian people and their mountains, and global warming. Energy conservation is the most critical way each of us can act to better protect the environment."
The question Mr. Winegrad and his wife have is: "Why wouldn't you take advantage of the programs as we do and conserve energy in your homes, save money, and protect the Chesapeake Bay and our environment?"
For some people, it's just easier being a snarlygaster.
Dan Rodricks' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail: email@example.com. http://www.twitter.com/Midday.