Investing in energy-efficient home improvements pays

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 homere­bates@psd­con­sult­ ••

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