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Energy-Efficiency Bargains Continue Even With State Rebates Gone

By Lauren Padia
April 22, 2010

If major appliances are more than a few years old, their energy consumption could be costing consumers more than they know.

April 16 marked the end of the third phase of the federal Cash for Appliances program. Similar to Cash for Clunkers, the program gave consumers incentives to replace old household appliances and electronics for new, more energy-efficient Energy Star products.

Consumers could participate in Cash for Appliances by getting an instant 15 percent discount on qualified Energy Star products on April 16. No trade-in on old appliances was necessary, but customers who purchased refrigerators and freezers could get an additional $75 mail-in rebate if they properly disposed of the old units.

The program, adminstered by the states, was so successful that the rebate program, which began at 8 a.m., ended when government funding ran out at 7 p.m. the same day.

Rebates are no longer available, but local retailers are still encouraging customers to buy qualified Energy Star products by offering their own discounts and incentives.

Abt Electronics, based in Glenview, is still offering a 15 percent discount on qualified Energy Star products until the end of April. Mike Abt, president of Abt Electronics, said that several manufacturers are still offering instant rebates until the end of the month as well.

Abt Electronics typically opens at 9 a.m., but the store opened their doors at 7 a.m. on April 16 and spent an hour educating customers about Energy Star products until 8 a.m. when the rebate program began. Over 220 salesmen and 100 vendors were in the store selling products.

"Appliances are not exciting, but they really were on that Friday," Abt said. The store saw record sales by 2 p.m. that day.

Kathy Papciak, bookkeeper at Columbia Furniture in Wicker Park said "the event really was a lot of fun. To finally have some excitement about buying appliances was quite nice." The store is still offering a 15 percent discount on qualified Energy Star products.

Grand Appliance & TV in Ukrainian Village opened at 6 a.m. the day of the event to talk to customers about the benefits of buying Energy Star products and to help them select products, even though the sale didn't start until two hours later. They are still offering a 10 percent discount on Energy Star products until the end of the month.

Scott Palmieri, the builder sales manager at Grand Appliance & TV said people are still coming in asking about Energy Star products even though the Cash for Appliances program has ended. "What the government program did, and I thank them for this, they've enlightened people about Energy Star, and I think it will have a nice impact going forward," Palmieri said.

Energy Star products may be more expensive than others, so sometimes customers are hesitant to spend the extra money. "In my opinion, Energy Star appliances are the best way to go to save money over time," said Kevin Krasney, whose family owns Cole's Appliance and Furniture in North Center. "More and more people are starting to realize that if they spend more money now, they'll save much more over time," he said.

Cole's offers wholesale pricing on most products and always helps work with customers to take advantage of any possible rebates. Krasney said he's currently working with Bosch, Sub-Zero and General Electric Co. to negotiate lower pricing to ensure his customers are getting a lower price.

The Cash for Appliances impacted more than just consumer's wallets. It also helped provide education on lowering energy consumption, which will have lasting effects on the environment and customer's future shopping habits. "In the end it worked out for everybody. It was good for the environment and good for the customer," Abt said.

©2001 - 2009 Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.

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