Advertisement
Share

How to get a low-cost A/C unit and other help from LADWP to beat the next heat wave

A woman and a dog in front of a fan that sits atop an ice chest
Diane McLindon and her dog, Frankie, try to stay cool in their trailer.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

On the heels of the worst heat wave in recent memory, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is making it a lot less expensive for lower-income Angelenos to cool off.

The DWP is tripling the rebate on portable or window-unit air conditioners for customers enrolled in one of its discounted rate programs. The rebate will jump to $225, covering 80% or more of the cost of a small window-unit air conditioner.

It’s also offering all DWP customers a new “level bill pay” option to eliminate the big jump in costs you typically see in the year’s hottest months. The option, which becomes available Monday, doesn’t cut your total annual costs, it just spreads them out evenly over the course of the year.

Advertisement

“Countless Angelenos often put their own health and safety at risk by keeping their air conditioners off during dangerous heat waves because of the fear they won’t be able to pay their electric bills if they run them. Some of the most at-risk members of our city can’t even afford to own air conditioners,” DWP Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill said in a statement.

DWP is taking action “to help the most at-risk and vulnerable Angelenos by providing them an option to stay cool and remove the financial stress by allowing all customers to spread out their summer utility bills over 12 months.”

The higher rebates and level bill pay plan are part of the Cool L.A. program the agency announced in July. The DWP continues to offer rebates for energy efficient windows, high-efficiency central air conditioners and heat pumps, whole house fans and reflective “cool roofs.”

One important difference about the new initiative, McClain-Hill said in an interview, is that air conditioner rebates will help renters, not just homeowners.

Added Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, “While we’re waiting for the big changes to come globally to arrest climate change, we have to do things today that people can feel.” That’s especially true for low-income Angelenos grappling with more and hotter heat waves, he said, noting that extreme heat kills more Americans than hurricanes, floods and wildfires.

Granted, making air conditioning more accessible could increase the demand for power, but Garcetti said the rebates dovetail with the city’s efforts to increase green energy production. “It’s a recognition that not everything we do is always going to be about less energy consumption. We’re going to do some things to survive,” he said.

Wind turbines, solar panels and power lines are needed to confront climate change. But they’re also reshaping the Western U.S.

Who’s eligible for the DWP rebates?

The DWP has been offering all customers buying a more efficient portable, wall-mounted or window air conditioner a $75 rebate during the summer. The rebate typically drops to $50 the rest of the year.

Under the Cool L.A. program, the rebate jumps to $225 for DWP customers who are enrolled in one of four programs that lower their utility bills: EZ-SAVE (formerly known as the Low-Income Discount Program), Lifeline (which exempts lower-income seniors and disabled Angelenos from taxes on their utility bills), Life Support Equipment Discount (for people with respirators, motorized wheelchairs and other essential life support devices at home) and Physician Certified Allowance Discount (for households with members who are paraplegic, quadriplegic or experiencing certain disabling diseases).

To enroll in one of those programs, visit the DWP’s assistance programs website.

Eligible customers can obtain up to two rebates for air conditioning units, the DWP says. The units must be installed at a house, town house, condominium or apartment served by the DWP.

To address the scorching heat, L.A. has set up cooling centers. But most Angelenos choose to hunker down in a sliver of shade.

How will the new A/C rebates work?

You’ll need to buy an air conditioner that meets the DWP’s efficiency requirements, so the place to start is the agency’s Cool L.A. Marketplace.

Some units can be bought directly from the marketplace, with the rebate applied at the time of purchase — in other words, as a straight-up discount. Those units, which are delivered by a local retailer, are marked by a small shopping-cart symbol near their price tag.

After you’ve filled your cart and started to check out, the site will ask for some basic information, including your DWP account number. That number will be used to determine whether you’re enrolled in a program that qualifies you for the tripled discount.

(If you are not qualified, a pop-up message will direct you to a separate DWP marketplace to shop for an efficient air conditioner. You won’t be able to purchase directly there, but you will be able to submit a claim for a $75 refund if you buy one of the listed models elsewhere.)

The Cool L.A. Marketplace also lists dozens of units that qualify for the rebate but can’t be bought through the site. It provides links to retailers selling those models.

After buying one of these units, you’ll need to fill out a form at the Cool L.A. marketplace to see whether you qualify for a rebate. If you do, you’ll receive a virtual gift card of your choosing, such as a prepaid credit card or a gift card for a specific retailer.

The DWP says it is working to make more purchases eligible for upfront discounts.

Depending on the size of the rooms you are trying to cool, the rebate could cut your net cost to less than $20 for a window unit and less than $70 for a portable model. The more space you have to cool, the more powerful the unit you’ll need, and consequently the larger the price tag.

What is level bill pay?

This program looks at your past electricity use, then charges a set amount every month based on your historical average. If you’ve built up a sizable debt to the DWP over time, you can choose the 24- or 36-month plans to pay off your arrears over a longer period.

Level pay is open to any DWP customer with a residential account. What it was designed to do, however, was ease the concerns of customers who didn’t turn on their AC even in heat waves for fear of a spike in their bill.

According to the DWP, “Existing payment arrangements continue to be available to customers who need extra time to pay their late LADWP bills, regardless if they sign up for Level Pay.”

Starting Monday, you can sign up by calling (800) DIAL-DWP.

This technology has just proved its value in a crisis, and the more capacity we add, the more it will save us from high bills and blackouts.

How will people find out about the new programs?

McClain-Hill said the DWP would include notices about the rebates and the level pay option in its bills, as well as promoting them through advertisements and through community groups.

What other rebates are on the horizon?

As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, the federal government recently approved billions of dollars worth of rebates to help people make their homes more energy efficient and cut their power bills. Federal, state and local officials are still working out how those rebates will be implemented.

About The Times Utility Journalism Team

This article is from The Times’ Utility Journalism Team. Our mission is to be essential to the lives of Southern Californians by publishing information that solves problems, answers questions and helps with decision making. We serve audiences in and around Los Angeles — including current Times subscribers and diverse communities that haven’t historically had their needs met by our coverage.

How can we be useful to you and your community? Email utility (at) latimes.com or one of our journalists: Matt Ballinger, Jon Healey, Ada Tseng, Jessica Roy and Karen Garcia.


Advertisement