Cash for… coffepots? Federal plan offers rebates for used appliances

Tom Gallick

Consumers can earn money back after buying green products

With sales lagging, the appliance industry is hoping a government-funded rebate program will give it a “Cash for Clunkers” style boost.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 made $300 million available for state-run appliance rebate programs. When the state programs go into effect, consumers can receive $50 to $250 rebates after purchasing new appliances that get an Energy Star label for energy efficiency from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Unlike the Cash for Clunkers program, consumers will not have to turn in their old appliances to receive money back.

Robert Grevey, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Development, said Ohio has already applied to take part in the program and has to submit a final proposal by Oct. 15.

Grevey said the program is meant to get consumers spending money on appliances while contributing positively to the environment. He also said increased employment could be an extra benefit of the program.

“It’s going to end up creating a few jobs, too, so it should really be good for the economy,” Grevey said. “Hopefully, there should be more guys on the floor selling the appliances and more recycling-type positions.”

Each state is eligible for a certain amount of funding based on population, with Ohio being eligible for slightly more than $11 million for its rebate program.

While the amount of the rebates will be based on the cost of the appliances, federal guidelines allow for money back on a wide range of products. Air conditioners, dishwashers, furnaces, refrigerators and washing machines are among the major appliances eligible.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s retail trade survey, home appliance sales from the first half of this year were $7.6 billion compared to $8.5 billion in sales for the first six months of last year.

In a press release, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers said it “applauds” the program, which will “stimulate demand for home appliances, provide consumers with tremendous savings on the initial purchase cost and long-term utility costs of appliances and will also provide an important environmental benefit by way of a significant decrease in energy consumption.”

Not all local appliance retailers reacted as positively to the news of the program. Linda Marsteller, store manager of Appliance Mart in Streetsboro, said she wondered how long it would take the government to pay back retailers.

“If it’s anything like the automobile program, we don’t want anything to do with it,” Marsteller said. “I don’t think it’s a good deal for the dealer. How are they going to pay for it? How long are we going to have to wait for reimbursement?”

Those who recently purchased major appliances but still want to get in on the program may also be disappointed. According to the Energy Star program’s Web site, states will make the final decision on this issue, but “it’s unlikely the rebates will be retroactive.”

Though Ohio’s program is currently in the works, the waiting period could be painfully long for consumers looking to replace broken down refrigerators or dryers. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated most of the funds will not be released to the states until Nov. 30.

Grevey said Ohio hopes to finalize its guidelines for the program as soon as possible, but it cannot go forward until the government approves its proposal.

“We don’t want people to get their expectations too high, too soon,” Grevey said. “This program may not hit the street until the holiday season.”

Contact public affairs reporter Tom Gallick at [email protected]