On Tuesday, IdahoReporter.com reported that in excess of $500,000 has been distributed by the state in an appliance rebate program funded by the federal government. Office of Energy Resources (OER) director Paul Kjellander said Wednesday he believes the program is doing what he and federal officials intended it to do.
The program is similar to the “Cash for Clunkers” program from last year, which allowed people to trade in older, less fuel efficient cars and receive up to $4,500 in tax rebates toward the purchase of a new car. For the cash for appliances program, citizens are able to replace appliances – dishwashers, water heaters, dryers, and more – with newer appliances that are Energy Star certified and use less energy than older models. Citizens can receive rebate money for up to five different appliance upgrades.
To receive a rebate, Idaho citizens must purchase an Energy Star appliance and save the receipt of that purchase. After buying the appliance, people can log on to the state’s website for the program and fill out the application form. After printing out the form, people will need to mail in the form, along with a copy of the receipt, and a utility bill which bears an Idaho address for verification purposes, to OER for processing. If the rebate application is granted, applicants will be mailed a pre-paid VISA debit card 6-8 weeks later in the amount of the rebate.
Kjellander said that more than 3,100 rebates have been reserved or applied for as of May 12, 2010. Clothes washers, refrigerators, and dishwashers - in that order - are the three most commonly replaced items by Idahoans, according to Kjellander, who believes several factors may contribute to that statistic. "It's not every three or four years when our furnace goes out on you," said Kjellander. He added that washers and fridges receive more everyday wear and tear than furnaces and air conditioning units, so they are more likely to be replaced. Additionally, he pointed out that people who might be moving into new homes might be looking to replace old appliances with more energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing models.
In an earlier interview with IdahoReporter.com, Kjellander said that he wanted the program to be a “slow, steady burn” of funds and not a quick shot in the arm. Has that been achieved? Kjellander thinks so. "We've seen a fairly steady use of program funds," he said. The program was designed by his office to stimulate the local economy while providing Idahoans help in purchasing appliances to lessen household impact on the electrical grid and utility bills. Kjellander said that the rebates are enough to entice people to buy, but not enough to force citizens into rash purchasing decisions. "It allows people to make good decisions and shop around and not make overnight decisions. Because it is a rebate program, people must save the money and spend it upfront, which means they have to put money together and save for the purchase. That leads to smart buying," said Kjellander.
The program has experienced relatively few hiccups in the short time it has been around. Kjellander said that most calls to his office have been from people interested in applying for rebates, but do not have access to the Internet or are confused by the application process. The office has also received a few calls from people wondering if a certain appliance fits program criteria, information which can be found on the program's website.