Rebates for High Efficiency HVAC Units — Hype or Real Savings?

Rebate programs, at least in the HVAC industry, tend to be cyclical. As prices fluctuate, rebate programs respond, but usually with some delay. During the cycle, there are times when prices have dropped, but the rebate programs haven’t caught up yet. This sweet spot in the cycle is when you can really make a rebate count. That’s where we are right now in HVAC rebates. But if history repeats itself, the sweet spot won’t last. There’s no telling what will happen with new rebate programs for 2011, but if you install before the end of 2010, you can capitalize on a pretty sweet deal.

We all know that as technology evolves, costs go down. For example, a few years after you buy that pricey 3-D TV, you’ll be kicking yourself for how cheap it is after the next big thing comes along (Is there such a thing as 4-D?). The definition of a “high efficiency” HVAC unit has evolved over time. When we refer to high efficiency today, we are talking about a 14 SEER unit or greater. Over the last year, the purchase price of 14 and 15 SEER units has come down dramatically, but the rebates haven’t been reduced or changed in two years. In some cases, we’ve seen rebates offset 100% of the cost vs a standard unit. This means you now get a 15 SEER unit for the price of a standard 13 SEER unit. And you get to reap all of the extra energy savings benefits for the life of the unit!

It’s a no-brainer – you get a better unit for about the same price and save money on energy year after year. Right now HVAC rebates mean real savings. Utilities have not yet posted the rebate schedules for 2011. We’re hoping that they will remain the same for a third consecutive year. But historically, as unit prices come down, efficiency requirements tighten and/or rebate amounts change to compensate. If you’re in the market to replace your older HVAC units within the next year or two, you may want to consider replacing them now to take advantage of 2010 rebates. Don’t count on the sweet spot hanging around for another year.

* HVAC Rebate programs are available to customers who use participating utilities. In our service area, this includes NSTAR, Cape Light Compact and National Grid. For more information, visit

HVAC Rebates Mean Real Savings