Tallahassee offers huge rebates for heat pump water heaters

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — Imagine being able to offer customers a heat pump water heater for little more than the price of your labor. That’s what contractors here are doing since the city-owned utility doubled its energy efficiency rebates through Sept. 30, 2010. The City of Tallahassee Utilities is offering a $1,200 rebate until the end of September to consumers who replace a standard electric water heater with a heat pump water heater. The units must be Energy Star rated, so water heaters such as Rheem’s HP-50 and HP-40 and GE’s GeoSpring water heater will comply. Moreover, the water heaters qualify for a federal energy tax credit of up to $480, so the equipment itself is essentially free to the homeowner.

Rheem is heavily promoting the incentives to its dealers. With an estimated retail price of $1,599 for its heat pump water heater, the combination of Tallahassee utility incentives and the federal tax credits, which run through Dec. 31, means the homeowner will make $81 on the equipment.

Laura Butler, Rheem Water Heating marketing communications manager, pointed out that the estimated labor costs of approximately $300-$700 also qualify for a federal energy rebate, bringing the installed cost down to about $490. Moreover, because the equipment is more efficient, the heat pump water heater will have an operating cost of approximately $270 a year, $317 a year less than a standard electric water heater. The heat pump water heater also carries a 10-year warranty.

“This is a great opportunity for Tallahassee homeowners to lower their water heating bills while installing an Energy Star-certified hybrid water heater at an exceptionally affordable price through the various federal and local incentives — but without making any sacrifices in comfort and convenience for their families,” said Peter Reynolds, Rheem Water Heating general manager.

The water heater rebates are part of a veritable rebate-palooza initiated by the utility, covering all types of energy using residential equipment.

Solar domestic hot water systems qualify for a $900 rebate; low interest loans are available as well.

A central air conditioner with a 14-SEER or higher qualifies for a $200 rebate, and an Energy Star rated air conditioner with a 15-SEER or higher gets $700. A central heat pump with a 14 SEER will get $200 and an Energy Star rated 15-SEER heat pump brings in $700. Water-source high-efficiency heat pump equipment rated EER 14.1 and COP 3.3 (closed loop); or EER 16.2 & COP 3.6 (open loop) gets a big $1,500.

Leaky ducts are in line for sealing too. The city will pay 50% of the repair cost up to $250 for each duct system with a maximum of three systems per residence. For income-based qualified customers, the city will cover 100% of the repair cost (up to $500 per system). Homeowners must first call the utility to schedule a free home energy audit. The city auditor will determine whether the home needs duct repair or replacement and make recommendations. The city supplies a list of participating contractors who are pre-qualified to perform the work. Upon satisfactory completion of the work, the contractor invoices the city for its share and the homeowner pays the remainder. The new program has been designed as a six-month pilot to evaluate its success and make improvements.

Tallahassee will also rebate $1/square foot up to a $2,000 incentive for Energy Star qualified new homes. Qualifying housing types include single-family detached, single-family attached, low-rise multifamily, and existing-home renovations.

To earn the Energy Star, a home must meet guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are a least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the current Florida Building Code, and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20%-30% more efficient than standard homes.

The qualifying home's Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index must be certified to the statewide database maintained by the Florida Solar Energy Center. Award of the $1/sq.ft. rebate requires a confirmed HERS Index of 70 or less. An exception: If natural gas is used for water heating and for central space heating, the HERS Index qualifying for rebates is 77 or less.

• Homebuilders who want to get an Energy Star rating for their homes must first sign a Memorandum of Understanding with EPA as an Energy Star partner.

• The home must achieve a HERS Index of 77 or less, confirmed by an independent HERS Rater.

• The home must meet the Energy Star home tightness standard as measured by a whole-house blower door test.

• The home must meet the Energy Star duct tightness standard as measured by blower test.

• The home must pass a mid-construction "thermal bypass test," testing tightness against air leakage and heat transfer.

• Other Energy Star standards and / or requirements address: a) HVAC sizing, b) window efficiency specifications, and c) appliance efficiency specification.

• If installing a heat pump, an “adaptive recovery” thermostat must be installed. This type of thermostat moderates the usage of supplemental electric strip heating.

• For purposes of Energy Star qualification, the HERS Index must be calculated in accordance with guidelines that limit applicable point-values of compact fluorescent lamps and backup electric generators.

The city is also offering rebates for Energy Star rated refrigerators, freezers and clothes washers.