In this article, we will review all the programs that can help you get a free air conditioner from the government.
Weatherization Assistance Program
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) can provide home repairs and energy improvements for your home. This program serves low income Americans across the country. In many areas, this program can also provide cooling assistance.
In 2017, my family received over $18,000 in free home repairs through our local Weatherization Assistance Program. The majority of those funds were used to install a ductless heat pump, which provided energy-efficient heating and cooling for our home. We had never had air conditioning at our house before. I was amazed that we received a free air conditioner from the government! However, the installation of that heat pump drastically reduced our heating bills and made our home much more comfortable in the summer.
The Weatherization Assistance Program is managed locally, so what you receive will depend on where you live. However, it’s a good resource to look into if you want a free air conditioner.
Who is eligible for WAP?
In order to be eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program, you generally must have an income that is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. However, the federal law allows states to use 60% of the State Median Income instead of the FPL standard.
Some states will consider you automatically eligible if you already receive SSI or TANF.
How do I apply?
Usually, these benefits are managed by your local Community Action Council. You will need to contact them to apply for this program.
In the unlikely event that this program is managed by a different organization in your area, you should be able to ask your Community Action Council, utility provider, or 211 service to find out who administers the program in your area.
You will usually be required to attend an in-person interview to apply for this program. You will need to be prepared to bring documentation, including proof of income, residency, utility costs, and identifying documents for your household members.
What states provide free air conditioners?
Since this program varies by state, it can be very confusing. However, we’ve found that you can get a free air conditioner from the government in these states:
For more information about the Weatherization Assistance Program, please read our WAP Guide.
LIHEAP is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This federal program operates in all 50 states and Washington DC. Through this program, you can get help with your heating and cooling bills throughout the year.
The LIHEAP program is funded by a block grant that is given from the federal government to the states. Each state can decide how to manage their LIHEAP program, which is why the program differs depending on where you live. Some states use LIHEAP funds to provide free air conditioners but some don’t.
Who is eligible for LIHEAP?
In order to be eligible for LIHEAP, you usually must have an income that is equal to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level or 60% of the State Median Income.
The federal government has given states permission to declare certain groups of people “categorically eligible.” States do not have to use this option but many do. If you currently receive benefits from SSI, TANF, SNAP or a means-tested veterans program, then you may be automatically eligible for LIHEAP in your area.
In addition to these requirements, some states also require you to pass an asset test in order to receive assistance. An asset test basically measures how much money you have available to you.
How do I apply?
In most cases, you’ll need to contact your local Community Action Council to apply for LIHEAP. Usually, whatever organization manages WAP will also manage LIHEAP since the programs are so similar.
Of course, you can always contact your utility provider to find out who administers LIHEAP in your area. Since LIHEAP pays the utility company directly, your provider will know which organization sends those payments.
What states offer free air conditioners through LIHEAP?
Not all states provide free air conditioners from the government. However, many states have expanded their LIHEAP services to include these critical cooling assistance services so that low income households are better protected against heat-related illnesses.
The following states are currently offering free air conditioners:
In some states, there are ways to get a free air conditioner from the government without going through LIHEAP or WAP. These programs are fairly rare but we’re reporting on all the ones we’ve found so far in the list below.
Oregon has several ways for people with chronic health conditions to receive free air conditioners. In 2022, the state distributed thousands of air conditioners to people who were receiving Medicaid benefits. It is unclear if this program will continue in 2023 or beyond.
Meanwhile, CareOregon provides free air conditioners for eligible members who have chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses. You may be eligible if you have been diagnosed with obesity, heart disease, mental illness, respiratory illness, or another condition that is affected by heat.
In order to request assistance from CareOregon, your health care provider will need to submit the request on your behalf. It can take up to 14 days for your application to be approved. If you are approved, it can take another six weeks to receive that unit. Installation is not included but your provider can submit a secondary request for assistance with installation.
You can find the application instructions and more details on the CareOregon website.
ElderCool provides free air conditioners to eligible residents of the Kansas City metro area. However, there are strict eligibility requirements.
In order to receive assistance from ElderCool, you must meet these guidelines:
- You must be at least 65 years old OR have a disabling respiratory condition.
- You must have an income that is 185% or less of hte Federal Poverty Level.
- You must not have an air conditioner in your home.
- You must not have received a free air conditioner in the last three years.
If you meet those requirements, you will need to call The Bishop Sullivan Center for assistance.
In Milwaukee, a nonprofit called Eras Senior Network distributed over 100 air conditioners to low income seniors in the Harambee area. It is unclear if this program will continue but they may be able to help you figure out how to get help.
If you aren’t able to receive a free air conditioner from the government programs we’ve listed above, there are other options that may be able to help you.
Check with These Organizations
Over the years, we’ve found that the following nonprofits and community organizations may distribute free fans, window air conditioners, and other cooling services:
- Catholic Charities
- Rebuilding Together
- Salvation Army
- St. Vincent de Paul
- Thrift Stores
However, it’s important to remember that many of these big nationwide organizations have services that vary by location. The services that are available in the deep south may not be available in the Pacific Northwest, for example. You will always need to contact your local organization for details.
Many of the organizations listed in our free home repair grants directory will also provide assistance with cooling if you qualify for their services. After all, we found that Rebuilding Together has helped people in Las Vegas get air conditioners.
If all else fails, you can usually find a cooling center in your area. These centers welcome people during high-heat days so that you can cool off.
Although the services vary by location, cooling centers typically offer free refreshments, phone charging stations, and recreational opportunities for those who need to escape the heat.
To find a cooling center near you, please call 211. They can help you locate those resources in your area.
Don’t Forget Rebates
If you end up buying an air conditioner with your own money, don’t forget to cash in on the rebates that are available to you. You can get rebates and tax credits when you make energy-efficient improvements to your home.
Check with your utility company before you purchase to see if they have any rebates that may be able to help you. You can also check the federal Energy Star website as well.
If you are suffering in high heat conditions, please don’t hesitate to apply for a free air conditioner from the government! The LIHEAP and WAP programs, as well as the other alternatives in this list, can help low income families across America stay cool during the hot summer months.