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Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative recently awarded prizes to the winning participants of the Energy Savings Challenge held earlier this year.

The first-place winner, Richard Dyson of La Plata, won a $1,000 gift certificate donated by Sears for use toward the purchase of any ENERGY STAR-certified Kenmore appliances. Two second-place prize winners received energy efficiency kits, which were valued at $200 and donated by AM Conservation Group. Eight customers won third-place prizes, energy efficiency kits valued at $45, donated by Niagara Conservation. The kits contained electric- and water-conservation products, such as weather stripping, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), switch and outlet sealers, low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators and more, according to a press release.

More than 200 customers enrolled in the Energy Savings Challenge using their Facebook accounts. The challenge compared customers’ energy use in April, May and June 2013 to their energy use during the same months in 2012. SMECO customer-members were challenged to use at least 3 percent less energy than they had used the previous year. The top 80 challenge participants cut their energy use by more than 50,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), collectively saving more than $6,700, the release states.

SMECO customers are able to review their monthly energy use by clicking the Home Energy Reports (HER) link on the cooperative’s website. The HER web portal helps customers understand their energy-use patterns, find out what uses the most energy in their homes and learn how their energy use compares to homes that are similarly sized, close in proximity and have the same type of heating system. Customers can also set energy-saving goals and create a plan to achieve those goals using the HER web portal, the release states.

Winners of the Energy Savings Challenge received their prizes at the Sears store in the St. Charles Towne Center. Dyson won the top prize by reducing his energy use by 54.1 percent; from April through June 2013, he used 1,810 kWh less energy than he had during the same period the previous year, the release states.

Diane Zrimsek of Lexington Park came in second place by reducing her energy use by 1,349 kWh, a 53.2 percent difference. Zrimsek said in the release, “Last fall I renovated my downstairs and in the process I replaced my HVAC system. It was 20 years old. Just doing that saved a lot of energy. Also when the Energy Challenge started I bumped up the programmable thermostat that I received through the CoolSentry program a few degrees, and just dealt with it being a little warmer throughout the summer. I got my electricity bill down to $50-$60 all summer.”

Other winners included Marian Trossbach of St. Inigoes, Leanne Hicks of Lexington Park, Kathleen Morlan of Lusby, Jay Robinson of Huntingtown, Michelle Downs of California, Md., Venus Ann Lanham of Mechanicsville, Madelyn Mergner of Mechanicsville and Greg Crewse of Leonardtown.

Cal Spreitzer of Lexington Park, another winner, explained in the release how he saved energy during the challenge, “First we changed our water heater, and we got an energy efficient water heater. We also did the insulation on the pipes, both the hot and cold water pipes coming off of the water heater. We looked throughout the house and improved our insulation. Also we put CFLs throughout the house, replacing all our old bulbs with efficient CFLs.” He saved nearly 1,400 kWh during the three-month period.

Jeff Shaw, SMECO’s environmental programs and energy conservation director, said in the release, “We encourage customers to save energy if they want to save money. Customers can also save money on appliances by purchasing certified ENERGY STAR products and receiving rebates through the EmPOWER Maryland program.”

SMECO is sponsoring another energy savings challenge, which began Nov. 1. The Hometown Spirit Energy Savings Challenge will feature a team competition between counties. A $200 Visa gift card will be awarded to the individual team member who reduces their energy use by the greatest percentage based on their usage during the same period the year before. Customers must have a Facebook account to participate in the challenge. Details about the competition are available on the Hometown Spirit Energy Savings Challenge website.