Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From cash for clunkers to greenbacks for green machines

Okay, the cash for clunkers car deals are history. Next up, forecasters believe, the next consumer cash incentive program coming out of Washington will be cash for appliances.

The prevailing predictions currently are that the plan will provide rebates of $50 to $200 to consumers who buy Energy Star rated fridges, freezers, washers or other appliances, Business Week and other sources report.

Details are still being worked out, but you don't have to trade in your old appliance to qualify for the cash, just buy a new one. Some Maytag owners of some potentially dangerous refrigerators might want to anyway. A national recall was expanded Tuesday.

You probably won't have to scramble for the shiny green replacements either. More than half the appliances on the market now are Energy Star rated.

Appliance rebates are a mixed blessing for retailers , reports an organization called the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. They boost sales and encourage conservation in the short run, but can also cause manufacturers to wildly misread what consumers want in the long run.

Sellers like rebates for two reasons. They make it easier to raise prices when sales improve - you just end the rebate. Plus many consumers haven't been claiming rebates much, before now at least, because they don't like the paperwork involved, US News and World Report found recently.

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