Pique over PeakRewards

July 26, 2011|By Kathy Hudson

On Friday when temperatures soared into the 100’s, some with air conditioning lost it for more than eight hours.  They had enrolled in BGE’s PeakRewards program and thought they were doing a good thing for the environment and for their pocketbooks.
By having a special switch on the air-conditioning compressor, the homeowner allows the utility company to cut off the unit when demand is very high. This happened on Friday and a snafu in the electronics made it so that many customers could not override the cutoff. Some customers reported temperatures of 90 degrees in their homes. Our neighbor’s in-home office hit 88 degrees.
I had had a similar switch since our unit was installed in 1992, and I had planned to upgrade to the new PeakRewards switch this spring. Every time I scheduled an appointment with BGE, however, something happened, and I had to cancel. This went on for three months. When it finally worked out, and the man arrived in our backyard, I remembered what the air conditioning company had said to me when they installed it: they didn’t really like the switches.
The installer wouldn’t elaborate on why he didn’t like them, so I didn’t listen to him. I had it installed, and everything was fine. For years we saved $10 per month during cooling season. The unit would sometimes cycle off in the late afternoon on very warm days. We were uncomfortable for a few hours, but that was it. It would go on several times an hour too, so the house never hit sizzling temperatures.
On Friday when I heard reports of complaints on the phone, on the TV news and later in the newspaper, I was glad I’d been leery of a new switch on a very old compressor. The compressor is almost 20 years old, and I didn’t want to press our luck this summer with a new-fangled switch. Most likely, a new switch would not have shortened the life of our compressor, but on Friday I was particularly glad I didn’t do it.
By the time we have to install a new compressor, maybe the kinks will have been worked out of the PeakRewards communication system, and I’ll enroll. For now I’ll figure out other ways to conserve energy and other ways to save that $7 per month that the company recently offered me.

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