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Naples Florida Guide: Florida launches Web site for cash for clunker appliances

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"Tuesday, April 13, 2010 Florida launches Web site for cash for clunker appliances Florida has finally launched the Web site that will give Floridians the chance to get 20 percent rebates on energy efficient appliances.

The portal for shoppers to secure their rebate is

But shoppers are still going to have to wait until Friday before they can begin registering for those savings; and the money fueling that program isn’t expected to last long.

Florida’s Energy Star Appliance Rebate Program, a federally-funded but state-run initiative, will give 20 percent rebates on the retail price of approved energy efficient appliances: refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, tank-less gas water heaters and room air-conditioners. The program will also pay consumers $75 for recycling their old appliances but they will have to be quick enough to sign up for rebate reservations before money runs out. The limit on rebates per household is $1,500.

The program, which is funded through the 2009 stimulus package, begins Friday and runs until April 25. However, the $17.5 million set aside for the program is not expected to last the whole week. Once those funds are gone, the program ends. The state estimates that only about 66,000 Floridians will actually get rebates.

After purchasing an approved Energy Star appliance, Floridians have to register at the new Web site to secure a priority number. That process begins at 11 a.m. on Friday.

To improve chances of getting the rebate, customers should plan on purchasing their appliances on the morning of April 16 and getting in front of their computers, with receipts in hand, close to 11 a.m., said Barbara Buchan, chief analyst for Florida Energy and Climate Commission and spokesperson for the program.

Until priority number registration begins, the Web site is a good place to go for information about the program. It offers step-by-step directions for obtaining a rebate and tips on how to benefit from the program.

Come Friday morning though, an additional link will be added to the left sidebar of the Web site that will guide users to priority registration, Buchan said. An “available funds” countdown also will refresh every 30 minutes, which will allow customers and retailers to monitor how much money is left.

Few of the appliance rebate programs in other states have run smoothly. After early problems in Iowa and Rhode Island, which launched their programs in March, the U.S. Department of Energy worked with other states to improve the process.

Buchan said the department recommended the reservation or priority number process.

Texas tested that method out last week with troubling results.

The state launched its reservation process on Wednesday with its $23 million in funds.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas’ rebate Web site experienced “2,400 hits a second and over 38 million over the course of the day.” It also experienced back-ups in phone calls, but Florida does not offer a rebate hotline to reserve a priority number. All funding ran out by 2:30 p.m. on the release date and some consumers claimed they spent hours trying to reserve their rebates.

Some local retailers have expressed concerns about Florida’s rebate site being able to handle the large amount of traffic expected for the program. Bill Smith and some other retailers will be offering computers at their showrooms for customers to register for priority numbers.

“Our hope is that the state’s Web site will not go down,” said Chris Riching, executive vice president of Fort Myers-based Bill Smith appliance stores.

Despite problems in Texas and other states with distributing funds, Buchan said she feels “very comfortable” that Florida’s rebate site will withstand the expected flood of Floridians looking to get rebates.

She said state officials have worked with Web administrators to implement enough safety checks and hardware to handle the traffic.

That doesn’t mean everyone wanted the rebate will get it.

Buchan said, “We expect the funds will go very quickly.”"
-- Naples Florida Guide: Florida launches Web site for cash for clunker appliances
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Naples Florida Guide: Florida launches Web site for cash for clunker appliances