Your state might have millions of dollars in grant money available to help you lower your home's energy bill with new, efficient appliances. However, you have to move quickly, because some states already disbursed their grant money for efficient appliances in 2011, and some earmarked their grant for certain demographics well in advance of offering their grants. If you cannot get a grant from a state agency, you might be able to find a rebate from a manufacturer.
Although the Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about government grants for personal expenses, such as rent and furnishing a home, grants for efficiency appliances are real. The federal government funded energy-efficient appliances through the State Energy-Efficient Appliance Rebate Program in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. Congress appropriated funds to each state, so once money runs out for the program, it is gone unless the federal government approves new funding in the future.
The Department of Energy did not declare which appliances qualify for a SEEARP rebate, so qualified appliances vary from state to state. Several states have run out of SEEARP funds as of 2011, so you may not receive any rebate, even if you buy an eligible product. How you receive a SEEARP rebate also varies by state. In general, states require a manufacturer's disclosure notice and a receipt and may pay you by check or with a prepaid debit card. Some states, such as California, require that you recycle your old unit and include a proof of recycling receipt with your application. In a few states, you might receive a larger rebate if you have proof of recycling the old unit.
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Receiving a rebate under the SEEARP program does not preclude you from any other rebates, such as one from the manufacturer or utility company. However, you must review the rules on a manufacturer rebate, because it may conflict with that of your state's energy-efficient appliance program. You might look in your local community for grants to buy efficient appliances, especially "green" organizations.
Most states use mail in-forms to apply for a SEEARP rebate, which usually are available through the retailer or the state's website. Also, ask manufacturers and retailers about rebates on new appliances. Many offer a discount if you turn in your old model. Even if you cannot find a grant to buy new appliances, consider how much your old "clunker" appliances cost you in energy. For instance, if you had a refrigerator made in 1980 operating in your home in 2011, you paid about an extra $100 a year in utility bills, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
- U.S. Department of Energy: State Energy-Efficient Appliance Rebate Program
- Federal Trade Commission: Free Government Grants -- Don’t Take Them For Grant-ed; April 2009
- U.S. Department of Energy: Approved Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Programs
- Consumer Reports; Rebates for New Appliances; February 2010
- National Resources Defense Council: Efficient Appliances Save Energy -- and Money