Here are four clunkers that might bring you some extra cash:
#1: Your avocado fridge. Refrigerators are a household's biggest energy hog, and they can last as long as 17 years. Fridges made prior to 1994, when the government's energy-efficiency laws went into effect, can use more than 1,500 kilowatt-hours per year, compared with more modern fridges’ average of 486. So, to get people to toss those old energy guzzlers, a power utility in Michigan is paying its customers $50 to recycle them, and offering to pick them up for free. Check your utility company for a similar program. If it doesn't have one, it's still smart to ditch an old fridge. A post-1994 Energy Star-rated model can put an extra $150 per year in your pocket in the form of lower electric bills. And if you think holding on to an old fridge until it dies is greener than recycling it, a study from the University of Michigan found that upgrading any pre-1994 model is better for the planet—even after you factor in all the energy required to manufacture and ship a new model.
#2: That clanking water heater. Buy a new water heater, upgrade your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system, or even replace those old drafty windows before the end of this year, and you'll qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $1,500 come April 15th. The products that qualify for the tax-credit have already been selected by the Energy Star program; note that not all Energy Star products apply—only the most efficient in their category. If you can't afford to upgrade before the end of ’09, don't worry; the credits apply to upgrades made before the end of 2010.
#3: The dryer that ruins all your clothes. While the feds will give you a tax credit for a more efficient water heater, it's usually energy companies that provide rebates or discount programs for small appliances at the local level. Check with your utility to see if one exists—or wait a few months for state governments to get involved. As part of the stimulus package, the Obama administration set aside $300 million to give to states who agree to participate in a program that would provide anywhere from $50 to $200 for small appliances. The deadline for states to decide whether they want to participate was August 15th, and according to the Energy Department, so far all 50 states say they will. The program isn't expected to start until after November 30th, so if you can put up with that smoking dryer for a few more months, it might be worth it.
#4: Your outdated gadgets. For quite a few years, Dell and HP, along with most of the other major computer manufacturers, have offered customers rebates on new computers when they send the companies any brand of their old junky monitors, CPUs, or laptops. But what if you want to get rid of an old MP3 player or a digital camera but don't want to replace it? Gazelle, an online electronics-waste recycling company, will pay you what it's worth—for instance, $22 for a 5-year-old iPod that's in good condition—and you can use the money for whatever you want, or donate the cash to a charity. The company has also partnered with Costco, dispensing the cash to you via Costco gift card.