Hot temperatures can be unbearable when you don’t have an air conditioner at home. Depending on how hot it gets in your area, the lack of a working air conditioning unit can even contribute to health issues such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration.
Nancy Mitchell, a geriatric RN in Atlanta with more than 37 years of experience in geriatric wards, says these risks can compound as we get older, since our bodies become less effective at regulating body temperature and internal balance.
Free resources for air conditioning
If you are a senior, living with a disability, or you have a low income, there are resources for free air conditioners or programs that offer assistance to buy an air conditioner.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- Free government AC programs
- Nonprofit AC programs
- Free AC units for disabled persons
- Free AC units for seniors
- Where to find free AC units
- Where to find cheap AC units
- Help with AC repair
Free government air conditioner programs
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) are two government programs that may be able to help you get a free air conditioner.
These programs benefit:
- Low-income households
- Disabled persons
To get a free air conditioner, you have to qualify for either program, and your state must have an air conditioner benefit in place.
For example, Pennsylvania just launched a pilot program for qualified LIHEAP recipients that will install free Energy Star-rated window AC units or fans, repair existing cooling units, or replace or repair a heat pump or central air conditioning system.1
Free air conditioner from LIHEAP
LIHEAP is a federally-funded program from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) available in all states. Your state may call the program LIHEAP, HEAP, EAP, or some other name related to energy assistance.
The goal of LIHEAP is to keep low-income households warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
As the following video explains, LIHEAP may provide:
- Financial assistance with heating and cooling bills
- Installation or repair of air conditioning units
- Help with purchasing a home generator
- Repairs to increase energy efficiency at home
Each state can set specific eligibility requirements for LIHEAP, but your income cannot exceed 150% of the federal poverty guidelines or 60% of the state median income based on household size.2
|Number of people in family/household
* For families/households with more than 8 people, add $5,380 for each additional person.
You can also look up your area median income (AMI) here.
Some state cooling programs have yearly application windows, while others accept applicants year-round.3 Most states and territories have LIHEAP cooling programs, but not all programs include a free air conditioner or subsidy to help buy one.
- In Kentucky, you must have a medical reason that requires a cool environment, verified by a doctor or a household member that is either 65 or older or under the age of 64
- In New York, the state offers a subsidy up to $800 to purchase a portable air conditioner or fan or up to $1,000 for a wall sleeve unit, but you must be a U.S. citizen with a verified medical need to stay cool5
- In Nebraska, eligible residents can get up to $750 to repair or replace a central air conditioning system, purchase a window air conditioner, or get a free fan6
To get specific information for your state, or to apply, contact your state energy assistance agency.
Free air conditioner from WAP
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of State and Community Programs administers the WAP, which offers weatherization services and upgrades to create a more energy-efficient and comfortable home.
Just like LIHEAP, WAP benefits vary by state. However, a typical benefit includes the cleaning, tune-up, repair, or replacement of cooling systems.7
To qualify for WAP, your household income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level for household size or 60% of your state’s median income. You are also eligible if you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
Households get a higher priority for these services if they:
- Have a resident who is 60 or older or disabled
- Have children under the age of 6
- Use a lot of energy or have a high energy burden
To apply for weatherization services, contact your state WAP office.
Free air conditioner from charities and nonprofits
You can often find free air conditioners for low income families, seniors, and disabled persons when you contact local charities and nonprofits that serve your city, county or immediate neighborhood.
To find sources, you can search “free air conditioners near me” or “free air conditioners in (city, county or state).”
For example, “free air conditioners in St. Louis” brought up the nonprofit, Cool Down St. Louis, which provides free air conditioners to residents who are seniors, disabled, or have young children.8
Here are some other charities or nonprofits you can check:
The Salvation Army does not have a free air conditioner program. However, local Salvation Army centers occasionally partner with local nonprofits and energy providers to give out free air conditioners or electric fans to households that need them.
In St. Louis,9 Atlanta,10 and other cities across the country, qualifying households can receive air conditioning units. However, free air conditioners are not available at every Salvation Army location.
Catholic Charities USA
Each Catholic Charities location has specific programs to help neighbors in need, and some offer free cooling equipment like air conditioners and fans.
For example, Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton partners with the Mercer County Department of Human Services Office on Aging and Rise social center to provide free air conditioning units to low-income seniors and disabled persons living in Mercer County, New Jersey.11
Society of St. Vincent de Paul
Some branches of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul help with cooling needs for residents who can’t afford air conditioners. A quick search online reveals that the following locations provide free air conditioners during the summer:
- St. Louis, Mo.
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Northern Kentucky
- Northern Texas
Free air conditioners for disabled
In addition to nonprofits and programs like LIHEAP and WAP, which give priority to disabled persons who need air conditioning, organizations and agencies that support disabled persons may have resources for air conditioning assistance.
Here are some resources to check:
- Local HHS: Your local Health and Human Services agency has resources for low-income households, disabled persons, and seniors (search: “HHS near me”)
- City or county seat office: These offices often have programs that help residents in need and are funded by local governments (search: “city office near me” or “county office near me”)
- Disability office: Local offices that cater to the needs of the disabled can be a helpful resource to connect you to programs that can provide free air conditioners (search: “disability office near me”)
- Disability organizations: Disability support and advocacy centers are another resource for finding help to stay cool when it’s hot outside (search: “disability organizations” or “disability advocacy groups”)
- Veterans Affairs: The VA offers disability housing grants to eligible veterans, and money can be used to purchase an air conditioning system through a Special Home Adaptation grant if you meet requirements (search: “VA office near me”)
Free air conditioners for seniors
LIHEAP and WAP offer free air conditioners to seniors in some states, but you can also contact the following places to ask about cooling programs:
- Area agencies on aging: Also known as departments of aging, these centers are available at the state, city, and county level and have a variety of community resources for seniors (search: “Area agency on aging near me” or “department of aging near me”)
- Senior centers: These are neighborhood gathering places for seniors that provide services, activities, and resources to help seniors live independently (search: “senior center near me”)
The Eldercare Locator is a great resource to find the services you need nearby.
Free AC unit donations
Some people are willing to give away free air conditioners if you are able to pick them up. To get a free air conditioner, check these sites/apps:
- Buy Nothing Project: You can create a free account and search for free air conditioners or make a request for one and communicate with other users to get what you need from your neighbors
- Craigslist: You can browse the free items section on Craigslist to find out if anyone in your area is giving away an air conditioner and use the built-in messaging tool to ask questions and arrange a meetup
- Facebook Marketplace: If you have a Facebook profile, you can use this online marketplace where users buy, sell and give away items
- Freecycle: Once you sign up for a free account, you can view free items in your towns, which are areas you choose that are close to where you live or travel
These Reddit users share their top picks for where to find free AC units:
Cheap AC units
To find cheap air conditioners, consider buying off-season (fall or winter) to get the best price. You can find new, cheap AC units when you shop at discount/overstock stores, small appliance shops, and scratch and dent/open box sales.
BackMarket sells refurbished, brand-name air conditioners for affordable prices. These units come with a one-year warranty, a 30-day return window, and free standard shipping. You also have the option to pay for your purchase over time through Affirm.
Keep in mind that you can get a lower price if you trade in used electronics.
If you shop on ebay, you can choose from new and used air conditioning units, depending on the seller. Be sure to read the rating of the seller and customer reviews to make sure you’re getting a legit product. Look for options that offer a warranty and lots of details and pictures so you’ll feel confident about what you are buying.
With Craigslist, you don’t have the benefit of reading feedback from other people who have purchased from sellers on the site. To get the best experience, choose items that have multiple photos, clear explanations, and a seller who is willing to answer questions.
Habitat for Humanity ReStore
Some ReStores sell window air conditioners. The benefit of buying one from a ReStore is that locations often have high standards for donated appliances, requiring them to be gently used and in excellent condition.
Help with AC repair
According to Homeguide, the average repair for a window air conditioner costs between $6 and $250.12 Angi reports that repairing an HVAC system (central air) can range from $100 to $3,000.13
If you need your central air conditioning system repaired and you meet income requirements, programs like LIHEAP and WAP may offer financial help to get your unit repaired or replaced.
To get free or cheap repair help, reach out to:
- Churches: Some churches have repair ministries staffed by volunteers and may offer free help to repair small appliances or require you to pay for parts
- Trade schools: Schools that offer HVAC repair training may be open to repairing your window or central air conditioner so that their students can practice what they’re learning
- Neighbors: It never hurts to ask around your community to find out if anyone works as a handyman or makes appliance repairs as a side hustle
You can use an app like Nextdoor to request AC repair help in your community. It’s free to create an account, and you’ll be instantly connected to all other app users in your area.
DIY air conditioners
If you are creative, you can try creating a cooling unit for your home. The following YouTube video shows you how to cool off a room using a fan, a five-gallon bucket and a frozen gallon of water.
Find a cooling center
If you can’t get an air conditioner, or you want to save energy by not running it constantly, it’s a good idea to find cooling centers in your community. In regions where temperatures soar, it is common to find cooling centers in multiple areas.
- The Salvation Army of North Texas offers heat relief services and cooling centers that activate when temperatures are above 100 degrees Fahrenheit14
- New York City offers multiple resources to help residents stay cool through its Cool It! NYC initiative which directs people to cooling centers, shady areas in parks, water fountains, and spray caps for hydrants during heat emergencies15
To find cooling stations in your neighborhood, you can dial 211 on your landline or cellphone. United Way’s 211 is a free service to help you find help and resources in your community.
Bottom line: Find free resources
You may have to spend some time reaching out to different sources and applying for benefits, but it’s worth it to know you can get help to stay cool in your home during the summer or whenever temperatures soar.
Some of these programs, such as LIHEAP and WAP, are available at no cost if you meet certain income, age, or health requirements. If you don’t qualify for a free air conditioner based on income, age, or disability, you may be able to find a cheap unit through volunteer organizations, discount stores, and resellers.
Check out these other resources for low-income households:
|Help for single moms: 16+ resources
|$500 monthly single mom grant
|Free money for bills
|EBT cash benefits
|EBT on Amazon
|Free help with tax preparation
- “Pennsylvania launching pilot program to cool homes through LIHEAP program” July 14, 2023. KDKA News. https://www.cbsnews.com/pittsburgh/news/pennsylvania-pilot-program-cool-homes-liheap-program/
- “Income Eligibility” LIHEAP Clearinghouse. https://liheapch.acf.hhs.gov/delivery/income_eligibility.htm
- “State & Territory Cooling Programs” LIHEAP Clearinghouse. https://liheapch.acf.hhs.gov/tables/cooling.htm
- “Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)” Team Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. https://www.chfs.ky.gov/agencies/dcbs/dfs/pdb/Pages/liheap.aspx
- “Applying for Heating and Cooling Assistance (HEAP)” New York State. https://www.ny.gov/services/apply-heating-and-cooling-assistance-heap
- “Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)” Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. https://dhhs.ne.gov/pages/energy-assistance.aspx
- “Weatherization Assistance Program Fact Sheet” August 9, 2023. U.S. Department of Energy Office of State and Community Energy Programs. https://www.energy.gov/scep/wap/articles/weatherization-assistance-program-fact-sheet
- “‘A quality of life issue’: Number of Missourians without air conditioning soars amid record heat” August 24, 2023. KSDK News. https://www.ksdk.com/article/news/investigations/air-conditioning-st-louis-utility-assistance/63-25204eac-eacf-4d6f-856d-adf32b2efbdc
- “The Salvation Army Receives 100 New A/C Units from Ameren Missouri and Cool Down St. Louis” June 15, 2022. The Salvation Army Greater St. Louis Metroplitan Area. https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/midland/news/the-salvation-army-receives-100-new-ac-units-from-ameren-missouri-and-cool-down-st-louis/
- “Anonymous donor helps Salvation Army keep Atlanta’s seniors cool during summer” May 15, 2023. Atlanta News First. https://www.atlantanewsfirst.com/2023/05/15/anonymous-donor-helps-salvation-army-keep-atlantas-seniors-cool-during-summer/
- “Medi-Cool Program” Rise. https://njrise.org/health-and-wellness/
- “How much do window air conditioner repairs cost?” April 5, 2023. Homeguide. https://homeguide.com/costs/window-ac-unit-repair-cost
- “How Much Do HVAC Repairs Cost? [2023 Data]” September 13, 2023. Angi. https://www.angi.com/articles/how-much-hvac-repair-cost.htm
- “Fighting High Temperatures with Heat Relief” The Salvation Army of North Texas. https://salvationarmyntx.org/north-texas/heat-relief/
- “Cool It! NYC” New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. https://www.nycgovparks.org/about/health-and-safety-guide/cool-it-nyc