Older Philadelphia homes with broken-down insulation could rack up heating bills, PECO says

Temperatures have dropped this week and many households are turning on the heat for the first time this season.

Christopher Smith of Fishtown told FOX 29's Jennifer Lee that his home heating system is very efficient, but the windows on his older home are original and could use an upgrade.

"My thoughts about energy costs are real. I’ve got two kids and a family, so I think about finances and all that stuff," said Smith. "I have a six-month-old baby and a nearly six-year-old kid and I kind of just make sure they’re covered and then just deal with whatever the fallout."

Smith said at last check, his energy bill was already up at least 20 percent.

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association is estimating the average cost of home heating will be up by 18 percent or about 180 dollars compared to last year. The increases will fluctuate based on an individuals home heating system and whether it’s natural gas, electricity, heating oil or propane.

PECO Chief Customer Office Funmi Williamson said the War in Ukraine, high demand outside the U.S., and customer usage during cold days are all factors in driving up prices.

Williamson said PECO’s priority is to make sure it's supporting customers and has resources available.

"For every ten degrees that you can lower your thermostat, you can reduce your bills by up to ten percent. Sign up for usage alerts so you get notified when your usage starts to exceed your tolerance level of what you’ve done historically," said Williamson. "We also have a variety of programs at PECO that help, not just offer credits for customers on their bills, but also provides usage reduction programs. So we can come to your home and do an energy audit."

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Williamson recommends customers visit its "Ways to Save" page.

FOX 29 also met with John Cardullo of Cardullo Mechanical as they responded to a service call in South Philly. He said his service calls doubled during this first cold dip of the season.

"I’ve got to go to West Philly, I’ve got to go to Northeast, I’ve got to go to 22nd and Spring Garden for a customer," said Cardullo. "A lot of houses have a lot of bad windows, a lot of bad doors, and not enough insulation. You could have the best heater in the world, but if you don’t have a good, insulated house your bills are going to be high."

Cardullo said it’s also smart to keep the temperature on your thermostat consistent, rather than have it fluctuate greatly throughout the day.

"If you’re happy with like 68-70 put it down to 66. When you turn it off, or you put it too low, it uses too much energy to bring back up the temperature. It’s actually more efficient if you leave it at one temperature," said Cardullo.

Local contractor Jack McMaster said insulating your windows and doors is a simple job and can make a big difference.

"Make sure the gaskets around your doors are intact. It’s very cheap, and it’s easy to do. You can buy ones that are stickers, and they just stick on, so the air doesn’t leave your house, because you pay to heat that area you might as well enjoy it," said McMaster.

McMaster said to change the air filter on your furnace every month that you’re using it, including summer months if you have air conditioning.

Families that are eligible can sign up for the Department of Human Services Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which provides a cash grant to help pay for heating bills. Applications are currently being accepted.