replace a broken heating or cooling appliance?

DO YOU WANT TO

1. Learn about this resource.

Residents can apply to replace or repair their broken central air conditioning, heating systems, hot water tanks, and chimney liners with more efficient systems. We—DC Government—work with a local nonprofit to pay for the new system and hire a repair person to install it.

This program is called the Emergency Mechanical Systems Program and is offered by the Department of Energy and Environment.

2. Check if you are eligible.

You are eligible if all of these statements are true:

  • You live in a single-family home (or a building with four or fewer units) that you rent or own. 

  • Your home is in DC.

  • Your home is not in foreclosure.

  • And if one of these statements is true:

    • Your household receives support from at least one of the following programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or​

    • Your household’s annual gross income—your income before paying taxes—is at or below the limits based on your household size. You can check by answering the two questions below.

This resource is provided by:

Keywords: broken appliance, emergency repair, hot water tank, heater, air conditioning, fireplace

This page was last updated July 2021.

What happens after I apply?


  1. We—DC Government—will review your Emergency Mechanical Systems Program application.
  2. Within one business day, we will connect you to a nonprofit in the community to help you through the process.
  3. The nonprofit will schedule a visit to your home to inspect the broken appliance or system.
  4. The nonprofit will connect you to a repair person who will work with you to buy and install the replacement or repair the system within three days.
  5. We will inspect the replacement/repaired system during and after installation to make sure it is properly installed.
If you are not approved for this program, we will call you and send you an email to let you know.




Are there any additional requirements I should know about?


You must apply for our Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps you pay for your utilities, to receive an emergency mechanical systems replacement. Applying to this program also helps us—DC Government—check your income.




Who should I contact if I have questions?


First, take a look at the frequently asked questions at the bottom of the page. If you still have questions, please reach out to our Affordability and Efficiency team at (202) 299-3316, Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Or, you can email LaWanda Jones at Lawanda.jones@dc.gov with the subject line, “Emergency Mechanical System Program Question.”




I still need help with my utilities. What should I do?


You can find information about other resources that might help on our utilities resources page.




Frequently Asked Questions


What documentation will I need to show that I have a broken appliance? You will need an estimate from a repair company on company letterhead or a red tag from Washington Gas. When a furnace is shut down because it is dangerous to operate unless repaired or replaced it is usually called red-tagging, for the tag put on the furnace. The tag can be red or a different color.
Can I reapply if I have received an emergency mechanical replacement before?
Yes, if you’ve received a replacement in the past and now that appliance or a different central air conditioning system, heating system, hot water tank, or chimney liner needs to be replaced, you can apply again.

Can I reapply if my application is not approved?
If your application is not approved because your household income is above the program limits, you can reapply if your income or household size changes.

I receive food assistance through SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Does that make me eligible for this program?
If you receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you’ll need to check if your household's income is below the program limits to see if you’re eligible for this program. Receiving SNAP is not enough on its own to confirm your eligibility for this program.
However, if you receive SNAP, you are eligible for help paying your utilities through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). My household doesn’t have any income. How can I prove that? If your household doesn’t have any income, you can submit one of these documents with your application:

  • An notarized income statement,
  • A screenshot of your "Claimant Profile" page on the Department of Employment Services (DOES) website showing that your "Balance" is zero ( see example),
  • A recent letter from your former employer stating that you no longer work there (if you've lost your job but are not yet receiving unemployment benefits from DOES), OR
  • A recent letter from the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) stating that your household doesn't have any income




Do all eligible applicants get their broken appliance repaired or replaced?


​No, funding for emergency replacements and repairs is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most of the time, we have enough funding for all eligible applicants.





4. Gather more information.

What happens after I apply?


  1. We—DC Government—will review your Emergency Mechanical Systems Program application.
  2. Within one business day, we will connect you to a nonprofit in the community to help you through the process.
  3. The nonprofit will schedule a visit to your home to inspect the broken appliance or system.
  4. The nonprofit will connect you to a repair person who will work with you to buy and install the replacement or repair the system within three days.
  5. We will inspect the replacement/repaired system during and after installation to make sure it is properly installed.
If you are not approved for this program, we will call you and send you an email to let you know.




Are there any additional requirements I should know about?


You must apply for our Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps you pay for your utilities, to receive an emergency mechanical systems replacement. Applying to this program also helps us—DC Government—check your income.




Who should I contact if I have questions?


First, take a look at the frequently asked questions at the bottom of the page. If you still have questions, please reach out to our Affordability and Efficiency team at (202) 299-3316, Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Or, you can email LaWanda Jones at Lawanda.jones@dc.gov with the subject line, “Emergency Mechanical System Program Question.”




I still need help with my utilities. What should I do?


You can find information about other resources that might help on our utilities resources page.




Frequently Asked Questions


What documentation will I need to show that I have a broken appliance? You will need an estimate from a repair company on company letterhead or a red tag from Washington Gas. When a furnace is shut down because it is dangerous to operate unless repaired or replaced it is usually called red-tagging, for the tag put on the furnace. The tag can be red or a different color.
Can I reapply if I have received an emergency mechanical replacement before?
Yes, if you’ve received a replacement in the past and now that appliance or a different central air conditioning system, heating system, hot water tank, or chimney liner needs to be replaced, you can apply again.

Can I reapply if my application is not approved?
If your application is not approved because your household income is above the program limits, you can reapply if your income or household size changes.

I receive food assistance through SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Does that make me eligible for this program?
If you receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you’ll need to check if your household's income is below the program limits to see if you’re eligible for this program. Receiving SNAP is not enough on its own to confirm your eligibility for this program.
However, if you receive SNAP, you are eligible for help paying your utilities through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). My household doesn’t have any income. How can I prove that? If your household doesn’t have any income, you can submit one of these documents with your application:

  • An notarized income statement,
  • A screenshot of your "Claimant Profile" page on the Department of Employment Services (DOES) website showing that your "Balance" is zero ( see example),
  • A recent letter from your former employer stating that you no longer work there (if you've lost your job but are not yet receiving unemployment benefits from DOES), OR
  • A recent letter from the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) stating that your household doesn't have any income




Do all eligible applicants get their broken appliance repaired or replaced?


​No, funding for emergency replacements and repairs is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most of the time, we have enough funding for all eligible applicants.





Department of Energy and Environment