To say I have a love-hate relationship with rebates would only be halfway truthful. You can drop the love part. My experience with rebates generally involves going to the trouble to fill one out only to never hear from the company again; starting to fill one out but having misplaced or thrown out the box with its barcode, or the receipt, or the coupon or all of the above; filling one out but missing the deadline… You get the picture. And yet, I am excited to see that the National Oil Heat Research Alliance has launched its rebate program.
In a nutshell, the program provides a rebate for a heating appliance upgrade that increases efficiency or for a tank upgrade that would increase safety. It is only open to oil-fired equipment.
So what’s particularly exciting about the program? For starters, the natural gas utilities are not shy about offering contractors a range of rebate opportunities to upgrade gas-fired heating appliances. Even worse, there are plenty of rebate programs that encourage customers to convert from oil to natural gas.
I’m also excited about this program because for all of the messaging about our improving economy the facts on the ground tend to say otherwise. Times are tough, and upgrading a furnace or boiler or replacing a tank is not something that most families take lightly. Instead of throwing a few more dollars into keeping the old furnace working for another year or two, one of these rebates may be what encourages the homeowner to pull the trigger on a full equipment upgrade and increase reliability and savings each year.
But what I’m most excited about for the program is how it is being administered by most of the state associations. Industry PR and marketing firm PriMedia has been working with NORA to roll out an electronic rebate process to the state associations that ultimately implement the rebate program with the dealers in the respective states. PriMedia is not doing this for free, but given the daunting amount of manual paper-pushing that would otherwise be required it’s likely a bargain.
With the automated program, most of the back office impediments that would slow down the program have been greatly reduced. This is not only the case for the dealer, association and NORA, but for the customer as well. In fact, the automated program is structured so that the customer has little to do other than open the mailbox and receive a check and a thank you letter. As someone who stupidly allowed more furnace efficiency upgrade money than I would like to mention slip through my fingers because a deadline slipped through my mind—what’s not to like?
So far, the process involves growing the program through bringing on more state associations and similarly growing the participation among the dealers. You don’t have to be an association member to take part, though if you are not you should really reconsider, given the amount of work that’s being done for your benefit. And while the program does have some overhead for the dealer, why not take advantage of the opportunity to be an early adopter and beat some of your competitors to the punch?