Utah consumers will soon be able to get rebates for replacing energy-hog appliances as part of the federal stimulus program. State energy officials are in the process of hiring a contractor to administer the program, expected to start around mid-February.

In July, Congress announced its $300 million State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program, the equivalent of a "cash for clunky appliances" program. Utah's share will be $2.6 million and change, paid in the form of rebates for the purchase of new appliances like washers and refrigerators. An energy-efficient washer can save a consumer as much as 40 percent in utility costs, according to Rocky Mountain Power.

How much a new appliance will yield in rebates is still undecided, said Jason Berry, manager of the Utah State Energy Program, which will oversee the rebate efforts. But they're likely to be similar to rebates offered by Rocky Mountain Power and Questar, he said, with one exception: While those programs pay a flat amount for a qualifying appliance, this rebate will probably pay more for higher-performance products, which tend to be more expensive. There are degrees of efficiency within Energy Star-rated appliances, he said, and the state wants to give an incentive to get the best product, even if it costs a little more.

The stimulus rebates also can be paired with other rebates to boost savings, but they are not retroactive. If consumers have to replace an appliance before the details are worked out and the program formally opened, they'll get no stimulus rebate.

And it's a limited pot of money, distributed first-come, first-served, Berry said.

Consumers won't have to guess, though, about what qualifies. The state plans to create a list of acceptable products and how much the rebates are.

Some states have already kicked off their version of the program, and there is great variation. Some have required that the transaction include having the old appliance hauled away. Some also offer the rebate not on the basis of a purchase, but solely on the fact that the purchase is taking an older, inefficient appliance out of commission.

Utah plans to include the recycling of old appliances, particularly refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners as a condition of the rebate.

People who want to learn more can go online to geology.utah.gov or can e-mail energyappliancerebate@Utah.gov to get on the mailing list for updates.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com