28 December 2009

New Trend: Cash For Appliance Clunkers

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New York will launch an appliance rebate program during President's Week next February designed to boost sales of energy-efficient refrigerators and washers, state and federal officials announced Monday.

New York's Great Appliance Swap Out will offer rebates to consumers who buy certain energy-efficient refrigerators, clothes washers, freezers and dishwashers; the rebate is even larger when those customers recycle their older, inefficient models.

Rebates for high-efficiency appliances will range from $50-$105 for a single unit, and up to $555 for the purchase of a three-appliance package.

The state expects to issue more than 170,000 rebates totaling $16.8 million, all funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The appliance swap-out is similar to the wildly successful and chaotic Cash for Clunkers program, with one key exception: Customers will have to apply for appliance rebates on their own. Under the Clunkers program, auto dealers begrudgingly fronted the car incentives as they waited weeks or months for payment from the federal government.

For their part, appliance retailers said they expect the rebates to be popular, judging by the number of inquiries they've received since the program was first proposed in July.

At Best Kitchen Cabinets and Appliance Center in South Glens Falls, Manager Jerry Laramie said his big concern is whether announcement of the program long before it takes effect will hurt sales in the interim.

"People are going to wait for it," Laramie said of the rebate. "But when it does hit, it's going to be crazy."

For Adirondack Appliance in Saratoga Springs, there's not really a downside to the program. Owner Thomas Thibeault Jr. said he expects manufacturers to jump on the rebate bandwagon and offer their own incentives.

"It's good for business; it's a good thing," Thibeault said.

Some retailers, like Adirondack Appliance, are expected to offer free recycling; there may also be opportunities to recycle old appliances at local landfills, waste stations and recycling centers.

Gov. David Paterson said Monday that the program will provide an "important boost" to the economy early next year, while keeping old appliances out of landfills through recycling incentives.

"This program will offer more than 170,000 New Yorkers the chance to save hundreds of dollars a year by replacing their old kitchen appliances with new, energy-efficient appliances and, by offering additional incentives for people to recycle, will help avoid placing additional burdens on our landfills," he said.

Paterson noted the state would not have pursued the program if it was not federally funded.

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