The State Energy Efficiency Appliance Rebate Program is in its final planning phases (SEEARP). With nearly $300 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds available to states for appliance rebates, States had until October 15 to submit rebate program proposals to the Department of Energy (DOE). Though DOE has until the end of November to approve the proposals, details are emerging on how some states plan to distribute their rebates.

Demographics & Deadlines

Rebate programs are being planned by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and are generally expected to start in early spring. Most states are offering all consumers $50 to $250 rebates per appliance for energy-efficient refrigerators, washing machines, water heaters, and more, and will offer the rebates until their state’s funding runs out. Meanwhile, Alaska’s proposal intends to make its small amount of funding stretch as far as possible. The state is expecting $658,000 in SEEARP money, which would amount to less than $1 per resident, according to an article in the Alaska Dispatch.

As such, the state intends to narrow the field of residents eligible for the rebates to only disabled Alaskans, of which there are an estimated 10,000. Rebates for refrigerators and freezers, and washers and dryers will be further adjusted based on whether the resident lives in a rural or urban area of the state. According to the Alaska Dispatch article, representatives from the Alaska Housing Finance Corp, which is managing the state’s program, the state wanted to focus the rebate program on the neediest residents, and be simple enough to avoid administrative costs.

In Florida, keeping the SEEARP simple translates to a quick-turnaround rebate window. The Florida Energy & Climate Commission has outlined a 10-day period running from April 16 to April 25, 2010, in which appliances purchases will be eligible for rebates. No retroactive rebates will be distributed, and the rebates will be issued on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Commission states that the spring timeframes for Florida’s and most other states’ programs comes at the request of appliance manufacturers that must ramp up production in anticipation of new sales. Florida’s short window, it adds, mirrors the success of the time-limited Cash for Clunkers vehicle program. If funds remain after the 10 day window, a second, smaller rebate program will be initiated.

Rebate Amounts and Eligible Products

In addition to offering only a short timeframe for eligible purchases, Florida has chosen to use a percentage-based rebate, rather than one based on dollar amounts per appliance. The program will honor purchases of up to one each of Energy Star-rated refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, room air conditioners, and gas tankless water heaters. The rebate will be 20% of the purchase price before taxes, and the total amount of rebates and recycling fees available for a single address is capped at $1,500. Similarly, the Oregon Department of Energy intends to use the state’s $3.6 million in SEEARP funds as percentage incentives for low-income households. The Oregon Register-Guard reports that low-income residence that install high-efficiency heating units will be eligible for a 70% instant rebate on the purchase.

The article says that, according to the Oregon DOE, 40% of the state’s annual energy usage comes from heating homes, which is why it chose to focus its SEEARP rebates on heating appliances. This comes much to the chagrin of kitchen appliance retailers who were hoping for a boost in sales.

According to the plan, the funding will provide households with new Energy Star heating equipment if a repair is not cost-effective, or if a new appliance would increase the energy efficiency of the home and lower utility bills. Oregon also has an established tax credit program in place for energy-efficient appliances, offering $60 to $180 credits for dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, and freezers.

Recycling Required

One goal of the “Cash for Appliances” program is to encourage consumers to recycle their older, energy-guzzling appliances, rather than simply send them to the landfill. Focusing on this point, some states have added recycling requirements into their SEEARP proposals. The website reports that Ohio is requiring consumers to properly dispose of or recycle old appliances, though the state has not specified how these requirements will be policed or what penalties there might be. The same is true in Oklahoma.

Many states and counties around the country offer appliance recycling programs, and the Energy Star website offers a ZIP code-based search function for locating appliance recyclers.

Details about each state’s final SEEARP program will be released as the programs are approved by DOE, which will be completed within six weeks, according to press officer Christina Kielich. “All 50 states submitted their plans by October 15, so we’re now in the process of reviewing them,” she says. “It’s a very tight schedule, but we’re already working on it, and we expect every state to receive their appliance rebate funds.”

Additional details about the SEEARP program can be found here, on the DOE website.