RowHouse Magazine

Winter on Delancy Street in Philadelphia, PA.
Winter on Delancy Street in Philadelphia, PA.

DIY Projects
Baby It's Cold Outside!

Under normal circumstances, utility bills can skyrocket during the winter months when gas, oil or electric heaters gobble up energy with the voracious appetite of a teenage boy. To make matters worse, the local electricity provider in Philadelphia, PECO, sent out a notice that, after years of controlled energy costs and due to business restructuring, they are now adjusting the cost of electricity to reflect market prices. In this economy, where a few dollars can mean the difference between food for your family or electricity for the house, a five percent increase can be very serious.

There are two things Philadelphia residents can do to successfully navigate these changes. One, learn about the programs that PECO offers and two, make your home as energy efficient as possible. If you are not in Philadelphia, you can still research what your local energy provider has to offer and apply energy saving tactics to your home.

PECO Programs

CARES: Customer Assistance and Referral Evaluation Services
CARES is designed to help those who are experiencing temporary financial trouble that prevent the payment of their bills. To learn more about this program, call 800.774.7040.

MEAF: The Matching Energy Assistance Fund
MEAF is a program where residents who can spare money make voluntary contributions to a fund. The donations are matched to those who qualify. To learn more about this program, call 800.403.6806.

LIURP: Low Income Usage Reduction Program
LIURP is a federal program that provides assistance with conservation and weatherization for qualified households. To learn more about this program, call 800.675.0222.

LIHEAP: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
LIHEAP is a federal program, that helps low income residents manage their energy costs throughout the winter season. To learn more about this program, call 800.34.HELP.4.

CAP: Customer Assistance Program
CAP is PECOs program for discounted rates for low-income households. To learn more about this program, call 800.774.7040.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

There are quite a few things you can do to alleviate the strain on your home energy budget. They range from easy DIY solutions to more expensive, long-term investments in your home.

Replace your old appliances with those that are more energy efficient. PECO offers a "cash reward" and will not only pay you for your old appliances, but they'll haul them away for you and have them recycled properly.

If you can't replace your appliances, make sure the ones you have are working correctly. Make sure your refrigerator's door seals, seal tightly. You can buy replacement door seals from home improvement stores. Vacuum the coils behind your refrigerator. Make sure air ducts and heating vents are clean. Clean out your clothes dryer vent and hose.

Turn off any appliances not in use. Turn off any non-essential appliances when you go on holiday for an extended time.

Turn your thermostat down two degrees. Put on an extra sweater and slippers. It's worth the money and energy you'll save. If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure the temperature is set to a lower degree when you're not home or at night.

Keep doors closed. If you don't have doors, hang medium to heavy weight curtains on openings to block drafts.

Turn your radiators down in rooms you don't use often.

Use plastic shrink-wrap on your windows. This takes a little practice, but when done correctly, you can't tell it's there and it makes a huge difference in heat retention.

Make sure fireplace flues are closed when not in use. Block fireplaces not being used with cardboard. If cardboard doesn't fit with your decor, wrap with coordinating fabric.

Get a home energy audit. This can be expensive but some energy companies offer special programs that include an audit. Making changes suggested in an audit and identifying issues, can save enough money to offset the initial cost.

Make sure your home is properly insulated. Look in all the rooms, basement, garage and attic for any noticeable drafts and possible cracks or holes in the walls that may need patching.

It may seem like a lot of work to get your house in an as energy efficient condition as possible, but remember, being energy efficient is good for your budget, house and the environment.

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