The Residential Sector is made up of: Single-family and Multi-family Homes, Housing Complexes, HomeOwner Associations (HOAs), New Developments, Public Housing, Landlords, Owner-occupied and Renters, Low Income Families, Off-Campus Students, Housing Developers, relatively new construction and older or historic buildings.
Explore this page to learn about the challenges and opportunities West Chester area residents and housing managers are facing on our path towards reducing, electrifying and transitioning to 100% renewable energy.
Take our Residential Energy Survey
WEST CHESTER AREA ENERGY DEMOGRAPHICS
The greater West Chester Area has about 100,000 residents living in about 37,600 homes with more than 73,000 vehicles.
Each home spends, on average, $350/month on energy - divided between transportation, home heating and electricity.
Transportation fuels come from gasoline and diesel. Home heating (non-electric) is mostly gas and heating oil.
Demographic data for Chester County can be found on the ChescoPlanning site
So you’re using electricity…where does that energy come from? The source of our electric energy is less obvious and can even be surprising. The default energy mix provided by PECO looks like this:
Electric utility energy mix data is from the EPA Power Profiler page. As you can see, almost 80% of our electricity comes from nuclear and gas methane sources! The “7% other” consists of small amounts (2% or less) of hydro, wind, solar, biomass, oil geothermal and other fossil fuels.
West Chester area residents travel an average of 660 miles/month in vehicles that get an average of 25.1 miles/gal, resulting in an expense of $189/household/month for transportation (gasoline) which is an annual $2,272/household/year (household size is 2.677)
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
For tips and guidance on how West Chester residents can REDUCE, ELECTRIFY and TRANSITION to clean renewable energy in our homes and transportation. Reducing our energy use is the place to start and is where our biggest opportunities can be found for taking actions that pay for themselves.
The relative size of the arrows above imply that the more we Reduce, the less we need to Electrify and Transition. Not necessarily a flowchart, we can work on all at the same time.
Reducing the amount of energy we use is a critical first step in transitioning to a cleaner and more efficient future. Increasing your energy efficiency at home will lead to significant savings over time, and reducing our energy use as a community will increase our ability to transition to renewable alternatives.
The average West Chester Area household spends $350 on energy every month – with gasoline for cars representing more than half of the costs, and electricity and heating fuel comprising the rest.
In the US, low income households spend more on energy as a percentage of their income. Here is some info about reducing energy costs through energy efficiency, smart purchasing and available subsidies.
Reduce Home Energy Use
PECO HOME ENERGY ASSESSMENT
The first step to reducing your energy use is to see where you can make small changes that, together, can make a big impact. A good place to start is with a PECO Home Energy Assessment.
A specialist will perform an inspection; they will ask some questions, make some suggestions, and send you a written report with information about how to reduce the amount of energy that might be leaking from your house through walls, windows and doors.
The assessment is $25 for the video version (via phone), $50 for an on-site visit and free for low income customers. Everyone will receive a free Energy Kit with LED lights, faucets, shower heads, and power strips. Take a look at this sample assessment chart.
Schedule your Home Energy Assessment today!
LED lighting has come a long way in recent years. The best LED bulbs now have the same colorization as incandescent bulbs, are completely dimmable and are cost competitive, saving energy and money over time. Search for “dimmable led bulbs accurate color” for reviews and product recommendations.
WEATHERIZATION AND MORE EFFICIENCY OPPORTUNITIES
Weatherization refers to modifications that protect your home from the outdoor elements, by means of adding attic insulation, caulking, storm doors, and window replacement. These modifications increase energy efficiency and reduce heating and cooling costs. Check out these 31 tips from Constellation Energy.
Programmable thermostats are good choices for homes that are empty for predictable stretches of time. And if they are internet connected you can adjust the heating or cooling if you are headed home early.
PECO ENERGY STAR REBATE
When the time comes to replace your appliance, buy Energy Star and receive a rebate from PECO.
Also, buying a new home appliance it is an opportunity for a 25-year investment in energy savings! Purchase an Energy Star-rated appliance, with a low electricity use per year. You will save money over the lifetime of the appliance AND PECO will provide you with a rebate.
BOLD ACTION - PASSIVE HOUSE
For bold actions to reduce your home energy use, we suggest you learn about Passive House concepts like: orientation of porches and eaves to maximize seasonal radiation from the sun, or going beyond building codes for insulation and reducing air leaks. Consider a “blower door test” to find out just how tight your house is and where you can improve your heating and A/C efficiency.
Go to phius.org to learn more.
Reduce Vehicle Energy
For transportation, our best suggestion is to be aware of the total cost of ownership of your vehicles. A big car or SUV is going to cost more to fill up with gas than a smaller fuel efficient vehicle. The chart illustrates the difference between an SUV that gets 15 miles/gal that costs $300 in gasoline vs a 50 MPG car that costs $210 less per month. That’s $2,520/year in savings.
Electrify refers to changing your energy sources from combustion-based (gas, coal, oil) to electricity powered. Phasing out fossil-fuel based appliances is an important step in the transition to a cleaner future, especially as renewables make up a larger and larger portion of our grid’s energy mix.
The average West Chester Area household spends $350 on energy every month – with gasoline for cars representing more than half of the costs, and electricity and heating fuel covering the rest.
ELECTRIFYING HOME ENERGY
Is it time to replace your heating system? There are many options to choose from. Our recommendation is that you consider an electric air source heat pump, or a dual fuel system. Major improvements have been made in heat pump technology in the last few years. Our analysis shows that with the current prices of gas, oil, and electricity, an air source heat pump is very competitive, AND it gives you the flexibility to purchase electricity from many different sources. This includes renewable wind and solar. The chart on the right shows a heating cost comparison for a 2,400 sq ft house in PA.
Geothermal heat pumps are even more efficient (more than 100% efficient). Although there is a larger up front cost, geothermal systems will save money over time. Federal tax credits are set to decline in the next few years. A Geothermal Case Study.
Go to our Resources page to see analysis and case studies like: Heat pump economics: Most American homes are still heated with fossil fuels. It’s time to electrify
COOKING AND HOT WATER
When your gas-burning hot water heater needs replacing, consider the following renewable options: an electric unit, a passive solar system, a heat pump system, or an electric tankless system. Also, if you’d like to switch to an electric or induction range and oven, there are some good options. Check out some cost comparisons on the Clean Energy Future Analysis Page.
Electrify Vehicle Energy
ELECTRIC VEHICLES & PLUG-IN HYBRIDS
Looking at buying or leasing a car in the next few years? It’s never too early to start researching.
According to the EPA, the average US fuel economy for new cars in 2018 was 25.1 miles per gallon. According to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, citizens in the West Chester area travel about 54 miles/day/household. This translates to a cumulative total of almost $300,000 on gasoline and diesel per day. That’s a lot!
Please consider sticker price, maintenance costs, insurance and, most importantly, fuel or energy consumption. At this University of California/Davis site you can compare any 4 cars’ fuel costs with whatever commuting distance, fuel, and electricity price you enter.
Some studies indicate that EVs are now competitive when considering the MSRP and the 5 five years of ownership of new cars. Learn more about how EVs compare.
Many EVs can be charged at home without any special equipment. If you need a public charger, the number of public charging stations in the West Chester area is increasing every year. As you can see from the map below, there are many stations in the area now. including one at every parking garage in West Chester Borough and several along Rt 30 in Exton. And more EV chargers are coming!
Go to Plugshare.com page to see the latest map of public charging stations in the West Chester Area.
EVs AVAILABLE NOW
Take the West Chester Area EV Survey.
CHARGING AT WORK
“With proper workplace charging implementation, employers can help increase the convenience and affordability of driving electric for their employees. Workplace charging can also help attract and retain a cutting-edge workforce and demonstrate leadership in adopting advanced technologies.” - United States Department of Energy
Are you interested in the benefits of adding electric vehicle (EV) charging to your workplace? The Clean Energy Future team of the West Chester Area Council of Governments is here to help answer questions and connect you to resources!
Benefits of workplace charging:
Attract and retain a cutting-edge workforce
Reduce emissions of harmful pollutants that can lead to negative health outcomes in our community
Helps achieve your sustainability goals, create positive brand associations
Support certification by green building certification programs
Here are some resources to help get you started:
Workplace Charging Employer Workshop Toolkit (includes sample employee survey)
Pennsylvania rebate program for installation of EV charging equipment: May cover up to 70% of installation costs
Transitioning our energy generation away from fossil fuels (both individually and as a society) is critical to securing a clean and sustainable future. “Transition” goes hand in hand with “Electrify” - if we can electrify our energy needs and transition our supplies to renewable sources, we will complete a circle of energy sustainability.
Transition Home Energy to Renewable Sources
SETTING GOALS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY
Where does your electricity come from? Take a look at your PECO bill. The line that specifies “Generation Charges” will indicate who supplies your electricity. If it doesn’t say otherwise, then it’s PECO.
If PECO is supplying your energy, then you have PECO’s default mix – which is what 70% of us have. The PECO default mix comes from 39% nuclear, 39% gas, 15% coal, 2% hydro, 1% wind and smaller amounts of other sources.
BUYING CLEAN RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY
You have the power to choose the source of electricity you want. You can sign up for a 3rd party electricity provider at PAPowerSwitch.com, Select "Renewable PA" to filter on renewable electricity options from Pennsylvania sources. Make sure you are aware of terms (some can be as short as 3 months) and flex or fixed prices. And note the current PECO Price To Compare at the top of the page - the price you'll be paying if you do not select a 3rd party generation provider.
There are some shady deals out there. Read the fine print and check your bill that you are getting what you signed up for. And go shopping again when your contract expires.
Rooftop solar is a great way to lock-in your electricity price for the next 20 years. If your house is suitable with a south, south-east or south-west facing roof, without much or any shade, you should consider getting a free evaluation from our local solar advocates – Solarize Greater West Chester. Volunteers will ask a few questions and let you know if solar makes sense for you, point you to reference projects in our neighborhood, and, explain the current tax incentives from PA and US. And be on your side all the way through the estimating, permitting and installation process.
And finally there’s the option of carbon offsets. Mostly used to compensate for carbon emissions due to long distance travel. Just plug in the miles you traveled and by what means and you can purchase credits that will be used for tree planting, solar projects or water conservation in needy areas. Just google “purchase carbon offset” and you’ll find some good products.