Rebate program begins March 31

-A A +A
By Chris Sardelli

Area appliance retailers and contractors hope to see a surge in their businesses beginning March 31.

That’s when consumers will be able to take part in a new state appliance rebate program.

Through the program, residents who buy new Energy Star-certified refrigerators, dishwashers, water heaters, air conditioners and other appliances will be eligible for a $50 to $500 rebate.

Energy Star is a federal certification program requiring energy-efficient appliances, which often save between 10 and 50 percent more water and electricity than standard appliances.

Megan Herring, spokeswoman for the S.C. Energy Office, said the rebate money will come from $3.9 million allocated to South Carolina through the state’s portion of the federal stimulus program.

The program begins at 7 a.m. March 31 and will continue until the stimulus funds are exhausted.

Herring said her office will post a “countdown clock” on its Web site, which will automatically track rebates as they are given out and show how much funding remains.

“We have gotten a lot of calls about the program, and we’re hoping to get all the information out in time so people will be ready to purchase their appliances,” she said.

Rebate amounts differ depending on the appliance.

Smaller items, such as dishwashers and refrigerators, have rebates of $50, while larger items, such as heat pumps or a gas furnace, have rebates of $500.

There are two ways consumers can buy their new energy-efficient appliances, Herring said.

With smaller appliances, such as clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators or air conditioning units, consumers get a point-of-sale rebate.

This means when they buy their appliances at a retailer, the rebate is given to them immediately.

Retailers mark the rebate amount online and are reimbursed from the state at a later date.

She said retailers generally deliver the items to consumers and pick up the old appliances at that time for recycling.

Larger appliances, such as heat pumps, are usually bought through contractors. When they buy the item, the contractor will go online and lock in the rebate amount. They print out the rebate forms and hand them to the consumer, who mails in the rebate form themself. Contractors generally pick up old appliances for recycling as well.

Herring said consumers can find participating retailers and contractors at www.appliancerebates.sc.gov, by clicking Search for a Vendor on the left side of the screen. The Web site offers phone numbers, addresses and contact information for each business.

“We’re excited about this,” she said. “Now we’re trying to adapt the program to meet the needs of South Carolina consumers.”

Local businesses                    prepare

Doug Crenshaw, owner of Energy Center TV and Appliances in Lancaster, registered with the program several weeks ago. He said the window during which consumers can obtain a rebate is very small.

“I will promote this to encourage people to come in that Wednesday and get it going because the further you go into this program, the more likely funds will be gone,” Crenshaw said. “I hope I can dive in there early enough, because this is going to be offered for a very short period of time.”

Crenshaw has been buying Energy Star-certified appliances for several years and said most of his stock meets the criteria for a rebate.

Ken Roberts, owner of Kershaw Heating and Cooling Inc., said he was prompted to register with the program after hearing about it at a conference for the S.C. Association of Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors, an association of which he’s a member. He’ll be one of many contractors who will register their customers online for the rebate.

With so many contractors trying to get their customers a rebate, Roberts  expects the program will last for only about a week.

“I think if contractors are proactive like I am, then the funds will be gone in a few days,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a good program and I’ve sold quite a few items because of it.”

Tonya Robinson, with Lancaster-based Kevin Robinson’s Heating and Cooling, said her business has already spoken to several customers about the rebate. She said many have made arrangements to have heat pumps and gas furnaces installed on March 31.

“We wanted to offer the incentive to customers, especially with the way the economy is,” Robinson said. “This helps our business and helps the consumers.”

Larger chains are participating as well.

Lowe’s of North Lancaster, located off Fort Mill Highway in Indian Land, has joined the rebate program.

Abby Buford, spokeswoman for Lowe’s, said the Indian Land store will offer rebates for smaller appliances, including dishwashers, refrigerators and room air conditioning units.

There will also be signage in the store letting customers know how to obtain a rebate. And because of state laws, the store will also offer free recycling of old appliances.

“We’re very excited about the program,” Buford said. “We’ll be ready come March 31 in your local store to help customers with their rebates.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416