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How to take advantage of Florida’s ‘cash for clunker air conditioners’ program

Opening day for Florida’s new “cash for clunker air conditioners” program, coming up fast on Monday, will arrive only 10 days after state officials unveiled details on how consumers can snag a $1,500 rebate on the purchase of more energy-efficent systems.

Don’t panic. The $15 million available won’t be snapped up in only two days, the way the rebate money for EnergyStar appliances was depleted earlier this year. Floridians should have plenty of time to replace their central air conditioning units and seek rebates.

But if you’re interested in taking advantage of the rebate program, pick up the phone this week and start getting bids from qualified contractors, so they can make a decision soon. Here’s a game plan for moving forward:

Program schedule: The program begins Aug. 30 and runs either through Dec. 31 or when the federal stimulus money set aside for the rebates runs out — and most people are betting that will happen before the end of the year.

“I think it will take a couple of months [to deplete the funding], but it also will take a while to get your contractor out there, get your system tested and get your paperwork done,” said Cheryl Harris, executive director of the Florida Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Contractors Association. “I wouldn’t wait unitl November.”

Get your finances in order now: You may want to check your bank balance this week, as this rebate will require homeowners to put up at least several hundred dollars for duct testing and possible duct repairs in order to qualify. Rebate applications must include proof that the ducts leak 15 percent or less air after a new central AC unit is installed. One of the program’s goals is to reduce leakage and ductwork is a major source of energy loss.

Getting your ducts in a row: Saavy consumers can get Florida Power & Light to pay up to $154 for duct repairs as well as the state rebate — but the timing is a little tricky. As you work on setting up a ductwork contractor, also call FPL at 800-342-5375 and schedule a home energy assessment, including a duct system test before your installation begins. It will cost $30, or more if you have two air handlers. If FPL’s inspectors find you have damage, you can receive a rebate for repairs performed by your installer as long as he is on FPL’s approved independent contractor’s list.

But FPL can’t do the more complicated tests needed to certify low leakage rates. Those must be done after your new system is installed and must be performed by one of the following licensed professionals to qualify for the state cash for clunker rebate: A Florida class 1 rater, Florida licensed mechanical contractor, or a recognized test and balance agent.

Miguel Lasaga, FPL’s manager for air conditioning and duct testing programs, said the utility had received plenty of calls about the rebates Monday. He suggested homeowners talk with their contractors about their out of pocket costs and savings before making a decision.

Combining with other rebates: Keep in mind you can combine the state rebate program with other tax and manufacturers’ incentives. The federal government is offering an energy tax credit for new air conditioning units — 30 percent of the price of a system with a maximum of $1,500 — through the end of this year. Combining the rebates could save you as much as half on a new central air conditioning system, plus reduce your electric bills.

As with the appliance program, rebates will be given as an American Express prepaid card. The card can be exchanged for a check or an electronic funds transfer.

Here are some tips for picking an air conditioning contractor:

Get at least three bids. Ask neighbors for referrals. Or go to the Better Business Bureau at, or call 561-842-1918, and look for contractors that have received the BBB’s top grades. Palm Beach County‘s Division of Consumer Affairs also has a preferred provider list: Go to or call 561-712-6600.

Check for complaints at the Better Business Bureau; the Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs Office; the Broward County Permitting, Licensing and Consumer Protection Division at 954-765-4400; and 407-836-2490 for Orange County.

Use only a licensed air conditioning or mechanical contractor. Check to see if a contractor has a state license by going to or by calling 850-487-1395. Remember it may be an individual, not a company, that holds the license.

And contractors who do not do work in multiple counties may hold a county, rather than a state, license. To check those licenses, call 954-765-4400 in Broward County or 561-233-5530, Palm Beach County and 407-836-5522 in Orange County.

Check if contractor is a member of the Florida Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Contractors Association. Go to or call 727-576-3225.

Go with a contractor that has been in business for a while, as the labor portion of your warranty could be worthless if your contractor goes under. Go to to check a company’s incorporation date.

For more information on the rebate program, and to download an application, go to:


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