Need a new washing machine? You may be able to save some serious cash if you can limp your old one along for a couple of more weeks - or fill your pocket with quarters for a trip to the coin laundromat.
Beginning April 12, the state Department of Commerce will be handing out reservations for federal rebates on the purchase of appliances that meet energy-saving standards. The funds range from $75 for dishwashers to $425 for electric heat pump water heaters.
The funds are a small piece of the $700 billion stimulus program Congress approved last year. That included $300 million in appliance rebates, with Arizona's share at $6.2 million.
It's essentially the latest version of the "cash for clunkers'' program that was part of the first stimulus bill, where car and truck buyers got money for trading in gas guzzlers for more fuel efficient vehicles.
But there are some differences.
One is that there's no need to trade in that old washer. But David Drennon, spokesman for the state agency, said the presumption is that most people won't want to keep the old ones.
There also will be no rebates for energy efficient refrigerators. Drennon said a decision was made to focus on items that save not only electricity but also water, what with Arizona being in the desert.
The trickiest part, though, could be qualifying for the rebate.
"On April 12 you'll have to either log into the Web site or call ... a toll-free hotline to secure your reservation for a rebate,'' Drennon explained.
"After that, then you'll be provided with the information you'll need for the rebate,'' he continued. "Then you can go and make the purchase.''
Put another way, if you haven't gotten pre-approved, you're not going to get any money back. And Drennon said anyone who dawdles is likely to end up out of the money.
He said two other states launched their programs earlier this week.
"All the rebates were gone within that same day,'' he said.
There may still be hope, though, for those who don't get to the head of the line.
Drennon said once that $6.2 million is committed, the rebate center will begin taking names for a waiting list.
He said the experience elsewhere is that somewhere between 15 and 30 percent of those who get the rebates do not follow through with purchases. So when the time limit for using this first batch expires, the state will hand out what's left over.
Drennon said elements of the program were put together in cooperation with not just Arizona utilities but also retailers. But he said that doesn't mean they are likely to jack up prices by the amount of the rebate so they - and not the buyers - are the financial beneficiaries.
"They're all going to be competing for people to come in and make the purchase at their store,'' Drennon said.
As to exactly what's eligible, he said the retailers will know what qualifies and what does not. That's because the standards are based on specific energy-saving criteria.
For example, a dishwasher must use less than 5.8 gallons of water per cycle to qualify for the $75 rebate. A more efficient unit - one that uses less than 5 gallons - earns the buyer $125 cash back.
There are similar standards for clothes washers.
Dryers, however, are not included. That is because almost all machines use a similar amount of energy, meaning none qualify for Energy Star certification as efficient.
For the same reason, someone buying a new electric hot water heater, whether with a tank or tankless, also won't qualify for a rebate, as the best models of these are only slightly more efficient than the minimum federal standard.
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