Energy efficient home improvements to receive rebates

The Philadelphia Gas Works plans to award $4 million in rebates for energy efficient home improvements in the coming months, but property owners can save energy and money while spending next to nothing.

That was the message delivered to the Somerton Civic Association on Nov. 12 by Ellen Chapman, business development manager for the Energy Coordinating Agency. ECA is a nonprofit that performs home energy efficiency assessments and improvements as part of PGW’s EnergySense program.

An assessment, officially known as an energy audit, costs the homeowner $150. ECA will inspect the home and prepare a report containing recommendations that will likely cost the homeowner some money up front. But the homeowner can recover some expenses — about 25 percent of them on average — for things like new windows, new heating and air conditioning systems and new appliances.

Homeowners can also qualify for low-interest loans to spread out the rest of the cost over the long term. Meanwhile, participants will likely see big savings in their energy bills.

For more information about the plan, homeowners can call 215–609–1052.

In the meantime, homeowners don’t need an audit or a contractor to save energy in other ways.

According to Chapman, about 45 percent of energy costs for an average home can be reduced through simple measures. Some of Chapman’s recommendations are:

• Change from standard light bulbs to new LED bulbs. WIth average use, a standard bulb will tally about $22 in annual energy cost. An LED bulb will tally about $2.

• Whenever shopping for new appliances, look for the EnergyStar label and certification. It may not be cost-effective to discard a working refrigerator, washing machine or dishwasher for an EnergyStar model. But if you are already in the market, it makes sense to go with the more-efficient option.

• When not using appliances or electronic equipment, unplug them. Even if a device is turned off, the plug will draw power from the socket. That includes toasters, blenders, computers and mobile phone chargers. As an alternative, using certain surge-protector strips can prevent this hidden power consumption.

• Make sure your refrigerator and oven doors are sealed properly. The door seals on both appliances can become cracked or damaged over time. This may allow cold and heat to escape. In both cases, faulty seals force the appliance to use more energy. If damaged, they should be replaced.

For information about energy use and programs in the Northeast, homeowners may call 215–437–7867 or 215–427–0350.

Homeowners can also take advantage of the rain barrel program co-sponsored by ECA and the Philadelphia Water Department, Chapman said. Rain barrels collect rain water directly from the downspout and save the water for later use. The barrels have a spigot and can be used with a hose to water a garden or wash a car.

Barrels are about 4 feet tall and blue. They are fully enclosed so they won’t become breeding grounds for insects.

To get a free barrel delivered and installed, homeowners must attend a free presentation about storm water management and conservation. For information, call 215–609–1044.

Additionally, Chapman said, low-income homeowners can collect benefits to help them pay their winter heating costs. ECA’s “heater hotline” is 215–609–1028.

In other Somerton Civic Association business:

• The SCA unanimously approved the renewal of a zoning variance for Beer Boys at Woodhaven Road and Evans Street. The variance would allow the business to continue selling beer by the case and keg, along with cigarettes, at the retail level. The site is permanently zoned for warehouse and distribution activities, but not retail. About four years ago, the city granted the business a temporary retail variance, but that expired last year.

• Dolores Barbieri, SCA president, said that the civic group’s officers are paying close attention to developments at the Kraft Foods plant at Roosevelt Boulevard and Byberry Road. According to numerous news reports, the company is considering closing the plant, moving its operations elsewhere. The plant has about 300 employees. Their future remains uncertain.

“Let’s do what we can to keep that location active and productive,” Barbieri said.

• Dan Lodise, chief of staff to state Rep. Brendan Boyle, reported that his boss and other elected officials oppose the Kraft plant’s closing. They hope to meet with the company leaders in the coming days.

• Lodise asked that residents help out with Boyle’s annual holiday toy drive. New, unwrapped toys can be delivered to Boyle’s offices at 14230 Bustleton Ave. or 7215-B Rising Sun Ave. Toys will be given to local families in need.

• SCA board member Lou DeCree invited neighbors to attend the 17th annual beef ’n’ beer fundraiser for the Daniel Boyle Recreation Center athletic program. The cost is $40. The event will be at the FOP Lodge 5 hall, 11630 Caroline Road, on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 7 to 11 p.m. No tickets will be sold at the door. Call 215–620–2270. ••