The federal government does not provide grants directly to low-income families. Still, the money does flow to state agencies and other entities that help families with their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) needs.
Three federal programs could result in the free replacement of furnaces, water heaters, and air conditioning units – if you know where to look and include the total cost of ownership in the equation.
- The Department of Energy oversees the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which improves homes’ efficiency, lowering electric and gas costs.
- The US Department of Health and Human Services administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps families pay utility bills.
- The Environmental Protection Agency runs the Energy Star (ES) program that offers rebates to purchase efficient HVAC equipment.
Free Furnace Replacement
Most people will not qualify for a free furnace replacement if you focus on the purchase and installation charges alone because the criteria are strict due to limited resources. However, by extending your horizon to include the lifetime ownership costs, many more households could experience few – if any – out-of-pocket costs.
The people who stand to lower electric or gas cost the most fit these descriptions.
- Live in cold-weather regions
- Replacing antiquated oil heating systems
- Upgrading from older energy-inefficient equipment
- Switching from expensive electric to a cheaper gas
Payment plans make the numbers work for families by matching the gas or electricity savings to the replacement furnace investment. In theory, the amount you save in reduced heating costs could be more than the monthly payment (including interest charges and origination fees) – making the net expense below zero during every period.
The concept works as follows.
- Borrow money to pay the upfront furnace costs (purchase & installation)
- Begin saving money each month on reduced heating costs (gas or oil bills)
- Repay the lender in monthly installments that could be smaller than energy savings
Follow the money. Three federal departments filter money to families to offer them government grants for furnace replacement. See how lower operating expenses could zero out the lifetime ownership costs.
- Weatherization Assistance (WAP) grants flow to state agencies that administer the weatherization help for qualified residents that makes your home more energy efficient
- Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) grant dollars trickle down to local utilities (gas and electric companies) who help qualified residential customers pay their utility bills
- Energy Star grant money flows to state agencies that offer rebates to consumers who buy new energy-efficient furnaces
- Your new energy-efficient furnace’s lower natural gas usage yields the most savings for people living in northern regions noted for cold weather such as Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc.
A free furnace replacement for low-income families provides a great example of how the three government assistance programs might combine to offer a grant for this benefit – if you focus on lifetime ownership costs.
- WAP targets estimated energy savings help to low income families
- Certain Welfare recipients
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Aid to Families with Dependent Children
- Income falls below 200% of Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG)
- State-determined preferences
- Senior citizens over the age of 60
- Households with disabled family members
- Single parents with children
- Certain Welfare recipients
- LIHEAP includes low-income criteria for direct, measurable support
- No more than 150% of FPG
- No less than 110% of FPG
- No more than 60% of state median income
- ES does not include earnings qualifications for rebates
Free Water Heater Programs
The process for using government grants to fund free water heaters provides a model to follow for all HVAC replacement systems. A small percentage of low-income families might get a new unit gratis, while rebates and lower utility costs balance the equation for more people.
Once again, payment plans spread over the life of your water heater make the arrangement work. Even middle-class families can upgrade their systems without any out-of-pocket costs – courtesy of gas or electricity savings and rebates.
The Department of Energy (DOE) provides precise rules for when a state agency or contractor can install a new water heater at no charge to the consumer. Similar guidelines probably exist for the other HVAC systems covered in this article, which you can use as an assistance road map.
The DOE water heater replacement guidelines under the WAP program consider these factors.
- Projected Energy Savings
- Consumption levels based on the number of users
- Showers and baths
- Laundry washing machines
- Regional climate and fuel prices
- Losses from placement in unheated spaces
- Older units with low-efficiency ratings
- Consumption levels based on the number of users
- Health and Safety Hazard Issues
- Irreparable water leaks
- Missing parts no longer available
- Un-flushable corrosion and sediment
Keep in mind that low-income families that meet these rules can make money on the deal. Not only does the government pay for a new water heater, but they also get direct help with the remaining utility costs via LIHEAP.
Searching for free water heaters at classified advertising websites such as Craigslist or Facebook marketplace entails a reverse of the logic used with government grant programs. Yes, many people are thrilled to get rid of an old system cluttering up their basement or garage and will price it at $0 to entice you to haul it away.
Provided that the zero-cost water heater doesn’t leak or need repair, you could score a reliable new system without reaching into your pocket. However, older units use more gas or electricity, which could cost more money over time – especially for large families with extra bathing and washing needs.
Free Air Conditioners from the Government
Grants that translate into free air conditioners from the government for low-income families follow a similar thought process as other HVAC replacement systems. You start with any investment for the updated unit and then subtract rebates, energy savings, and electricity bill subsidies in force through 2021.
Once again, HVAC financing programs provide the magic to even out the cash flow for a new central air conditioning unit. In addition, people living in hotter regions lower electricity costs the most: Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, etc.
However, people with respiratory illnesses (asthma, allergies, emphysema) and heart conditions (COPD) worsened by excessive heat have additional avenues to explore: health insurance, and medically necessary credits.
Senior citizens have four possible avenues to get free air conditioners from the government. The elderly are especially vulnerable to excessive heat, so finding low-cost ways to keep cool is critical when you live on a fixed income.
- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services encourages Advantage plans to embrace non-traditional benefits that enhance healthy living for seniors, such as pest control, and you guessed it: air conditioning!
- Seniors suffering from respiratory and heart conditions can file a claim with their federally-supported Medicare health insurance, which might honor a well-supported claim.
- State and local government agencies frequently sponsor free window air conditioner programs for seniors during the hot summer months.
- Seniors living on retirement savings and Social Security frequently meet the three government programs’ low-income and resource criteria: WAP, LIHEAP, and Energy Star.
People with disabilities have four similar avenues to qualify for free air conditioning from the government. Disabled individuals are also vulnerable to excessive heat and often head low-income families.
- Disabled individuals receiving SSDI and SSI benefits frequently meet the eligibility rules for all three government grant programs: WAP, LIHEAP, and Energy Star.
- Disabled people suffering from respiratory and heart conditions could have two government-supported health insurance plans that might honor a well-documented claim.
- Medicaid covers disabled SSI recipients and some SSDI recipients
- Medicare covers disabled SSDI recipients after twenty-four months
- Dual eligible (Medicaid & Medicare) meet income and resource qualifications for both
- Medically necessary cooling benefits of up to $200 make it more affordable to run an A/C unit by covering part of the electricity costs for New Jersey residents, and perhaps disabled individuals living in other states
- State and county-level government agencies sponsoring free A/C programs also target the disabled population.
Buy One Get One Free Deals
Finally, everyone can tap into private grants by shopping around for special promotional offers by HVAC companies. The secret is to schedule the installation during their offseason (Spring or Fall) – when their technicians are not busy with emergency breakdowns.
- Emergency furnace repairs spike in the cold winter months
- Hot summer months overheat emergency A/C calls
“Buy a furnace to get an air conditioner free” promotions pop up in the Fall after the summer heat fades and HVAC technicians have idle time. Also, and the companies need to move leftover cooling units.
“Buy an air conditioner unit get a furnace free” promotions work oppositely. HVAC companies want to rid themselves of leftover heaters in the Spring while their technicians have more spare time.
Therefore, predictable weather patterns could save you a bundle, making the math work even better on the lifetime ownership costs for replacement HVAC equipment.