South Philadelphia: Making Your Home Better

The South of South Neighborhood Association (SOSNA) held a general members meeting Wednesday night to discuss better energy alternatives for your home. Kate Ryan, project coordinator with the Energy Coordinating Agency (ECA) and David Staller from Mercury Solar Systems were guest speakers at the meeting. Ryan and Staller are both new residents to the South Philadelphia neighborhood.

Kate Ryan of the ECA talks about WAP.

Ryan, the first of the two to present, talked about solutions to reduce energy bills. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is a low-income program that provides heating and electricity conservation to low-income households that saves people anywhere from 20 to 40 percent on their energy bills. An energy audit is usually the first step towards participation in the WAP program. The energy audit, which costs around $400, is an evaluation of one’s home by a technician who checks for any leaks in the home, as well as any place in the home that may have drafts.

Once the home audit is finished, if the person wants to make improvements to the home based on what the technician found, those improvements will be done by an ECA-approved contractor. Ryan explained the improvements can cost over $1,000, which is a lot for low-income families. If home improvements exceed $1,000, a $300 rebate courtesy of the ECA is available to the person. For those who can’t afford to make the payment, the Keystone HELP Loan program is an alternative method to pay for the home improvements.

David Staller tries to sell benefits of solar panels.

Staller’s presentation was slighlty different than Ryan’s, as he talked about the benefits of adding solar panels to your home. Of course, solar panels are very expensive in most instances for home owners so attendees had a lot more questions for Staller. While Ryan talked about loan programs and alternative payment methods for the energy program, Staller did not specify to the audience whether there were financial assistance available for the solar panels. Staller said, however, that the state and federal government are “the drivers for the solar market.”

While Ryan’s presentation seemed to be smooth-sailing, Staller’s wasn’t at all. The issue of deregulation from PECO certainly came up, as Staller and the audience traded thoughts on PECO’s relationship with solar energy. Durability and maintenance became another issue Staller discussed. Warranties on solar panels are recommended because the cost of the panels can get steep.

Introducing energy solutions for the home can be a tough sell, especially when talking about the high costs. However, in a time when there are a ton of energy and green advocates, these energy solutions can be an excellent investment in the future.

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