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Free air conditioners still available for those with low incomes: BC Hydro

Since the program was launched about a year ago, the utility has installed more than 12,000 of the units, about 16 per cent of them on Vancouver Island.
Applications are open for BC Hydro’s free air conditioner program. VIA BC HYDRO

Amid ongoing high temperatures, BC Hydro is reminding people of the government’s program to provide free air conditioners for people who have low incomes or are vulnerable to heat.

Since the program was launched about a year ago, the utility has installed more than 12,000 of the units, about 16 per cent of them on Vancouver Island, said Mora Scott of BC Hydro.

About 28,000 free units are available under the $30-million program, announced in the wake of the heat dome in the summer of 2021 that killed more than 600 people

Distribution is based on applications received, Scott said, with no set number of free units earmarked for a particular region. There are currently 3,500 applications pending.

Qualifying income amounts are listed on BC Hydro’s website. Based on the previous year, the amount includes the combined income of all household members age 18 and older.

In an income-based application, to qualify, the maximum income for a one-person household before tax would be $39,700, for a family of four it would be $73,800, while for a family of seven or more it would be $105,100.

Eligible housing types range from mobile homes to apartments or condos, townhouses, duplexes and single-family detached homes. Renters can apply but there is a separate process and it requires a landlord’s permission.

People who have received a recommendation letter from their regional health authority’s Home Care Program to get an air conditioner don’t need to include proof of income.

Scott said the application process has been streamlined to make it easier to apply, and more installers were hired to ensure faster installation.

BC Hydro also introduced a self-serve installation option — currently being used by about 30 to 40 per cent of applicants — for those able to install the units in their homes, she said.

Units are currently being installed within four weeks of BC Hydro receiving an application, said Scott.

The utility began promoting the program in early spring hoping to get units into people’s homes ahead of the hot summer weather.

”There has been a lot of interest,” said Scott. “Since the end of April, we’ve installed about 6,500 units.” People applying now could still get units installed by mid- to late-August, she said.

BC Hydro is also bringing back an offer for residential customers of $50 off the purchase of qualifying energy-efficient portable and window air conditioners until Aug. 23.

Discounts will automatically be applied at checkout at any participating retailer, including Best Buy, Costco, Canadian Tire, Leon’s, Rona, Visions and The Home Depot, Scott said.

The offer is also available for online purchases at select retailers, including Best Buy, Leon’s and Visions, she said.

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