Central Ohio Homeowners Scramble To Qualify For Energy Tax Credits

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Central Ohio heating and air conditioning contractors are working long days; even nights and weekends to keep up with demand for new home heating and cooling systems. It’s all to satisfy customers looking to take advantage of a federal energy tax credit that will expire at the end of the year.

On the lawn of a house in Reynoldsburg, two technicians from a company called Custom Air unpack a new high efficiency air conditioner. Lead installer Ken Ledbetter raises the 300-pound unit on a dolly with the help of a co-worker.

The Sines family lives here; two adults and eight children. Corey Sines’ current system is 21 years old. It’s inefficient and he pays enormous gas bills in winter. So Sines decided to replace the system with high efficiency heating and air conditioning units that qualify for the energy tax credit.

“Looking forward to the tax credit as well as being the timing of it, a good bit of savings over the winter as well,” Sines says. “Because really our largest bill is our gas bill. It’s gas heat so I’m looking forward to 30 or 40 percent savings over the winter time.”

Local industry professionals say that 90 percent of households in urban and suburban Central Ohio heat with natural gas. With volatile natural gas prices homeowners are looking for relief. That’s where the tax credit comes in.

“It is amazing the amount of phone calls we have received over the last month asking when the deadline is,” says Jeff Reed, a Custom Air vice president.

“It is December 31st of this year. It has to be installed by the 31st. So it’s a rush and people are trying to hit the deadline,” Reed says.

the tax credit is part of the federal stimulus package. Homeowner Corey Sines says the credit was a major deciding point as he searched to find the best deal.

“When I called them that was one of the criteria I put right out there was, was I wanted something that would meet the tax credit guidelines. You know and that did ramp up the price of the unit a little bit. But overall, if you consider the long-term savings as well as the tax credit that does influence your decision on what unit you’re going to go with,” Sines says.

To be considered for the credit, equipment must be Energy Star certified but not all Energy Star units qualify. Furnaces, for example, must meet certain high efficiency standards. Custom Air’s Jeff Reed:

“The furnace rating is 95 percent efficiency. And that’s basically 95 percent of the air that’s being heated is going into your home; only five percent is going out the chimney,” Reed says.

A high-end, efficient unit can cost up to $12,000. Care Heating and Air president Mike Wiens says the tax credit makes it easier to sell customers on the expensive but more efficient units.

“Without the tax credit it’s difficult to make a strong argument for a high efficiency furnace because the cost is so much higher than what the cost of a standard 80 percent furnace would be. Without the tax credit it takes a very long time for a 95 percent furnace to save enough money on your heating bill to pay for that cost difference,” Wiens says.

But competition is stiff for the tax break-seeking customers, so some dealers are offering rebates along with the tax credit. Custom air’s Jeff Reed:

“The more efficient units are going to yield a high rebate. And then the less efficient units will be in the $100, $200 range. We’ve seen anywhere from $1500 to $2000 rebates on the higher end systems,” Reed says.

Meanwhile installer Ken Ledbetter says he’s raking in the overtime, working 50- and 60-hour weeks to keep up with demand.

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