The Philadelphia Gas Works is poised to pay out $4 million over the next 21 months to city residents who invest in energy-efficiency improvements to their homes.
PGW’s EnergySense Home Rebates Program already has helped more than 40 homeowners offset about 25 percent of their out-of-pocket home improvement expenses on average, according to the business development manager for a nonprofit agency that administers the program.
Smart Energy Solutions, a division of Energy Coordinating Agency, is one of five PGW contractors that work with homeowners to assess their energy efficiency and recommend improvements, said Ellen Chapman, who detailed the program to members of the Upper Holmesburg Civic Association last Thursday.
The program deadline is July 2015. To enroll, residents must first schedule a home energy audit through ECA or another program contractor, Chapman said. The fee is $150. Typically, a homeowner might pay three or four times that amount to get a similar audit outside the scope of PGW’s program.
A crew will visit the home and assess the efficiency of the heating, cooling and water heating systems. The auditors will examine air flow, drafts, insulation, air quality, windows, doors and other factors. They will compile a report with recommendations for energy improvements. Some improvements may be relatively inexpensive, while others may cost thousands, Chapman said.
Homeowners can apply for a low-interest loan of up to $15,000 through the program. The loans carry a 0.99 annual percentage rate. PGW and the state and federal governments offer various rebates and subsidies to reimburse homeowners a portion of the cost for new energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, appliances, windows, doors, roofs, solar panels and wind turbines.
Chapman also offered residents a series of energy-saving and cost-cutting measures that they can employ on their own, without expensive home renovations.
While about 55 percent of all home energy costs are directly related to heating, cooling and water heating, the other 45 percent is related to large and small appliances, lights and fixtures. It costs about $22 to keep a conventional 60-watt lightbulb lit six hours a day every day for one year, but only about $6 to keep a 15-watt energy-saving CFL bulb lit for the same amount of hours. And for a six-watt energy-saving LED bulb, it costs about $2 for the year. LED bulbs are still relatively new and can cost $14 to purchase individually, but manufacturers claim that the bulbs have a 20-year lifespan.
Likewise, homeowners can save a lot on their electric bills by unplugging appliances that are not in use, including TVs and computers. If there are too many plugs or the outlets are hard to reach, certain surge-protector outlet strips can have the same effect when the on/off switch is set in the off position.
Homeowners should also check and regularly replace the filters in their vacuum cleaners and other appliances, avoid using clothes washers and dishwashers without a full load and by limiting the use of ceiling fans when someone is not in the room. Homeowners should make sure their refrigerators and freezers have a tight seal around the doors and that the oven door has a tight seal. Sometimes, heat will even escape around the edges of the oven door window, so that should also be sealed tightly.
Whenever possible, homeowners should buy Energy Star certified appliances for their homes. For folks who have a spare freezer or refrigerator, it is wise to unplug the appliance when not in use. An empty freezer uses a lot more energy to stay cold than a full one. For information about the PGW EnergySense Home Rebates Program, call 215-764-5468 or email to email@example.com ••