Q: How do I get a free or cheap air conditioner from BC Hydro?

A: Have you heard of the free air conditioner program BC Hydro is offering for people with low to modest incomes? The program is under the umbrella of BC Hydro’s Energy Conservation Assistance Program’ (ECAP). Beyond air conditioners, by applying to this program, you could see if you are also eligible for other free upgrades related to energy efficiency, including: ENERGY STAR® fridge replacement, carbon monoxide detectors, a clothes drying rack, LED light bulbs and more. You can apply to get an air conditioner through this ECAP program, even if you’ve applied to the program in the past for other upgrades.

Free program qualifications

For the free program, the BC Hydro website says, “This offer is for one portable air conditioning unit, which is on wheels and is suitable for cooling one area or room of a home. Portable units are installed by connecting a flexible duct hose through an open window and are plugged into a standard wall electrical outlet.” (If you already have a working air conditioning unit in your home, BC Hydro says you’re not eligible for the free program.)

To qualify for a free air conditioning unit, you must qualify based on at least one of the following two things: a) meet the income requirements, or b) are considered medically heat vulnerable.

To see if you qualify by household size and income, add up total household income for last year for all people living in your household who are older than 18. The household income qualification requirements: one person – under $38,200; two people – under $47,600; three people – under $58,500; four people – under $71,000; five people – under $80,500; six people – under $90,800; seven or more people – under $101,100.

People who meet the Ministry of Health criteria as medically heat vulnerable need a recommendation letter from their home health clinician or community health nurse to participate in this offer. For questions about medical eligibility, please contact your healthcare provider. (But note: If you already qualify based on income, this should be good enough to apply.)

For renters

If you’re a renter and you have a BC Hydro account in your name, you can apply online (or on paper if you prefer) as long as you submit a BC Hydro landlord consent form with your application.

If you rent and don’t have a BC Hydro account in your name, apply by filling out a paper application form and a landlord consent form.

If you are trying to find various forms on the BC Hydro website, call BC Hydro directly, or contact us at the Resource Centre and we can print them off or email them to you. The links are too long and convoluted to share.

Note: On July 20, BC Hydro stated on their website that they were experiencing a high volume of inquiries about the air conditioning offer, so it’s unclear how long it will take eligible clients to actually get an AC (and whatever other products they are applying for) into their home.

Rebate program

There is also a BC Hydro rebate program for air conditioners if you don’t qualify for the free ones.

The company is offering rebates off specific portable or window air conditioners purchased from June 2 to Aug.25. For more about which units are eligible for rebates, how to buy in-store or online and to apply to get this rebate: www.bchydro.com/powersmart/residential/rebates-programs/product-rebates.html .

To contact BC Hydro about the programs email ecap_esk@bchydro.com or the Power Smart phone line 604-431-9463 (8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday). Or call the main BC Hydro line at  1-800-224-9376 (open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

As well, if you live in a manufactured/mobile home and have general questions about the free air conditioner or the full ECAP program, BC Hydro asks you contact program partner Ecofitt,  at 1-833-455-9029 or email ecap_esk@bchydro.com with questions. If you live in a manufactured/mobile home, you may also be eligible for a heat pump (if you are heating with electricity) and underbelly insulation.

See all of BC Hydro’s energy-saving rebates and programs at www.bchydro.com/powersmart/residential/rebates-programs.html.

As always, if you are unsure if you qualify for this program, or if you’re not sure how to fill out these forms, give us a call at the Resource Centre, and we can do our best to point you in the right direction.

Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Note: on some days, we can book clients after 2 p.m. Contact us: help@resourcecentre.ca or 604-885-4088