Cash for Appliances Update: May 25, 2010

Consumer Reports News: May 25, 2010 03:22 PM

The Appliance Center's Mark and Bob Hurst.
With yesterday's launch of the cash for appliances rebate program in Hawaii and Montana, cash for appliances rebates are now available in 39 states and territories. The program has closed in 12 states and Puerto Rico, leaving only the District of Columbia and Guam (late May), Nebraska (July), and West Virginia (June 17) as the only places yet to start handing out their share of the $300 million cash for clunkers for appliances.

Cash for appliances certainly hasn't been without its flaws— computer glitches mistakenly denied rebates to some Floridians, and reports from several states included tales of overwhelmed reservation systems. But two upbeat characters seem to be emerging from the "stories" the U.S. Department of Energy is releasing about cash for appliances: the giddy retailer and the grateful consumer.

Take Bob Hurst, who runs The Appliance Center, a family-owned business in Panama City, Florida. "In two days we grossed $160,000 in sales," Hurst told the Energy Department. "I believe that is more than we have done in one month during our 62 years of existence, let alone in two days." The $17.6 million Florida Energy Star Appliance Rebate Program kicked off on April 16, offering state residents a 20 percent rebate on refrigerators, freezers, washers, dishwashers, room air conditioners, and tankless water heaters. By April 19, the coffers were empty, though Floridians can join a waiting list in case additional funds become available.

In Illinois, the $12,379,000 Energy Star Appliance Rebate Program for freezers and refrigerators only started and stopped in a single day—April 16—and that meant "double business," for Mike Abt, of Abt Electronics. "It was a very exciting day, as tens of thousands of people came to the store. We've never had that before, said Abt, whose enthusiasm wasn't mitigated by the fact that Illinois required retailers to shell out the rebate money and then file to get it back from the state.

In Kansas, where the Kansas State Energy Efficient Appliance Replacement Program doled out about $2.5 million in rebates to nearly 3,800 households, Topeka resident Ginger Webber told the Energy Department, "I was just amazed at how easy it was. I never had any new appliances before, and I was so excited to get the vouchers." The program, for low-income resident only, provided vouchers worth $200 to $800 for dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, room air conditioners, and washing machines. "We thought that providing a 100 percent rebate on the new appliances would encourage low-income people to replace old appliances," said Al Dorsey, director of the Kansas Division of Housing with Supportive Services. "It would be very difficult for them if we provided $100 with the expectation that they would come up with the other $600. Now their lower utility bills mean they can save money for other things, like food, prescriptions, and transportation."

In Rhode Island, giddy retailer met grateful consumer in the personage of Paul Ardente, owner of Ardente Supply Company, which sells plumbing, heating, and cooling equipment. "There's been a direct benefit," Ardente said of the $1 million Rhode Island Energy Efficient Rebate Program, which awarded $150 to $500 rebates on qualifying appliances and equipment. "We sold boilers and tankless water heaters." He went on to explain how the rebates got customers to put in systems they normally wouldn't have been able to afford, adding, "I've been a participant myself." The program began one day after its March 25 start—that must have been a busy time for Ardente.

See this previous blog post for details on the cash for appliances rebate program as well as links to the Web site of the responsible governmental department in each state/territory.

Daniel DiClerico

Essential information: Check out our cash for appliances buyer's guides to air conditioners, dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, and water heaters and find the best places to buy appliances. To stay on top of the latest cash for clunkers for appliances news, follow us at

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