Image by cthoyes via FlickrPeriodically, I get these phone calls from our electric company, Baltimore, Gas & Electric (BGE), asking me if I want to sign up for their Peak Rewards program. Their pitch is that they want to install a programmable thermostat in our house or an outdoor air conditioner switch at no charge to us. Then we choose which level of the program that suits are family. In return, they will give us credits on our electric bill during the summer months.
Whenever they have called to try to get us to sign up, they always explain that the purpose of the program is to try to avoid power outages during peak demand periods during the hot summer months. They say that during an emergency period, they will cycle off your air conditioner to alleviate stress on the grid due to the high demand. They say that it typically only raises the temperature in the house by a degree or two. When using the term "cycle" they give the impression that the air conditioner will be shut down for a few minutes at a time.
We have never signed up for the program. One of the reasons is that there is usually somebody home at our house so we keep the thermostat at a steady temperature throughout the day. Another reason is that we live in a three level townhouse. We have always had a difficult time maintaining a constant temperature on all three levels. The middle level is always comfortable, the basement freezing, and the top level where the bedrooms are located is always much warmer. I also did not like the idea of somebody else deciding how to control my air conditioner.
After our major heat wave last weekend, I am grateful that we never signed up for the program. On Friday, as temperatures soared to 106 degrees at BWI airport, BGE made the decision to implement an emergency plan to alleviate stress on the grid. There were several reports of people having their air conditioning units shut off, not for minutes, but for several hours. Some homes reached temperatures of 90 degrees or more, a far cry from the one or two degrees they claimed in their sales pitch.