5 On Your Side

Appliances fly off shelves as rebate program kicks off

Posted April 22, 2010 3:55 p.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2010 9:47 p.m. EDT

A federally funded rebate brought appliance shoppers to the stores Thursday.

— North Carolinians quickly snatched up deals Thursday, buying energy-efficient appliances at the rate of $2,000 a minute on the first of four days of a federally funded rebate program.

Consumers can get an instant 15 percent rebate off any Energy Star-qualified washer, dishwasher, freezer or refrigerator. The purchase must replace an existing appliance that will be thrown out, and buyers are allowed only one of any type of appliance.

"We're moving into a house that needed an update. Timing was perfect," said shopper Marilou Coggins, who took advantage of the rebate at the Lowe's store in Cary.

The first rebate was recorded at 12:04 a.m. for a washing machine bought at a midnight sale in Hickory.

Store manager Jason Locklear said that about 20 people were waiting outside when the Lowe's in Cary opened.

"It was pretty busy the first hour or so, and we've been steady ever since," Locklear said.

The rebate offer runs through Sunday unless the $8.8 million in federal stimulus funds for it runs out first.

Seth Effron, a spokesman for the North Carolina Energy Office, said late Thursday that sales have been far greater than program administrators expected, and the funds might run out. He estimated that between 49,000 and 50,000 appliances would have to be purchased to use up all of North Carolina’s allotted funds.

As of 9:45 p.m. Thursday, 41 percent of the fund had been used, leaving $4.7 million for more rebates. Effron said he expected a large portion of the money to go quickly, because many retailers took pre-orders that they placed Thursday morning.

Every retailer has access to the state's running tally of rebates, so they can see how much money is left in the fund.

Coggins said the quick response is one more reason she's glad she bought early. Three of the five appliances she bought qualified for the rebate, saving her nearly $1,000.

"It was pretty hefty. It does make a big difference," she said.