Massachusetts and California consumers will have to act fast to get mail-in rebates on energy-efficient appliances like a Kenmore Elite washer, provided by the latest federal stimulus program.
The “cash for appliances” program will distribute $35.2 million in rebates beginning Thursday (Earth Day) in order to stimulate the economy and cut energy use in the nation’s most populous state. Hey how did that last cash for clunkers program go?
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to buy energy-efficient appliances, recycle their old ones and take advantage of the program’s three rebates: $200 for refrigerators, $100 for clothes washers and $50 for room air conditioners.
The California appliance rebate program is part of a federal stimulus program created by the Obama administration last year, but each state is distributing the money according to its own rules. In California, the Energy Commission is administering the rebates.
Texas and Florida launched their programs earlier this month and each burned through their allotment of vouchers in less than two days. Consumers made reservations for rebate vouchers online or on the phone.
California officials said they wanted to design a more equitable and efficient process. Consumers will have to mail in a sales receipt for a new, qualified appliance and proof that they disposed of their old appliance with a recycler, retailer or municipality.
“Since this is a first-come, first-served program, we’re suggesting that consumers act quickly,” said California Energy Commission spokesman Adam Gottlieb.
The commission estimates the federal funding will provide rebates for about 300,000 appliances, leverage at least $100 million in economic activity and generate $8 million to $14 million in sales taxes for the state.
Combing State & Local Cash for Appliances
Many utilities and retailers are advertising rebates and incentives to entice consumers who can save hundreds of dollars on some products.
Energy Commission spokeswoman Susanne Garfield said if consumers combine rebates from local utilities they can zero out the cost of a new air conditioner, then watch their power bills shrink over the summer.
She advises shoppers to check the model number of their planned purchases because the appliances must be rated Tier 2 or 3 by the Energy Star, which is the Environmental Protection Agency’s volunteer rating program.
“It’s not enough for it to have an Energy Star sticker, it has to meet the California standards which are stricter,” she said.
Nancy Ramos dragged her husband to a Best Buy Co. store in Los Angeles to check out a washer-dryer set that she saw advertised in a newspaper for $800.
“With the rebate on top of that, it’s not a bad price,” she said. “Ours is 10 years old and it doesn’t dry clothes so well anymore. Getting rid of it goes both ways — we’re helping the environment and we get money back too.”
Her husband Jorge shrugged and chuckled. “I didn’t even know we were in the market,” he said. “But she did the research and she says it’s the right time to buy.”
Verzine Hovasapyan, 28, an appliance saleswoman at Best Buy, said shoppers have been asking about the program for months.
“We’re educating ourselves to help our customers get all the paperwork together, without promising that they’re guaranteed an instant rebate,” she said. “Style-wise, all the pretty ones don’t qualify.”
Earth Day Appliance Rebate Program Launches
Eight other states are also launching their programs in efforts designed to coincide with Earth Day. That’s the most states to launch in one day since the state programs began in December and it will leave only five states (along with Washington D.C. and three U.S. territories) yet to launch their own programs.
The other states joining California in launching today include Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
The programs are funded by nearly $300 million in federal stimulus funding. The effort is designed to stimulate the economy while also encouraging consumers to save energy through the use of a more efficient appliance.
Although the funding comes from the federal level, each state set up its own program, meaning varying starting dates, eligible appliances and rules.
For instance, while the Massachusetts appliance rebate program provides rebates ranging from $50 to $250 on freezers, clothes washers, refrigerators and dishwashers, the Tennessee appliance rebate program is offering more limited rebates on heating and cooling equipment.