Nobody likes taking cold showers or baths, but when your water heater stops working, you might be unable to afford a replacement unit.
Fortunately, at least five different government programs assist in buying and installing new water heaters that reduce your carbon footprint.
Low-income families living near or below the poverty level, individuals with disabilities, and seniors living in rural areas might qualify.
Plus, middle and upper-class taxpayers funding these benefits can receive government support when upgrading to energy-efficient models.
In this article, we’ll examine how these programs work, who is eligible to participate, and how and where to apply.
Government Programs for Water Heaters
At least five federal government programs offer water heater assistance, leading to free replacement units for families across the income spectrum.
Government grants for HVAC systems utilize the same programs. If you qualify for one or more, you might be eligible to upgrade your furnace, hot water boiler, or air conditioning equipment at no additional cost.
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is the most established way to get a free water heater from the government. The Department of Energy oversees WAP, which supports various upgrades for low-income homeowners if the project reduces electricity or gas consumption.
Apply for WAP through your state agency. A local contractor will begin the process by conducting a home energy audit. The analysis will generate recommendations based on a Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR), often prioritized in this order.
- Addition of insulation and weather stripping
- Upgrade inefficient heating and cooling units
- Swap in new water heaters
- Update inefficient household appliances
- Drafty window and door upgrades
- Leaky roof repair and replacement
- Installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
Home Energy Assistance
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is an indirect government initiative offering free water heater replacement. The US Department of Health and Human Services administers LIHEAP, which allocates most of its budget to lower utility bills (gas and electric).
Apply for LIHEAP through your state agency to lower the total cost of ownership for any new or existing unit. Remember that operating expenses are an enormous part of the equation.
You can more readily afford a water heater when you receive help paying for the energy that makes them run! Plus, LIHEAP might pay for a new unit if yours is leaking.
Inflation Reduction Act
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is the newest government program offering free water heaters to some people. IRA includes rebates and tax credits for upgraded equipment that uses electricity rather than gas, which is supposedly better for the environment.
The IRA rebate program provides free heat pump-powered water heaters to low-income households and assistance to those with modest annual earnings. A heat pump uses electricity instead of gas.
The IRA provides up to $14,000 in rebates for purchasing and installing specific equipment (including heat pump water heaters) and related upgrades consuming cleaner electricity instead of dirtier natural gas.
- Low-income (less than 80% of state median): 100% of the expenses costs up to $14,000
- Moderate-income (80% to 150% of state median): 50% of costs up to $14,000
The non-refundable IRA tax credit program provides water heater assistance to families with higher incomes ineligible for the 100% rebates. A non-refundable credit reduces your income tax liability if you have one.
Claim the IRA-supported tax credit of up to $3,200 after making qualified energy-efficient improvements to your home, including two water heater benefit levels.
- $600: Natural gas, propane, or oil
- $2,000: Units run by heat pumps
Section 504 is sometimes a government program for free water heaters for senior citizens living in rural areas. The US Department of Agriculture oversees this program, which provides up to $10,000 of assistance.
Recipients do not have to repay the money when remediating health and safety hazards. A leaky water heater presents a fall risk.
Apply for Section 504 grants by contacting your local rural development office. Qualified seniors age 62 and older must meet these criteria.
- Be the homeowner and occupy the residence
- Reside in an eligible rural area
- Unable to obtain a loan elsewhere (bad credit)
- Have a family income below 50% of the area median
- Unable to repay a restoration loan
Qualifying for Free Water Heaters
This section illustrates how these various government programs translate into free water heaters for low-income families, disabled individuals, and senior citizens.
Therefore, pay close attention if you have a leaky water heater and have no money to replace it.
Low-income families often qualify for free water heaters because the government favors households living at or below the federal poverty level. Each program utilizes slightly different earnings criteria.
Free home repair for low-income families can include water heaters but extends to other projects also. Three government programs might chip in if your household meets varying criteria.
- IRA covers 100% of costs for households earning less than 80% of the state median income for families purchasing energy-efficient units.
- WAP helps families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, which matrixes annual earnings against household size.
- LIHEAP helps with utility bills for households living at or below 150% of the federal poverty level, lowering equipment operating costs.
Individuals with disabilities are sometimes eligible for free water heaters as they often meet the low-income criteria for WAP, LIHEAP, and IRA. Social Security Disability benefits do not stretch very far.
However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients have an advantage over those getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments.
SSI recipients are automatically eligible for home improvement grants through WAP and LIHEAP, provided they have a project with an excellent savings-to-investment ratio. They do not need to prove they meet the income thresholds, whereas SSDI recipients must.
Senior citizens relying on Social Security Retirement Income sometimes qualify for free water heaters through WAP, LIHEAP, and IRA because they often meet low-income requirements. Section 504 is another option for older adults living in rural areas.
Free home repair grants for senior citizens extend well beyond water heater replacements to include fixes to windows, doors, roofs, foundations, HVAC equipment, and more.