Time's running out on popular refrigerator rebates
by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
The federally funded refrigerator rebate program offering $250 to Hawai'i consumers who replace old fridges with new energy efficient models is winding down and likely will be exhausted in another week or two.
Since the initiative was launched May 24, local consumers have purchased an estimated 7,510 refrigerators qualifying for the mail-in rebate, according to administrators of the program.
An estimated 875 rebates were still available as of Friday, though the supply allocated to retailers on Kaua'i was exhausted May 29.
"It went well over here," said Ray Mierta, energy services supervisor for Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative, which is running the rebate program on the Garden Island. "The majority (of rebates) went on that (May 24) Monday morning. Home Depot and Sears had people lined up at four in the morning."
As of Friday, there still were rebates available on O'ahu, Maui and the Big Island, though some retailers had little or no rebate forms left.
Generally, more rebate forms were distributed to higher-volume retailers, and smaller stores are the ones that now have the majority of rebates available, according to Derrick Sonoda, director of operations for Hawaii Energy, which is administering the program locally everywhere but Kaua'i.
Hawaii Energy plans to soon post a list of which retailers still have rebates available on its website at www.hawaiienergy.com/tradeup. A list of all participating retailers — 22 on O'ahu, six on the Big Island and five on Maui — is presently available on the site.
Sonoda said rebates won't be redistributed among retailers, and that he expects consumers will use up all the rebates. "The program should run its course," he said. "We're very happy. The program did what it was supposed to have done."
If all rebates are not exhausted, the program is scheduled to end June 23.
At Best Buy's two O'ahu stores, fridge sales have been brisk but rebates were still available on Thursday. "The response was awesome," said Best Buy general manager Shawn Troup. "People are excited because they're doing something good for the environment and they're getting a rebate check."
The program was modeled after last year's federally funded Cash for Clunkers program that provided rebates for buying more fuel-efficient automobiles, though federal officials left it up to states to pick which large appliances qualify.
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism used $2.5 million in federal stimulus funds to finance the appliance rebate program, which included costs for recycling and administrative expenses including marketing.
Local program officials decided that concentrating the program on fridges would have a big bang for the buck, helping Hawai'i become more energy independent, boosting business for retailers and helping consumers save money.
The state said fridges account for the largest portion of household energy bills after electric water heaters and air conditioners, and is marketing the program with the phrase "Trade Up For Cool Cash."
The state estimates that the program will save about 100,000 barrels of oil and 7 million pounds of carbon emissions over the life of the appliances if all the old fridges are replaced by energy-efficient models using 50 percent less energy.
A 10-year-old fridge uses 63 gallons of oil every year. A new fridge will save 28 gallons of oil annually, with the electricity cost savings ranging from $80 to $90 a year. The savings for consumers can add up to $1,700 to $2,000 over the lifetime of a fridge at present electricity rates — or more if rates rise.
At $250, the rebate can amount to 25 percent or more off the cost of a new moderately priced fridge meeting energy efficiency qualifications.
To qualify for the rebate, new fridges must meet certain Energy Star ratings. A list is available at energy star.gov. The old fridge must be working and be recycled through participating retailers, some of whom may include a charge for delivery and removal.
After the fridge rebate program ends, Hawai'i consumers will still be able to obtain rebates for new Energy Star qualified appliances, including fridges, under existing state programs. More information on those programs can be found at www.hawaiienergy.com for O'ahu, Maui County and Big Island residents, and at www.kiuc.coop for Kaua'i residents.