South Carolina Electric & Gas is ending an energy-efficiency rebate program that offers customers up to $2,500 toward the cost of certain home improvements, including insulation.

So, if those incentives would be useful to you, you'd better hurry. The deadline to have work completed and rebate forms submitted is July 31, and it can take some time to complete this sort of project.

I know, because I am one of the roughly 500 SCE&G customers who took advantage of these rebates during the more than three years they have been available. The rebates, along with tax incentives, helped me pay for upgrading the insulation in my house, reducing air leaks and reducing my power consumption.

The utility will continue to offer some energy-efficiency incentives, but the "Home Performance With Energy Star" rebates are the only ones SCE&G offers that can be used toward general insulation and air-sealing of a home.

SCE&G customers who own a single-family residence are eligible. Attached homes such as townhouses are eligible as long as they are separately metered.

Here's how the rebate program works:

First, you have to hire a participating contractor and pay for a home energy audit, whic can cost several hundred dollars or more. The audit leads to recommendations for improvements that will save energy.

The upfront cost of the energy audit is one reason the rebate program is believed to have had low participation. Those who take the next step and have qualifying work completed can get a $200 rebate toward the cost of the audit.

The next step is deciding what energy-saving work to have done, and once it's completed, the contractor will submit the rebate forms to SCE&G.

The rebates include:

25 percent of the cost of work to reduce building air leaks, such as adding attic insulation, up to $850. The work must reduce air leakage by at least 15 percent (the energy audit would determine if such work would achieve that goal).

$150 toward duct sealing, $150 toward duct replacement, $50 toward installing a programmable thermostat.

$200 to $300 for replacing a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit, depending on how efficient the new one is, or $375 to $525 for a ground source (geothermal) heat pump.

$250 toward a new water heater that is not a conventional electric model. Gas, propane, solar and heat pump water heaters qualify.

$400 bonus for completing work from three of the previous four categories. For example, a new water heater, a programmable thermostat, and some insulation work would qualify for the extra rebate.

When this rebate program goes away, SCE&G will continue to offer stand-alone rebates for replacing an HVAC system, installing a nonelectric water heater, and insulating or sealing ducts. Those rebates do not require a home energy audit, but work must be done by professionals, and new systems must be professionally installed.

Rebates must be claimed within 90 days after the work is done. What the ongoing rebate program does not offer, compared to the one that's ending, is 25 percent of the cost of insulation work and the $400 bonus for completing multiple types of energy-saving projects.

So, if you are planning a big insulation project, the first rebate program could help with the cost, but you'll have to get an energy audit and complete all the work before July 31.

If you're replacing an HVAC system, installing a nonelectric-resistance water heater, or insulating ductwork, you'll still be able to get rebates through the "Heating & Cooling and Water Heating" incentives, which will continue.

These rebates are funded by SCE&G ratepayers. According to the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents ratepayers in utility regulation, the rebate program that is being phased out cost ratepayers nearly $1.2 million during its third year, while paying out $256,908 in rebates.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552