Why You Should Consider Getting A Home Energy Assessment
For people living in Philadelphia, it’s no surprise that utility bills can get expensive, especially in the winter and spring months when the weather fluctuates. Since September 2022, PECO has increased rates by 15%. Although PGW did not raise rates this year, customers are mystified by the Weather Normalization Adjustment (WNA) which tacks on an additional expense, even though according to the Inquirer, we just had the warmest January in 91 years. So, what can you do to keep up with the rising price of energy? Consider getting a home energy assessment which can save you up to 30% on future energy bills and help reduce your carbon footprint.
What does a home energy assessment do?
A home energy audit measures the amount of energy your home uses and identifies where energy is being lost. Typically, energy is lost due to leaky windows, a poorly sealed attic, ductwork tears, and invisible cracks. This goes beyond a DYI project. A professional energy auditor is certified to conduct tests and pinpoint hidden, hard-to-reach, air leaks. Depending on the size of your home, an energy audit may take up to four hours.
Home energy assessment prices
If you are low-income, you may also qualify for a free energy check-up in-person or a remote energy audit online provided by PECO. Hiring a professional home energy inspector independently can cost as much as $400 but there are often promotions you can take advantage of — we’ve seen PECO offer $25 home energy assessments in the past! There is also a chance you may also qualify to receive a tax credit on your home energy assessment (according to the IRS website, you can deduct 30% of costs up to $150.) When you consider your potential savings on utility bills, it is absolutely worth the investment.
Before an energy auditor arrives
Close and latch windows, and do the same for doors. Raise blinds or draw open curtains. If you have a fireplace, empty the ash, or cover it with wet newspaper (this will prevent any mess when a blower test is conducted). Clear away any belongings to allow access into the crawl spaces, access hatches, or attic space. Do the same for access to boilers, furnaces, and water heaters. Secure all pets.
Be prepared to provide information for any cold or hot spots or moisture problems in your home. Alert the auditor to family members who suffer from asthma or allergies. Know your square footage and the year your home was built. Provide copies of gas and electric bills for the past twelve months.
During the energy assessment
Allow 2-4 hours for the assessment. Time varies depending on the size and complexity of your home. The auditor will perform a variety of tests, including a blower door test to assess air leakage, infrared thermography to gauge the effectiveness of your insulation, ductwork, windows, and doors, and a combustion analysis to test for any CO2 leakage from gas lines in boilers, water heaters or appliances.
Energy assessments for appliances
Energy Star which certifies “green” appliances, also provides qualified home energy audits. Visit Energy Star Home Performance Assessment online where you will find auditors in your area just by plugging in your ZipCode. You will also find profiles of actual home energy assessments with details on problems identified and how they are resolved. For example, a homeowner receiving high energy bills learned from the auditor that his ductwork was leaky and his attic had insufficient insulation. After resolving these issues and replacing his former air-conditioners with Energy Star models, his bills decreased by 30% and the air quality in his home improved.
Another source for home energy auditors can be found on the website of the Building Performance Institute which offers an online quiz to determine your home energy issues and connect you to a qualified auditor in your neighborhood.
Other ways to Save
While PGW doesn’t do home energy audits, they offer rebates to customers who conserve their energy consumption. For instance, PGW Marketplace is giving customers an incentive to lower their energy consumption and reduce their home heating costs with price reductions on smart thermostats combined with an instant $90 rebate. Smart thermostats can be controlled by a cell phone and include features like motion sensors, alerts, and integration with other “smart” devices, enabling customers to conserve energy.
Customers can also take advantage of PGW’s EnergySense program, which offers rebates of $350 -$1,300 for purchasing high efficiency heaters and hot water heaters, as well as rebates for commercial appliances. PGW’s Home Comfort program offers free energy weatherization services to selected qualifying low-income customers. In just over a decade, PGW has invested $60 million to weatherize 23,660 low-income customer homes and 22 multi-family buildings in Philadelphia.
The Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act is being implemented this year and it offers funding, programs, and incentives to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. This includes tax credits and rebates on electric vehicles and home energy improvements like insulation and heat pump systems. This is a federal program and updates from individual states are still forthcoming but it is the most significant climate bill passed in the US to date. Consult your tax professional to see what you might be eligible for.