PGW and Peco to offer assessments of home energy use

The city’s two largest util­it­ies are of­fer­ing res­id­ents as­sess­ments of their homes’ en­ergy use. Res­id­ents can sched­ule these in­spec­tions with either the Phil­adelphia Gas Works or PECO. The util­it­ies will send em­ploy­ees to look over their homes, search­ing for drafts and in­ef­fi­cient equip­ment.

The as­sess­ments seem to be very sim­il­ar, at least on pa­per. The cost of PGW’s ser­vice, however, is $150 while PECO charges $50. Even a more thor­ough PECO as­sess­ment, which the elec­tric util­ity calls an audit, is just $100.

PGW’s as­sess­ment usu­ally takes three to four hours, ac­cord­ing to the gas com­pany’s spokes­man, Barry O’Sul­li­van.

He said each “as­sess­ment/eval­u­ation” in­cludes in­spec­tions of a home’s ex­ter­i­or and in­teri­or. PGW’s con­tract­ors look at in­su­la­tion, air leaks, heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing equip­ment and wa­ter-heat­ing equip­ment. He said the con­tract­ors use sev­er­al tech­nic­al and dia­gnost­ic tests to de­term­ine a home’s over­all en­ergy per­form­ance. 

Homeown­ers get de­tailed re­ports with a list of re­com­mend­a­tions to im­prove en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and com­fort along with the costs of the im­prove­ments.

There is a fin­an­cing com­pon­ent to PGW’s pro­gram. After get­ting their as­sess­ments, cus­tom­ers can ap­ply for up to $3,500 in “En­ergy­sense home per­form­ance im­prove­ment re­bates.” Third-party fin­an­cing is avail­able, ac­cord­ing to PGW, at 0.99 per­cent.

PECO has two types of en­ergy in­spec­tions. Ac­cord­ing to spokes­man Ben Arm­strong, PECO’s “smart house calls” star­ted in June 2013.

For $50, a PECO rep will con­duct an “en­ergy as­sess­ment” of a house and provide the own­er with a de­tailed re­port that shows where en­ergy can be saved. At no ad­di­tion­al cost, own­ers could re­ceive en­ergy-sav­ing light bulbs and en­ergy-sav­ing power strips. Those who heat their wa­ter with elec­tri­city could be eli­gible for low-flow shower­heads, and kit­chen or bath­room aer­at­ors.

For $100, PECO will con­duct an “en­ergy audit” that in­cludes everything in the as­sess­ment along with “a whole-house re­view that will dia­gnose en­ergy loss due to air leak­age,” ac­cord­ing to the util­ity’s web­site. However, the en­ergy audit is avail­able only to cus­tom­ers whose primary heat­ing source is from an elec­tric heat pump, elec­tric fur­nace or elec­tric base­boards.

Asked why PECO’s in­spec­tions are cheap­er than PGW’s, O’Sul­li­van said, “The typ­ic­al en­ergy as­sess­ment costs about $500, but dif­fer­ent util­ity re­bate pro­grams have dif­fer­ent dis­coun­ted levels.”

So, how a util­ity dis­counts from that fig­ure is based on the fund­ing avail­able to a util­ity and on pro­jec­ted par­ti­cip­a­tion levels, he said.

“For in­stance, the funds we em­ploy in dis­count­ing the as­sess­ments comes from the same funds we use to give re­bates and grants,” O’Sul­li­van stated in a March 20 email to the North­east Times. “As such, our goal in de­term­in­ing the cost of the as­sess­ments was to bal­ance the need to re­duce en­ergy as­sess­ment costs without sig­ni­fic­antly im­pact­ing the funds avail­able for ac­tu­al re­bates and grants that go to­ward mak­ing real and last­ing im­prove­ments to our cus­tom­ers’ homes.”

Arm­strong said about 600 PECO cus­tom­ers have had as­sess­ments or audits so far. The elec­tric com­pany’s cov­er­age area is lar­ger than PGW’s. PECO is in the city as well as Bucks, Mont­gomery, Delaware, Chester and York counties.

PGW’s and PECO’s in­spec­tions usu­ally are per­formed with­in a week or so of schedul­ing ap­point­ments.

To ar­range a PGW in­spec­tion, call 215-764-5468.

For a PECO as­sess­ment or audit, call 1-888-573-2672. ••

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