Hawaii recycling plan offers $250 in cash for clunker refrigerators
By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
Get ready to junk that old refrigerator in the kitchen or garage.
The state is launching a federally funded recycling and rebate program to pay Hawai'i consumers $250 for replacing energy-hogging fridges with more efficient new models.
Rebates will be available on purchases starting May 24 from 35 retailers statewide, and end June 23 unless the rebate money runs out sooner.
There's enough money for about 10,000 rebates, and some retailers are preparing for a rush.
"We hope it will have a good effect, maybe 10 to 20 percent (higher sales)," said Clyde Hamai of Hamai Appliance on Maui. "If people are wise, and do take advantage of this like they did with cars, it should have a big effect."
The program is 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.
Local program officials said the fridge rebate will help Hawai'i become more energy independent, boost business for retailers and help consumers save money.
"Refrigeration is one of the appliances that eat up a lot of energy," said Randall Hee, president and chief executive officer of Kaua'i's nonprofit electricity provider, Kaua'i Island Utility Cooperative. "It takes an old refrigerator that ends up in the garage full of beer off the system."
The state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism said fridges account for the largest portion of household energy bills after electric water heaters and air conditioners.
If 10,000 old refrigerators are replaced by energy-efficient models that use 50 percent less energy, it would save about 100,000 barrels of oil and 7 million pounds of carbon emissions over the life of the fridges, the state said.
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. Ray Starling, manager of the Hawaii Energy Efficiency Program, said 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 prepare, Sears increased its inventory of fridges from the normal one month's supply to three months, said Chris Jellings, appliance manager at the Pearlridge store. "We have plenty of stock," he said. "We should be able to get people whatever they need."
The state will allocate each retailer a specific number of mail-in rebate applications so that purchases and rebates won't exceed rebate funds. If one retailer runs out of applications, it's possible another may still have some.
NEW FRIDGE MUST QUALIFY
To qualify for the rebate, new fridges must meet certain Energy Star ratings. A list is available at energystar.gov. The old fridge must be working and be recycled through participating retailers, some of whom may include a charge for delivery and removal.
Funding for the program initially was expected to be $1.2 million that the state is getting as its per-capita share of $300 million in federal stimulus money divided among states for rebates on a range of large appliances. DBEDT added another $1.3 million from other sources of federal stimulus funds to enhance the fridge rebate program.
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 hawaii energy.com for O'ahu, Maui County and Big Island residents, and at kiuc.coop for Kaua'i residents.