September 1, 2014

Getting Your Government Funded Appliance Rebate

The good news is  that the US Government’s appliance rebate program has finally begun.  The bad news is that you have a bit of footwork to do before you get it.

Under the federal program, the rebates can go to buyers of new central air conditioners, room air conditioners, heat pumps, boilers, furnaces, washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, and water heaters with the Energy Star seal.  Also, it doesn’t matter how old your clunker appliance is, it needn’t be in working order and, in some states, such as Arizona and Florida, you won’t even need to trade it in.

The tricky part is that each state will run its program differently, deciding which of the possible products it will include in the program, when to start and stop offering rebates, the size of the rebates, and which residents will qualify. In Minnesota, for instance, only washers, dishwashers, freezers and refrigerators are covered. The refrigerator rebate is worth up to $100 in Nebraska, but no more than $50 in Georgia. The Alaskan program is limited to residents receiving disability payments from the state or federal government. In Kansas and Oregon, rebates are restricted to low-income people. States have until February 2012 to allocate their rebate money, but the programs will likely expire long before then. Some will last only a week.

Eight states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin) have launched their appliance programs, at least for some products, to capitalize on President’s Weekend appliance sales. The rest are likely to rev up by May, many around Earth Day in April. You can find the rules for your state’s program at Energy Star Web site.

More details to be aware of courtesy of CBSNews.com:

Energy Star appliances can cost $50 to $100 more, on average, than ones that don’t. But the appliance should pay for itself over five or six years through savings on your utility bill. In some cases, your savings come faster. Replacing a washer made before 2000 with a new Energy Star model, for example, can save up to $135 a year, according to the Department of Energy.

• Only 55 percent of new major appliances have the Energy Star label. So you might not be able to get the rebate on the product you want to buy.

• You might not actually get cash. Although some states will issue rebate checks, many will instead give out prepaid cards issued by Visa or MasterCard.

• Unlike “Cash for Clunkers,” where dealers handled all the paperwork, in most states you have to deal with the forms to get your rebate. That means mailing in your receipt, along with proof of residency, a rebate form from the retailer or your state energy department web site, and usually proof that your clunker appliance was picked up.

• It’ll take roughly four to six weeks to get the rebate.

Before you shop:

1. Drill down into the details of your state’s plan. Some states have rigorous requirements about which products qualify, beyond the Energy Star stamp. Others are rolling out their programs in two phases.
Minnesota and Texas let consumers reserve rebates online or by calling a toll-free number about two weeks before they buy. Check online to see if your state has rebate funds left. Some state sites provide an up-to-date tally of the amount left in the kitty.

2. Make sure the retailer you plan to visit is participating. Some small dealers are sitting out because they’ve decided the program is too costly. In Georgia, online purchases won’t qualify.

3. Learn the precise rebate amount for the appliance you’ll buy. You may encounter unexpected twists. In New York’s “Great Appliance Swap-Out,” consumers get rebates for buying eligible appliances individually or in a bundle of three, where the rebate may be larger.

4. See if you’ll get a recycling bonus. Some states boost the rebate by $25 to $75 if you recycle your old appliance.

5. Ask about additional deals. There’s a good chance your new appliance is also eligible for a manufacturer’s rebate or store promotion, too. You may also be able to combine a state rebate with the federal one. Call your local utility to see if it is dangling rebates, too. Often, utilities offer $50 off new energy-conserving appliances. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency is a good place to do your research.

6. Apply for the rebate as soon as you can. Some retailers have in-store computer kiosks where customers can apply for rebates on the spot. In Georgia and New York, as soon as you’ve bought a qualifying appliance, you can reserve a rebate either online or by calling a toll-free number. Since states will halt their programs when their money runs out, you won’t want to conserve your energy when it comes to applying for rebates.

Read This Before You Buy Your Next Appliance

Purchasing a major appliance is a major decision. To ensure satisfactory return on your investment, comparison shop before each appliance purchase.

The following pointers from The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers can help ensure your satisfaction with appliance purchases:

• Ask your dealer for specification sheets from several manufacturers who build the types of appliances you plan to purchase. Compare available features, designs and capacities;

• Read the warranty before finalizing your decision. Does the warranty cover the entire product? Only certain parts? Is labor included? How long does the warranty last?

• Ask you dealer for the appliance’s use and care manual and read it carefully before you buy the appliance. The dealer should have available manuals from the floor models. Reading the manuals will help you ask pertinent questions, tell you how the product operates and inform you of any special care the product needs;

• Decide which features you will really use. Consider the possibility of adding features at a later date, such as installing an icemaker in a refrigerator;

• Decide what capacity or size your family requires. For example, when purchasing a room air conditioner, know the dimensions of the room you want to cool and the number of windows, so you can select a model with sufficient cooling capacity;

• Check the space available for the appliance to make sure you select the right size unit and make sure halls and doorways allow clearance for entry and installation;

• Establish the cost of delivery and installation — are they included in the appliance’s price?

• Make sure authorized factory service is readily available in your area for the brand you select;

• Check the product’s design carefully to make sure it meets your needs and accommodates your habits and favorite cookware. Compare the designs of different models and brands;

• Compare price in relation to convenience and service, which will vary by model. Price tends to increase as features are added;

• Avoid overloaded circuits by making sure your house has adequate electrical service for the appliance. Check for adequately grounded, three-hole receptacles.

By doing your homework and being prepared, you can be an appliance buying superhero, avoiding the purchasing pitfalls that trip up ordinary shoppers.