If your refrigerator is avocado, it’s probably time to buy a new one.

Stimulus money will help homeowners afford energy-efficient refrigerators, or other energy-efficient appliances.

Maine is to receive $1.26 million to help consumers buy Energy Star-rated home appliances, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and U.S. Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree.

What was not known was the big question: How much of a rebate can Mainers get?

That won’t be known until August or September. That’s when the federal government is expected to give guidelines to the Efficiency Maine office, which will develop the program, determine how much people can get in rebates and how the rebates will be given, said Director John Brautigam.

The incentive needs to be large enough to be meaningful, but not so big that the money runs out before covering the state, he said.

Other Energy Star-rated appliances that will qualify for rebates are boilers, room and central air conditioners, washers, dishwashers, freezers, oil and gas furnaces, air and geothermal heat pumps and water heaters. The $1.26 million is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The idea is to get consumers buying to help stimulate the economy and to help them buy appliances that will save money on electricity and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In homes, the two biggest electricity users are typically lights and refrigerators, especially those 10 years old and older.

“A lot of people think air conditioners are a big energy hog,” Brautigam said. “It’s true they use a lot, but only while they’re running.” In Maine homes, air conditioners typically are used only 15 or 20 days a year.

Refrigerators run all the time, Brautigam said. Replacing an old refrigerator with a new one can save $25 a month off the typical $90 monthly electric bill, he said

Businesses that sell appliances expect the rebates to help sales.

With the recession, sales have been slow, said Bryan Dumont of Appliance Warehouse of Auburn. Most customers have been buying only when necessary, such as when their refrigerator or stove dies and the appliance must be replaced. “That’s been keeping us afloat,” he said.

The rebates may not help when consumers only save $10 a year in energy costs, but they should boost sales of appliances where the energy savings are greater. “Consumers weigh the cost benefits,” Dumont said.

At Agren Appliance stores, most customers ask for Energy Star appliances, said Marketing Manager Paul Baribault. The rebate program should help continue a recent improvement in sales, he said.

A rebate may entice a consumer to buy a matching dryer that he or she otherwise may not have, Baribault said. The rebates will be “a very positive development for our customers and for us.”

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