If you missed "Cash for Clunkers," you might want to give "Dollars for Dishwashers" a whirl.


Although it's not getting nearly the attention the auto rebate program did, the Department of Energy's program is making nearly $300 million in funding available from the economic for state-run rebate programs for consumer purchases of new ENERGY STAR qualified home appliances.

The allocation of money is based on a state's population. That gives California the lion's share - more than $35 million. The territories of American Samoa and Northern Marianas have been allocated the minimum amount of $100,000 each.

"Appliances consume a huge amount of our electricity, so there's enormous potential to both save energy and save families money every month," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu when the program was launched back in July. "These rebates will help families make the transition to more efficient appliances, making purchases that will directly stimulate the economy and create jobs."

Under the program, each state or territory will submit a plan that specifies which ENERGY STAR appliance categories will be included in their rebate program, the rebate level for each product type, how the rebates will be processed, and their plan for recycling old appliances.

Eligible appliances

States have the flexibility to select which residential ENERGY STAR qualified appliances to include in their programs and the individual rebate amount for each appliance. DOE recommends that states and territories focus their program efforts on heating and cooling equipment, appliances, and water heaters as these products offer the greatest energy savings potential.

ENERGY STAR qualified appliance categories eligible for rebates include: central air conditioners, heat pumps (air source and geothermal), boilers, furnaces (oil and gas), room air conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers, refrigerators, and water heaters.

Appliance industry hopeful

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), which calls replacing older appliances with ENERGY STAR appliances "the most practical and effective step a homeowner can take to save energy and money on utility bills," says rebate programs will be announced by the states starting in mid-October or early November.

AHAM spokeswoman Jill Notini tells ConsumerAffairs.com that her organization is "hopeful that this will spur consumer sales and get people into the retail environment to purchase appliances." Notini says that while this program, at $300 million is just a fraction of the $3 billion spent on Cash For Clunkers, AHAM hopes "it will entice people to stores to look for appliances."

The manufacturers say sales have been off for the past three years because of the economy. Last year saw a slump of ten percent and Notini says sales through the first seven months of 2009 are down 15 percent.

Christine Kielich, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, told ConsumerAffairs.com that while it's expected the rebate program to have a stimulative effect on the economy, "increases in sales will depend on how states structure their individual rebate programs, which appliances are included, and how much the rebates are worth."

The amount of energy saved, she added, "will depend on the specific appliance and model being replaced, but new ENERGY STAR appliances save significantly more energy than those manufactured years ago. For example, replacing a clothes washer made before 2000 with a new ENERGY STAR model can save up to $135 per year."

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