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Rebates set for buyers of efficient gas furnaces Hot water heaters, thermostats eligible

Beginning today, residential natural gas customers who buy high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters, along with programmable thermostats, will be eligible to receive rebates under an energy conservation program offered by National Fuel Gas Co.

While the rebates will cover purchases made beginning today, the Amherst-based energy company said Wednesday it does not expect to start accepting and processing rebate applications until Dec. 1.

By covering purchases made beginning today, consumers considering a new furnace or water heater won't have to delay their purchase for several more weeks to qualify for the rebate, said Julie Coppola Cox, a National Fuel spokeswoman.

The rebates of up to $400 on the purchase of a high-efficiency natural gas furnace and up to $150 on qualifying hot water tanks were approved in September by the state Public Service Commission, although a launch date for the program was not set until Wednesday.

"We want to get that information out to customers who might be making those purchases as early as today," Cox said. "If they're choosing between an 80 percent or a 90 percent efficiency furnace, we want them to know to pick the 90 percent model because the rebate is coming."

Because rebate forms are not available yet, consumers making qualifying purchases should save the receipts, UPC codes and other documentation that will be required to obtain the rebate, Cox said.

The rebates are available to all National Fuel customers, as well as to delivery service customers who purchase their natural gas from another supplier. The rebates include:

* $300 for customers who install a hot air furnace with a 90 percent efficiency rating.

* $400 for consumers who install hot water boilers with at least an 85 percent efficiency rating.

* $200 for steam boilers with a minimum 81 percent efficiency rating.

* $150 rebates for storage tank heaters with a 0.61 energy factor, which is a way to measure a water heater's energy efficiency. Tankless heaters with an energy factor of at least 0.78 qualify for a $350 rebate.

* $25 rebates for Energy Star-rated automatic setback thermometers, which can reduce energy consumption by allowing consumers to program them to turn down the heat at night and other times when they might not be home.

Consumers who purchase furnaces, boilers and water heaters will need their invoice or receipt that includes the contractor's name, address, phone number and federal tax identification number. The manufacturer and complete model number of the product also is required, as well as the installation date and the unit's efficiency rating.

Consumers buying programmable thermostats must purchase Energy Star-rated models and save the UPC code label from the package, as well as the receipt and the make and model number.

Rebate applications are expected to be available through a variety of sources, including a Web site for the program, in the coming weeks, Cox said.

Non-residential customers using less than 12 million square feet of gas per year (12,000 Mcf) could be eligible for rebates of as much as 50 percent of the equipment and installation costs, up to $25,000 per project. Non-residential customers should contact National Fuel before buying any new equipment to see if it qualifies for a rebate, Cox said.

Additional services for low-income customers, including heating system safety checks, energy audits, wall and ceiling insulation, as well as replacement of heating equipment will be launched on Dec. 1.

To qualify, customers must use more than 132,000 cubic feet of gas each year (132 Mcf) and have an account for at least a year. That portion of the program will be based on the eligibility requirements for the Home Energy Assistance Program.

Participants in the Low Income Customer Affordability Assistance Program will be given priority for the low-income customer incentives.

National Fuel has estimated that it will cost about $289,000, or $30 per participant, to administer the $10.8 million conservation program, which will be funded by a new surcharge on customer bills.

National Fuel has hired a contractor to administer the program and establish a toll-free number to process rebate applications, but that operation will not be up and running until the beginning of December.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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