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S.C. rebate funds will last about a week

South Carolinians hoping to take part in the federal government's Energy Star appliance rebate program might want to hop to it -- the state's share of the money isn't likely to last much longer.

Around 88 percent of the nearly $4 million made available to the state since the program began March 31 has been exhausted, with around $415,000 remaining as of Wednesday.

That could be gone within a week or so, said Megan Herring, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Energy Office.

"We're seeing about ($20,000 to $40,000) move a day," Herring said.

"We are very pleased with how it's run so far."

Each state was given a share of $300 million in federal stimulus money to administer the program, which is meant to encourage use of energy-efficient appliances.

Only purchases that replace an existing appliance are eligible for the rebate.

Not only are the instant rebates going fast around the state, but the nearly $2 million allotted for mail-in rebates for central air conditioning units, heat pumps, gas furnaces and water heaters was gone by April 1, the day after the program started.

Rebates range from $50 to $500, depending on the appliance, though the larger amounts are the ones no longer available.

Consumers have been eager to take advantage of the rebates after a colder-than-normal winter led to huge spikes in home energy bills, Herring said.

"Everybody was making every effort they could to lower their energy use," she said.

At Best Buy in Rock Hill, the program has been a big success -- even though the store doesn't actually sell appliances on site.

Sales manager Dawan Feely said customers saw ads for the eligible appliances in weekly circulars and came to the store to order them.

"They didn't even need to see it" in person, Feely said. "They would say, 'I want that one.'"

Washers and dryers, refrigerators and stoves were among the popular sellers, Feely said.

"Last week and the week before last, we got a swarm of people," he said. "We probably finished up bigger than we've ever finished up in appliance sales."

Queen City Audio Video & Appliances in Rock Hill also has done solid business because of the program, manager Tim Bailey said.

"There are still a lot of people who don't know about it," he said. "A lot of the people who are coming in looking, we're telling them about it."

Needless to say, Bailey said, customers are pleased to learn of the rebates, which include $100 back on clothes washers and $50 on dishwashers and refrigerators.

Washers have been the most popular for customers, Bailey said.

"The higher dollar amount is definitely advantageous for them," he said.

Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, is designed to save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.

The federal government says the program helped Americans save enough energy in 2009 to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 30 million cars and save nearly $17 billion on their utility bills.