The federally funded programs, similar to the cash-for-clunkers auto rebate program last year, are intended to improve energy efficiency and stimulate the economy. Rebates differ by state and appliance.
Eight states launched programs this month, including New York, which offered $50 to $75 rebates on refrigerators, washers and freezers. On opening weekend, "There were people waiting outside every store to get started," says Doug Moore, president of appliances for Sears, which opened early to meet demand.
New York's $18.7 million program was set to expire Sunday but was extended because millions remained. "It's been a boon to consumers and retailers," says Francis Murray, CEO of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.
Michigan launched its program Feb. 10. It expects it'll take four months to distribute the $9 million in rebates, says Stephanie Epps, appliance analyst for the Michigan Bureau of Energy Systems. "The weak economy has a lot to do with it," Epps says.
Some states started programs earlier. Each state sets the rules and dates of their programs. Oregon and Kansas require applicants to be low income. Alaska has reserved rebates for people with disabilities.
To qualify for rebates, consumers must buy Energy Star appliances, which meet energy standards set by the federal government and are up to 30% more efficient than standard models, Murray says.
Many states offer rebates for refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters, Moore says. Some states are more restrictive. Many offer extra rebates if consumers recycle old appliances. Rebates are largely first come, first served. In Michigan, consumers can reserve rebates, then buy and apply, Epps says.
The Department of Energy, at www.energysavers.gov, provides information on each state's program.
Some say the programs' costs will outweigh the benefits. University of Delaware economics professors George Parsons and Burton Abrams estimate that for every dollar spent on the programs, they'll return 94 cents in environmental benefits.
The benefits will be muted because some consumers will buy appliances they would've bought anyway, Parsons says. Some appliances will be retired sooner than they could be. Also, some people may buy new refrigerators but keep old ones, too.
Hawaii Appliance Rebates (http://www.energysavers.gov/financial/rebates/state_HI.cfm)
The State of Hawaii will implement a mail-in rebate program to help residents replace older, inefficient appliances with ENERGY STAR® qualified appliances. The program, to be run through Hawaii’s utilities, is tentatively scheduled to begin in April 2010, and will continue until funds are depleted.
Eligible products include
Residents must include both the new appliance sales receipt and proof that the replaced products were removed and recycled.
Total Funding: $1,236,000