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Little Consumer Love of Cash for Clunker Appliances Programs

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ June 25, 2010

Despite the offer of $300 million in rebates from the states under the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) cash-back program, consumers seem less than interested. Some 36 states and territories have offered cash in exchange for purchases on EnergyStar-rated air conditioners, washing machines, water heaters, and refrigerators--met with mixed results.

Consumer Reports claims that less than half of the approved DOE rebate funds have been claimed. Since the program began late last year, each state has directed its own rebate plan and now appliance manufacturers are encouraging the federal government to take over management in an effort to spark sales. Each state currently has its own set of criteria for qualifying, which is confusing to some consumers.

Californians Keeping Their Old Appliances

Despite a rise in home improvements in lieu of sales in a depressed housing market, few Californians have stepped up to the plate and traded in old, inefficient kitchen appliances. The Los Angeles Daily News says that only $7 million of the $31 million allocated for residents has been paid out in California.

In the Golden State, you earn a $200 rebate on an old fridge, $50 for a tired air conditioner, and $100 to trade in an energy guzzling washing machine.

Buying New Appliances for Renovations

Against the weak response across the country to the DOE rebate offers, people are still buying. Consumer Reports adds that shipments of new appliances were up 20 percent in April, and over the year, sales of major appliances rose by 16 percent.

In addition to providing rebates for refrigerators and washing machines, the DOE plan also covers trade-ins on freezers, furnaces (oil and gas), central and room air conditioners, dishwashers, heat pumps, and boilers.

Considering the ongoing boom in home improvements, is it possible that homeowners and contractors are simply replacing appliances without realizing there are financial incentives from the government? Are appliance manufacturers correct in assuming that under the umbrella of federal management there will be stronger promotions in the media? I surfed Sears and Maytag websites and found clear-cut information on the rebate program.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company serving California residents provides consumers with forms to file for their rebates on approved energy-efficient appliances. Rebates have also been announced for commercial, industrial, and agricultural business customers.

Is anyone out there paying attention?

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