California offers millions in funds for new appliances |

California offers millions in funds for new appliances

Raquel Maria Dillon
Associated Press Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The federal government is giving away $35.2 million to Californians who buy energy-efficient appliances starting Thursday.

California’s “cash for appliances” program begins on Earth Day and is designed to stimulate the economy and cut energy use in the nation’s most populous state.

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 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.

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 Energy Star, which is the Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary 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. Not the counter-depth fridges either.”

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