Monday, August 23, 2010

A/C rebates up to $1,500 Begin Monday Aug 30

A new program will give Florida residents who buy energy-efficient air conditioners a $1,500 rebate -- as long as no more than 15 percent of the cool air leaks out of their ducts.
Get them while it's hot -- and save $1,500.

Starting Monday, Aug. 30, Florida will offer about $15 million in rebates for Energy Star-rated air conditioners, air source heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps. Each rebate is worth $1,500.

People who buy units from Monday, Aug. 30, through Dec. 31 qualify unless the money has run out before then. Purchases before Monday don't count.

Despite this summer's scorching heat, and the availability of other discounts including a federal tax credit, the state expects the money to last for a while.

New central air conditioners can cost several thousand dollars, and the state's program requires duct testing to make sure no more than 15 percent of the cool air a unit produces is leaking. That will require buyers to hire someone to test their ducts and possibly make repairs to qualify for the rebates.

``Air conditioning systems are not like kitchen appliances where someone will replace them when they feel like it. A homeowner will wait until their system dies before they replace it because those systems are so expensive,'' said Brenda Buchan, chief analyst in the governor's energy office. ``Because we are requiring the homeowner have their ducts tested to qualify, there will be some customers who do not want to be bothered.''

Duct testing must be done by a Florida Class 1 rater, Florida licensed mechanical contractor or recognized test and balance agent.

The state estimates that about 12 percent won't qualify because their duct systems can't be accessed for repair. The money, enough for nearly 10,000 rebates, is from the federal stimulus law passed in early 2009 that was given to states. The state is using $63,000 of the money to run the program, Buchan said.

To qualify, units must meet the requirements for a federal tax credit also designed to encourage energy efficient purchases. The tax credit is worth up to 30 percent of the price of a new unit, including installation charges, up to $1,500.

Single-room or window units are not eligible for rebates. They were included in a state appliance rebate program earlier this year.

At All Air of South Dade, Operations Manager Robert Dibenedetto said he welcomes the new program.

``It will be definitely be a little help,'' he said. ``Anything that reduces cost to the customer is a good thing.''

Duct testing can cost about $350, he said, and can be useful. Leaks mean ``you're air conditioning areas that don't need air conditioning.''

Dibenedetto said all manufacturers offer qualifying units, which must be rated at least 16 SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency rating, and 13 EER, or energy efficiency rating, for split system air conditioners.

Requests for rebates must include the application form, which will be available Monday, Aug. 30, at

An application must be accompanied by a copy of the receipt for the new unit with the make and model clearly identified, a copy of the permit issued by a municipality for replacement of the system, a copy of the first page of the ACCA Manual J program and a copy of the Air Distribution Test System Report that shows a leakage score of 0.10 Qn.out or less. Only Florida residents are eligible for the rebates.

They will be issued as American Express Prepaid Cards, which will never expire or have monthly fees. The cards can be exchanged for checks or an electronic deposit.

The rebates can be combined with manufacturer rebates, electric company rebates and the federal tax credit, which requires new cooling systems be installed at primary residences.

Energy Star ratings are created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

energy shouldn't be... STRUGGLE

Energy shouldn't be struggle. But it is.

We come into sparse contact with the production of energy such that it is out of sight & thus out of mind. It is often an afterthought until we have to pay a bill, fill a tank, etc. But we pay very close attention when events create a higher state of awareness. For example, a power outage, hurricane damage, fires, earthquakes, other natural disasters, shortages, price hikes, oil spills, coal mine explosions, refinery fires, etc.

A few years (2005) back in South Florida, there were three hurricanes that hit the area: Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, & Wilma. At this point my growing interest in energy related matters was already about a year old. And I'd have conversations about these issues. As a result of these storms, many local residents lost power. Some for a few days. Others for a few weeks. These storms came through at a time of rising gasoline prices at the backdrop. And after storms, there would be long lines at gas stations for fuel & at supermarkets for ice. It can be tough as we've all grown accustomed to having these things. But losing it gives us the ready reference of appreciation.

Anyhow, an acquaintance shared how he was uncanny in being able to avoid much of the chaos. He told of how he had two generators that was sufficient to run the refrigerator, lights, & a couple of fans. He ran them 12 hours at a time switching them out to change the oil & refueling a few times during the course of operation. At the time gas prices were around $3 per gallon and the talk was of it reaching $5 per gallon. It never did. So, this acquaintance told of how he filled up his boat he had in the backyard with fuel before the storm to help weigh it down for the storm & to have fuel for the generator in the event of power loss. Lucky him. Two generators and a readily available, headache free fuel source. He ran this routine for the 5 days he was without power.

So naturally, interested in how this translated in dollar terms, I started asking pointed questions of how much it cost. He was also interested because he thought it was such a great feat to have power and avoid these harrowing lines. After much discussion, we discovered that for changing the oil, filter, & refueling the generators (@ abt $3/Gal), he spent the equivalent of $300 in 5 days. Multiplying this daily amount ($60/day) by 30 days equates to $1,800 per month. His typical monthly electric bill was $250.

What does all of this say?

In a time of need, he was willing to pay over 7 times ($1,800/$250 = 7.2) his normal electric bill to power a portion of his electrical needs. He didn't think about the cost, he knew he just needed power for his "basic power needs."

Why is this important?

We all take it for granted that we will always have readily available energy sources. And, at times, we don't always act responsibly with it and waste it. We also know how it impacts our daily lives & the environment. And we talk about making changes. Yet the only thing that has changed is perhaps the seriousness of the dialog. Change has been slow, lethargic even. Many talk about these issues but few are really equipped to sort through all the issues to even understand the complexities of the energy debate. And the layperson doesn't have time to get into technical details of what's what. The need as illustrated in my story is very clear. The need to act is unquestionable.

We sell & install solar in South Florida and here is some of what we hear:

It's the future.
The price needs to come down.
The government needs to do more to help.
I want to put solar panels on my home.
I'm tired of waiting.
I want to do my part.

When you're in business to supply solar panels & installation, and not enough folks are buying. You cannot justify staying in business. So, it shouldn't be any surprise that some have already closed their business. No one wants to be a statistic. VES will be okay because we have a robust mix of offerings. But, with these mixed consumer signals, it leaves one to wonder:

When will the need for solar be very clear?
When will we need solar enough to just act?

The promise of a clean energy future can be fleeting. And Energy shouldn't be struggle. But it is.