How Low-Income Families Get Free Government Appliances

You can’t take everything you read on the internet at face value.

Several articles found online (which appear to be duplicates or plagiarized content) suggest that the government LIHEAP program and charitable organizations provide free appliances to low-income families.

These other articles are inaccurate and could lead you astray. 

The government Weatherization Assistance Program sometimes provides free refrigerators to impoverished families with antiquated units. Meanwhile, non-profits pick up old washers and dryers at no charge, then sell them to raise funds.

However, many more people can still get free appliances by focusing on the total cost of ownership instead of just the upfront price. Newer, energy-efficient units can cut utility bills enough to save money overall.

How to Get a Free Refrigerator

The best way to get a free refrigerator is to upgrade an older electricity-guzzling unit to a brand new energy-efficient model. Households run this appliance 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, and the lower utility bills often mean that a new unit pays for itself over time.

Plus, sometimes, the government will fund the replacement – if you meet the low-income guidelines and the electricity savings warrant the benefit.

Non-Government Programs

Many more people can get a free refrigerator from non-government programs because you do not need to meet the low-income criteria to qualify and do not have to worry about state-level priorities.

Upgrading from an old wasteful refrigerator to an energy-efficient model saves enough money over time to become a zero-cost unit. The trick is having the funds purchase the new appliance.

Monthly Payments

Request a personal loan (Sponsored Link) to finance the upfront purchase of a new refrigerator. If approved, you would pay for the unit later on in equal monthly installments, which become more affordable when you factor in the forecasted electricity savings into your budget.

A brand new refrigerator priced at $1,000 works out to a $24 monthly payment when spread over five years with a 15% interest rate. Subtract the average $18 per month electricity savings, and the net payment becomes only $6 – an affordable amount because the reduced utility bills continue for years after you retire the obligation.

Monthly Savings

For instance, consider these estimated electricity savings. As you can see, the average consumer can lower energy costs by $18 per month, meaning a brand new $1,000 refrigerator pays for itself after only four and a half years. [1]

KWH per MonthAvg. KWH PriceMonthly Cost

Inefficient Unit

167

$.13

$22

Energy-Efficient

29

$.13

$4

Of course, the cost of electricity varies by region, and this method works better for those with higher kWH prices because the savings are more significant. Use these sample figures as a guideline based on where you live.[2]

StateKWH RateStateKWH Rate

California 

$.20

New York

$.19

Florida 

$.11

North Carolina

$.11

Georgia

$.12

Ohio

$.13

Illinois

$.13

Pennsylvania

$.14

Michigan

$.16

Texas

$.11

Government Programs

Three government programs work in different ways and could contribute towards a free refrigerator for low-income families and others who do not live in poverty.

In each case, a federal agency provides grant money to states, which follow the basic parameters but often add their unique twist during implementation.

Energy Star Rebates

ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing unbiased information to consumers of all income levels with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Visit the ENERGY STAR® webpage for refrigerators to discover possible rebate opportunities in your local area. The online resource provides information about model price points and local retailers.

For instance, we found some rebates that lower the upfront cost of a new refrigerator, reducing the length of time before the unit pays for itself in lower electricity costs.

  • Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP): $75
  • New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program: $50
  • Illinois Mail-in Rebate ComEd: $50

Weatherization Assistance

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is the only government initiative to directly provide free refrigerators to low-income families, based on these guidelines.

  • Households living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Receive other government support benefits
    • Supplemental Security Income
    • Aid to Families with Dependent Children
  • Meet LIHEAP criteria (60% of state median income)

Federal

Begin at the federal WAP website to find links to the office in your state. The Department of Energy administers WAP, which aims to install energy conservation and efficiency measures for low-income households.

Therefore, they prioritize replacements based on household gas, oil, and electricity consumption.

  • Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling (HVAC): 44%
  • Cooking and Appliances: 26%
  • Water Heater: 14%
  • Refrigerator: 9%
  • Lighting: 7%

In other words, you are far more likely to score a free furnace, water heater, and air conditioner because they consume much more energy than a refrigerator – which is not affected by the weather. 

Local

Starting your search with your local electric utility provider could be a viable strategy for finding a free refrigerator, as many power companies operate as contractors for the government-sponsored WAP program.

Also, replacing wasteful appliances with energy-efficient units helps them avoid blackouts during periods of peak demand, such as heatwaves. Below is a sampling of electric companies that participate in WAP.

LIHEAP

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is less likely to provide free refrigerators – despite what you might read elsewhere online.

The Department of Health and Human Services administers LIHEAP, which provides federal funding assistance with utility costs.

  • Home energy bills
  • Energy emergencies
  • Weatherization services
  • Minor home repairs

Meanwhile, only 15% of the LIHEAP budget can go towards weatherization, which means your state agency might prioritize repairing drafts, installing insulation, and replacing HVAC equipment over keeping your food cold.

Free Washer and Dryer Programs

Any program for free washing machines and dryers will prove hard to find.  Unlike refrigerators, these appliances do not run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a result, the potential energy savings are not as compelling, and the government is less likely to step in to help out.

Also, charitable organizations sell rather than give away the units. Therefore, finding a local person through an exchange who wants to get rid of an unwanted appliance is the remaining option.

Government-Supported

Government programs offering free washers and dryers targeting low-income families are sparse. We were able to identify only two that target a narrow population or provide only a minimal benefit.

  • ENERGY STAR® rebates are available for a variety of appliances, including washers and dryers, but the typical amount ranges from only $50 to $100
  • California Farm Workers can qualify for no-cost energy efficiency improvements, which might include replacement equipment
  • Heating and cooling systems
  • Solar services
  • Weatherization improvements
    • Appliances and lighting
    • Clothing washers
    • Refrigerators
    • Water heaters

Charitable Organizations

Charitable organizations are not the best place to look for free washers and dryers. In most cases, these non-profits take in donated used appliances and resell them to the public as a fundraising mechanism.

  • Habitat for Humanity Restores sell donated used washers and dryers in working condition as a means to raise money for their primary mission: building affordable new homes for low-income families
  • Salvation Army Thrift Stores will gladly pickup used washers and dryers in working order for free, but then sell these units to the general public as a fundraising vehicle for its Adult Rehabilitation Centers

Private Marketplaces

Private online marketplaces and apps are perhaps the only places to get a used washer and dryer for free. People who recently upgraded their appliances often want to find them a new home rather than dump them in the town recycling center.

On the one hand, old equipment does not consume too much energy as the units might run for only an hour or two each day. But, on the other hand, reliability is questionable, and your free appliance could leave you with costly repairs.

Therefore, always ask why the person no longer wants the units when tapping into these online exchanges.

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist
  • FreeCycle
  • Letgo
  • Offerup
  • Close5

Article Citations:

[1] Direct Energy – Electricity Costs of Refrigerators

[2] Electric Choice – Prices by State