Appliance funds likely to go quick

Published 8:01 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today’s kitchen appliances are engineered to run quietly andefficiently, using less electricity to keep the milk cool and getthe dishes clean.

But Brookhaven’s Sid Sasser remembers the machines of old,manufactured before the prevalence of the ENERGY STAR rating thatseparated cost-efficient appliances from electricity hogs.

“When I was a kid, when your refrigerator ticked on the lightsin your house dimmed,” said Sasser, the manager and owner ofBrookhaven’s Sears store. “It was quite a draw. Eighteen years ago,the average refrigerator used $240 per year in electricity. Today,it’s around $50.”

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The federal government is on a mission to retire those old,power-loving refrigerators and replace them with “green”appliances. That mission comes to Mississippi Thursday with theState Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program.

Similar to last year’s Cash for Clunkers event, the rebateprogram uses federal money appropriated by the American Recoveryand Reinvestment Act of 2009 to send cash back to customers whoreplace an old appliance with a new, ENERGY STAR-rated one. Theprogram is designed to put more cost-efficient appliances inAmericans’ homes and reduce the nation’s energy consumption, aswell as to pump up business for retailers during the currenteconomic recession.

Anyone who buys a program-approved ENERGY STAR appliance after12:01 a.m. Thursday can go online at orcall 1-877-304-4451 to apply for the rebates. Online applicantswill print off a confirmation page, which must be mailed in withthe sales receipt within 14 days after purchase. Phone applicantswill receive rebate confirmation by mail and have the same 14-daywindow afterward.

Rebates range from $50-$750 depending on the appliancepurchased, and will be mailed back to the customer in the form of aprepaid Visa card. Appliances eligible under the program includefreezers, room air conditioners, central air units, refrigerators,washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, gas furnaces and heatpumps.

A full list of eligible appliances and their energyqualifications and program rules can be found at the MississippiRebate Web site.

Early shoppers will definitely have the advantage Thursday, asonly $2.8 million has been appropriated for the rebate program inMississippi.

Other states that have already held their rebate days haveexperienced jammed-up call centers, rebate Web page crashes andmoney shortages. In Texas, the $23 million appropriated for therebate program was reserved after only a few hours’ shoppingtime.

At least two Brookhaven retailers are planning to open early,staff heavy and assist customers with the rebate applicationprocess onsite.

“I’m going to staff it like it’s Black Friday,” said Sassersaid, referring to the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping day, thebiggest of the year. “We’re going to open at 6 a.m., and we aregoing to assist people on the computer to lock in the rebate funds.The program ends the instant the funds run out, so we’re going tomake sure our customers in Brookhaven benefit from this.”

Sears will also have all ENERGY STAR appliances marked down 30percent.

The Home Depot is taking a similar approach.

Appliance Sales Specialist Pam Richardson said the big orangestore would open at 7 a.m. and dedicate a host of employees to theappliance section. Like Sears, Home Depot will have computer set upin the store to help customers secure their rebates as soon as apurchase is made. All ENERGY STAR appliances at Home Depot will be10 percent off.

“People started asking about this back in February, and a lot ofelderly customers told me they’re worried because they don’t have acomputer at home. So we’re going to do some of the footwork foryou,” Richardson said. “This event is not going to last long.”