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The Iowa appliance rebate program received $2,881,000 in federal funding. It offers rebates now on a host of items that meet Energy Star qualifications. What happens to the still-functioning appliances that are now outmoded?

Iowa Appliance Rebate Details

The U.S. Department of Energy advises that consumers may submit an Iowa appliance rebate application for the replacement of a refrigerator, clothes washer, dishwasher, propane furnace, gas boiler, central air conditioner, and air source heat pump, gas tank-less water heater or a few other appliances.

Consumers wishing to receive a State of Iowa appliance rebate must ensure that they purchase a qualifying replacement appliance and certify that they properly disposed of the item they replaced. There are no checks or balances in place to ensure that this truly takes place as the Iowa energy rebates program accepts a self-certification.

Economic Aspects of Appliance Rebates

Benzinga suggests that the Iowa appliance rebate program is a cash bonanza for appliance dealers. Since the Iowa appliance rebate application specifies that only Iowa retailer purchases qualify, the news appears to be good on the economic front.

On the flipside are the recent lessons learned from the Cash for Clunkers program that led to the sale of approximately 690,000 cars. Edmunds reports that of these vehicle sales, only 125,000 could be traced back directly to the program. The other sales were considered to have been planned already.

What about the Environmental Impact?

While the Cash for Clunkers program required the car dealers to properly dispose of the trade-in vehicles, the Iowa appliance rebate program - and many others like it - leaves this step to consumers. It also raises the question of outmoding an appliance well in advance of its useful life's end.

For example, 2008 floods in Cedar Rapids led to emergency pickups of about 2,568 tons of appliances that might have otherwise ended up in landfills. Will homeowners in these areas now scrap their new appliances in favor of the latest models? With no companies providing emergency appliance recycling in Iowa cities now, will Craigslist see an influx of ads or will landfills find an influx of otherwise working refrigerators?

As long ago as 1999, Grist Magazine posed the question of what to do with aging appliances. Citing the example of coffee makers, the magazine outlined that in 1995, the production of coffee makers required, "21 million pounds of polypropylene, 8 million pounds of glass, 4 million pounds of aluminum, and 600,000 pounds of copper."

Considered the quintessential throw-away small appliance, the amount of waste generated by these coffee makers - during manufacture and after consumer use -- is considerable. With the Iowa appliance rebate program covering a host of appliances, it is somewhat worrisome what will happen to items deemed throw-away.

It also begs the question if the environmental savings are not eclipsed by the damage done during the increase in manufacture of the new appliances in anticipation of nationwide rebate programs.

U.S. Department of Energy. "Iowa Appliance Rebates" (accessed March 1, 2010)
Iowa Office of Energy Independence. "Information for Consumers" (accessed March 1, 2010)
Benzinga. "Iowa Stores Receive Heavy Volume on Iowa Appliance Rebate Program" (accessed March 1, 2010)
Edmunds. "Cash for Clunkers Results Finally In: Taxpayers Paid $24,000 per Vehicle Sold, Reports" (accessed March 1, 2010)
Conservation Services Group. "After the Flood: Unprecedented Challenges" (accessed March 1, 2010)
Grist Magazine. "Advice on how to cope with aging appliances" (accessed March 1, 2010)

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