offers cash for more-efficient appliances

Patterned after 'cash for clunkers,' the program has allocated $300 million in rebates for consumers who buy Energy Star-rated appliances.

Danny Johnston/AP
Lowe's employee Hank Fletcher shows a washer/dryer set to Roy Doyle at a Lowe's store in North Little Rock, Ark.

In the market for a new washing machine? How about a refrigerator? Now’s the time to buy, says Uncle Sam. The government is unveiling its latest version of "cash for clunkers," this time for energy-efficient kitchen appliances.

The Department of Energy recently allocated $300 million toward its Cash for Appliances program, which offers rebates for consumers who buy Energy Star-rated appliances – washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, and heating and cooling units. The program varies widely from state to state, but the goal is the same, says Jen Stutsman, spokeswoman with the Department of Energy.

“Our goal is to encourage consumers to transition to Energy Star appliances that will save both money and the environment in the long term,” says Ms. Stutsman. “Appliances consume a huge amount of electricity, so there’s enormous potential to both save energy and save families’ money. We want to help make that transition to more efficiency.”

Some states have started already

The program will start in several states over the next few months, with New York State’s program kicking off Friday. Eight states – Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin – have already launched their programs. Other states will launch in coming months, many around Earth Day in April.

Rebates range from $50 to $250, depending on the appliance and the state. The program ends when the rebates run out, says Stutsman.

More than 70 percent of the energy used in American homes is for appliances, refrigeration, space heating, cooling, and water heating, according to the Department of Energy.

Swapping out old appliances for Energy Star appliances will save energy and lower utility bills in the long term. For example, the Department of Energy reports, the Whirlpool Duet Energy Star-qualified washer uses 74 percent less water and 80 percent less energy than a typical washer and can save up to $900 in energy costs.

Recycling old appliances

“Our goal is to make sure these [old] appliances come off the energy grid and get recycled in a way so that they don’t end up in landfills,” says Stutsman.

Interested in applying? Here’s what you can do:

• First, find details of your state’s plan online. Visit the DOE’s Energy Savers’ website to find specific guidelines for each state, including when your state’s program begins, which appliances qualify, how much money you can expect to receive, and how to apply.

• Next, make sure the retailer you buy from is participating. Sears and Home Depot are promoting the program and helping consumers apply, but not all retailers are participating and some online purchases may be exempt from rebates.

• Figure out how much you’ll get back. Some states offer different deals for consumers who buy multiple Energy Star appliances. Some states also offer a bonus of $25 to $75 if consumers recycle their old appliances.

In some states, including Georgia and New York, consumers can reserve a rebate online or by calling a toll-free number. Some retailers have in-store computer kiosks where customers can fill out rebate applications on the spot.

• Keep receipts, proof-of-purchase information, and recycling documentation, as your state’s program may require one or all of these to collect your rebate. Rebates are not eligible for purchases that were made before the program started.


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