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Rebates for clunker appliances

WASHINGTON — Like the Cash for Clunkers program that removed gas-hog automobiles off the road, the Department of Energy’s Appliance Rebate Program hopes to get electricity-hog appliances out of the home.

WASHINGTON — Like the Cash for Clunkers program that removed gas-hog automobiles off the road, the Department of Energy’s Appliance Rebate Program hopes to get electricity-hog appliances out of the home. Federal money will be channeled to give consumers rebates on efficient refrigerators and water heaters in the next few weeks.

As part of the stimulus package voted by Congress in 2009, about $300 million will be distributed by the DOE to the states on the basis of population. Last summer the states sent in requests, and the actual funds are now about to be dispersed. For example, New Jersey is getting $8.3 million, Wisconsin $5 million and Maryland $5.4 million.

Unlike the Cash for Clunkers program, which required consumers to exchange their old cars for more efficient vehicles, consumers will not need to bring in their inefficient appliances. The rebates apply only to the sale of new, Energy Star certified appliances.

In many cases the rebates will be distributed through the very companies that already deliver power to your home, some of which already offer rebates toward energy-efficient refrigerators and washing machines.

Efficient appliances are those designated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star rating system for thrifty energy use. These models are typically 30 percent more efficient than non-designated appliances. For certain models of Energy Star appliances that are super-efficient, rebates (utility plus federal) might be as great as $100 for clothes washers and $50 for refrigerators.

The earlier automobile Cash for Clunkers program drew some criticism since the rebates — as much as several thousand dollars per car — appeared to be too generous. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, argued that there were much more economical ways of lowering the amount of energy consumption or carbon dioxide emissions by cars.

Phillip F. Schewe reports for Inside Science News Service.