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Jan 042010
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Got a refrigerator that’s not so chillin’ anymore? A washer that’s approaching its last spin? When that appliance goes kaput, or maybe beforehand, you’ll want to check out your state’s federally funded appliance rebate program.

Energy Star Front Load Washer by Whirlpool

Energy Star Front Load Washer by Whirlpool

That’s right, you may be able to get a federal kickback, courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, just for replacing that old appliance with a new Energy Star one. But you’ll have to check your state’s guidelines.

Under the $300 million U.S. Department of Energy appliance rebate program, each state was allowed to design its own plan. So you’d be eligible to get a rebate on a variety of home appliances in Illinois starting right away because the first phase of the rebate plan begins this month. But if you live in New York, you’ll have to wait until February. And if you live in Texas, you’re looking at April before you can heave off that rattly dishwasher for a shiny new one. Several other states also are starting the program in April, to coincide with Earth Day festivities.

Each state also has developed its own list of eligible items. In Texas, a wide range of appliances, from an array of hot water heaters and heat pumps to refrigerators and freezers are expected to qualify for rebates. But in California, only three items made the list. Refrigerators, clothes washers and room air conditioners will qualify for rebates in California, where the program is set to begin in March.

Many of the states will be requiring that old appliances be recycled, or will be offering additional money for those that are recycled. Still, the program has raised questions about whether it will mimic the Cash for Clunkers experiment of last summer, which was criticized for encouraging people to buy new automobiles, in some cases for only modest efficiency gains. Clunkers did require that new cars meet certain mileage minimums, but they weren’t as high as the market could have provided.

The trade-off, junking a car (the Clunkers vehicles had to be crushed) to obtain a higher mileage vehicle, didn’t make sense to those who ascribe to the green principle of using something until it wears out.

The appliance program will require that all new purchases be Energy Star-qualified. These models are 20 percent or more efficient than the norm, depending on the class of item being purchased.

Appliances do matter. The DOE estimates that more than 70% of the energy used in our homes is for appliances, refrigeration, space heating, cooling, and water heating. Which means that the other 30 percent is comprised of the energy used to heat the house and run electronics.

As for the dollar amount of those rebates, that too will vary, depending upon the item and the state plan.

A sampling:

  • The proposed rebate for clothes washers in California is $100, which is in addition to state rebates that can run as high as $250 (offered by LA Department of Water and Power for a select list of efficient washers). So that $1,000 front-loading energy and water efficient washer could come down to $650, a sweet deal. Find other California energy incentives at the website Flex Your Power.
  • Texas residents can look forward to a federal rebate of up to $225 to 255 for a clothes washer with proof that the old one has been recycled; but they’ll come up empty if they’re looking for an extra kick from the state, which doesn’t currently offer a rebate for clothes washers. See all the planned Texas appliance rebates here.
  • Florida will be offering rebates on six major appliances, with rebate amounts set at 20 percent of the purchase price before taxes, with a cap of $1,500. See the state’s Energy and Climate website for details.

Many of the programs will run for a pre-set period of time, sometimes just two weeks, to avoid the disappointment that attended the Cash for Clunkers program, which ran out of funds after just a couple weeks.

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