It may not be as lucrative as the $105 rebate available under the Great Appliance Swap Out run by the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, but the $30-rebate-plus-free-disposal deal from National Grid for residential customers who trade in their old refrigerators and freezers for energy-efficient new ones is still a pretty good deal.
Old refrigerators and freezers use a lot of electricity, so getting them out of circulation is a good way to reduce energy demand — which makes sense economically, environmentally and geopolitically. In fact, a unit that qualifies under the government’s “Energy Star” program consumes less than one-third the energy that a comparably sized unit of yesteryear does.
Yet a lot of people, when they upgrade their kitchen model, will hang onto their old one as a spare — putting it in the cellar or garage and filling it up with beverages or food they’ve bought on sale, or in bulk. But the juice they need to run a pre-1990s unit — as much as $200 per year — can easily outstrip their savings from being a smart shopper. Indeed, a new Energy Star unit can pay for itself in power savings in little more than a few years.
Last year’s federal economic stimulus program included $300 million for a “Cash for Clunkers” appliance trade-in. In New York, the $17 million allocated for NYSERDA’s Swap Out program was reserved by prospective appliance buyers shortly after the program opened last winter, but almost half of the applicants have either not followed through and actually bought new Energy Star appliances or they’ve failed to file proper documentation of their purchase. So the agency has established a waiting list and will start distributing additional rebate money from it after July 31.
Meanwhile, numerous other states have failed to hand out their full shares of the $300 million federal pot. They should be encouraged to liberalize their program rules to encourage participation, or give the money to states that ran better programs. The program’s objectives — getting old, inefficient appliances out of circulation while stimulating the economy — are too valuable to let the money just sit there.