Appliance rebate offering bigger refunds

- LITTLE ROCK - Participation in a program offering rebates to purchasers of energy-efficient appliances has fallen short of expectations, so the Arkansas Energy Office is seeking to boost interest by offering bigger refunds.

Effective immediately, an Arkansas resident who trades in a refrigerator for an Energy Star-rated refrigerator will receive $275 instead of $125, Energy Office officials said today. The rebate for an Energy Star-rated clothes washer is going up from $175 to $225, and the rebate for an Energy Star-rated water heater is increasing from $200 to $300.

The rebate program "was running slower than we expected, and Arkansas is not alone in that. A lot of states are in the same boat," said Monica Beard-Raymond, outreach and training manager for the Energy Office.

Arkansas was awarded $2.74 million in federal stimulus money for the program, which started in March. Officials expected to award all of that money in about four months, but by today $832,000 remained unclaimed.

Officials want to distribute the money as quickly as possible to provide the best possible stimulus for Arkansas' economy, Beard-Raymond said.

The increase is retroactive, so Arkansans who have already received rebates will receive checks in the mail for the increased amount, she said. No action is necessary on their part.

Beard-Raymond said the higher prices of energy-efficient appliances may be discouraging some from buying them, but the energy savings more than make up for the cost.

"They do pay for themselves over time, but there is that initial price premium," she said. "That's really where the rebate levels come in."

She added, "If somebody is sitting on the fence about whether or not they want to replace any of these products, I would say now is the time to do it because this is a first-come-first-served program, and now that we've increased these rebate levels we're not expecting it to last forever."

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