9 Tips to Save on Appliance Purchases

Shopping for appliance
Photo by Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Much as last year’s “Cash for Clunkers” car program helped hundreds of thousands into a new more fuel-efficient ride, the Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program, also known as “Cash for Appliance Clunkers,” is on target to help Americans save some money on energy-efficient appliances.

We first reported on this program back in November of 2009 while it was still on the drawing board. It consists of state-supplied rebates of $50 to $250 in exchange for replacing old, energy-hogging appliances with new Energy Star ones. The program is being funded by $300-million dollars of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

To find out the details of your state’s program, visit this page of the DOE website. And doing so is a necessity, since unlike the cash for clunkers car program, this one varies widely from state to state on everything from who’s eligible (in most states it’s everyone, but in Alaska, for example, you have to be receiving disability payments) to what appliances are eligible (in most states it’s nearly all Energy Star appliances, but in Minnesota, for example, it’s only washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers) to how much the rebate is (a refrigerator gets a $100 in rebate in Nebraska, only $50 in Georgia.)

The programs end when the cash runs out: as of today, it’s already toast in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Texas.

But whether your state’s program is over or not, there are always things you can do to save money when it’s time to go appliance shopping.

Before you shop:

Whether you can use your state’s cash for appliance program or not, always…

  • Check the Energy Star Website to see if there are incentives, like manufacturer rebates, that might help you save.
  • Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to see if your state or local utilities are offering financial incentives for certain appliances.
  • Use the calendar: New appliances typically come out in the fall. Wait till then, buy last year’s model and save.
  • Scratch and Dent: You know you’re going to scratch it anyway…buy it pre-scratched and save. Or buy a floor model: that can easily save 10 – 20%.
  • Shop online: Then take those prices to local dealers and see if they’ll beat them, or at least meet them.
  • Make a list of the features you really need. That will keep you from buying unnecessary bells and whistles.
  • Don’t buy an extended warranty: many consumer advocates…including yours truly…think they’re usually not worth the money they cost.
  • Negotiate: The shortest path to a lower price, especially on expensive things like appliances, is simply to ask.
  • Pay Cash: Credit cards cost retailers 2-3% in bank fees. If you pay cash, that saves them that money: ask for it.

Make that appliance last.

And if you decide that despite all these great tips and potential rebates that you’re still not in the market for new appliances, take care of the appliances you have so they last longer and operate better. Here’s a few tips:

  • Clean the condenser coils on your refrigerator annually and check door seals to ensure they’re airtight.
  • Check your air conditioner/furnace filters monthly and replace as needed.
  • Replace washer fill hoses every five years.
  • Avoid overloading the washing machine.
  • Have the exhaust duct on the clothes dryer inspected and cleaned once a year. Clean the lint filter before each use.
  • Don’t allow heavy grease buildup on the oven interior or the fan filter.
  • Drain a quart of water from your water heater tank every three months to remove sediment that slows down heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater.
  • Have regular service on all your appliances as recommended by the manufacturer.

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