While browsing your local retail store for a new washer, dryer, refrigerator, or even light bulbs, you may have seen a sticker or other signage on the appliance—or in the aisle—about instant savings or rebates available toward the purchase of an energy-efficient product.
Have you ever wondered where these rebates come from, or why they’re available to you in the first place? Read on to learn more about how retail energy efficiency programs work, and how to reap the rewards!
What are retail energy efficiency programs?
Most utilities offer incentive programs to help consumers purchase more energy-efficient products at lower costs. In most cases, utilities are mandated by the state to spend a small percentage (often 1 to 3 percent) of operating income on energy efficiency programs. Some smaller municipal and cooperative utilities that are not regulated by the state choose to offer these programs to customers/members as a customer service element.
There are many different types of energy efficiency programs, but the one you are likely most familiar with is the retail program in your area. These programs provide utility customers with instant, in-store savings or mail-in rebates toward the purchase of energy-efficient items, such as*:
- LED bulbs and fixtures
- Appliances (washers/dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, etc.)
- Smart and programmable thermostats
- Consumer electronics (TVs, computers, etc.)
It is highly likely that any product eligible for a rebate or incentive will be ENERGY STAR® certified. ENERGY STAR is a trusted brand for quality products that use significantly less energy and require rigorous product testing.
How do these programs work?
There are three different types of retail program structures that help consumers purchase energy-efficient products:
- Upstream: WECC (or another company that implements programs on behalf of a utility) pays manufacturers of energy-efficient products to “buy down” the price the retailer pays—in turn, reducing the price the consumer pays at check out!
- Midstream: Utilities pay the retailer/store for the markdowns, instead of the manufacturer, and the retailers can spend the incentives as they wish. Some may choose to mark down the price of the product for the consumer, or some may apply the incentive directly to their bottom line as margin.
- Downstream: Incentives are paid directly to consumers through online or mail-in rebates. This program type is often used for higher-priced items, such as appliances and electronics.
By providing incentives to consumers for energy-efficient products, these programs aim to take price out of the purchase decision—moving consumers to opt for models that will save them energy (and money!) in the long run.
Participating is easy!
Benefitting from your state or utility’s retail energy efficiency program is simple, when you keep the following in mind:
- Pay attention to point-of-purchase material in the lighting, appliance, and electronics departments.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR logo.
- Read instructions carefully. You may be able to save when you check out, or you will need to keep your receipt to claim your rebate later.
- Speak to store associates if you have any questions while shopping.
- Visit your utility’s or state’s energy efficiency program website to learn which products qualify for rebates and how to claim them.
- Look for utility-sponsored events at your local retailers to learn more about energy-efficient lighting and appliances.
*Products included in energy efficiency programs vary from utility to utility, and state to state.
Contact your utility for more information about the rebates and incentives available to you.