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Minnesota will get a $5 million share of a $300 million "dollars for dishwashers" federal rebate program, but it's not expected to pack the same punch as "cash for clunkers," which left car dealerships scrambling to keep up with demand.
And don't rush to your appliance store just yet. The rebates, aimed at boosting sales of energy-efficient appliances, won't be available to consumers until spring. In Minnesota, the expected rollout date is in March.
It's part of the federal stimulus package, but unlike "cash for clunkers," the U.S. Department of Energy is giving states the authority to decide what items are eligible, how the money will be doled out and when to implement it.
That complicates the logistics, appliance executives from Sears and Bosch acknowledged in a phone briefing Wednesday.
"Certainly, $50 to $100 does not have the same impact as $4,500," said Doug Moore, president of Sears Home Appliances.
John Farley, senior brand and environmental marketing manager with Bosch, said, "If it had been a nationwide program, it would have been easier for everyone to get behind it."
Minnesota has chosen refrigerators, clothes washers, dishwashers and freezers to be eligible for rebates between $100 and $200, according to Jeff Haase, Minnesota's point person. Nationally, recycling of the old appliance is encouraged but not required.
"We don't want the refrigerators recycled under this program to replace ones that are just put in the garage or basement," Haase said. "The intent ... is to reduce energy consumption, while providing an economic stimulus to the country."
Haase, the supervisor of the utility conservations program for the state Office of Energy Security, said approval of the states' plans and the money from the Department of Energy are expected at the end of November. The state is looking for a company to handle the rebates.
About $400,000 in administrative costs will come out of the $5 million, he said.
Under the $3 billion Car Allowance Rebate System, people who owned certain gas-guzzling vehicles flooded dealerships to take advantage of a $3,500 to $4,500 credit toward a new vehicle. The clunkers were to be destroyed. In the end, nearly 700,000 cars were sold.
The appliance industry, sagging since 2005 from the slump in the housing market and tight-fisted consumers, is hoping for the same sort of jump-start. Shipments of appliances were down 10 percent last year and down 12 percent so far this year, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Sears and Bosch didn't have specific sales projections for the program and said they hope consumers don't delay purchases, hurting sales now. They also acknowledged the rebate amounts are relatively low but urged consumers to look at the long-term energy savings of a new appliance.
Minnesota consumers interested in making a purchase should know that they -- not the retailer -- will file for the rebate, Haase said. Officials are still deciding whether it will be in the form of a cash card or check.
Suzanne Ziegler • 612-673-1707