Saving money on your energy bills in Pittsburgh can be easy with a few simple tricks. In 2019, the Pittsburgh City Council introduced legislation that requires all new or renovated municipal buildings to only consume as much energy as they produce. And there are ways for everyone in Pittsburgh to reduce their energy consumption and save money on their utility bills at home, too.
Pittsburgh is located in western Pennsylvania, where the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio rivers meet. Winter temperatures in Pittsburgh can go below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, while summers are slightly humid with average high temperatures in the lower 90s. Your energy bill can go up significantly during extreme weather periods, and energy rates are often higher when demand is higher.
Energy Rates in Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania's energy market was completely deregulated in 2001. Since then, Pittsburgh residents have had the power to choose their energy suppliers. According to Electricity Local, the average residential electricity rate in Pennsylvania's second-largest city is 11.44 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or $0.11. That is more than 10 percent lower than the state average. Pittsburgh's utility company, Duquesne Light Co., is responsible for maintaining the energy infrastructure, such as lines, poles, and equipment.
Regardless of who your energy supplier is, your local utility will add a charge for delivering the energy to your home. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) lists the average total monthly electric bill in Pennsylvania at $120.04. Here are some ways to save money on your energy bills:
Switch Your Supplier
In Pennsylvania's deregulated energy market, consumers can choose their electricity and gas suppliers from a variety of energy providers. You may be able to save money on your monthly energy bill by switching to a supplier with lower rates. The cheapest electricity rate available in Pittsburgh is currently almost one cent cheaper per kWh than the Duquesne Light Company's price to compare for residential customers.
Conserve the Energy You Don't Need
The cheapest energy is the energy you're not using. Before thinking about making costly improvements, you can be proactive and adapt your behavior to conserve energy whenever you don't need it. You can reduce your energy usage by switching off your lights, electronics, and appliances when you're not using them. A significant place to conserve energy is by adjusting your heating or air conditioning when you're not at home to benefit from it. These measures are free and only take a few seconds to do.
Increase Your Home's Energy Efficiency
Naturally, you can't turn off everything all the time. When you do use energy at home, you can use it more efficiently. You can do this by upgrading to modern lights such as LEDs or more efficient appliances. Energy-efficient ENERGY STAR appliances use up to 30 percent less energy for the same job. They can save the average American household more than $100 a year over new standard appliances. If you replace your existing appliances, savings will be even bigger.
Pittsburgh homeowners can also benefit from low-interest loans for certain energy efficiency repairs through the Pennsylvania Homeowners Energy Efficiency Loan Program (HEELP). These loans of up to $10,000 can pay for installing energy-efficient windows, doors, heating or cooling systems, and other energy conservation repairs.
Do an Energy Audit for Your Home
Home energy audits are a great way to find out about how you use energy in your home and how to save energy. Energy audits will determine where your home may be wasting energy and provide recommendations to increase its efficiency. They will also show you what improvements have the biggest return of investment, meaning how much money you save on your energy bills in relation to the upfront project cost.
Duquesne Light Company offers free online audits for their customers, including free LED lights for you to install. A short online questionnaire or a utility bill analysis will use your information for a quick analysis of your home energy use. If you want a more detailed audit, the utility company offers a "Whole House Energy Audit" for $435, which comes with recommendations to improve your home's energy efficiency. It also includes replacing your light bulbs with LED bulbs, free smart power strips, and other energy-saving equipment.
Use Available Rebates
Many electric utilities and retail suppliers offer rebates for customers who participate in energy efficiency programs. If you're buying efficient ENERGY STAR certified products, you can get federal rebates as well, while ENERGY STAR sponsors sometimes provide sales tax exemptions.
If you're installing renewable energy generation such as solar energy systems, small wind turbines, or even heat pumps, you can get federal tax credits, reducing the tax amount you may owe.
Pennsylvania also provides a cash rebate of currently up to $1,500 for new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) or certain Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). The Pennsylvania Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Rebate Program also offers rebates for natural gas, propane, and hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles, as well as for certain pre-owned and retrofit alternative fuel vehicles. The cost to drive an electric vehicle is less than half as much as a gasoline-powered car. After all, your gasoline purchases are also energy bills.
Energy Assistance Programs in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh residents can benefit from several energy assistance programs. These programs lower eligible customers' bills or offer help with bill payments. Energy providers typically provide budget billing for all customers to pay the same amount every month, with some adjustments, based on your usage. It can help you budget better, and it may prevent you from paying an overdraft or late fee every once in a while.
Payment-troubled customers who meet certain income limits may qualify for CAP, CARES, LIURP, or Hardship Funds. For customers experiencing temporary hardships, such as family emergencies, divorce, unemployment, or medical emergencies, the Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation (CARES) program provides support and direction to help you pay your utility bills.
Duquesne Light Company offers several payment assistance programs for their customers. Low-income households can benefit from the Customer Assistance Program (CAP), which lowers monthly utility bills based on how much the customer can actually pay.
Low-income households can also benefit from different grants and usage reduction programs, depending on whether you're a homeowner or what type of heating system your home has. You can contact your utility company to find out about available assistance and see if you qualify for energy assistance in Pittsburgh.