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Cash for appliance clunker rebates: The when, where, how and best and worst

Washing machinesAs the federal government's Cash for Appliance Clunkers program begins, consumers may find themselves in a stew of confusion over when clunker rebates are available, how much they'll get and from where.

The rebate clock is already ticking in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin, and come February, residents of Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New York and Rhode Island will be eligible for rebate deals. The rest of the states and territories will open their rebate programs in March and April, and some are even running second offer phases later in the year. See the chart below for a link to your state's program.

Wherever you live, the key to getting your biggest possible share of the rebate pot is understanding exactly what your state, local utility, retailer and new-appliance manufacturer are offering for your green-minded trouble ─ an equation you practically have to be a PhD to figure out.

As I mentioned in my previous post, every state gets to make its own rules for divvying up its share of that $300 million total, and some make it way easier than others for you to claim rebate cash.

The good deal/bad deal scenario in your state comes comes down to the amount of rebate money you can earn for a particular appliance, the variety of appliances included in your state's rebate program, recycling incentives that add to your earnings, and any restrictions imposed on consumer participation. Alaska, for instance, offers rebates only to the disabled, and Kansas limits participation to its low-income residents ─ a boost for those who qualify but not exactly the wide-ranging economic stimulus you'd expect from a program like this.

Then there's the value-for-your-money angle: after spending a load on an energy-efficient new fridge in Maryland, you'll only get $25 from the state (and have to mail in for a few dollars more from the local utility), and Indiana's only dealing out money rebates equal to a fraction of the thousands a resident would need to install qualifying high-end heating and cooling equipment in their primary residences.

On the other hand, Iowa's rebate program has no participation restrictions, includes a range of eligible appliances and gives you a meaningful amount of money for participating. New York and several other states offer additional incentives for properly recycling your clunker appliance.

Here are more ways to make sure you get the most out of your local version of Cash for Appliance Clunkers:

  • Know the code: Every state is making its own rebate rules, and those rules are evolving and changing right up to the date a program launches, and sometimes even after. So keep a close watch on the guidelines posted by your state and municipality so that you're ready to jump in, make that [qualifying] appliance purchase and claim your cash as soon as the program opens.
  • Be prepared: As with any important purchase, make sure you've done your research and know exactly which appliances qualify for rebates and where that rebate money will come from (state, utility, retailer, etc.) so that you've got the proper paperwork ready to go. Though there may be some info available at your appliance retailer, you can't depend on their staff to be up-to-date on the details of these ever-changing rebate programs and absolutely should not rely on them to get you your best Cash for Appliance Clunkers deal.
  • Act fast: State rebate programs may range from a few weeks to a few years, but there's no guarantee on how long your local rebate funds will be available. Not only are your fellow citizens after the same rebate deals, but the rebate processors and recycling contractors your state has hired to facilitate the program are being paid out of the same funds as those rebate claims. What's more, if you live in a state that's planning a two-phase rebate program, there may not be money left to give by the time phase two is scheduled to begin.
  • Get in line: Some states allow you to sign up for a rebate program voucher or certificate before the local launch to "hold your place in line," so be sure to take that step, too. You can find local info through the U.S. Department of Energy and ApplianceClunkerRebate.com.
Bottom line, the $300 million allocated for Cash for Appliance Clunkers doesn't amount to much more than an everyday "rounding error" for the Federal budget. With the way it's spread around the states and territories, it's going to be gone in a flash.

So weigh the benefits of participating and the advantages of repairing an ailing appliance before you commit to a big purchase that costs more than it saves, because you could wind up with more clunk than cash.

Tom Kraeutler delivers tips on energy efficiency tax credits and more each week as host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also AOL's Home Improvement Editor and author of "My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure." You can also subscribe to Tom's latest home improvement podcast.

State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program
Programs Approved by DOE as of January 25, 2010
State Projected
Start Date
Web Site
Alabama April 2010 Alabama's Rebate Program Web Site
Alaska February 2010 Alaska's Rebate Program Web Site
Arizona March 2010 Arizona's Rebate Program Web Site
Arkansas March 2010 Arkansas' Rebate Program Web Site
California March 2010 California's Rebate Program Web Site
Colorado March 2010 Colorado's Rebate Program Web Site
Connecticut January 2010 Connecticut's Rebate Program Web Site
Delaware December 2009 Delaware's Rebate Program Web Site
District of Columbia April 2010 District of Columbia's Rebate Program Web Site
Florida April 2010 Florida's Rebate Program Web Site
Georgia February 2010 Georgia's Rebate Program Web Site
Hawaii April 2010 Hawaii's Rebate Program Web Sites:
Oahu, Big Island, Maui, Mololokai, Lanai
Kauai Island Utility Cooperative
Idaho February 2010 Idaho's Rebate Program Web Site
Illinois January 2010/
April 2010*
Illinois' Rebate Program Web Site
Indiana February 2010 Indiana's Rebate Program Web Site
Iowa March 2010 Iowa's Rebate Program Web Site
Kansas December 2009 Kansas' Rebate Program Web Site
Kentucky April 2010 Kentucky's Rebate Program Web Site
Louisiana April 2010 Louisiana's Rebate Program Web Site
Maine February 2010 Maine's Rebate Program Web Site
Maryland March 2010 Maryland's Rebate Program Web Site
Massachusetts March 2010 Massachusetts's Rebate Program Web Site
Michigan February 2010 Michigan's Rebate Program Web Site
Minnesota March 2010 Minnesota's Rebate Program Web Site
Mississippi April 2010 Mississippi's Rebate Program Web Site
Missouri April 2010 Missouri's Rebate Program Web Site
Montana April 2010 Montana's Rebate Program Web Site
Nebraska April 2010 Nebraska's Rebate Program Web Site
Nevada April 2010 Nevada's Rebate Program Web Site
New Hampshire March 2010 New Hampshire's Rebate Program Web Site
New Jersey January 2010/
April 2010*
New Jersey's Rebate Program Web Site
New Mexico April 2010 New Mexico's Rebate Program Web Site
New York February 2010 New York's Rebate Program Web Site
North Carolina April 2010/
June 2010***
North Carolina's Rebate Program Web Site
North Dakota April 2010 North Dakota's Rebate Program Web Site
Ohio March 2010 Ohio's Rebate Program Web Site
Oklahoma March 2010 Oklahoma's Rebate Program Web Site
Oregon December 2009 Oregon's Rebate Program Web Site
Pennsylvania April 2010 Pennsylvania's Rebate Program Web Site
Rhode Island February 2010/
March 2010****
Rhode Island's Rebate Program Web Site
South Carolina March 2010 South Carolina's Rebate Program Web Site
South Dakota March 2010 South Dakota's Rebate Program Web Site
Tennessee April 2010 Tennessee's Rebate Program Web Site
Texas April 2010 Texas's Rebate Program Web Site
Utah March 2010 Utah's Rebate Program Web Site
Vermont January 2010/
March 2010**
Vermont's Rebate Program Web Site
Virginia April 2010 Virginia's Rebate Program Web Site
Washington April 2010 Washington's Rebate Program Web Site
West Virginia April 2010 West Virginia's Rebate Program Web Site
Wisconsin January 2010 Wisconsin's Rebate Program Web Site
Wyoming March 2010 Wyoming's Rebate Program Web Site
American Samoa March 2010 American Samoa's Rebate Program Web Site
Guam April 2010 Guam's Rebate Program Web Site
Northern Marianas Islands March 2010 Northern Marianas Islands' Rebate Program Web Site
Puerto Rico February 2010 Puerto Rico's Rebate Program Web Site
U.S. Virgin Islands February 2010 U.S. Virgin Islands' Rebate Program Web Site

* Illinois and New Jersey projected start date of January 2010 for phase 1, followed by April 2010 start date for phase 2.
** Vermont projected start date of January 2010 for phase 1, followed by March 2010 for phase 2.
*** North Carolina projected start date of April 2010 for phase 1, followed by June 2010 for phase 2.
**** Rhode Island projected start date of February 2010 for phase 1 and March 2010 for phase 2.

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