'Cash for Appliances' program starts this spring

This year, you got paid for tossing out the clunker car. Next year, you'll be rewarded for getting rid of the energy-inefficient washer or fridge. Many states will be sponsoring a "Cash for Appliances" program, similar to "Cash for Clunkers" in that you'll be paid for doing a big spring cleaning of your old appliances and buying those labeled with the Energy Star seal.

This is part of the federal government's economic stimulus plan -- it set aside $300 million in rebates for buying energy-efficient products, and state governments had to send detailed plans to Washington by earlier this month to explain how they would give that money away. So unlike Cash for Clunkers, each state is in charge of its own Cash for Appliances program.

California, for example, will focus on rebates for just three standard appliances. It will give $100 for the purchase of an Energy Star-approved clothes washer, $75 for a refrigerator and $50 for a room air-conditioner. Those rebates are in addition to any additional rebates offered by the state utility company supplying your electricity and the appliance manufacturer you buy from. The program is supposed to start in early spring.

New York is doing the program in February, offering $75 for refrigerators and washers, $50 for freezers. Florida announced April 16 to 25 as the time for residents to get rebates, offered in the form of 20% off the pre-tax sales price, up to $1,500, on new energy-efficient appliances.

One downside: Unlike cars, there's no lot you can wheel your clunker appliance to. New York is one state that's giving an incentive for recycling appliances by adding extra to your rebate amount if you show proof you recycled the freezer of fridge. But residents have the extra burden of finding out what they need to do with their old appliance before they can cash in on the new one.

To get the date and details of your state's own program, contact your state's energy department.

And act fast. That $300 million the Feds set aside goes pretty fast when divided among 56 states and territories. California only gets $35.2 million for its massive population, so it definitely pays to be first in line at the appliance store.

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