Shopping for an Energy Efficient Appliance Good but wait to buy

Date: Aug. 4th, 2009
Contact: Dan Shapley The Daily Green

You will soon be able to claim a tax credit if you purchase one of many qualifying energy-efficient appliances rated highly by the government's Energy Star program.

The Department of Energy is planning on doling out $300 million to states that set up tax rebate programs.

The trick for consumers — as is the case with much of the money the Recovery Act is doling out for energy efficiency improvements — is that the details will come from state energy agencies, or possibly local utilities (if your state partners with electricity providers to administer the rebate program). You have to keep your eyes out for program announcements in your state, and that may take getting to know your state government a little more intimately. How many New Yorkers regularly do business with NYSERDA, for instance? (That's the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Of course.)

In addition to your state agencies, which you can identify by visiting the National Association of State Energy Officials, good sources to watch include the Alliance to Save Energy and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, both of which attempt to keep track of relevant federal, state and local incentives.

States will choose how big tax rebates will be, and to which appliances they will apply (they also have to assure the federal government that they have adequately planned to recycle the old appliances). The Department of Energy is encouraging states to set up programs for heating and cooling equipment — furnaces, boilers and air conditioning systems, as well as geothermal heat pumps — as well as hot-water heaters and household appliances like clothes washers, dishwashers, freezers and refrigerators.

The money is being divided up by state, according to population, so everyone ought to have roughly equal access to the funding.

It's unclear whether purchases made today would qualify retroactively, so for now you may want to hold off on a big purchase until the program details are published in your state. That advice runs counter to one of the aims of the program: boosting consumer spending and manufacturing orders.

"Each State or Territory will roll out their programs on its own timeline," Department of Energy spokesman Chris Kielich told The Daily Green. "However, DOE anticipates that rebates should be available to consumers starting in late 2009 or early 2010. States have up to February 2012 (36 months from enactment of the ARRA legislation) to expend all of the funds."

Consumers interested in the rebates should check the Website for their state energy office to find out specifics for their state: This site also has contact phone numbers.