Cash for appliance clunker rebates: The when, where, how and best and worst
The rebate clock is already ticking in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin, and come February, residents of Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New York and Rhode Island will be eligible for rebate deals. The rest of the states and territories will open their rebate programs in March and April, and some are even running second offer phases later in the year. See the chart below for a link to your state's program.
Wherever you live, the key to getting your biggest possible share of the rebate pot is understanding exactly what your state, local utility, retailer and new-appliance manufacturer are offering for your green-minded trouble ─ an equation you practically have to be a PhD to figure out.
As I mentioned in my previous post, every state gets to make its own rules for divvying up its share of that $300 million total, and some make it way easier than others for you to claim rebate cash.
The good deal/bad deal scenario in your state comes comes down to the amount of rebate money you can earn for a particular appliance, the variety of appliances included in your state's rebate program, recycling incentives that add to your earnings, and any restrictions imposed on consumer participation. Alaska, for instance, offers rebates only to the disabled, and Kansas limits participation to its low-income residents ─ a boost for those who qualify but not exactly the wide-ranging economic stimulus you'd expect from a program like this.
Then there's the value-for-your-money angle: after spending a load on an energy-efficient new fridge in Maryland, you'll only get $25 from the state (and have to mail in for a few dollars more from the local utility), and Indiana's only dealing out money rebates equal to a fraction of the thousands a resident would need to install qualifying high-end heating and cooling equipment in their primary residences.
On the other hand, Iowa's rebate program has no participation restrictions, includes a range of eligible appliances and gives you a meaningful amount of money for participating. New York and several other states offer additional incentives for properly recycling your clunker appliance.
Here are more ways to make sure you get the most out of your local version of Cash for Appliance Clunkers:
- Know the code: Every state is making its own rebate rules, and those rules are evolving and changing right up to the date a program launches, and sometimes even after. So keep a close watch on the guidelines posted by your state and municipality so that you're ready to jump in, make that [qualifying] appliance purchase and claim your cash as soon as the program opens.
- Be prepared: As with any important purchase, make sure you've done your research and know exactly which appliances qualify for rebates and where that rebate money will come from (state, utility, retailer, etc.) so that you've got the proper paperwork ready to go. Though there may be some info available at your appliance retailer, you can't depend on their staff to be up-to-date on the details of these ever-changing rebate programs and absolutely should not rely on them to get you your best Cash for Appliance Clunkers deal.
- Act fast: State rebate programs may range from a few weeks to a few years, but there's no guarantee on how long your local rebate funds will be available. Not only are your fellow citizens after the same rebate deals, but the rebate processors and recycling contractors your state has hired to facilitate the program are being paid out of the same funds as those rebate claims. What's more, if you live in a state that's planning a two-phase rebate program, there may not be money left to give by the time phase two is scheduled to begin.
- Get in line: Some states allow you to sign up for a rebate program voucher or certificate before the local launch to "hold your place in line," so be sure to take that step, too. You can find local info through the U.S. Department of Energy and ApplianceClunkerRebate.com.
So weigh the benefits of participating and the advantages of repairing an ailing appliance before you commit to a big purchase that costs more than it saves, because you could wind up with more clunk than cash.
Tom Kraeutler delivers tips on energy efficiency tax credits and more each week as host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure." You can also subscribe to Tom's latest home improvement podcast.
* Illinois and New Jersey projected start date of January 2010 for phase 1, followed by April 2010 start date for phase 2.
** Vermont projected start date of January 2010 for phase 1, followed by March 2010 for phase 2.
*** North Carolina projected start date of April 2010 for phase 1, followed by June 2010 for phase 2.
**** Rhode Island projected start date of February 2010 for phase 1 and March 2010 for phase 2.