By Vinnee Tong, AP Business Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Next year may be to appliance buyers what 2009 was to car buyers: time for government rebates.
Modeled after the popular Cash for Clunkers program, which was intended to get cars with low gas mileage off the road, a federal appliance rebate program is launching in early 2010. It offers a boost to people buying energy-efficient clothes washers, refrigerators and other appliances — those that qualify for the federal "Energy Star" designation — and to manufacturers, whose sales fell 10% in 2008 and another 12% through mid-December this year.
The program has only $300 million, one-tenth as much money as Cash for Clunkers, or about $1 per U.S resident, so it could run out fast. States are receiving roughly the same amount per capita, with California getting the most at $35.2 million, but what's eligible varies by state.
Here's what to keep in mind as you decide whether to swap your washer for that supposedly whisper-quiet model or your old white refrigerator for a shapely stainless-steel number.
WHAT'S MY STATE OFFERING?
For state by state information, visit the federal Web site and click on "state appliance rebate program" on the right.
California residents, for example, can get cash back on three types of appliances: $100 for washing machines, $75 for refrigerators and $50 for room air conditioners. Wisconsin offers rebates on washers and fridges plus $200 for boilers or furnaces, $75 for central air conditioning or geothermal heat pumps, $50 for freezers and $25 for dishwashers.
(Also in effect through Dec. 31, 2010, is a federal tax credit for 30% of the cost up to $1,500 on equipment for a primary residence.)
HOW DO I KNOW IT'S A DEAL?
Joe McGuire, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, said buying Energy Star appliances can mean hearty power savings. But it's important to make sure you save enough in water and energy bills over time to justify paying for a new unit.
"A good example is a 10-year-old clothes washer," he said. "With Energy Star, you could reduce utility costs by $145 a year and save 5,000 gallons of water a year."