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Free Appliances in Seattle: No, Really

Brand-new refrigerators and clothes washers are being made available to qualified apartment communities in a cost- and energy-saving deal provided by Puget Sound Energy (PSE) in the Pacific Northwest that sounds too good to be true.

“Yes, it does sound too good to be true, but it is incredibly easy – provided that you qualify,” says Angie Lausch, Regional Vice President, ConAm Management Corp., in Seattle. “There really is no cost to the property.”

Lausch has used the program at more than a dozen ConAm properties, including the 280-unit Park at Dashpoint, which participated.

Lausch estimates that these appliances would have cost the property approximately $110,000, based on receiving a large quantity of refrigerators (estimated at $478 apiece) and washers (estimated at $430), and not including tax or delivery charges.

PSE’s has a client base of approximately 1.1 million electric and 750,000 natural gas customers in a 6,000-square-mile region of 10 counties in western Washington.

To qualify, all of the community’s apartment homes must be inspected by PSE. The existing clothes washers must have been manufactured during or before 1997 and the refrigerators manufactured during or before 1992. They must be operational.

“PSE looks at every refrigerator and clothes washer in every apartment unit and determines if it qualifies,” Lausch says. “Based on their detailed audit of the property’s appliances, they will place the order.”

If an apartment community was built in 1992 or earlier, the apartment community will likely qualify to receive some refrigerators and washers; and if built after 1993, some washers may qualify, Lausch says. For many apartment buildings, regardless of their ages, the owners may have already replaced these appliances as a result of wear and tear. She says the key to this program is ridding old appliances.

When the new appliances are delivered they are uncrated and installed and the old appliance is recycled, Lausch says. “This takes a little coordination with residents, but overall they are happy to receive the new appliances,” she says.

“We’ve taken advantage of this program,” she says. “There really is no downside.”

As a first step toward making its energy-efficiency program easier, PSE combined residential and commercial upgrades into a one-stop shop providing property owners with a single point of contact throughout the installation process.

After replacing all qualifying refrigerators and clothes washers, the Park at Dashpoint also increased the attic insulation in all 27 buildings.

Residents enjoy the up-to-date appliances and lower utility bills, and ConAm benefits from increased value and revenue growth, because refurbished units command higher rents.

A recent study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that cost-effective building upgrades could save 15 percent to 30 percent in these multifamily housing units.


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