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Monday, April 26, 2010

Pennsylvania Limits Appliance Rebates

The Times-Tribune

Pennsylvanians will miss out on federal rebates for energy-efficient kitchen appliances offered through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, those replacing furnaces, water heaters or boilers can cash in.

The program - created to give Americans an incentive to dump old, inefficient appliances in favor of new, efficient ones - is funded by the federal government but administered by states. In Pennsylvania, qualifying products must be purchased on or after April 21 and are only available for residents of single-family homes.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection opted to limit the $11.9 million of rebates to non-electric heating equipment such as water heaters, boilers and furnaces. The move has the Keystone State's appliance dealers miffed, but heating contractors and plumbers will likely be pleased. To qualify for the rebate, equipment must be professionally installed.

State officials said they wanted to focus the rebates on equipment delivering the greatest energy savings. Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states to not include appliances in the program.

"We took a different course than other states and opted for greater energy savings," said DEP spokesman John Repetz. "A new refrigerator will save you a few dollars on your bill, but if you replace a water heater or a furnace - it means major, ongoing savings."

Other states, however, such as Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, allow consumers rebates of up to $200 on appliances, including refrigerators, ovens and washing machines.

Mr. Repetz noted that Pennsylvania utilities offer appliance rebates. However, those rebates are not as generous as the ones funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. For example, PPL's rebate, which expires at the end of May, offers $50 for a refrigerator and $75 for a washing machine.

David Voitek, manager of Voitek TV and Appliance in Exeter, said the state's decision to limit the rebate denies consumers the savings they would have received on their utility bills, and denies his business the traffic it would have seen from the incentive.

"This is like taking money away from people," he said.

Mr. Voitek and other independent appliance dealers are offering their own version of the popular Cash for Clunkers rebate program to try to make up for the state's heater-only rebates.

However, Harvey Sachs, senior fellow of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, said Pennsylvania's approach may maximize the economic impact of federal dollars since the state requires professional installation and local labor.

"Using this money to have local home remodelers install a furnace or water heater has a greater economic impact than a do-it-yourselfer throwing a new clothes washer in the back of the SUV and hooking it up himself," he said.

The DEP notes that heating makes up more than half the energy consumption of the average Pennsylvania household. Home heating accounts for 43 percent of total energy use and water heating, 15 percent.

Rebates for furnaces and boilers range from $200 to $500. Water heater rebates are either $100 for a conventional unit or $200 for a tankless model.

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