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. ••