Cool cash for buying air conditioner

A Columbia utility offers a rebate of up to $1,600 for upgrading.
Friday, June 8, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:14 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A new city program allows Columbia residents to get rebates worth hundreds of dollars when they buy energy-efficient air conditioners.

The program, which began in April, allows people to apply for the rebates within six months of installing a new air conditioner.

Air Conditioner Exchange

Central Community Action is joining with Columbia Water and Light to provide an air conditioner exchange program. It allows low-income residents to trade in older air conditioners for more energy-efficient ones. Those interested can contact Central Missouri Community Action at 443-8706, ext. 227. Eligibility requirements:
  • You must be a city utility customer.
  • You must have an older less efficient/broken window unit to exchange.
  • You must have an annual income of less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

The rebates can range from $100 to $1,600, depending on the air conditioner’s size and efficiency rating. Those interested must apply for the rebate by filling out a form that is available online and submitting required receipts and permits.

“So far we’ve gotten a lot of inquiries but not a lot of paperwork or checks back,” said Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman for Columbia Water and Light. “I think as the summer goes along we will see more people

taking advantage of rebates.”

The amounts of the rebates are based on the tonnage of the air conditioners and their seasonal energy efficiency ratios, or SEER ratings. According to the Water and Light Web site, the SEER rating reflects “the total cooling output provided by the unit during its normal annual usage period divided by its total energy input during the same period.”

A higher SEER ratio means less energy is needed to power the air conditioners, making them not only more efficient but also more cost effective in the long run.

“The rebates correlate to the cost of units,” Kacprowicz said. “Higher SEER ratings and larger systems are more expensive, but you are also saving on cooling costs.”

The SEER rating is one of many factors that can be taken into account when shopping for a new air conditioning system. While houses vary in the tonnage they require from an air conditioner, Terry Freeman, residential services supervisor for Water and Light, said an average home of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet would require a three-ton unit. Air conditioners that size have SEER ratings that vary.

“I anticipate the average customer to take advantage of a 15-SEER unit and benefit with not only the city’s rebate, but also from a federal energy tax credit, which will expire at the end of the year,” Freeman said. A 15-SEER unit could bring a rebate of $200 to $600.

This program is not the first Water and Light has offered to promote energy efficiency.

“We’ve been active in conservation since the 1980s,” said Tina Worley, utility service manager. “These rebates are just the natural progression from past programs.”

Those past efforts, which are still in place, have included energy audits and loan programs for energy efficient improvements.

Water and Light also has rebate programs available for solar water heaters and is awaiting the City Council’s approval of a net metering ordinance that would allow offers on photovoltaic systems, which could allow residents and businesses to produce their own energy and sell the surplus back to the city.

“There are a wide range of tools in the toolbox,” Kacprowicz said. “We hope to give every person the tools so they become more energy efficient.”

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